On with the China trip from March/April 2014.
We got the sleeper train from Beijing, which was far better than I had anticipated that it would be. On arriving to the city, “one of the smaller ones in China, with a population of only 12 million”, we spent 20 minutes trying to find a toilet. The supermarket was unappealing to me, but called to most others.
A bus ride.
Ah, the countryside, China’s brightest currency. It is such a shame that the Chinese countryside is dying in favour of the cities as it really is the part that I most enjoyed and which would bring most tourists in, surely? I didn’t really talk on the bus ride. In fact, after the Great Wall I didn’t really talk much at all.
The bus arrived at the school. We were staying in a school. A school is not a hotel. It was not clean. During “peaks and pits”, several people mentioned the cleanliness of this accommodation as their pit.
The sole guy in our group went to the toilet. He came back, horrified, having seemingly just trudged through human excrement.
We all thought that they said that we had shared toilets. Thankfully they didn’t say that, and each room came with its own private toilets.
There were hair and toenails on the bathroom floor. It is definitely a bathroom for sandals.
We had lunch in the school. It was tasty. We had dinner there too. Also tasty.
I wandered around the school grounds alone. For a while I had wandered with some of the girls in the group, which drew a lot of attention from the students. The school has around 5000 students, and it seemed that the only girls were international and in the international class.
The school wasn’t much to look at, but it was quite something to see kung fu classes at every turn.
I took photos.
We went to the temple, watched a kung fu show, offended the monks by trying to take a fun, touristy picture, and left.
Some of the group did a kung fu class. I took pictures. (Pictures not pictured)
One of the other girls and I awoke at the crack of dawn to watch the early morning training that the whole school did. It was quite phenomenal to see, and also quite scary to think that so many small children could so readily beat me down. The sunrise, the mountains, the physical fitness are all things that I will remember into old age. Several people in the group said that they would happily have skipped Shaolin, but moments like that are really something special and unlike anything else that you can experience in the vast majority of our fine planet.
Breakfast in the morning was the only breakfast included in the trip. I enjoyed it immensely, but was the only person to eat congee. Congee is one of the least appealing foods to the eye, but it tastes decidedly bland and is an excellent way to kick start the metabolism. Others were also not convinced at how much meat there was, clearly forgetting what constitutes a fry up. I ate like a queen, they ate like picky children.
We got a fast train to Xi’an, to slightly cleaner albeit more urban climes.