Category Archives: Picture Galleries

Sleeping Dragon Slowly Opens One Eye-Part 4

Part of a series of posts about my experiences on a trip to China in October 2015. The series of posts related to this can be seen on my page “Sleeping Dragon Slowly Opens One Eye”.

Continued from Sleeping Dragon Slowly Opens One Eye-Part 3

Train tickets safely tucked in my neck pouch, we began to ascend Mount Tai.

Mount Tai, a block uplift formation, rises somewhat abruptly from a plain. It has been a center of worship for time out of mind.  Both as a location for and as the subject of worship. The origins of its significance are related to it forming a physical connection between the earth and the sky.

It is a place where myth, legend, mystery and history intermingle.

It reminds me of the “old magic” that is referred to in literature such as the Lord of the Rings, Narnia, the Dark is Rising series and other fantasy genre books. One almost expects that one of the nearby peaks, barely visible through the haze, might house an oriental version of Hogwarts.

But when you start up the thing you most notice is the stairs.

Mount Tai is well known for stairs. Many sources give step counts, 6660 to 7000 is the most common range.

As we climbed up the stairs I had to “stop to take pictures” pretty often, especially on long steep stretches. A few times I got lectured by my son that I shouldn’t stop except on landings, because he was afraid I would topple over. What he didn’t realize was that the stopping was in part needed to preventing the toppling. The scenery was okay, it would have been better had it been less hazy. Few pictures I took were all that great. If the air had been a bit clearer the fall colors and mountain scenery would have been “just like a Chinese painting”.

As we started up the dominant traffic was folks coming down. I wondered how many of them had come on the train with us. There were people of all sorts coming down, young and old, hale and ones that were being assisted, a fair number of folks were limping a bit or seemed like their feet were hurting. As the morning wore on the downhill traffic slowed to a trickle and, while it was never a wilderness experience, it wasn’t crowded any more. It took us about 4 hours to reach the Midway Gate to Heaven (Zhong Tian Men).

Travelers who don’t need to “stop to take pictures” as much as I do will do this in about half the time. After lunch we assessed the situation and decided that

  1. I was already dragging, and it would be after dark before we reached the top.
  2. We had packs on that affected our (especially my) balance. James was talking about carrying both packs and staying behind me in case I fell as we went up the steepest part, which was very, very steep (his concern warmed my heart , but the plan seemed like it would set up a domino effect more than it would prevent a disaster).
  3. It was pretty hazy so visibility wasn’t terrific, we weren’t going to miss any spectacular views.
  4. We wouldn’t have any time or energy to explore at the summit if we continued up on foot.

So we took the cable way.

Just ike a Chinese painting, with a modern touch!
Just ike a Chinese painting, with a modern touch!

In some ways this follows the tradition of emperors, who were carried up on litters then got off to walk through the South Gate to Heaven, reputed to be the way to immortality. The emperors probably walked a shorter distance than we did coming downhill from the cable way to the gate.

Guess what you did after going through the gate?

KSM20151017-Sleeping_Dragon-MoreStairs-01-720px
More stairs!

Our hotel was just below the Jade Emperor Summit, about a half a mile up stairs from the gate! Boy was I glad we weren’t going through that gate well after dark to learn that we still had a fair ways to go!

We explored until dark.

The Shenqi Hotel, which calls itself a three star hotel, was comparable to the hard sleeper on the train. The beds were a little wider and we didn’t have to climb up to them, but the room was barely large enough for the two beds and a modest walkway between them.  We had kind of a scary incident when we realized that our door did not lock. The maid for the floor came over locked the door with her key then took our key away to fix it while we were out doing the exploring that resulted in the gallery above. That meant that our belongings were in a locked room for which we didn’t have a key…we weren’t sure if that was an improvement over the previous foray when, unbeknownst to us, it wasn’t locked at all.

When we got back she had made the key work, but an alarm went off every time you shut the door…a loud one. It always took several tries before the door would stay shut quietly.

The towels were threadbare, the shower cubicle moldy  and the toilet made a little noise when flushed but nothing actually disappeared. We were told that hot water would be available for showers from 8 to 11 pm.

In spite of hard beds, alarming door and cold water wash up,  we were so tired we slept through the hot shower window. We were awakened by the call for folks to go out for sunrise. We bundled up and trundled out.

To be continued…

Sleeping Dragon Slowly Opens One Eye-Riveting Conclusion

Sleeping Dragon Slowly Opens One Eye

Part of a series of posts about my experiences on a trip to China in October 2015. The series of posts related to this can be seen on my page “Sleeping Dragon Slowly Opens One Eye”.

The best laid plans…

I am a planner. Before I travel I research locations, accommodation and  transportation options. I study maps and schedules and figure things out. I don’t just make a plan I also look at what can go wrong and figure out options so that if things go awry I have an idea about what to do.

I just returned from a trip to visit my son, who lives in Weifang, Shandong Province, China. I left home with a plan. I was ready.

On my two previous trips to China I did tourist type things, specifically Western tourist type things, as part of my visits. This time was different. The duration of this trip was shorter and I went primarily to spend time with my son, since I hadn’t seen him in over a year. Never-the-less I thought I would try to see a couple of things not on the typical Western tourist track, destinations fairly close to Weifang that are important to Chinese people.

One planned excursion was to Mount Tai, aka Tai Shan, aka Mount Taishan. There may be a few more akas. Mount Tai or Tai Shan (since shan means mountain to say Mount Taishan is redundant, although the UNESCO site does so).  Mount Tai is a sacred mountain, they believe that it has held spiritual significance since the stone age. More about that later…first we had to get there.

My son was able to take a day off of work and come with me, but we didn’t find out until the evening before. Too late to get train tickets on a fast train.

Always read the bottom line...if you can.
Always read the bottom line…if you can.

James got done with work at about 10 am and we took the city bus from his place to the train station. We chose a ticket line and waited for our turn. We were the second from the window when the woman selling tickets picked up her glass tea jar and left. Some discussion (held by others then explained to my by my son) revealed that she was on her lunch break. This was clearly explained by the sign over her window (if you could read it). Since all the other lines were long and all the other workers were scheduled for lunch breaks the fasted alternative was to just wait until this gal got back. When she did we learned that all of the seats on the train we wanted were sold out. We opted to ride in a “hard sleeper” over taking a later train.

Yes, the hard sleepers are hard. There is also not enough room between the berths to sit up all the way. On the plus side they provided a pillow and comforter. I used my backpack as a foot rest and reclined on the pile of comforter and pillow. It wasn’t too bad until the woman below closed the curtain and her husband started to smoke (he didn’t do so in the compartment itself but somehow the smoke found its way in), then my bladder said “times up!”

To get up and down from our middle berth there is a flip down metal foot hold, about 3″ by 5″. I successfully maneuvered myself down and utilized the facilities without needing a clean up crew. I felt a bit cocky at that point, but still decided to sit the rest of the trip on a jump seat in the corridor where I could look out the window and the smoke could blow away.

One question still haunts me: could I have made it up onto the top berth if that had been our lot in life?

To be continued…

Sleeping Dragon Slowly Opens One Eye-Part 2

 

 

 

Chinese Connections

Connected with wires:

Chinese building with a lot of electric and/or communication lines coming in.
Well connected house.

Connected by water:

Human connections:

Connecting over a game of chess.
Connecting over a game of chess.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Connected.”

Travel Theme: Gleaming

To gleam is to “shine brightly, especially with reflected light”, according to The Google. Here are some of my gleaming travel experiences.

These are the gleaming white walls of “The Getty” in LA:

A gleaming sculpture welcoming folks to Yreka, California:

Gleaming Bronze sculpture in Yreka, California.
Gleaming Bronze sculpture in Yreka, California.

A sheep with gleaming wool somewhere in western Ireland:

Gleaming sheep wool, somewhere in western Ireland.
Gleaming sheep wool, somewhere in western Ireland.

Gleaming modern Beijing Nan (South) train station:

Beijing Nan train station in China.
Beijing Nan train station in China.

A gleaming sea serpent in Fort Bragg, California:

Sea serpent at Fort Bragg Botanical Garden in California.
Sea serpent at Fort Bragg Botanical Garden in California.

Gleaming golden serenity in the form of the Buddha at the Great Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian, China:

Golden Buddha at Great Wild Goose Pagoda
Gleaming serenity.

Pasqueflower seedheads gleaming in the early morning light at Mount Rainier in Washington state:

Pasqueflower seedheads.
Pasqueflower seedheads.

Post inspired by Where’s My Backpack Travel Theme: Gleaming.

Great Wall Walk

In the spring of 2014 my son and I did a “wild wall” walk from Jiankou to Mutianyu.  This gallery is a sampler of the paths along that trip, from the rickety ladder up to the tower to the stone mosaic (I know that isn’t quite the right word for it) on the path from the wall down into the town.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Beneath Your Feet.”