Went to breakfast to find santa hats and reindeer antlers – our uniform for today. No white Christmas but plenty of warm sunshine. First pattern of the day recorded for posterity with us all in Christmas head gear.
Lunch lovely as usual, quick nap and back out for the afternoon training session. Local photographer got interested in us, picture in the local paper anyone?
Christmas dinner – plenty of mulled wine for an incredibly merry meal. A wonderful Chinese interpretation of the traditional western Christmas dinner. Plenty of goose, pork and even stuffing. Some interesting pictures of the more serious members of the group may have to be destroyed for public relations preservation. One particularly tasteful Christmas jumper was a favourite, can you guess the owner?
Master Su’s Coffee
Yong Chun – Boxing Day
Recovered from Christmas with minimal hangovers and back out to train. A few of us attempted to work on the tan. Some exciting coffee chemistry attempted at lunch. Training stepped up a gear with new patterns, exciting times ahead. Dinner polished off with a durian.
After the adventures of the night before, the day kicked off with tasty dumplings and beef noodles in one of Shanghai’s greasy spoons. We then browsed one of the City’s fun shopping districts, great for last minute Christmas shopping, people watching and drinks from bars last seen in Swiss ski resorts.
So it is now 2.01 and we’re on a slow moving bus. The driver is rather upset about all the messing about trying to find us in the airport (we were where we were supposed to be – she had gone to the wrong terminal). In fact she was so upset she seemed to have forgotten how to drive the bus.
Hotly anticipated, today is the day we visit some of the locations where Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon were filmed. That counts as a big day where we come from. Mr Obligatory Tour Guide gave us some history about the area whilst in the bus. Interesting stuff about China’s holy mountains, how feng shui works, the importance of names, hierarchy, and famous people from this area. Hierarchy was new to me – in Ancient China the Emperor decided that society’s classes were ranked in the following order (after himself of course):
1st: High Officials
3rd Artists and Scholars
4th Business people
So New Year’s resolution will be, tidy garden, plant lettuce, and run for Parliament. That should get me a bit higher up the greasy pole.
Li Mu Bai Bridge
I digress. Right, the village was Hong Cun, and it was a mixture of the picturesque and the mundane. People still live and work there, though some of the old houses were open to the public. The first thing that you see is the bridge across the lake where Li Mu Bai leads his horse in the opening sequence of Crouching. It is impossible to get a decent picture of this because of the constant stream of people going over it. Not nice normal people, but tourists who have to stop on the cusp and turn around and have their picture taken making peace signs with their fingers. Oh well I’ll just have to buy a postcard. I did notice that the bevy of artists around the edge of the lake were filtering out humanity and just painting the buildings.
Apart from the bridge, we were not told of any other specific places where filming took place, though the village square looked a bit familiar. Will watch film again to see what I can see. The houses are all of similar type, white walls with black tiled roofs, lots of round doorways and inner courtyards. Mr Obligatory showed us around the house of a wealthy member of the underclass (see above) with his various wives’ and servants’ quarters on display – we are so quick to forget the many career choices in the old days. The biggest single room in the house was the kitchen.
After the obligatory lunch (not missing that again) it was back on the bus. We drive past a specially constructed “village” which is used to film martial arts movies but the bus driver wouldn’t let us off to have a go. So off to another village to see real Ming houses and an archway. Apparently if you were nice to the Emperor he would let you have an archway. This one stands in the middle of the village open space for no other reason than to commemorate a local governor who did a good job 600 years ago. Nice carving, has stood the test of time, well done.
We were subjected to the tourist spectacle of having to marry off one of the young men in our group to a local pretty, and once the sacrificial victim had been despatched we had a couple of hours to roam around. Pretty village, white houses, black roof tiles, lots of feng shui, bloody cold – see pictures.
Off to Shanghai tonight- goodbye to rooftops you can run along, courtyards to issue challenges, and pavilions for drinking tea. Ahh the good old days.
Dog on Duty – Huangshan Old Town
Huangshan day 4 part 2
Oops just when you think it’s safe to sign off.
Bus Driver Chaos!
So we had dinner in Huangshan (steamboat – not my favourite but they had wifi) and then headed off the the airport for an evening flight to Shanghai. It’s a short flight and there wasn’t even time for a cup of tea. Off the plane into the freezing air (didn’t feel like the plus 2 the pilot promised – it was warmer at the top of the mountain) and wait for bus to terminal. The bus ride was longer than the flight – even though we were going fast enough for a take-off. Giggling theories abounded:
1. He was having a bet with another driver
2. We were participating in an efficiency experiment
3. We had somehow ended up in a real-life Speed scenario (couldn’t spot Keanu anywhere)
It’s amazing where you can train – horse stance on a swaying bus at speed, one of our old friends (yes, we know you do it on the Tube in the mornings). This was competition worthy stuff.
When we reached the terminal and the doors opened “Did we win?”
Then pick up luggage, sort out phone left behind on place, look for bus to hotel…..look for bus to hotel…….look for bus……no bus, bus lost, bus on its way, bus nearly here, bus driver incommunicado. OK plan B – everyone and luggage into queue for taxis…….oh bus driver back in contact – here in 5 mins…drag all the luggage back across the roads to wait for the bus.
Hurrah – on the bus with all luggage. Slow start out of terminal. By now it is 2am, well below zero, and well past anticipated bedtime of 11pm.
In fact it is now Day 5, so wait for next instalment.
Right, back down the mountain. Stretch out the legs, repack the backpacks. At least today the cable car is nearby…. Well, the good news is that the sun is shining on the glistening snow; the bad news is that the nearest cable car isn’t working and it’s back to the one we came up yesterday. Breakfast went from leisurely to serious carb loading.
Those used to mountains can tell you that going up is easier than going down, especially on the knees (though we can argue with that opinion when we’ve just come up). Given the week’s training ahead, we thankfully made it down without incident and the views in the morning sun were beautiful. We did not stop as often as yesterday but some of the photos are even more spectacular. The snow began to gently melt in the sun and form crazy icicles from the canopied pine trees. I think we have enough photos to start a Christmas card shop in time for next year. I could drone on with descriptions of delicate filigree of ice and snow on the bare tormented branches of the beech trees, but I’ll let you just look at the pictures.
Also on lieu of tedious description
After a grateful lunch, it was time to walk through the old streets of Huangshan city. Endless shops selling calligraphy equipment, paintings, silk shoes and clothes, and antiques with special antique dust on them. Now up the mountain it was well below zero, but down in the town the cold is just penetrating, creeping into your bones and slowly stiffening muscles. Maybe they send you up the mountain first to slow you down enough to browse in the shops, because otherwise you have to powerwalk everywhere just to keep warm.
Dinner was lavish, with lots of chilli to drive out the damp, and beef tendon to repair our muscles and joints. The restaurant seemed to specialise in different types of rice wine, but like good people we stuck to the food – sigh!
So, up the mountains. This started with a nice bus ride followed by a transfer to an (Eco?)bus. The park is a UN heritage site and international geothermal park. Riding up the mountain with the usual corkscrew turnings surrounded by giant bamboo.
The fish in the Fish Bar got lucky again last night as the FWC Boys were back in town. They (the fish) took mild revenge for the swordfish that was served up on our plates accompanied by a traditional potato purée that enhances the flavour (of the swordfish not the Boys).
well I closed off yesterday’s blog a little prematurely, putting it online using the wifi at Kritiko.
The right kind of sky
In Kalives there is a new bar. “Would you like to come to the fish bar. It’s new in town.”. Sounds lovely. Turns out to be an aquarium where you put your feet in the water and fish eat all the disgusting bits. Following much discussion of what ends up in the water, where the fish go to the toilet, the statistical likelihood of catching hepatitis B, and whether catfish can be used as fish doctors (apparently they are in Borneo) a few hardy souls head off to try. They come back half an hour later having missed dessert, all giggly and enthusiastic. What happened to the hard-as-nails Kung fu students? Missing dessert for a pedicure, bah humbug! And most of them were males of the species!!
I can see you from here
Anyway on to today. Whilst the lunch restaurant is scenic and provides plenty of freshly cooked delicious food, variety is the spice of life. So after morning training today was a picnic on the beach. With commendable foresight given this morning’s hill sprints we pre-ordered cooked meat from the grill. Arriving to pick it up, the place is a hive of activity with meat grilling on all the spits – when we left they just had the gyros (Cretan equivalent of doner kebab) left The “mock chicken nuggets”(made from redundant ram parts) were delicious with a squeeze of lemon and dipped in sheep yoghurt. Also on the menu was kokoritsi – lamb’s draw (squishy bits) wrapped in intestine and roasted, good source of high quality protein, iron, and collagen. Perfect recovery food: a moment on the lips a lifetime on the quads.
Afternoon training in the shade of olive and orange trees
Today’s maths problem – if you have 15 deep-fried lamb’s privates and 28 people how much better does it taste if you eat it sitting under a tree on a beach by the Med? And what is the probability that anyone will eat any lettuce? Hint: the answer to one of these questions is nil, but we did provide lettuce, honest.
Back to houses and swimming pools for siesta and competitive spoon diving (see last year’s blog for details).
Very hot today – all the clouds have gone and the right type of sky has turned up. Grateful for the chance to acclimatise to English summer on our return.