Happy Halloween! Yes, even here in Shanghai Halloween is celebrated. There is even an American style Haunted House that is being well received with 10,000 people visiting it since its opening 5 weeks ago. The Chinese should be experts at special effects, costumes, and make-up as evidenced by the SNU birthday celebration on October 16th. I can only imagine the money they are making at this event.
This evening I join my former graduate student and her family for an Italian feast. I walk the few blocks from the campus to her apartment building. The street is busy as most streets in Shanghai are teeming with activity on most any day. It amazes me how much you can see when you walk rather than driving along the teeming streets of Shanghai. Laura and her husband greet me at the door with big smiles. I meet Peter’s wife Crystal and we hit it off immediately. Laura and Mimmo are busy with dinner preparations so Crystal and I visit while holding Laura’s month old daughter. Soon Laura’s mother, Mrs. Wu arrives with a sleepy Alessandro. It is not long before he is fully awake and busily zipping from his mother and father and checking out his baby sister, Camilla. They are the most beautiful children. Alessandro is full of energy and continues running from one person to the next. Dinner begins with pastrami, Italian sausage and crusty bread. I marvel at their ability to find such traditional Italian food in Shanghai. But if one knows where to shop, you can find almost anything you would like to eat. Homemade pasta is featured in the lasagna, followed by grilled squash and bell peppers, and concluded with delicious tiramisu. Well done Mimmo and Laura. My compliments to the chef. Bravisimo!
Merciful Light Pavilion
A beautiful day begins early with breakfast at 6:30 am. My hosts and translator meet me at the hotel and we depart immediately for Huangshan Mountain. After an hour’s drive we arrive at the headquarters of the Huangshan Tourism Development Committee. Our guide for the day quickly takes my computer briefcase to his office and we transfer to a van. I learn that my guide is a member of the Information Service for the Huangshan Tourism Development Committee. They have arranged our admission, lunch, and the guide to ensure that I enjoy Huangshan Mountain. Our van whisks by the parking lots for the cars and buses, it is an indication of special treatment afforded by my kind hosts. As the day continues I will reflect on this courtesy with much gratitude . . . they have saved me many steps. The van swings to a stop at the base of the main gate for the southern entrance of the park. My first view of the mountain is simply beautiful. My Huangshan Mountain adventure begins as we pass the Merciful Light Pavilion. As I write this after concluding my journey, I consider it might have been wise to pause to light some incense and pray for strength as we passed this temple.
Stairs as we climb toward the Jade Screen Cableway
We begin climbing stairs almost immediately to reach the Jade Screen Cableway building. As we climb the long flights of stairs I am greeted by signs overhead stating that the wait from this point is two hours, one hour, and then 30 minutes. Fortunately for us we move as swiftly as my legs can carry me up the long stairs. In my heart I am grateful for the tram as it will carry us up the mountain. The wait to board the cable way is just a few moments as we have not come at a busy time.
The Jade Screen Cableway was established in 1996 carries tourists from the Merciful Light Pavilion (Ci Guang Ge) to Jade Screen Pavilion (Yu Ping Lou) near the top of the mountain. One cable car accommodates six persons at one time. The car slows as the previous guests exit the car and we climb aboard car #13. I wonder, if the number has any significance and then discount it as a superstitious thought. Our car glides swiftly up a distance that would otherwise require 3 hours on foot. I see the stairs descending below and silently thank the people who constructed this cableway.
First views of Huangshan Mtns
Now I should pause to mention that I will often refer to Mt. Huangshan as Huangshan or Yellow Mountain, but in truth I am referencing the collective of 72 major mountain peaks, 36 lesser mountain peaks, and countless minor peaks within the Mt. Huangshan Scenic area. The ride up the mountain is amid the changing colors on the trees signaling the cooler weather and the impending winter season. As our cable car ascends up the mountain side, it is clear that the vegetation gradually changes from dark green forests to bright green bamboo trees dancing in the wind, then scrub brush transitions to more alpine type vegetation, and topped off with Huangshan Pine trees. The views from every angle are excellent but they are nothing to compare with the sights I will see as the day progresses. Our adventure begins on what is called the front of the mountain or western side.
Huangshan Mountain Welcoming Tree
We begin our initial assault on Mt. Huangshan by climbing stairs to reach Jade Screen Peak and the symbol of Yellow Mountain, the Welcoming Tree or “Guest Greeting Pine.” Many of the Huangshan Pine trees are several hundred years old. The Welcoming Tree is estimated to be over 800 years old. These trees are hardy plants that can grow anywhere, in almost any condition, and twists their shape to conform to the mountain and the dominant winds. We cannot see the famous landmark tree from where we leave the mountainside cable station but there are many smaller trees and flowering azalea bushes as we make our way. The short stature of the Huangshan Pine trees disguise their age that might be over a hundred years old. The seeds that fall into the mountains deep crevices take root and grow despite the harsh conditions. Due to the wind in certain areas of the mountain, a Huangshan Pine might only have branches leaning from one side. The Welcoming Tree has branches reaching to one side as if bidding you welcome . . . come to me on Huangshan Mountain. I am told that the roots of these trees are several times longer than their trunk. It is no wonder that they are often symbolic of dignity, strength, and vitality enduring wind, rain, and rapid changes in temperature.
Just one of the crowded steep stairways
The climb up the steep stairs is challenging and I must pause often to catch my breath. I take advantage of these momentary breaks to look out among the beautiful vistas that surround the winding walkway and staircases. The crowds press in close as we climb and almost become overwhelming as we approach the famous viewpoints. There is no peace and quiet here so one must close out the chaos around them and focus inward to truly enjoy the immensity of the experience. Fortunately I am not easily swayed from my goal and seek to soak in the refreshment of the breeze as it sweeps up the mountain walls. Before departing this area we take in the view of the Jade Screen Peak as it towers above us with a small hotel (Yupinlou Binguan) hugging its shoulder. This small hotel was once a Manjusri Temple. I wish I had the time to stay atop the mountain in hopes of enjoying a more leisurely pace and perhaps some quiet after the throngs of tourists had descended for the night. Dark red handwriting by Chairman Mao Ze Dong has been inscribed on the side of the granite of Jade Screen Peak. It is transcribed for me to read . . . “Splendid is the landscape.” I agree, it is most splendid indeed. Many people are posing for photos with the writings in the background or attempting to take a smoking break. If you are an addicted smoker then be advised, there are only a few designated smoking areas along the stone pathway. Here is one of those areas and so many people are crowded into this smoking area that my throat burns with the acrid smell of the smoke. Personally I would love to see smoking banned from the area completely.
Celestrial Peak stairway
Due to the smoke that fills the air, I do not tarry long in this area. After seeing the tree and taking several group photos, we retrace our steps down from this peak. As we descend the last steep stairway we took to reach Jade Screen Peak, I am careful as the steps are uneven and people seem to be coming from all angles. Many times there are no hand railings to steady you and several times I fear that I am a split second away from falling head first down the steps. Are my knees shaking from the exertion or from the fear of falling? If you are seriously afraid of heights, reconsider your emotional well-being among the peaks of Huangshan.
Our guide springs up the next set of stairs as if he is part mountain goat. We are climbing up toward Celestrial Peak, the highest peak in this area. At times the walkway and stairs seem to jut out from the mountain wall into mid-air. At one brief stop, I pause to enjoy the view and the cool breeze sweeping up from below. The wind brushes my face lifting my spirit upward. Forgive me as I become a bit poetic and reflective of the memory but my heart soar as on wing. The views were awe inspiring . . . and yes, I treasured the moment to rest and catch my breath!
Thread the Needle Passageway
As I climb yet another set of stairs, I wonder how these walkways and staircases could be built so high up the mountain with nothing to support them from beneath. Our guide tells us that these granite steps were started more than 1,500 years ago. Some are carved right into the mountain and others have been built with granite slabs that were carried by hand. What an amazing feat of strength and courage. This must have been a Herculean task and appears to be an on-going process as we see repairs being made at several points along the trail. There are over 60,000 steps amid the 72 peaks and more than 50 kilometers of pathways.
Map of the Lotus Peak area
My guide tells me that we are only going 5 kilometers, so I begin to calculate how far we have come. A bit of quick math at the next stone map we pass does not reassure me. It was only .4 km from the Jade Screen Cableway to the turn for the last .1 km stairway to the Jade Screen Peak. Back down .1 km (Did that count in the 5 kilometers, I wonder?) before we turned up the 1.5 km endurance climb past the Celestial Peak (or Heavenly Capital Peak which stands at 1,830 meters or 6,003 feet) before turning toward Lotus Pavilion. (The trail up to the top of the Celestial Peak was closed for maintenance. I say a little prayer of thankfulness as the trail appears to require safety harnesses to keep one from falling off the steps.) Okay, 2 kilometers completed! In my mind I am hoping we have come almost halfway to our final destination. Mr. Wang points out the Meteorological Center with its distinctive round radar structure in the distance and I hope that the building for the cableway is located nearby. We continue climbing up before descending down past a rock that looks very much like an old-fashioned cell phone or someone pointing with 1 finger in the sky. Hey the mountain is proclaiming that it is the number 1 mountain in all of China. At one point we pass a longevity bridge. I actually pass it without taking it and then after hearing that crossing this will ensure a long life, I turn back to include it in my steps. Crossing the Longevity Bridge may just be the blessing I need to ensure that I will survive today’s journey.
Peng Lai Three Island, Huangshan
Lotus Peak is the highest peak we will pass at 1,864-meter (6,115-foot). As we cross Lotus Ridge, the peak towers above us and we can see out to Peng Lai Three Island. There are many amazing views from this area. The view brings tears to my eyes and music to my heart. It is almost like I stand here alone gazing across the endless peaks and valleys. My imagination takes flight as if on wing to unimaginable places and times in history. If only I could stay for many days to write and take photographs to grace the pages of a book.
I can easily see how Mt. Huangshan has inspired many poets, philosophers, and painters throughout history. Li Po, a famous poet of the Tang Dynasty wrote: "…Once I was on its lofty summit, admiring Tianmu Pine below. The place is still traceable where the immortal stood before ascending to heaven made elixir out of jade." The names of the peaks and formations escape me now and my little camera is not capable of capturing the beauty. If I take this journey again, I will need to hire my own porter to carry my tripod, cameras, lenses and filters . . . in hope of capturing some portion of the endless beauty from every vantage point.
Now we descend the nerve-racking 100 step Scaling Ladder (Bai Bu Yun Ti)down from Lotus Ridge. This stairway is also known as 100 Step Cloud stairs. Clearly the name is appropriate. We are descending steeply with rock walls serving as your only safeguard from falling. The narrow-way is meant to serve 2 people wide, but is often crowded with 4 or 5 people attempting to pass in each direction.
Did I mention that I have a healthy respect for heights? At this very moment I want to confess to a fear of falling! Never have I climbed down such a steep stairway that appears to fall away beneath your very feet. I really cannot enjoy the view before me as I climb down the stairs. I focus on one step at a time . . . concentrate placing one foot firmly on each step before moving the other foot. I forget to take a photo as I dare not take my hands away from the wall. My fingers search for any rough edge to cling to as if I were climbing down a mountain face without a rope . . . now that I reflect on the experience, I wish I had a rope around my waist to ensure that I would not fall. If I did I fear I would knock down several hundred other tourists before falling into the valley below. (The photo I did manage to snap was taken from the climb back up the opposite side of the valley. Sorry, folks . . . you will have to envision the experience based on my description.)
Yesterday we saw a sign at the grottos instructing us in “Chinglish” do not enjoy the views . . . while walking! Well I heeded the instructions while descending this “ladder” into oblivion. Someone pointed out Mt. Tianmu to the east, Mt. Lushan to the west, and Mt. Jiuhua . . . somewhere out among the gray mountains that seemed to go on forever. Once I find myself on level ground, I take a moment to turn around and look back up the 100 step ladder. I steady myself as if viewing this ladder alone is sufficient to make one faint. If I were not standing here I would never believe that I had succeeded in this feat of courage! After admiring the 180 degree views, I ask where to next. They point out the trail across the mountain as it snakes up another peak. Okay where is the emergency escape route out of here? Have I lost my mind in attempting this trail? Seriously, I need a reality check. I draw deep into my inner self to muster the courage to attack this next mountain. Another deep draw from my water bottle and a handful of almonds help fortify me for the next assault.
The climb up to the Heavenly Sea.
We now cross the valley before turning our eyes upward towards Turtle Cave. Mrs. Wang points out Turtle Cave near the top of a narrow steep stairway (1.4 km) up a mountain in search of something called the Heavenly Sea (.7km). There is a more vertical option that appears to be only for those with legs of steel and absolutely no fears whatsoever! By my count that should be near the end of this marathon of stairs. (By the way Kris, I might just be able to take on a half marathon on level ground if I can handle this hike up and down sheer mountain cliffs.)
This version of the previous image has been zoomed in hopes of showing you the number of stairways on the path to Turtle Cave. You can see the white railings along some of the stairways as they zigzag across the mountain before turning to pass through the cave. After clearing this narrow passageway through the cave, you must make a final assault straight up to the top of this ridge. (The trail to Angel's Landing in Zion National Park is a "walk in the park" in comparison to this trail.) The stairs are unrelenting. My calves are screaming from the steps. I try to place my full foot on the steps before pulling up, but sometimes the steps are too narrow for my big feet. The railing is so low at this point that I feel I might fall backward as I feel gravity pushing me down as I struggle to pull myself up this mountain. I ask Cristine if I can steady myself with a hand on her shoulder. Although I do not lean heavily, it seems to help keep me climbing upward at a steady pace. As we turn toward the base of the Turtle Cave I realize there is no railing in this passage and I pause to steady my nerves and catch my breath. I pause and sit in the shade of the mountain before turning to make my assault on the final third of the climb. Just a brief note . . . It is during the brief rest before Turtle Cave that an Asian man politely asks my age. I am somewhat surprised as most Chinese would never ask such a personal question, but I tell him through my translator. He beams with a large smile, gives me the thumbs up, and commends me for making the climb at my age! (Or at least my translator is censoring the remark in an effort to protect what little pride might be left in my struggle to achieve the summit.) Someone please tell me that this is the last climb of the day! I might be able to walk 4 miles in one hour, but those are relatively level hikes in comparison to this day.
Victory on Huangshan Mountain
After clearing the cave we make it up the final one third of the mountain face and cross the ridge before making a brief descent. It is brief respite as we return to climbing to reach another crowded viewing platform, the Haixin Pavilion. Several people are scrambling up the rocks to get a better view. I am satisfied with resting on a bench. Our guide assures me that we are almost to our destination. I mistakenly believe he means the cableway, instead he means Baiyun Hotel where we will enjoy our lunch. As I struggle to climb the final ascent to the Baiyun Hotel, I now accept Mrs. Wang’s arm for support. Cristine and Mrs. Wang are encouraging me as I am now find my legs growing weaker with each step. I pause more frequently as my right knee trembles as I attempt to climb. The only comfort is the knowledge that I have covered the largest portion of our journey. As we arrive at the final pavilion before the hotel, I stand victoriously on a stone outcropping.
Wednesday morning there is a group dining in the other restaurant from the main dining room where the breakfast buffet is located. It appears to be a distinguished group of Chinese from the government. The main dining room is a buzz with most of the tables filled with Asian tourists. Still I am among the minority in the dining room. As I peruse the buffet, I splurge and select a fried egg, a steamed bun filled with red bean, and orange and apple slices. I find a place at one of the large tables next to two women. They are delightful women and we quickly warm to each other’s company (Paula from Colorado and Norma from New Zealand). We enjoy chatting about how they met before I began an informal interview regarding how they selected this area for travel. They have scheduled their tour via Exit Asia and flew to Huangshan from Beijing. The ladies will be hiking on Huangshan Mountain today and staying overnight at the Beihai Hotel. The Beihai Hotel is located up on the peak where the tourists can witness sunset and sunrise. They will return to the Huangshan International Hotel on Thursday so I look forward to seeing them at breakfast to see how they enjoyed their tour of the mountain.
Later as I return to my room I see two buses loading with VIPs . . . later I learn they are members of the People’s Congress are departing for a day of sightseeing here in Huangshan. As they depart the buses are led by a van covered by flags and music blaring from speakers.
The highlight today is visiting Huangshan University campus and meeting the faculty and students of the Tourism Management program. Much like many of China’s universities, there is an old campus and a new campus. The Chairman of Huangshan University meets me and we proceed to a conference room. We exchange business cards and begin our business discussion regarding our respective academic programs. We are served green tea as is the custom for all meetings in China. Fortunately I love a cup of hot green tea. Just as I receive a second refill the group suddenly scurries about and I am told it is time to move to the room where I will be presenting my lecture. The campus is busy with students playing basketball or scurrying off in small groups of 2 or 3. As we approach the building where my lecture will be held, I notice students smiling and waving to me. I love the friendliness of the Chinese students. When I walk into the auditorium, it is already filled with several hundred students. There are students standing at the back entrance and others standing at the windows. What a wonderful surprise! The stage is set and several students whisk off with my computer to set it up to the data projector.
Huangshan University audience
The highlight today is visiting Huangshan University campus and meeting the faculty and students of the Tourism Management program. Much like many of China’s universities, there is an old campus and a new campus. The Chairman of Huangshan University meets me and we proceed to a conference room. We exchange business cards and begin our business discussion regarding our respective academic programs. We are served green tea as is the custom for all meetings in China. Fortunately I love a cup of hot green tea. Just as I receive a second refill the group suddenly scurries about and I am told it is time to move to the room where I will be presenting my lecture. The campus is busy with students playing basketball or scurrying off in small groups of 2 or 3. As we approach the building where my lecture will be held, I notice students smiling and waving to me. I love the friendliness of the Chinese students. When I walk into the auditorium, it is already filled with several hundred students. There are students standing at the back entrance and others standing at the windows. What a wonderful surprise! The stage is set and several students whisk off with my computer to set it up to the data projector. The Chairman of Huangshan University introduces me to warm applause. Cristine translates my presentation so that the students and faculty can glean the most from my hour long presentation. Unfortunately, I do not pause often enough for the translation to occur. I will need to work out a signal for future presentations. All in all the students and faculty appear to have enjoyed the presentation. After I conclude my comments, I ask for questions. They are a bit hesitant to come forth with the questions at first. After the first student was brave enough to ask a question, the others begin to raise their hands. The questions are excellent. They really had fantastic questions that illustrated critical thinking. One young man asked how historic buildings and places could be protected without the government’s assistance. This really started the discussion about assuming responsibility and leadership in the future of one’s community.
Huangshan University Faculty
I loved the dynamic discourse. The meeting concluded with an exchange of gifts and photos.
Huangshan University campus
After the presentation the faculty and I were off for a tour of the new campus. At first they were going to drive me around the campus, but I insisted on walking. Large numbers of students were playing basketball, ping pong, and working out on the track. The athletic areas are located adjacent to the residential halls. All students live on campus so the residential halls look like a small city in of its own. The new campus is centered on a central plaza with the large library serving as the focal point. The trees and small lake give the campus a park like appearance that reminds me of the beauty of the University of Utah. I enjoyed talking to one of the faculty as we walked around the campus.
During my presentation on sustainable heritage and cultural tourism, I had commented about the importance of showing your guests authentic foods, restaurants and entertainment. I did not realize that I was changing the plans of my hosts. They changed the location of dinner after hearing my lecture. I am so glad that they did . . . although I know the other location would have been good food, this was authentic. We discussed the architecture of the building and even visited the kitchen area. Instead of the typical menu guests are invited into an area where the food is on display in a variety of pots and woks. My hosts ask me to select the dishes. Well this is a challenge. I want to try everything but I order about 8 different dishes plus a few cold dishes to start the meal. Then we return to the entrance. We are shown upstairs to a private dining room. Our servers are wonderful. They are full of smiles and warm hospitality that transcends our language barrier.
Our wonderful service staff
I loved the food and the evening of conversation. I was very pleased with the selection of dishes including beef, fish, chicken, bamboo, tofu, and a couple that I am not sure exactly what they were . . . except they were delicious. Two of my favorites were food prepared cleanly and simply. One of the dishes was made from rice flour and flavored with herbs and meat. Did not look too great, but looks were not to be trusted. The other dish was simply celery, sweet bell peppers, and onions (I think) in a light sauce. This was an outstanding, fresh tasting dish that was a great way to clean the palate before moving onto the next dish. We exchanged toasts and enjoyed each other’s company. There was a great deal of laughter and friendship shared during the course of the evening. Mr. and Mrs. Wang arrive and join the table. More toasts and more laughter. During dinner my hosts inquire if I am up to a 5 Kilometer walk tomorrow. I quickly do the math in my head and respond of course! No problem! 5 kilometers = 3.1 miles. I have walked 4 miles in an hour and a half so this should be easy. This statement would come to haunt me on the next day.
Our afternoon begins with a short drive into the countryside between Huangshan and Tunxi City. We turn into a parking lot and wait while Mr. and Mrs. Wang talk to a few people. Then we drive down into a ravine where it appears some type of vine like grapes has been grown. Our car drives past some small booths where water and snack items are being sold. After some brief comments with the men at the entry gate, we are admitted to the site. We drive past an archery range, a horseback riding area, and approach a tall white structure supporting a suspension bridge across the river. Mrs. Wang and Cristine escort me up the towering staircase and cross the suspension bridge that bounces slightly under our footsteps. The bridge leads us to a pretty park area where soft music drifts from disguised speakers along the path. Towering bushes with large gardenia like flowers emit a soft fragrance in the air. We turn up a long staircase to approach Grotto 35, the largest of these mysterious manmade caves. Unlike caves that I have toured previously, these grottos were created by humans using crude hand tools. Entering Grotto 35, it first appears similar to commercial cave tours with colored electric lights but visitors are allowed to wander freely among the grotto. There are clear, cold pools of still water with heavy sediment on the bottom. At first I ponder the merits of this tourist sight, but as I wander the vast winding rooms I being to understand the mystery. The rooms hewn from the solid rock appear to be masterfully crafted with signs of the worker’s labor still apparent in the deep chisel marks. Close inspection reveals holes carved in the ceiling where torches once lit the area for the workers. Soot can be seen on several ceilings. As I move deeper into this grotto I am amazed that they were not only able to carve out these large areas, but marvel at the very thought of dragging these stones out of the grotto. No one can determine where these stones were taken and little is known how they were moved. I am told that the grottos are close to the river and it is suspected that boats were used to ferry the stones to their final destination. Over 200,000 cubic meters of rock were removed from these 36 grottos. Suddenly my mind recalls the cave in the Swiss Family Robinson novel by Johann Wyss. Were these caves once used by ancient people to store their food or shelter them during the heat of the summer? It does make one wonder how these grottos stood so long without discovery. Couldn’t carbon dating be done to discover if any of the stone from here were used in the Forbidden City or the Summer Palace?
Dinner is being hosted by Mr. Wang’s sisters and brother-in-law. It is an honor to be invited to a Chinese family home and so I am pleased with the opportunity. I am terrible with people’s names when I do not write them down so forgive me for failing to recall everyone’s names. We are welcomed into the home by his brother in-law’s mother. She was a petite woman with a big smile and a kind manner. His brother-in-law prepared tea for us. Small oranges and nuts were set out before us as we relaxed in the living room on a traditional wooden chair similar to a sofa. We could hear preparations beginning for the dinner. Mr. Wang disappeared into the kitchen while Mrs. Wang and Cristine chatted about Chinese home life. Our dinner was relaxing around a traditional Chinese round table. There were a wealth of dishes including several vegetable dishes, fish, rice, soup, freshwater shrimp, and the barbeque meat dish I had become so fond of in the recent days. I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and soon was filled to satisfaction. Just as we were leaving the kindly old woman appeared from the kitchen with yet one more dish to complete the feast. I fulfilled her wish to try the soup and enjoyed the warmth as it filled my tummy with total satisfaction. If I were to write down my satiety level at this time it would register gently full. Not stuffed but probably more than I should have enjoyed at one meal. It was back to the hotel for a good night’s rest.
Tangyue Memorial Archways
It is a beautiful morning in Huangshan as I take a short walk along the river. The city is teeming with activity as cars, trucks, and buses cross the bridge over the river. There are several people on the opposite bank that are doing laundry or fishing. After my walk I return to my room to prepare for the day and visit the restaurant for breakfast. It is a buffet of Chinese and Western type foods. I target the fresh fruit (oranges and pears), scrambled eggs, and toast. A glass of orange juice and a cup of hot tea complete my breakfast meal. I join a group of German tourists at a large table. They are here on a very short visit, flying in yesterday and departing later today. They went up on the mountain yesterday and then visited a farm before checking into the hotel for the evening. Today they will visit one of the ancient villages before flying on to Shanghai. They are traveling together as a group but did not know each other before the trip. All their arrangements have been made by a German and Chinese tour operator.
I complete a bit of work via the Internet quickly before departing for a full day of activity. Mr. and Mrs. Wang and Christine meet me in the lobby of the hotel and we depart for a visit to the Tangyue Memorial Archways. When we arrive at the tourist site, Mr. Wang parks the car near two women who appear to be preparing some food from the field. We are greeted at the entrance by a friend of Mr. Wang and guided to the site. The 7 archways were erected to honor individuals who were recognized by the Emperor during the Qing and Ming Dynasties. The individuals were recognized for their righteousness, generosity, familiar loyalty, and charitable efforts. This is the largest collection of archways in China. There is a temple with stones recognizing the men of this distinguished family. Next to this building is a temple dedicated to recognize women. The only such temple in China dedicated to women. As we leave the tourist site we stop in the shop of our guide. He gives me a gourd that grows in the area. Don’t worry it has been dried and will not spoil. He sells ink stones, brushes, and other small items. They explain to me that this area is famous for the “She Inkstone,” a required tool in traditional calligraphy). As we return to the car, Mrs. Wang pays the women a few coins for watching over the car.
After our visit to the Tangyue Memorial Archways, we return to the Huangshan International Hotel to meet the Mayor for lunch. We are escorted to a private dining room where we meet Mr. Zhang, Assistant Mayor of Huangshan Municipal Government and Mr. Liu, Director of Huangshan Tourism Committee. We exchange business cards and gifts before sitting down to eat. The server brings me silverware which I quickly refuse but thank her for the courtesy. The food was excellent as expected. I particularly loved the tomato soup which was hearty with large chunks of tomatoes still firm to the bite. There was a root type vegetable and meat dish that was refreshingly light and a steamed fish. A Japanese style tofu dish was rather tasty. I am beginning to develop a taste for Japanese and Huangshan tofu dishes. The meal was completed with several dishes that were similar to last night’s dinner. Of course there were toasts repeatedly throughout the meal. Mr. Zhang toasted me and I replied with a toast to him. Mr. Liu and I exchanged several toasts among toasts among all the remaining guests as well. Every time I started to reach for food a server immediately steps forward to serve me. Yet the others are allowed to serve their own food. This is a demonstration of respect and I am gracious in accepting this without exception. Our discussion is about some of the challenges being faced with transportation and attracting tourists via the web page. I mention what Wang Yu and I are proposing to help Huangshan international tourism grow.
Anhui is one of the poorer provinces in China. It is not for the vast number of agricultural fields that generate a wealth of wheat, rice, corn, sweet potatoes, lotus root, and sugar case. Anhui does have some natural resources such as iron from Ma’anshan, coal from Huainan, and copper from Tongling. Their greatest challenge is the transportation expense limiting the amount of exports from the area. Tourism is the largest source of income for the immediate area, but the greatest contributors to this are the vast numbers of domestic tourists that visit the area. The challenge is reaching larger numbers of international tourists. Several phone calls are made and the Mayor asks me to present Wang Yu and my proposal for an international English based gateway site on Friday to the Huangshan Tourism Committee. Our luncheon concludes with photos and a pledge to work together for the benefit of the community’s economic well being.
This morning I pack my carry-on suitcase with the few items I am taking with me to Huangshan later today. Then I prepare to meet Xu Xin who graduated from the University of Utah last spring. I await her arrival in the Guest House lobby. She arrives with a bright smile. It is great to see her and enjoy a lunch of Japanese food. We walk 15 minutes back to campus and chat non-stop. I enjoy learning about her activities and aspirations. Unfortunately, our time together is too short. We return to my room and gather my items to await Wang Yu’s father who will drive me to Huangshan.
Mr. Wang Qinzhang arrives with Mingli (Cristine, my English translator) and his brother-in-law, Zhang Xi. Mr. Wang is gracious and friendly. We greet and instantly communicate without formal introductions. I can see Wang Yu in her father’s eyes. Dean Li and Xu Xin see us off in the sleek black Toyota. I slip into the backseat next to Cristine. The car has a built in GPS system that has guided them to the campus. Although I cannot understand the voice prompts from the GPSystem, I can follow the indication of time and kilometers to go. Our journey to Huangshan begins smoothly. The first hour disappears slowly as we maneuver through Shanghai traffic. Cristine and I become acquainted in the back seat of the car. As we pass the suburbs of Shanghai the factories and small businesses give way to rice fields. I wonder at the 3 story houses that dot the landscape. It appears that the effort is to save as much land as possible for agricultural use. It is further interesting to see the metal structures that appear on the top of these houses. I begin to wonder if these are Chinese lightening rods but I am informed that they have been put there by the residents to have the tallest home. It is the Chinese version of keeping up with the Jonese!
After 3 hours of driving on expressways, the road begins to curve around mountains and through long tunnels. In the late afternoon light I point out the tea trees growing above on the mountain sides as we smoothly sweep around the mountains. We are approaching Huangshan and I begin to pay close attention to the roadside although it is difficult to see much as it is now dark outside. As we arrive in Huangshan we are greeted by bright lights of multiple colors and shapes. Along the river there are lights not just outlining buildings, but along the walls of the river. It is somewhat like the decorations we might see at Christmas time in the Kansas City Plaza Shopping District. The city is dressed in lights to welcome tourists and to create a fairy-tale vision of a city of lights.
Our car arrives at a local restaurant known for its organic food, Hai cuisine. A young woman springs from the door of the restaurant and I am introduced to Wang Yu’s mother. She is energetic and welcomes me with a bright smile. I immediately feel comfortable in her company. We enter through what appears to be the kitchen with several woks filled with bubbling stews and meats. Live fish, turtles, and birds seem ready to prepare for the pot. We climb the wooden stairs to a private dining room in this small quaint and homey building. I learn quickly that Huangshan cuisine is simple, clean, and flavored with herbs and salt. A few appetizers are brought in to our table almost immediately. One server pours a cup of hot tea. I savor the fragrance of the green tea before sipping from my cup. It is warm and refreshing. My cup is refilled several times before the meal really begins. A large pot is brought in with a soup. My hosts inform me that you can only get this dish in Huangshan as the small creature used in the soup is found in the crevices of the rocks of the mountains here. From the white and black skin and the small bones, I gather that this is stone frog soup. Not one to refuse without tasting, I begin by blowing on the bowl to cool the liquid. The first taste reveals a soothing flavor that is light on my palate. I have not perfected my ability to remove bones delicately so I fear I look a bit silly to them at times. My hosts inform me that this dish is good for your bones, vision, and general health. I serve up another bowl of the soup. Another dish features tender bamboo that is grown on the mountain. It has been flavored with mushrooms and a type of sausage. Delicious. A tofu dish is served that has a strong aroma which at first makes me hesitate to taste the dish. As the dish makes a second round on the spinning “lazy Suzanne” I take one slice of tofu . . . I hesitate for a moment and then steel myself for the taste. The tofu is surprisingly light and delicate in flavor. A large crock of a barbeque type flavored meat is served. This tastes much like Kansas City barbeque and quickly becomes one of my favorite dishes in Huangshan. There are several other dishes but I fear that I was quickly becoming lulled into a food stupor. I graciously extend my appreciation and attempt to wean away from the table. The server replaces my plate and refills my tea several times before the plate of watermelon is brought in to signal the end of the feast. I am ready to slip into a deep sleep after a long day. My hosts take me to my hotel room that has already been readied for me at the Huangshan International Hotel. Without any hesitation, I am quickly fast asleep.
Today I have been invited to a wedding here in Shanghai. This will be my first time at a wedding in China. A member of the faculty in the College of Finance at Shanghai Normal University is getting married so there is an entire bus load of people traveling together to the wedding. The bus is loaded by 10 am to begin our journey to the wedding. It requires an hour to drive to the hotel where the wedding is taking place. We arrive and proceed up the grand staircase to the restaurant banquet room . . . we are greeted by the groom and bride at the door. She is stunning in a white wedding gown that has delicate beadwork and detailed stitching. There are photos with the guests and I am made to feel most welcome. Peter escorts me to my table . . . it is not long before the program begins. I will prepare a slide show for the photos and video that I took. Let me say that the bride was beautiful but had little time to sit down for the meal. After she was brought into the room by her father, she is given to the groom. There is a ceremony and speeches exchanged before the bride and groom exchange vows and rings. The bride changes clothes into a beautiful blue dress and then again into a magnificient red dress. The meal was unbelievable! The table was overflowing with food and still more food arrived. I tried everything . . . even turtle, sea cucumber, and several dishes that I did not know their names. I will try to prepare a lesson on the Chinese wedding traditions. All in all the food was outstanding . . . I will not need to eat for the rest of the day. I loved the lobster, shrimp, fish, numerous vegetables, and even the liver. The seafood soup was delicious. One of my favorites was the steamed buns . . . I love the broth inside. By the time they served the last two main courses, I was so full. No one touched the whole chicken or duck. Later I learned that this was tradition. When they served the fresh fruit and wedding cake I was not really tempted by the cake at all. I tasted it using my chopsticks . . . chopsticks really make it hard to eat cake. So maybe in the future I should take chopsticks to all family birthdays and then I will not eat any cake or ice cream. After the meal the bride and groom visited each table to thank their guests for coming. It soon became a fun series of challenges for the bride and groom. I held a small fruit on a string from a single chopstick. The bride and groom had to catch it between them and share the fruit. It was so much fun. Time flew by and soon it was 2 pm and time to return to campus. Now I am so weary, I must struggle to stay awake a little longer. May the bride and groom enjoy many happy years together and be blessed with a happy and healthy child.
I left Honolulu on Monday morning and I arrived in Shanghai on Tuesday evening. Of course, crossing the International Dateline made one day disappear from my calendar but I know that it will magically reappear upon my return eastbound across the International Dateline. It does make for some confusion when trying to manage your time and make flight connections in Tokyo. There is only a one hour time difference between Tokyo and Shanghai, so my best advice is change your watch in Tokyo to match Shanghai time.
Another tip for a smooth transition, stay awake during the flights and in Tokyo. My strategy of staying awake for the duration of the journey here was to ensure a quick transition to the time zone. The firm beds here in the Guest House and an exhausted body were the perfect combination. I slept almost all night with only one interruption at 4:30 am. After checking the time I went back to sleep with no problem. Unfortunately, my alarm clock did not work but I did wake up in time for my first meeting this morning.
The day starts early with a 6 am wake-up call. I am already weary as I did not sleep well last night. Unbelievable as I was physically exhausted by 2 hours in the ocean on Sunday. But after a quick breakfast, I check out of the hotel and take the shuttle to the Honolulu International Airport. Check in with ANA was smooth as silk. I simply rolled my luggage into the ANA Club line and walked right up to a check-in line. Showed my passport and they weighed my luggage. They claimed the one bag was over by a pound, but no extra charge. I would hope not. I weighed the bag and it was not over the 50 pound limit. My luggage is checked all the way to Pudong International Airport in Shanghai. As I approached the rather lengthy TSA line, I saw the Gold Line for All Airlines. I slipped right through without waiting. Even though I have a TSA approved Laptop case, I still must remove my little Asus Eee PC net-book and allow it to ride in a gray tub through the x-ray machine. Still it is rather quick and I gather my items and proceed to the United/ANA lounge to await my flight. The lounge does not have free Internet service, but it is comfortable with refreshments and power for my computer. So here I am awaiting the call for my flight.
Next stop Narita International Airport. Hopefully there will be free wireless Internet there as I have 4 hours to catch up on my email and blog. May I add how much I love my netbook. It is light and easy to carry.
Today I started out nervous regarding my presentation to the faculty at 1:30 pm at Maui Community College. I reviewed my lecture notes and proofed my slides. At noon, I slipped into the room where my presentation was being held. I checked out my web links to ensure they were working and verified that my YouTube video within my presentation worked smoothly. With more than an hour to go, I relaxed and flipped through the slides. At 1 pm the cameraman arrived with camera, microphones, and electrical cords in tow. We verified that my wireless microphone worked with no problem. Then suddenly 15 minutes to go . . . Liping arrived. Five minutes to go and still there were no other people present. Time to start and the faculty began to arrive. Within a few moments the chairs were filled and I was ready to take off. Even as I started my presentation more faculty were arriving. I was thrilled to see such a great turnout for my presentation. They were so receptive to my ideas. They had excellent questions . . . demonstrating that they really wanted to learn about elearning. This was so refreshing. I was ecstatic with the turnout and positive attitudes; I wanted to jump for joy. I flew through the slides and demonstrations . . . and still I was running long. Yet, no one was leaving the room. The faculty present represented a wide variety of majors from Math to Clinical Dental Hygiene, accounting to early childhood education, and tourism and hospitality. About half had taught fully online courses currently or a blended course. Their questions were terrific . . . these people really get how important online education is in a region where the students live on 3 different islands. How wonderfully refreshing to have people listen and respond positively to what you had to say about elearning! They really want to learn either how to blend technology into their classrooms or take their courses fully online. I found myself wishing that I was a faculty member here where what I did was really appreciated in my department. I want to jump for joy. It was difficult to resist the urge to hug each one of them and thank them for being so wonderfully open and appreciative for what I shared with them today.
The faculty of Maui Community College are fantastic . . . I would love to teach a hands-on workshop for the faculty here. They really understand where the trend in education is going. Yahoo. Mahalo nui loa!