Last night, not fifteen minutes after embarkation, I met our neighbors across the hall. (This is easy to do in China, where people routinely leave their doors wide open in hotels and trains and anywhere else where they are separate by walls: something about wanting to chat, or not miss a moment, I suppose.) “Hey,” the man called cheerfully from his bed, where he was chewing sunflower seeds and spitting shells on the floor. “Does your bathroom stink or not stink?!”
Tag Archives: Hubei 鄂
Imagine: The “Yangtze Sightseeing No. 3 Ferry,” your mode of transportation/home for the next 1.5 days, arrives at the pier a full hour later than its 9:30PM scheduled departure. Baby is exhausted, wife is annoyed. Upon embarking, it becomes clear that the sights on this so-called sightseeing boat will actually be the drunks, tramps, and old workers calling out from the steerage section that you are a spy. Glancing toward your second-class (of three) berthing section, you see shafts of bright incandescent light piercing through thick clouds of cigarette smoke. Then, as you complete yet another registration form that lets China keep track of you, the frumpy clerk says, “Hey, Old Foreigner, move up to first class for $50USD. You’ll have your own room…” three 100RMB bills are out on the counter before she can even finish“…and a private toilet.”
Pristine rivers flowing between green mountain walls. The primeval forest haunts of the Farmer God. A chance to glimpse the 野人, or Ape Man, who roams these parts. Owen’s first time camping. And, a 6-hour bus ride up an endless succession of rocky gulches and high canyons, with an exhausted 6’3″-tall 20-year-old asleep on my shoulder and a 2′ tall 1-year-old asleep on my lap. All this, and much talk of monkeys, drew us to Shennongjia, a national park (actually a”forest management district” that is only partially open to foreigners) located waaay back in the mountains north of the Three Gorges.
A great start to the trip so far! We’re currently in a dark, self-styled “cafe” with American 90’s soft-rock muzak playing at a highly-unnecessay loud volume. On right now: “Beauty and the Beast.” Why are we here? A look back at the last 18 hours…
We’re in Wuhan, a modern-day combination of two ancient cities on opposite sides of the Yangtze, here along the river’s wide middle reaches. We arrived via overnight train from Hangzhou, waking in the morning to passing scenery of damp, gray towns amidst misty green hills and soggy rice terraces. This place is wet, and hot, far more so than even humid Hangzhou.