my cellphone alarm went off at 7am, trying to wake me up to visit the old town so i can take some morning photos of the empty streets, but instead i turned off my phone and decided that sleep was more important than documenting ancient chinese history.
when i finally got up 2 hours later (a call of nature), i went downstairs to pay for 2 more nights at the hotel (i verified that in fact i'm getting the discount rate of RMB$68 a night). i talked with the front desk girl, who was reading a travel magazine. she has dreams of visiting foreign countries, but thinks its impossible because acquiring a visa is difficult and it requires too much money. it made me feel guilty, that i can effortlessly travel for months through china, but it's very unlikely she'll ever see the US.
i had some porkchop rice noodles for breakfast at a nearby restaurant before going to the bus station and getting a ticket (RMB$6) for tianlong ("sky dragon"). what's in tianlong? when the chinese were laying siege to anshun back a few hundred years ago, they build a garrison town nearby. the town remains, along with some ancient chinese architecture. what's interesting about the town is these people are not ethnic minorities but rather han chinese descendents from nanjing, where the original soldiers were from.
passing by breathtaking landscapes of green karsts dotting yellow rice paddies, i got dropped off at the side of the highway, but with signs telling me where to go to see the garrison town. touts tried to get me to ride with them, but i told them i wanted to walk. tour buses passing me by indicated i was heading in the right direction. about 2km later i made it to the "tungbao" and walked right through the gate. i didn't like the place at first, a lot of new construction, a lot of souvenir shops, too much dali and lijiang. but as i walked further into town, the houses became genuinely ancient, and wandering through the numerous alleys, i saw people going about their daily lives. there were roaming tour groups that came by once in a while but for the most part the place was pretty free of foreigners. although the weather was overcasted, it never rained, and i had a field day going around taking photos.
hot peppers, laundry, melons
girl selling sunflower
after several hours in the old town (i had a corn for lunch and even bought a wooden mask as a souvenir), i decided to try and find the temple on top of a mountain (i saw it on a photo insert on an anshun map). after asking for directions from a guard, i started walking. the path passed through corn fields and karst mountains, but after a few wrong detours, i finally found the entrance to the temple at the base of a small mountain. the entrance fee was only RMB$10 and i paid it after waiting several minutes for them to find the ticket salesman (who was probably sleeping somewhere). "does that mean i get in for free?" i joked. nobody answered.
temple summit view
the walk up the mountain to the summit was a lot quicker than i thought. the temple, several hundred years old, is both taoist and buddhist. the view from high above was pretty good, but it's no mt.popa (burma). coming back down, i helped a young chinese couple take a photo then came across an american man traveling with a chinese woman. "where're you from?" i asked as he walked down the steps. "oregon," he said. "boston," i replied, pointing to myself. later i met up with them again. chris, a resident of shenzen, was traveling with his friend summer, checking out some sights in guizhou. she was bilingual, but he spoke only english. we chatted and they offered me a ride back to the old town (so i didn't have to walk through corn fields again). they had a local tour guide, we rode with us in the taxi. they were heading back to anshun but after checking out the old town, and said if i waited i could get a ride back to the city. i accepted the offer, happy that i didn't have to hitch a ride from the side of the highway.
walking into the old town, that's when i realized i was supposed to buy a RMB$20 ticket. i lied and told the guard i lost my ticket, and he let me in anyway. the tour went quickly, with either summer or chris often falling behind the guide; she was nice enough but gave the tour through memorized lines in chinese. i chatted with the guide and told her i was here earlier, and she said that's why a lot of townspeople said they saw me before.
after i got a ride back to anshun, i returned to the hotel to take a hot shower and a nap. i woke up after dark and went to the night market to find some dinner. if it wasn't skewered then it was hot pot, neither option i was very fond of. finally i found a stall that seemed empty and asked if they served anything other than hot pot. the man said they could do some beef fried rice for me and i agreed. he sat down with me while i ate and we chatted. he had an interesting story, he just came to anshun from chongqing because both his sons are going to school nearby. he was a former soldier, having served in the red army for 20 years, even seeing combat in vietnam. the government pays him a pension but he said it's not enough, and he was critical of those in charge. "i shouldn't be telling you this, since you're an overseas chinese," he told me, but i said it was okay, i wanted to understand more about chinese society. my dinner was just RMB$5 and we shook hands after i finished eating.
after posting this entry at this other internet cafe (security also tight, no photos tonight), i'm walking back home, stopping off at a convenience store to get some drinks. tomorrow's my last day in anshun, going to visit a few local temples, check out the sunday market, nice and easy-like.