We arrived back in Beijing, China after 29 wonderful days in Mongolia. Our 24 hour train ride unfolded in reverse order to the trip that we took the other way, a month before. The sky got more and more smoggy, the green country turned to desert and then endless cityscape. The ger chimneys were replaced by giant factory smoke stacks. The roads got better, and busier, the train platforms more swept, the language harsher, the restaurant car food got better.
We ventured to our previous hotel. I cannot explain how nice is it to go somewhere familiar. After our Mongolian diet, we knew exactly what we were going to eat too! Vegetables!! (and treats) Yay for Chinese food!!
We had 14 days left of my Mum’s visit and wanted to do heaps of cool stuff. We planned a whirlwind tour, and Chris booked a bunch of train tickets. His Mandarin is now ‘ticket-booking-worthy’ ( Not just a pretty face, my husband. Seriously, who sneaks in learning Mandarin to their 4 1/2 minutes of free time a day?)
First, we wanted to see the beautiful summer palace in Beijing. Its lovely.
A retreat for the royal and wealthy ( and foolish) it is a rabbit warren of pathways, ornate buidings, koi-filled fish ponds and green green Chinese gardens, expertly manicured.
Why foolish? This marble boat was built and decorated with most of the navy budget, by an indulgent Empress Dowager Cixi. Its of the non-floating variety.
Then we went over night, again, to Xi’An. Meena and Mum went off to see the terracotta warriors and we climbed the Drum Tower, a mere 700 years old.
Meena fell very sick on arriving at Luoyang. Chris and my Mum took Sparky and Tintin to see the Longman caves to see these 13 metre tall carvings.
Chris reflects: I continue to be amazed by thousand year old stuff made by people. As an Australian, I appreciate the deeply rich and spiritual ancient culture of our Aboriginal people, but they didn’t build big stuff or carve big images out of stone or wood. Seeing a 13 meter tall buddavista and his right hand Heavenly Prince carved out of the side of a rock mountain about 1700 years ago is awesome. While figuring out how to capture this grand and complex setting in photos, I try to figure out how they did and more importantly why.
As a Christian, I know about the idea of doing things for others, the church and my God. Things which take time, effort and make absolutely no economic sense. But my misely efforts don’t compare to the project of carving these statues out of the rock face. This must have taken many hundreds of people, many years … and why did they do it? Rather than answer that here, I’ll set it for my kids to research!
The guy on the right below was gifted with enormous memory, and apparently responsible for recording the ancient Buddhist texts. As I stagger through the process of learning a dozen or so phrases in each new language, I envy this guy’s gift of memory.
Sparky enjoyed the magnificent views along the Yi river while Tintin took some great photos.
As Meena recovered, Tintin and Snowy got sick, then Chris. I was next, and then poor Baby Boy got it last of all. So the next week was a blurr.
Our photo records tell us we went to these night markets…
We spent a day in Nanjing, Chris and I in bed, and Mum took two of the well children out and about. They hired a boat and putted about on the lake. I think Nanjing is really pretty, but I really only saw one street, as I ventured to the local shop for bottled water.
We took a bunch of trains, including one ‘cattle class’. We have photos, but they have elbows and bags and feet right where the picture should be.
This is a bullet train. Wow, 257km/hr is fast!!
We went through a lot of paracetamol, and had a lot of fevers. I’m committed to not giving advice on my blog, but just this once I will say, if you are buying paracetamol in China, make sure its not laced with massive amounts of caffeine, you will not sleep all night. Enough said.
Some of us vomited, can’t remember who…. I took Meena to the hospital when she became delirious. That was weird, and not just because of the complete strangers who kept walking into the consult room for a look-see. One of them stood at the door with his shirt off, smoking, as he talked to no one in particular about how it was Sunday, and he was allowed to smoke in the hospital. Idiot! It was Tuesday, and he was puffing smoke into a room of coughing kids!! I shut the door in his face.
A friendly hostel employee, and a friendly hostel guest came with us, which was great, as no one in the hospital spoke English.
They would speak to the doctor at length, and he would reply at length, I would look first at the doctor then the translator with my eyebrows rising higher and higher at each interchange. Eventually they’d come up with ‘ she’s ok now’ or ”the medicine you gave her worked’ . I was relieved at this, and also the blood test results. They were in Chinese, but I could tell whatever it was they were measuring was neither too high or too low.
Then they came out with ‘we are admitting her over night and putting her on a drip.’
Not on my shift! We got out of there. If there is anything I’ve learnt from all those winters my other daughter Sparky spent in hospital, its that sometimes Mums have to hightail their kids out of hospitals.
I used that one liner that is so useful in markets ‘maybe later…we’ll come back’ Yeah, right.
And so we arrived in Shanghai a week later, totally exhausted.