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Monday, October 8, 2012

And Back Again

This is part 2 of my update related to my week long travel through Hunan province. Let's start off with some pictures of my favorite place, Phoenix Old Town (Fenghuang). I described it a little in the previous post.

Busy street in Fenghuang, many of the shop owners live in
apartments built right on top of their shops.

Fenghuang canal at night.

We ducked under here to get out of the rain, and had
some of Hunan's famed spicy food.

Fenghuang is the Chinese word for Phoenix. This is the statue
in the middle of the main square.

Thought the visit was brief, I fell in love with the place. I'll be back for a more thorough exploration the first chance I get. After we departed the Phoenix Old Town, the next stop for us was the main attraction of the trip, ZhangJiaJie. Famed for its unique mountainous landscape of steep towers of rock, which was one of the locations of the world that inspired the design of the floating mountain region in James Cameron’s Avatar. We started at 5am to get there early and beat the crowds, and the first several hours climbing up to the top were sublime. However once we got to the top of the hike around noon, all of the tourists who took the busses to the top were their to meet us and it quickly became a storm of people, bargaining, and unfortunately trash was sprawled all over the area. Despite all of this, the place was beautiful and I believe that if it weren’t the National Holiday, the place wouldn’t be such a zoo. We ended the day by taking the world’s largest outdoor elevator from the top of one of those rock towers down to its base. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of the elevator or the amazing place it spit us out at, because of both the rain and the rush we were in at that point. 

The ZhangJiaJie landscape

The final stop for us was a Traditional Chinese museum, and an art museum that specialized in paintings made of sand, which were phenomenal. If there was one thing that never ceases to amaze me in China, it's their beautiful and variant forms of art. And their food. So that makes two things.

Another example of a preserved traditional chinese area, with
industrialization happening right outside its walls.

This whole thing was within a frame. The tools, stone, and wooden doors
were built onto the canvas with the painting in middle, made of sand adhered to the canvas.
The red tags on the door read "long live the Communist Party and Chairman Mao"

You can see the texture that the sand creates on the dome

Once again, made entirely of colored sand. Pretty unreal huh?

That was the conclusion of the trip with the tour group. We stayed one extra day in the city of ZhangJiaJie while the rest of the group went back home via train. During that day we walked the city streets and generally took it easy. I ate bat on a skewer, which was delicious. I felt attached to many of the people I traveled with after the week I had spent with them in Hunan province, talking about China and life here. Some I could even call friends. During my time in China I've met so many kind people, with seemingly infinite patience in teaching me their language and culture, and an easy going willingness to help in any way they can.
3 Chinese children I got to know along the trip. All 3 of them are learning
English as a second language, and at 7 years old can speak it very well.

My buddy Kevin, son of Rambo. 

Heading back home was a 26 hour train ride. As usual we made conversation easily with the Chinese people near our bunks. Some spoke great english, some spoke none at all and our interactions were done through simple Mandarin, friendly gestures, and card games. I learned much during this last week, about traveling within China and about the people of this country. I have positive impressions of both, and look forward to my next trip.

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