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Valar Qringaomis

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

N. China - Day 4, Part 1 - Taishan: Sunrise, Summit and Descent

"I take my children everywhere, but they always find their way back home." - Robert Orben

***

N. China
Day 4 - 2nd November - Taishan: Sunrise, Summit and Descent
(Part 1)

The rack rate for my hotel was 1.5x what I'd paid. Luckily I'd reserved at the foot of the mountain. They also had hourly rates. HMM. Though that might be more to cater to PRCs who climb the mountain in the middle of the night and need a few hours' rest.

As I was climbing the mountain the previous day, the Gekiranger theme had been playing in my head. Luckily I didn't sing it aloud, or I'd have been beaten up.

When climbing the mountain, some people had modern boomboxes, playing music aloud (instead of being considerate and using earphones). This was probably meant to motivate them (though it annoyed me and probably some others - but this is China, people are not considerate).

When I used the phrase "太阳上山" to mean "sunrise", people were amused. I think that it's because that is primary school language (lit.: "The sun climbing the mountain"). The more appropriate term is "日上" ("Sun up").


After a 5:30am wakeup call, I found that the hotel party that was supposed to move out at 6am to see the 6:20am sunrise was nowhere to be seen. I asked the reception for directions, but they weren't very helpful (and it was almost pitch-black anyway), so I figured I should just follow where everyone was going. So ensonced in my PLA overcoat, I made my way to the summit.

On the way up I was actually hot as the PLA jacket was very warm, but I was soon chilled.

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Pink skies


Sunrise on the peak with idiots using their camera flashes

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Mountain rocks by Aurora

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Sunrise on Taishan

While waiting for the sun to appear properly, I asked some PRCs around me if they recognised the lines: 东方是红色的 - 毛主席 and 世界真的是很小 - 孔子 ("The East is Red" - Chairman Mao and "The world is small" - Confucius) but no one knew what I was talking about. How ignorant young Chinese are of their history and culture! They need more patriotic education

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First appearance of the sun, obscured by clouds

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My shelter behind some rocks (notice the hole at the back though - it wasn't that warm un-cold)

One PRC, finding out I was from Singapore, mentioned that there was another Singaporean there. But when I spoke English to the Singaporean, he ignored me and only replied when I used Mandarin. He sounded like a naturalised Singaporean - originally form Taiwan or China (and he said he knew I was a Singaporean from my shoes).

There was a traditional Chinse practise of doing a thumb's up so the thumb would be under the sun. I thought it was stupid and was reluctant to do it, but let myself to be persuaded by the guy helping me. After all, in China one should do as the Chinese do. So afterwards I looked for a crevice and spat into it, since my aide had done that too.

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The sun out in all its glory

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"Terrace for viewing State Lu". You know this is important because they translated it into Japanese and Korean too (testament to the Incestuous East Asian Axis of Tourism). The west side of the platform has "Immortal’s Bridge", but I didn't get to see it (mainly because I didn't know it was around this spot)

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Terrace for viewing State Lu. This is the recommended place to view the sunrise from.

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Where I actually saw the sunrise from was the "Life-abandoning Cliff" (apparently the view is better - there certainly weren't guard rails). People used to throw themselves off the cliff in order to bless their parents.


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Taishan Peak

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Observatory hotel. Not only was this higher on the peak than the area I had spent the night (Heavenly Street), you could view the sunrise from an enclosed gallery in the hotel. Obviously there was a premium for this. Interestingly, at night the way up to this (and the 3 star hotel) was unlit, but then I would imagine guests staying at these places would take the cable car and thus be there before sunset.

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Someone commented on the slab with "Confucius" on it remarked that it was ugly, and that Xuanwu's calligraphy was supposed to be nicer than that.

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Jade Emperor Temple

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Best of Five

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Wordless Stele

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Jade Emperor Temple

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Temple courtyard with height marker and the promise-locks

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Brazier with headbands

Next I visited Qingdi Palace.

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Dragon-Coin brazier

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Guan Yin Hall

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The most important hall - that to the Fortune God

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Qingdi Palace door and plaque

At the foot of Qingdi Palace, I got conned by a PRC again. A vendor was going around selling gourds (葫芦) and some other type of charm (lu4 lu4). I was totally uninterested. Then, she took out a carved dragon-turtle-like animal and said it cost 10¥. I gave her 20¥, but she pressed another carving into my hand and refused to give me any change, claiming that the two were inseparable. I protested for a while and was very unhappy, but she still refused to give me my change, though she did give me one gourd. Bloody hell.

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What I got conned into buying. The head and horns of the cow broke off in my flight back, and the thing got chipped to boot. The thing I wanted was alright though.

I then visited the Confucius shrine.

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Hall with some god

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Courtyard

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招财殿 - "Welcoming Wealth Hall". I asked one of the attendants if worshipping Confucius was incompatible with the pursuit of wealth. He agreed with me and said "pian4 liang4". Err, okay.

In the Confucius temple, one guy asked to see Singaporean money. I was apprehensive, sensing a scam, and showed him a $2 note. He then asked to keep it as a souvenir. !@#$

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Portrait of Confucius

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Confucius Temple entrance

There was still the Azure Goddess Shrine, which was supposed to be the most popular shrine, but I decided to skip it since the buildings were all the same and I had a date with Confucius. I'd passed by or through it on the way to the summit anyway.

More information on the Azure Goddess (碧霞元君) and a 15 minute video on a Chinese file sharing site ("泰山碧霞祠"). From the video it looks like the nicest temple on Taishan, but not too different from other temples I saw later on. The video is also useful in that I now know what the characters for Ancient Chinese fire protection measures are (~4:40)

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UNESCO Rocks

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"Yuhuangding Rock Body" - more on the rocks on the Jade Emperor's Summit

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More rock calligraphy


Funky vendor (crank up the volume for some techno. Oh Yeah.)

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"Penetrating relations among four rock bodies" - they need a better translator

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Penetrated rocks

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Northern Chinese delights. "Dainty snacks" is not a good translation of "名吃" (but at least you know they didn't use an electronic translator).

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Hotel firefighting tools. We're doomed in a fire.

I would've descended the mountain on foot if I had time (that the Craper had promised me BJ if I ascended and descended on foot didn't hurt) but Confucius was waiting for me. So I took the ropeway and bus.

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"It is not suitable for patients of heart disease,hypertension, acrophobia or mental disorder to take the ropeway" - Presumably such sick people should climb and descend the mountain on foot instead and get a heart attack, faint and dash their heads on the rocks or frenziedly run off a cliff instead.

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Ropeway down

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"The Grand Worship of Heaven and Earth about Mount Tai China" - this is a show that seems designed to con tourists. Interestingly it begins at 8pm, so the cable car would have stopped by then. Those wishing to view the sunrise have to walk up on foot - in the dark! Also, what's a "Schnellbus"?!

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Things for the bus driver not to do, which include speeding, overtaking, being polite to fare evaders, smoking in the bus (only within the scenic locale). Naturally the driver smoked in the bus (a little); it is perhaps significant that this notice faced the passengers and not the driver. Also, "The customer is God" (not just King).

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"Friendly Shandong: Sacred Land of Culture, Holiday Paradise"


Kittens scrambling across the rock at Halfway Gate to Heaven

Just before the exit to the mountain, there was a dam. There were big red words on its wall: "No swimming". Of course, one guy was in trunks and swimming cap, and his family was behind him.

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Tianwaichun event space, and Taishan

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Bridge sign: "Foucus On Heritage. Do Not Shake"

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River and Taishan

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Plaque to Feng Yu Xiang's tomb (which I skipped - besides my later appointment, stuff from the Republic of China era didn't really interest me). He is a "famous patriotic general", whatever that means (it means that he was pro-Communist; presumably Chiang Kai Shek was not "patriotic" enough).


Reflecting on my mountain-climbing experience (the first time I'd successfully ascended a mountain on foot), I can say that all it took was a little inspiration. No, really everyone knows that is meretricious bullshit - all it took was a little inspiration, almost 6.5 hours, Coke, 2 cans of Red Bull, painkillers, a walking stick, the knowledge that I had a cable car to fall back on in extremis, the knowledge that I wouldn't have to descend on foot, reckless stupidity, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a 2 star hotel.

Also, I would not recommend that you take the bus or cable car both ways as doing this, you will miss most of the sights. The day before, I'd actually been considering doing "Taishan: the Lazy Way" (inspired by "Samaria - the lazy way") - take the bus and cable car to the summit, check in to the hotel and leave anything not necessary for the climb there (I'd already left some stuff at the train station), and then walk down and take the bus and cable car up again. Nonetheless, doing it the proper way was a good exercise.
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