Monday, May 30, 2005

Day 7 & 8: Bring It On Home

Sunrise at TaiShan
Originally uploaded by billmcgonigle.
At four AM I arose, all alone, huddled in the corner of my palacious 3-bed room. I even had a TV and tea set.

Outside my door... christ all mighty.

The corridors of the hotel were lined with people sleeping foot to head, another dozen was in the bathroom, and the dining had been converted into one giant bunker. Cautiously stepping between bodies, I eventually made my way outside where the situation was even worse. Hundreds more people were asleep on the ground, huddles against shop fronts, and a few, again, in the bathrooms. And more were ambling up the front steps of the little village.

Thosuands. Thousands of Chinese tourists. I honestly believe I have never seen so many people in so small a place before.

Oh yeah. And they were all wearing the standard PLA issue Private's jacket for warmth.

Picture yourself in a rising sea of PLA green on top of a mountain at 4 in the morning.

That alone was worth waking up for.

The sunrise itself was cool, nothing spectacular, but cool. Watching the shadows spread across an entire kingdom calms your nerves and lets you forget about the fact that China has the largest standing army in the world for a few moments. But the crowds made for some tough viewing, which was the only drawback.

After a nap, I packed and began bounding down the mountain. I was in a great mood. I had accomplished everything I wanted to on this vacation, all be myself. In China. With Chinese. All I had to do now was get home.

The bus from TaiAn to JiNan was nothing spectacular, but pulling into JiNan for the second time, I still wasn't impressed. Quickly found a hotel room, perhaps the nicest and best priced room of the entire trip. Most importantly, it had a shower. I hadn't showered since QingDao (Day4) as my rooms and QuFu and TaiShan were devoid of showers or baths.

The shower became the most important element of the JiNan story, because JiNan is a dirty, sweaty, boring city. JiNan is the capital of ShanDong province, but QingDao gets all the attention and JiNan is left as a shell that people hate to deal with but always have to. Like Albany. But sweatier. Much sweatier.

I took a walk around the city and found nothing interesting. JiNan was famous for its springs, so I visited one and found it run dry. I guess this was typical, and had been for years. So I watched some kite flying then found some food. Went home, showered, watched a few hours of TV and read, showered again, slept, woke up, showered, and hopped the bus to the airport.

Notice how much I had to shower in JiNan.

Checked in, found my gate burried in the belly of the airport, sat down, boarded the plane, waited on the tarmac, got recalled, exited the plane, returned to the gate.

Waited. Waited. It was a connecting flight, going from JiNan to DaLian to Harbin, and then it became a direct flight to Harbin. Reboarded, 5 passengers on the entire plane. One was an old man who must have NEVER been on an airplane before. He kept getting surprised when the stewardess brought him food. "Oh, I don't want to buy any... its free?... heeheeheehee!" And when he found the bathroom, he almost fell down. Plus he kept spitting on the floor.

And then I was home.


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