Dave's Sketch Journal

Drawing is taking a line for a walk. - Paul Klee

Room atop 1000 Steps

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Sanhao, our driver, arrived at 10:30 to take us to Pingan. It was sad to leave Yangshuo behind. We have so many great memories here. We'd love to stay here for the rest of our time in China.

Sanhao drove us to Pingan (located in the Guangxi province). Even for our driver, China is changing too quickly. He tried to take a paved road he'd traveled before but was now closed off (they are constructing a new city) so he had to find another way through Guilin to Pingan. The road to Pingan is narrow and hardly wide enough for a single car let alone two. Sanhao popped his horn to sound warnings to oncoming busses and trucks as he rounded each and every turn.  It was a noisy drive.  Wooden stakes (about the size of chopsticks) tied together with twine  served as our only guardrails.

"Zhege lu ni changchang kaiche ma?" (Do you frequently travel this road?) I asked, wanting validation that he was experienced and we wouldn't be pitched off the cliff into the abyss below.

Shide." (Yes) he said but didn't tell me the frequency of his trips. I was looking for a frequency confirmation. Like "Oh yes, every day." or "Once a month." or "No, this is my first time." This would help me determine the level of fear I ought to have. I'm glad Tim was sitting in front. I just put my head down and read.

We arrived, got through the gate, and drove to the bridge. Instead of the swarm of women wanting to carry our stuff like last time there were only four. Sanhao had called ahead.

I counted 707 stairs to the Pingan hotel. Stairs, not steps. We walked over 1000 steps to reach the top, about a half a mile up. And we still had to walk up four flights of stairs to the room. We paid 20 yuan for each bag and had the resident women (they were mostly in their 50s) carry our bags in their baskets. Lynn will remember how I insisted on carrying my own the last time. No way. For $2.50 USD it's worth it to me to have them carry it. (Note: "It" since we all belong to the onebag.com club.)

View Place Hotel is a four story pine cabin on stilts wedged into the side of the terraced mountains of Longji. The walls are made of knotted pine and then shellacked with a clear satin finish. Our rooms 402 and 403 provide an awesome view of the valley below, ah, that is, if the weather would just clear up. It's raining we are shrouded in fog.

We stayed here almost two years ago to the day. Pam remembered us. Her husband is Sanhao, our driver and owner of the hotel. Sanhao and Pam have a new six month old little girl. She's all bundled up in a quilted yellow suit and white sock hat with little Mickey Mouse ears that lie flat. I'm not sure about the ears. I don't know what their purpose is. I'll have to ask.

"The yellow suit has a slit up the bottom. The split is for easy access to the diapers. Later, when the babies are about four months, they remove the diapers but leave the opening. The kids learn to squat wherever without taking off their pants. It's quite ingenious if a little breezy. The first time I saw this in Beijing I did sort of a double take. Is this really what I'm seeing? An outside crack exposing an inside crack?

We ate fried rice and egg, orange squash with sliced pork, and bamboo shoots. I'd never had the bamboo shoots but they are wonderful. They are only available this time of year. I remember the bamboo plants that grew outside my window when I was growing up. I never imagined they tasted so good, if I'd only known. They are my favorite Chinese food. I had them again for dinner, this time with fried rice and bacon. Real Chinese food tastes so clean, pure, and light. It's never greesy. It's so much better for you than the heavy meats and fried foods us Americans are eating.

While eating downstairs we met Mingmei from Guizhou and her friend from Taiwan. Mingmei teaches English in a Chinese school so she was anxious to write down all the words we used that she didn't know. (Calligraphy is a long and hard word for the Chinese to say.) She also translated our discussions for her friend. Tim attempted to do some of the translation using his best Chinese. He's getting good. He tries to speak Chinese everywhere we go. He downshifts to English if he gets puzzled looks.

Her friend likes to read ancient Chinese literature about far away places. He explained to us that it motivates him to travel to those same places so as to feel what the writer felt. Sometimes he forgets we don't understand a lot of Chinese and he'll go off, telling us all about a certain place. Mingmei pushes the pause button by gently placing her hand on his arm. She explains in her best English what he has said, and then releases the pause by lifting her hand. Then he he continues.

Mingmei gave Maite a Chinese first name: Meijuan (3rd and 1st tone). I'm not sure if she'll keep it or get another.

Don't tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled. - Mohammed

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