A Travellerspoint blog

How About I Meet You Halfway?

Today we have a train at 5pm leaving to Beijing to meet Master Yang at the airport! So we got up pretty early and Joe managed to communicate to the hostess that we wanted to check our bags at the hotel so we could climb Taishan without them. But we were weary to leave the laptop just in the back room, so we packed Joe's backpack with the laptop, passports and snacks, and then we took the bus back up to Taishan. It let us off at the ticket office again, so to start at the main staircase we had to walk across the street and beyond the bridge to the right a little ways, past some curves in the road, and then to what we believed to be the entrance to the staircase.

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Here we find a functioning hand crafted crossbow (Joe tried it out by shooting the store wall). He really liked how the wood was fashioned together in a way that you knew someone had put it together by hand like a really good physics project in high school. So since Nate bought Joe a really nice antique looking crossbow that didn't work from Europe, Joe got Nate a not so fancy looking crossbow that worked really well from China. Then, we carried the thing all the way up the mountain strapped onto our backpack, and most of the people on the way up let us know that they liked our crossbow (we got many thumbs up, as well as smiles and laughs).

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We walked up some stairs just through the forest for a while before we came up to anything, and then one of the first things we found was completely unpredicted. We found an obelisk. A miniature Washington Monument standing right against the sitars to an ancient cluster of Taoist temples on a sacred mountain in China.

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Then I read the inscription on the right face (so cool!) and I realized that this obelisk was probably the newest thing added to the Mountain besides the shops (which are not so cool). I couldn't read much, but I could read the date:
January 7th, 1946

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I figured it was a war memorial built on January 7th to commemorate the Japanese surrender almost 6 months earlier. Then we found the description sign written in Chinese, and then English, which stated just as much.

We passed a lot of rocks with some really nice calligraphy carved into them,

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we saw some temples,

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and we passed a couple of the big multi building temple areas because they were either closed off or you had to pay to get in. Since we figured we had to be off the mountain by 3pm in order to make our train, we decided not to pay the extra money and just keep heading up the stairs. Then after about an hour we came to a gate with a ticket office. It was 250 RMB for both of us to just walk the stairs past the gate.

Joe:

Crap, that's a lot of money! We talked it over. We tried saying that we're students, but we had no student IDs. How can Chinese people afford 125 bucks for one person to climb a mountain? The Chinese upper middle class now makes probably half what we make in America, but most common goods still cost 1/7th the American prices. They just save their money for the occasional ridiculous expense. It's all part of living in a society that is growing and advancing too fast. I think all third world countries

Rain:

The nice thing was that beyond that gate (about another hour beyond) we found a temple you could go into without extra cost. This temple group was really cool inside. At first you walk in and you see 3 temples around a central incense burning cauldron and you think, this will be short and not worth paying extra money for.

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There was a small temple on the right meaning that the moment you step over the "trip" guard (they say its to keep demonds out... but I think its there to trip people), you have maybe a foot in front of you before you get to the pillow on a 45 leaning up to a statue of a Buddha (not the fat, bald, smiling one; usually a stern older man with a long beard). Then the temple on the left was a bit bigger with 3 different statues you could kneel on pillows and pray to. This temple had a little Buddhist priest in it who came up to Joe and started talking to him in Chinese. "What is he saying?" I asked Joe to 1.) know what he was saying, and 2.) so the priest wouldn't try and speak to me in Chinese. Joe was struggling for a bit, repeating what the man said over again but slower, and then the sign language kicked in. "Ohhh, he is asking if we are married." He told the priest that we weren't, and the questions continued. This guy really wanted us to get married. He kept taking my hands and putting them into Joe's as if he was ready right then to officiate on our behalf. I kept saying "No, no, no, not yet," smiling to the man as I shook my head. He was very light hearted about it, but still very insistent that he could tell that we should marry each other and that when we get to the top of Taishan we should purchase a lock to attach to the incense burner at the top most temple.

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Then Joe and I bowed to the Buddha that we felt spoke to us the most, and then we left, shaking the hand of the little man, and then being tricked into having him put our hands together. As we left he told Joe one more thing that came out something like, "You don't have to listen to me, but I think you should marry each other, but you don't have to."

Then we went into the large temple and it was literally the coolest temple ever! In the center was a large golden statue of a buddha with 6 arms and 4 faces (very Hindi looking),

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with 2 larger than life sized women on either side holding up offerings. Then all along the walls were different buddhas, but not none of them were inside alters or cases like before. Instead they were along this elaborate wooden 3D art sculpture of mountains and clouds and some Buddhas had animal spirits around them while others had large weapons or scrolls depicting which god they were.

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The photos didn't come out so good because the room wasn't lit. But you can imagine what it might have been like wondering around a room surrounded with statues all part of the same picture each having their own prayer pillow you could kneel upon and ask that particular god for their blessings. Joe picked the black buddha that looked like he was very angry as he screamed and held up a coin like a bludgeoning weapon over his head.

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I picked the buddha with the little student standing behind him holding a midget sword.

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And as we were coming out of the temple to exit the courtyard back to the main staircase we saw people ducking in and out from behind the buildings, so we followed and we found that this place was actually like a little village! There were all sorts of other buildings and trees with their little crochet's (no, they are actually prayer ribbons, but Corey got me started on the idea that they are wearing little tree scarfs), and ponds with metal lotus flowers:

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(you have to try to bounce coins off the leaves and into the flower... we tried)

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Then, more walking. More stairs. 1/2 hour later:

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Cool turtle tablet. Turtle with tablets on their back are really big in China. We will find out why later. Another hour later:

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Cool tree fallen across the walkway. This was one of the 8 trees planted by one of the emperors of China. Now all of them have fallen except for one.

Then more stair mastering,

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Around this time Joe and I stopped to preform a show we like to call Ghosts Eat Lunch. It was a big hit with this group of old women who literally stood there and watched us eat sandwiches and some walnuts. Then from this point up the number of people asking us where we came from increased exponentially. Almost every person we ran into seemed shocked to see a couple of ghosts this far up the staircase, so they always asked what country we were from (thats right America, we make you look good!)

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Now its starting to get late and I'm worried that we needed to start heading back down the mountain. We said that we would give ourselves until 2pm to hike up so we would have enough time to make it back down the mountain and get our train. But Joe was insistent that we had time to make it a little further. "Just to the next big marker!" he kept saying as he pointed at our map. But when we would get to the next marker, he would say, "Look at how close we are to the halfway point!" and he would get me to keep climbing. I tried to help him out from time to time with the backpack, but I way dying now and I couldn't take another step with the backpack (I probably wore it for a total of 15 minutes on and off the whole day).

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And then, almost 5 hours after we started hiking this morning we made it to the halfway point! (And we are going to miss our train)

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(Yes, that is snow) Then these following pictures are about the same altitude as us, but a couple of hundred meters away, and then the final is a zoomed in shot of the very top.

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We could see it from the halfway point, which made me feel like we went more than half way, but I guess it means half way in altitude, so from this point on the mountain is all stairs, where as before we would have long periods of slightly up sloped ramps.

Higher vantage point of the Halfway to Heaven Gate:

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Joe was a little disappointed with the Halfway to Heaven Gate because it was very touristy. Going up the mountain there was hardly anyone. We had the place mostly to ourselves, and there was the occasional shop selling food and charms, but that was it. Here there was a huge shopping center area and tuns of people coming up to you when you go to a temple saying "Money, money, money" (in english) as they rub their fingers against their thumbs. Before there were always donation bins, but nobody ever came up to you and specifically asked you for money. And then I realized why this area was far less sacred feeling than the rest of the journey up... they had busses! At that area about the same altitude as us but a couple of hundred meters away... there was a bus station! I didn't know that there were busses to the Halfway Gate, otherwise I wouldn't have been so insistent on turning around and walking all the way back down! Taking a bus would save us at least 2 hours if not more! Joe said he knew that the busses went this high, but he didn't want to tell me b/c he thought I might cave if I knew there was another way up (his lack of faith in me!) And if busses weren't bad enough, they also had cable cars from the Halfway Gate all the way to the top!

Walking to the bus station shops:

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Hotel and restaurants:

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Looking back at the Halfway to Heaven Gate to see the cable cars:

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This is us doing a little hiking up the second half of the mountain, looking back at the Halfway Gate, but then we had to climb back down these few stairs to the busses so we could ride back down the mountain and catch our train. Our bus didn't leave for another half hour though, so since we were both very cold and tired we decided to go back to the hotel and restaurant area and get a cup of tea and coffee. The coffee was instant, but it was alright. The tea was quite good though, but it wasn't worth the prices! We expected the bill to be under 5 yuen, and when Joe asked how much we owed she told us 40! (The Chinese really have accepted western tourism pricing. I told Joe that they are just getting back to their roots, Communism doesn't soot their ancient culture, so I kinda liked how China is just as capitalistic as America... but just not at that exact moment b/c I was really pissed about being over charged.)

The ride took us about 20 minutes, and we saw the point back at the free side of the mountain where Joe and I decided to head right instead of left (if we headed left we would have been on the same road we were just driving down and we would have made it to the main staircase... we were both glad we did not choose the paved road with all the smokey busses to climb to the Halfway Gate). Back at the hotel we got our bags with no problem, and we made it to the train station with plenty of time. We walked around showing people our train ticket, and we had people hold our hands to get to our waiting area. Then a very stern little chinese lady sat us down, told us to stay, and when it was time to go she personally came back to where we were sitting, stood us up, and took us to the proper gate (stern, but helpful!) The train was a sitdown train like the one we took from Shinjin to Guangzho, and like that train it was dark ouside so we couldn't really see much of China while we traveled. So Joe and I just read our books and pointed out the city lights when we would pass a major town (in China every town is a major one), and then 3 hours later we were in Beijing! It was a little confusing, but since we learned how to use the subway in Guangzhou we made it to the airport subway fairly easily. The airport had a separate metro that went above ground and about 30 min around the city of Beijing (kinda like how Cleveland Hopkins isn't really in Cleveland so much as Lakewood). Then we started wondering around the airport trying to figure out which area Delta let out.

"Hey guys!" We hear after wondering around aimlessly for about 10 minutes. (Do all Chinese people really look alike?) It was Master Yang! We seriously didn't spot him at all and almost walked right past him! He told us that he had just gotten off his flight and was trying to find his cousin (good timing!) So the 3 of us walked around the airport for a while trying to find Wei Ping. When we found him we hopped in a car and drove 30 back into Beijing. Joe and I both thought it would have saved us a lot of time and money (the airport metro is about 5 times the cost of the normal metro), to just meet them in Beijing, but oh well. Then we checked into a really ritzy hotel around 10pm and Master Yang told Joe that if he gets hungry to give him a call b/c he was probably not going to sleep b/c of his jet lag. However, Joe and I were pretty exhausted, so neither of us woke up until 7am the next morning when Master Yang gave us a wakeup call "You ready to go?" (does this guy know Joe at all? He needs at least 1 to 2 hours warning to be ready to go anywhere!) And with that, I say:

Net Cafes Do With The Wind!

Posted by - Rain 15:05

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what does "net cafes do with the wind" mean? help!

by georgi r

Wonderful story and photos here--love the part about the priest trying to get you two to marry. Intriguing that he would suggest that you simply look as though you should be married. I also liked the whole contrast of two "sides" of the mountain, with two contrasting paths--one more spiritual, the other easier, smokier, and more touristy.

by Sheryl S

Hi, VS,

Sheryl, Irene, me and my Hubby went to your house for DNL's graduattion party. Your mom show me your pics and this blog. I was so impressed by the places you have been. Interesting story. When are you guys leaving for TW? Send me email.

by Jingling

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