Friday, October 14, 2005

Feng Du

We got off of the boat at 6:30am, and the sun still hadn’t quite peaked above the horizon. Or, maybe it had and we couldn’t tell… most of China that I have seen has a smog-like mist hanging over it all of the time. I don’t know if this is actually smog, and I don’t really want to know. Our very large group started walking through derelict streets, with most of the area looking like bombed out Sarejevo of the early ‘90s must have looked. Up on the rooftops, Chinese laborers were already hacking away at the buildings with sledgehammers, a slow destruction of the city, brick-by-brick. In a few years this whole section of the city would be underwater and the taller buildings had to be trimmed down a little so they wouldn’t harm passing boats. I asked Ngee Siew why they don’t just use explosive to bring the buildings down, and he said it is because many Chinese often used to hid money or gold in walls and under floors… if construction crews do the work, they can find some of the forgotten stashes sometimes.

As we walked through the first inhabited street filled with shops preying on the tourists, the sun started to come up. On the hill ahead of us was a giant Buddha that was built into the side of the mountain. A few hundred yards ahead were gates to the temple, and of course the obligatory ticket booth. Have I mentioned that in China everything is cheap, but nothing is free. If the Chinese can make money off of you in some fashion or another, they will do it. Our boat tickets included the price of admission to most of our stops, so our tour guide handed out our tickets and we headed in.

I was very fortunate to have Ngee Siew on the trip with me. The entire tour (all of the tours on the whole trip) was completely in Mandarin. I feel sorry for the Germans that I met… their group had no one able to translate so they had absolutely no idea what they were looking at. Even with Ngee Siew’s help, I only caught a small portion of the information. I don’t think they temple was old at all, and again had a definitive Disney-like quality to it. Some small parts of the temple remained very reverent and serious, but at the top of the hill in the main building, there was an amusement park ride where you sat in a car and went through a “haunted house” like you would on the pier at Wildwood, NJ. Another part of the tour was a walk though heaven and hell… very much like the London Dungeon if you’ve ever been there… diorama pictations of demons doing terrible things to their human captives, yet all in paper mache. Not impressed at all.

Once we had walked through the temple, we were told we had 90 minutes to climb to the top of the mountain. There were stairs the entire way up, all underneath bamboo and trees. Various more-serious temples were on the way up, and at the top you were treated to an amazing view. At least, I imagine it would have been amazing if the weather had been a little clearer. From up on top, you could clearly see the parts of the town below that would be immersed in the coming years. The temple and pagoda up top were also not very old I think, but they were much nicer looking and seemed more authentic (although there was a gift shop).
After seeing all there was to see, we walked back down the mountain, down the steps, through the deserted town, and back to the boat. Our next stop wouldn’t be until after lunch so I amused myself with the guitar some more.

Phew…. I just wrote a lot… you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for me to write more I think. And I we haven’t even gotten to the Gorges yet!