street to qianling park
i called room service this morning to get a complimentary breakfast delivered to my room. in my mind i pictured a beautiful continental breakfast served on a tray but what i got was a box of dry pastries, a bag of milk (apparently milk is served in bags in china, not in cartons, and it taste like powdered milk, not american cow juice), and a hard-boiled egg. it wasn't what i expected but you can't beat free and i ate in my room, my feet on the bed, watching morning television (they don't get cctv channel 9 here, so no "traveling in chinese").
sports hotel breakfast
the first destination of the day was to visit qianling park northwest of the city where apparently monkeys roaming free inside. i have a tempestuous relationship with monkeys, sometimes they are my friends while other times they are my mortal enemies, so i was curious to see how it'd go. i wanted to take a public bus there but unfortunately it took me a while to find the right one (bus numbers climb upwards to the hundreds), riding one bus in the wrong direction, before i got my bearing, and finally made it to qianling park.
expecting to see a tranquil park, what i found instead was a sea of people, mostly elderly chinese. the entrance fee is only RMB$5 but i get the feeling that senior citizens get in for free, and apparently i got there right during a shift change, the early morning crowd going home, while the late morning crowd just arriving. apparently loitering is a popular pasttime for retired chinese folks, and the park was completely filled with their ilk, dancing, singing chinese opera, playing instruments, practicing water calligraphy, walking their birds, flying kites, tai chi, martial arts, exercising, reading, the whole gamut of elderly activities.
i advanced into the park until i saw the monkeys. it wasn't hard to find them, they sort of find you, or at least the crowds of chinese handing out free food despite signs telling them not to feed the monkeys. the monkeys were basically panhandlers, waiting for handouts. if you had no food in your hand you were safe, but if they saw you had snacks, they'll come by and pull on their trouser legs, or if they get close enough, they'll try to grab it out of your hand, and occasionally the more testy monkeys will jump on your back.
"give me my money, bitch!"
there's also a zoo in qianling park, although it's not very well advertised, and because it's free, i was afraid it was the bad kind of zoo, where the animals are routinely abused. but i read somewhere they had a panda so i made my way there. true to my expectations, this was the bad kind of zoo. i watched as people teased the animals, trying to get them to react, and even saw one young man spit on a leopard (he turned around and saw me watching, i hope he felt a little guilty). a cat climbed into an eagle's enclosure, trying to steal the piece of raw chicken. they had peacocks but they weren't free-ranging like at the kunming zoo but rather in a large open concrete pit. although siberian tigers were advertised (signs in chinese even said tiger urine was available for sale), the cages were empty. as for the panda, it had long since died, all that was left was a stuffed former self on display. there was also a live performance of a young woman who lives with snakes, but i didn't want to pay the RMB$2 special entrance fee and quickly left the animal prison.
francoise leaf monkey
watch out for animals
i slowly walked uphill, until i came to a buddhist temple (RMB$2). unexpectedly i had arrived at hongsi, the main attraction of the park.
coin offerings (for tossing in ponds)
inside the temple was the standard buddhist temple offerings, incense burning, people praying, gongs, golden buddhas (which no photos are allowed to be taken), and the prerequisite gift shops selling expensive trinkets like a wooden buddha head or prayer beads.
buddhist freed turtles
apparently i'd gotten into the temple the backway, and when i left i finally saw the main entrance and the large colorful carving of dragons washing baby buddha, who's striking a saturday-night-fever pose.
hongsi main entrance
dragons washing baby buddha
temple knocker (missing ring)
steps to the temple
i finally left qianling park a few hours later. by then the crowd had dispersed, and though there were still people around, it was nothing like what i saw in the morning.
after a lunch of beef noodles (RMB$4.5), i made my way to the main bus station, a few blocks away. earlier this morning i visited my nearby bus station, but they said they didn't sell tickets to qingyan, the fortress town i wanted to visit, and told me to try the main station north of the city center. i was able to buy a ticket right away (RMB$10.5), a bus leaving for qingyan immediately. unfortunately that was the only thing was fast, as the bus wasn't quite full, and the driver went around the city until he filled all the seats. how long did it take? my ticket was for 2pm but we didn't actually leave guiyang until 4pm, 2 hours later. i was surprised nobody burst out in answer like i wanted to, which made me realize something else about the chinese: although they're rude, they're also surprisingly cowardly, and have a high tolerance for abuse and outright injustice. i'd surrendered by that point and fell asleep. when i finally got to qingyan ("getting off," i said, but no response, "GETTING OFF!" i shouted, and the bus lurched to a stop as i grabbed hold of the above-head bars), it was 4:30.
qingyan is another garrison city, this one will a nice city wall. apparently guizhou has a lengthy history of siege warfare by the han chinese, and these fortress towns formerly the resident of soldiers are everywhere. qingyan, unlike feilong tungbao near anshun, doesn't any special ethnic wear, and the people there look like regular chinese. what it does offer is a big town to explore, with several temples. although there's new construction being made (which looks conspicuously new), there are also some old parts of town, still retaining ancient flavors.
200 year old temple carvings
a scene from romance of the three kingdoms
the most interesting thing to see at qingyan are the wooden carvings found in some of the temples. i asked a taoist monk whether they were new as well (because they looked too amazingly well-perserved), and he said they were original, dating back 200 years old. they survived the cultural revolution because the townspeople covered them up with mud and wrote communist party slogans on them to prevent them from being destroyed.
qingyan main gate (interior)
outside road to main gate
up through the main gate
it was well past 6pm when i finally left qingyan. there was still a lot to see, but i didn't want to leave any later, otherwise it'd be too dark for me to hitch a ride from a guiyang-bound bus. i made my way to the highway and waited for a bus to come by. the first one to appear was a guiyang bus and i waved my hand, surprised at how easy it is to flag down a transport. the ride back was only RMB$5, and i sat in the backseat, watching a jet li movie on the in-cabin television.
qingyan to guiyang landscape
back in the city around 7pm, at the main bus station, i tried to figure out where to take the no.1 bus back to the sports hotel, but with my sense of direction completely thrown off, and the day already turned to night, i just grabbed a cab ride back to the hotel (RMB$11). after a quick bathroom break, i was back out, this time to find dinner.
wild mushrooms restaurant
i walked down to the wild mushrooms restaurant a few shady blocks away from where i was staying. it was a high-class joint, with a small battalion of waitstaff standing strategically through the place to offer instant service in case you needed anything. when the waitress heard that i was by myself, i could sense she felt sorry for me. they had both hot pot (which apparently better brings out the natural flavors of the mushooms) and traditional cooking, and since i was eating for one, i opted for the traditional: a plate of chicken hearts, a plate of wild mushrooms medley mixed with tofu, and a plate of deep fried mealyworms. i asked if i could take a photo of their mushroom display ("pick of the day"), and after two waitresses left to go ask, i was told the manager said i couldn't take any photos. that put me in a foul mood with thankfully the food was able to remedy. curious, i asked one of the waitresses if she's ever seen a customer have an allergic reaction to eating wild mushrooms. she said no, but even if she did see it, i don't think she'd tell me. what's surprising is they also tried to get me to buy some chinese wine, and it's basic wild mushrooms eating 101 that you don't mix alcohol with mushrooms (at least some types of mushrooms) because it causes a poisonous chemical reaction.
afterwards i walked back to the hotel, where another hot bath awaited my return, and i enjoyed a short night of peaceful sleep before i set off to eastern guizhou, where i don't think the hotels and the guesthouses will be as good.