November 13th saw me, my pal S. and his friend Dr. T took a plane ride from Ningbo to Shenzhen International Airport, and Ningbo International Airport is so named because it has routes to Taiwan, HK, and Macao other than her regular routes to many Chinese cities. It is far enough, and so it is named!
The plane ride lasted about an hour and a half; in flight service included a package of biscuits and a pop. You are right, “biscuits”! I would rather prefer a bag of peanuts though.
A lot of my fellow travelers are citizens travel in a group, in a tour, or going to HK for work, or business. The young lady sat next to me just came back from Jiuzhaihuan (九寨沟) and Ermei Mountain (峨眉山). She now works as a lawyer in HK – specializing in Chinese International Law. Anyways, she said she quite enjoyed the sceneries and the trip, so it was nice to know that we are heading into somewhere worthwhile seeing.
Jiuzhaihuan is an area discovered accidentally by some local residents picking herbs growing wild in the mountains in the mid 70’s. By the way, those days the majority of the locals are descendants from the Tibet region, because of the high plateau and thin oxygen, thus more sunlight year round. Folks there have perpetual sun tan, and rugged good looks. They were nomads for time eternity until the Chinese Central Government poured a lot of monies into the region to build infra structures, utilities, and housing.
More about locals later.
From the Arrival Floor of Shenzhen International, we took a cross boarder air conditioned bus to HK. After a 30 minutes ride we approached the board. You have to get off the bus on China side with his/her bags, walked towards the Immigrations Building which housed both HK and Chinese Immigration Officials. This case, entering HK side is very fast if one has the HK ID card and is considered Permanent HK Resident or HK citizen.
After gone through the paper work, you walked towards the Exit signs to HK, and board the same numbered Bus with your bags in hands to continue the remaining part of your trip towards HK. From this crossing you have about an hour to get to downtown. And you are in the Special Administering Zone of Hong Kong – Former British Colony.
Cars are driving on the opposite side of the road as compared to China. No more menacing electric assist bikes, traffic signals are obeyed, no tail gating, no constant hone honking, no cut ins without signaling, speed limits are observed, generally you can take a rest from the constant battle station mind set when you are on the road. Halleluiah!
We rented rooms on Lamma Island for two nights; Lamma is about an hour’s boat ride from HK Island, we like it there, because the pace over there is much less hectic, air quality is far better, and only bank over there happened to be my bank, and has its one and only ATM machine on the main drag.
Next day I took Dr. T for a little trip on HK Island. First we took a bus ride from Central to the Peak – The Victoria Peak as it was called in the old days.
Now it is generally called – the Peak.
You can take the electric Tram or the bus to go up and down. I opted a bus ride up, so we will see more of the local areas. It didn’t disappoint Dr. T, as he has never been to HK before. After we passed the sea level part of the trip, as the bus accented the hill, the road up is very winding and narrow, for those who has been to HK, the higher up the hill your residence is, it is safe to assume that you do better than your earthy brothers down on the flats.
We spent a lot of time goo-goo gaga over those mansions built precariously on the hill side on the way up. Dr. T retired from the Chinese National Air Force a few years ago. He grew up in the Cultural Revolution Era, trained as a “Bare Foot” doctor in his younger days, later enlisted in the Air Force as a medic, and gradually learned all his profession skills through time and rank.
Dr. T has worked a lot of small towns and cities during his service, when he retired, he was an accomplished acupuncturist, specialized in pain management and a gentleman as I observed.
Anyways, the day’s temperature was at its mid twenties and it was hazy, we had a Big Mac lunch on the Peak, Dr. T very seldom, if never had Big Mac before, but being a good sport, he not only ate the whole lunch, but even had a second cup of grind coffee.
The Peak area as I remembered has all but disappeared; the area now has an observation tower on top of a multi level tourist shopping area. We walked around for a bit, and then decided to take the electric tram down. This Trim is akin to the one you take in San Francisco Bay area, but with no standing room. On the way down, you sit facing the peak direction, and it only took about ten minutes. Looking around and listening to them, you can tell we all came from different parts of the world.
We then took an east bound electric street car going towards the east end of HK Island. In the old days, this electric street car route was the main mold of transportation for her ordinary citizens. Today it charges HKD $2.5 per ride; you might ride from one end to the other end for a mere two and a half dollars. A must past time for any tourists with a few hours to kill, the routes
basically has not changed since the days I rode it.
The whole afternoon was gone in a flash, we met up with S., and others in Star House (星光行) near the world famous Star Terminals, one thing about Victoria Harbor, the inner channel between HK Island and Kowloon is getting narrower and narrower, because of the insatiable thirst for land mass.
The crossing now only takes about five minutes as compared to about ten minutes in the days gone by.
The whole bunch of us – all graduated the same year in the same school, got together for a beautifully prepared sea food dinner. Got to give a classmate an honorary mention, John’s office happened to be a few floors up from this restaurant, and he always organizes and bank roll any dinner our class holds there.
This time we did not want him to pay again, so we offer to pay Dutch to prevent another huge wallet out flow of his. (大流血)!
15th of November saw the nine of us took a cross boarder bus back to Shenzhen International and so started our China trip.
Because of the small number of people involved, it some how deemed a bit economical to us that if we organized the trip intenerates. The trip’s main organized is S., he called HK home at the age of six from Ningbo/ Shanghai area. He is fluent in Cantonese, Ningbo dialect, Shanghai dialect, and of course English. Yours truly is the honorary book keeper.
Our plane touched down in Chengdu Airport in the evening, our pre-arranged transport met us in the airport lobby, and we got to the hotel around nine in the evening. Some of us wanted to have a snack, but I just wanted to rest, so did Dr. T. We were room mates through out the trip.
Anyways, next morning, we waited at the town square for our tour bus to take us to Dujiangyan (都江燕).
This area was where the Li Bin father and son (李兵父子) team managed to tame the river that flowed through the local terrain in the days gone by. The materials that they selected were rocks, bamboos, and lumbers that were available locally. It was pretty amazing considering what was and when it was.
Later we went to the Leshan Grand Buddha Site (樂山大佛), this Buddha was chiseled out from the hill side facing the City of Chengdu over the river. The amazing thing is, a set of concrete stairs has been built around the two arms of the statue. Tourists are directed down one side and up the other for proper order. About the eye level of the statue is a very large sized concrete platform for picture taking and vendors selling souvenirs.
Even the tour guides all emphasized the power and eternity of what Buddhism can and might bring you, with the frenzies of the tourist mass, I do not feel the least bit religious about the whole touring experience, rather, it was all about picture taking, souvenirs bargaining, and finding your sight seeing teammates along the way.
Next day we set off by bus again to visit the scenic areas of Mountain Qingcheng (青城 山). Once again we were bombarded with more Buddhism talks, to be honest, we can not over sell religion, or we all will all turn off the “sell”.
Our tour guide was very humorous, she said to us right off the bat, she said: “I hope no body is going to nap on the bus, snap pictures off the bus, and remember nothing when the day is done.” (上車睡覺 , 下車拍照 , 回到旅館什麼 也不知道!) You have to say it in Mandarin to appreciate the fun part of this tongue twister!
Mt. Qingcheng has a great many features as I remembered, and that’s about all I can remember. With all due respect to religious artifacts, temples with a lot of histories, and folklores, after a few days, it becomes routines.
But that’s part of Chinese culture, rituals, incense burning, kneeing, bowing, are part of the whole package. We bought admission tickets for “Mt. Qingcheng Front Scenic Area” The admission coupon has a dollar value of $90 RMB on it. With an average monthly income of between RMB $2000 – RMB $3000 for a semi skilled worker, I wonder if $90 for an admission ticket is a little bit pricy?
Oh, about admission ticket pricing, if one remembers, please do ask if seniors enjoys a discount, if you do not ask, they do not offer it to you. You will save about 30% generally. Half price is still a ways to go.
After Qingcheng, I think we were herded to some environmental friendly consumer goods outlet for a talk and a quick round of their product line displays, they do not pressure you, but the demonstrators were very persuasive presenters, I am sure some of us bought “charcoal toothpaste, charcoal shoe liners, special face masks with some wonderfully designed scientific first in China.
If you are lucky, you will be able to find replacement or the exact thing in the super market, or even cheaper!
This concludes the first half of my stay in Chengdu. (天府之國) – Loosely translated as ‘God’s Country”
By the way, Chengdu houses the world’s first and largest Panda research center.