Captain’s log – final

Captain’s log: Stardate – 09.11.05

As a kid I used to come home from school on a Friday and watch ‘Monkey’ at 19.30. I was hooked, and it was the gateway to my interest in good kung fu movies and a later interest in martial arts. In China, every night is kung fu night. You only have to surf the channels to find 4 or 5 movies or tv programmes of police officers who use martial arts to catch the bad guys, or period dramas set in the Ching, Tang or Ming dynasty, with elaborate costumes and cheap special effects. It is the equivalent of flicking through the UK channels and only finding ‘Sharp’, ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Jane Eyre’, and ‘The Bill’ on every channel. But instead of pistols at dawn, it is a fully choreographed fight scene in abundance.

It is not just on the tv; every security guard and policeman on the streets looks poised to prove that his kung fu is better than yours. No fat overweight bank guards waiting to see out their pension here. I have seen guards practicing their form while the shop or banks are not busy. It is ironic that not 10 years ago all traces of Chinese history and references to its past, like martial arts, Beijing opera, and even religion were banned.

Captain’s log: Stardate – 09.11.05 Supplemental

Yesterday we escaped the compound that is Yangshuo and jumped on a tour bus heading to Longsheng at 07.30. The tour bus had a mixture of Australians, Dutch, and English tourists, all on board for the 3.5 hour ride. After about two hours the bus began the steep mountain climb, the bus driver grinding the gears, trying to get our heavy load up the narrowing road. At one point a huge bamboo trunk being lowered down the bank of the hillside by unseen workmen above us, slipped, and headed straight for the minibus. It would have easily pitched us off the road and into the gorge below like a pool cue chipping a white ball over the black and into the pocket for a trick shot. The bamboo trunk stopped only feet from the bus which continued on as if nothing had happened and only we passengers on the right hand side of the bus were any the wiser.

We continued on and then the bus turned off the main highway and continued climbing on a dusty rock track. We passed slowly through logging towns and lower rice terraces for another 1.5 hours before finally reaching our destination of Dazai (the nearest major town being Longsheng). Here we were greeted/accosted by women dressed in typical minority outfits. As well as the rice terraces these people are famous for their long hair, which reaches as far down as their feet. In addition they also fold in the cut, but equally long, hair of their mother and their grandmother etc. This is as ancestral identity, and a way of remembering their past. They followed us for the mile uphill climb from the bus stop to the restaurant/hostel, constantly trying to sell us postcards, cloth, and silver bracelets, as well as holding our hands. This would not have been so bad except I had a full rucksack on my back and we were still climbing. By the time we got to the hostel half way up the mountain, I was drenched in sweat. The others sat down to lunch but I got changed for comfort, and out of courtesy for the others. After lunch we were marched onwards further into the mountain’s rice terraces.

The views were spectacular, but the walk was rushed as the rest of the tour group had to get back to the bus by 15.00. So like the ‘Grand old Duke of York’ we were marched up to the top of the hill, and then marched back down again, before Mairead and I separated from the rest of the group and took our time climbing back up to the hostel. By now it was 15.00 and we spent a fine afternoon and evening with two other Dutch couples, who had also decided to stay over, drinking, sharing dinner, and putting the world to rights.

This morning we rose to the breath-taking views of the rice terraces. We went for a leisurely stroll along the upper terraces and managed to avoid the melee of the next influx of day trippers, being assaulted with sales tactics and trinkets. I know now that it is this sort of freedom that I missed in Yangshuo. In Yangshuo I felt that for everything I wanted to do, there was a plan, guide, or system in place to lead me in the authorised direction. This is not the case in Dazai, and this is not the case anywhere else but Yangshuo.

We boarded the bus back to Guilin and headed back down the rocky road at an alarming speed. The hairpin bends and steep drops stunned the occupants of the bus into silence, most I am sure were praying. This journey too was not without incident, as we picked up a huge rock wedged in between the back wheels. The driver stopped several times to try and remove it as it was creating a high pitch noise and heating up the back wheels. I assisted him at one stage in trying to remove the back wheel and remove the rock that way, but to no avail. The bus got is to Guilin nonetheless, where we will stay for 2 nights before flying back to Shanghai.

Captain’s log: – Stardate 11.11.05

Mainland Chinese children appear to be a ‘no MTV’ generation. I do not know whether this is because MTV has been refused in China or whether there is no market for it, but in every hostel and hotel I have been in there has been no MTV. As a result of no MTV most, if not all, of the music you hear everyday is Chinese, and not spattered with American artists like other charts worldwide. Chinese music is, however, heavily influenced by Western tastes such as rock and, of course, the obligatory rap break after the bridge of a song. Some people attribute a more obedient, less rebellious young generation found in China to the lack of MTV influence.

Perhaps I should make it my business to teach the younger generation ‘singalong’ anthems like ‘Jerusalem’. Maybe it will resurface as incidental music on a mobile phone or a reversing bus.

Captain’s log: – Stardate 12.11.05

We are back in Shanghai and today was a busy day for shopping. We spent about an hour waiting in line for three portions of xialongbao, found in Old Shanghai and mentioned in a previous Shanghai log. Fully fuelled we stayed in Old Shanghai and Mairead was let off the leash to shop for presents and handbags.

After travelling around China, Shanghai certainly has a different feel to it. Shanghai feels more like a place of opportunities, most like a port, where travellers expose business opportunities for people in Shanghai to make money. It certainly feels busier than the other cities we have visited. It feels like a city of promise, but can it keep this promise to all those living in Shanghai? It is certain that the lessons learnt here will benefit the rest of China.

Captain’s log: – Stardate 13.11.05

Today I was up early, and watched the Nets beat the Rockets by 1 point before heading back into Old Shanghai. My shopping exposure yesterday put me in the market for a pair of ceremonial swords. After some lengthy negotiation I walked away with medium and short length swords and was only 70 yuan lighter.

We observed a martial arts presentation in a shopping plaza which involved Drum dancing, Fan dancing and Wu Chu. We had lunch in a small canteen, then walked around for the rest of the day taking in the sights and sounds of Shanghai.

In the evening we went to a cafe near the hostel, where I cracked open a small bottle of Mount Gay rum that I had been carrying around to celebrate my birthday. After eating we walked down Nanjing road and found a spot to watch the world go by and enjoy our last night in Shanghai.

Tomorrow it is our intention to get the Maglev train to the airport. This is the fastest train on the planet. A fitting end to Shanghai, and the start of our journey to or new life in Melbourne, Australia.

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~ by jeditopcat on 8 November, 2008.

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