Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stair Master

Yesterday had a sunny forecast (the only one this week), so we decided to do the hike up Mt. Hua Shan, which is about a 2-hour drive from Xi’an. Of course, it wasn’t actually sunny except for thirty minutes, but it was still beautiful.

The trip itself was booked through our hostel, and although our guide was incredibly thoughtful and helpful and had quite good English, the tour itself started out very frustrating. Because of the millions of stops (gas, medicine store, bathroom) on the way to the mountain, we didn’t get near the base of the mountain until 11:30, after getting into the bus at ass-crack 8 in the morning. When we finally left the bus we found out that we were actually stopping for lunch and then another local bus would come get us to take us to the North Peak cable car. We had done nothing but sit in a bus since breakfast and now they wanted us to eat again. Jodee and I just sat and waited while the Chinese tourists ate.

When we finally did get up the cable car we were able to strike out on our own on the trail, and then things got better. It’s a collection of peaks that are connected a bit like a dragon’s back. The tough part is that there isn’t a trail. Instead you are walking up and down (mostly up very steeply) stairs the ENTIRE time. NO respite. VERY hard on poor, out-of-shape me. I felt like I was lugging all of last week’s over-eating and over-drinking in Shanghai around, and it was heavy. But it was very nice, and we made some Chinese friends along the way, mostly because they wanted to take pics of Jodee. We’re not sure if it’s because they don’t see many blond people where they’re from (although they have to have some money/be living in semi-urban places to be able to vacation like this); or whether it’s maybe just something to do on vacation. Like maybe the way people take pics near signs showing where they are – Chinese people take pics of Westerners they find? Apparently I am either too ugly or not exotic enough to be in their vaca photos - sob.

We decided to get minor revenge by taking pictures of them behind their backs – because there were women IN HEELS. One woman was in a full pleather suit and high-heeled boots. Her friend was in heeled sneakers (at least she was on the right track) and he friend’s man was in a suit and formal shoes. For serious? Jodee surmised there were only 3 possible reasons for their painful attire: 1) They have nothing else, 2) They didn’t know they were going to do this hike when they left their house/hotel at 8 in the morning 3) Fashion is everything. Unless pleather is in fashion somewhere, option 3 is moot, which only leaves improbable options 1 & 2. We’re still undecided.

We ended the day with dinner in a restaurant with a new type of squatter bathroom I have never seen before. There were two stalls with squatters and NO DOORS. I walked in on one of the waitresses with her pants down. I made Jodee stand outside the bathroom door to make sure no one came in, and even so I felt strangely exposed.

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