15 November 2007

Tai'shan - sacred mountain: CONQUERED!

Not wanting to spend all my time hitting major cities and the usual tourist attractions, I decided to stop at Tai'an city, jumping off point for pilgrimages to the top of Tai'shan, the holiest Taoist mountain in China. I took a sleeper train from Beijing and got off at around 6 am with no Chinese language ability to see me through the beginning of my provincial adventure. Predictably, I was netted by a taxi driver ten steps outside the station (slow for China). I "told" him which hotel I wanted him to take me to, but he said that it had closed and recommended a different, much more expensive one. I told him I wanted to go to my selection anyway to see for myself because I was pretty sure he was a filthy liar. He seemed to refuse. So I found another driver. Again, I produced my map and I think jabbed my finger at it fairly convincingly. After telling him several times that I don't understand Chinese, he kept speaking Chinese to me. And he took me to two very nice hotels anyway. "Very nice," I said, because I know this one in Chinese, but "too expensive" I indicated in my phrasebook. I don't stay at very nice or even adequately nice hotels. Still, he kept yammering away in Chinese, occasionally jabbing his own finger into my shoulder either to get my attention or emphasize points that escaped me. He was also a close talker. I had to keep moving back, and he would then move into me again. In retrospect, this all seems kind of funny, so I'm writing about it now at unecessary length. Finally, my early morning patience circuits fried, I gave him the universal f*ck off wave of dismissal, and decided to walk to my hotel, which was not closed, and which cost a whopping $9 after negotiation. The climb itself was OK. It reminded me a little of Sam Mountain in Vietnam. Again, low visibility, but not too many people, either, which was nice. A guy at the halfway point told me it would definitely take 2 hours more to get to the top. Ironman did it in 45 minutes.

By the way, people here definitely stare. This is Shandong, not Beijing. Some of them laugh at me, too, but I think it's because I wear a funny hat from Peru.

1 comment:

Alix said...

Hey Steve,
I've been out of touch with your blog, but I just tried to catch up

I LOVE the dialogue you wrote from the POV of the waitress. Fantastic. Seradis-like, but better.

Must get on with my day and do yoga. I hope that you'll write more detail about the *food* you are eating?