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Reisverslag Goodbye China, Hello Japan!
13 februari 2014
Goodbye China, Hello Japan!
I arrived early in the morning and took a direct bus to the place I wanted to be: The Famous Shaolin temple. This Buddhist temple is home to a lot of kung fu monks who go through a rigorous training, preferably starting at a very young age. Because of their hardship and dedication these monks are able to perform some amazing feats of strength, even when the're still very young. I, being very interested to see some of their performances, decided to see it for myself and hopefully studying some kung fu on the way. My hostel actually was in the Shaolin complex, consisting of the temple, some small towns and the forests around. At the first day over there I decided to see the temple and I went to a performance where young monks showed off their balance and strength. They broke bricks on their head and could be in the push up position, just balancing on their hands. At night I got a private lesson from a real Shaolin monk. So beware, the next time I see you! We practiced some stances and forms and did a lot of stretching, needless to say my ligaments were a bit upset the next days. On the second day I did a long hike of about 5 hours. It was really beautiful but also a bit frustrating to discover that the final destination was a temple that was old once, had been destroyed and rebuilt in April 2013. Unfortunately it is the same for a lot of Chinese sights. They once were old and impressively built for their time, but they have been destroyed by armies - or even the Chinese themselves during the Cultural Revolution - and after that they have been shamelessly rebuilt in their original way. Imagine of we in Europe would start building and renovating all of the castles and stuff that were here 1000 years ago.
At night I went to Dengfeng, kung fu city, to stay there just for a night and then it starting snowing more heavily. The next morning when I wanted to take a bus to my next destination I got the reaction from Chinese that I hate the most: mei you (not possible). So I decided to stay another day in Dengfeng, walking a bit around in the town and reading. The next day the weather was supposed to clear up, but it was still too early for the buses. That night I really needed to catch my train, because I did want to have enough time to spend in Beijing and even getting that ticket had been really hard. Fortunately the guy from the hostel - we communicated through Google translate - got me in a carpool ride with a nice Chinese guy and his 6-year old daughter. So we were driving slowly through the snow, unable to communicate and I had to help him getting the snow chains off once we got to the highway. We were driving for a couple of hours and the only thing they requested of me after we were there was to take a picture with me - it seems like a reasonable currency. Then I had to prepare myself mentally for the next train ride.
I knew it was going to be a very unpleasant journey, considering I just had a standing ticket and had to spend 10 hours from 01:00-11:00 AM in the train. It was either this or an expensive business class ticket that would cost me ten times more, because of the overpopulated trains during Chinese New Year. I tried to lay down on my bag and get some sleep, but I was disturbed about every minute so I couldn't even get a single minute of sleep. After a very disturbing couple of hours I managed to get a seat offered by a kind Chinese guy and I felt a little more comfortable, but still very tired.
The first impression I had of Beijing was really good. The city has a lot of spectacular traditional sights and has more the vibe of a Chinese city than for example Shanghai. I did all of the touristy things; walked over the wall, went to the forbidden city, the parks and the summer palace but I enjoyed just walking around as well, just visiting to local cheap restaurants. I knew I had to enjoy every moment of it, considering this was the last time I was going to be in China for a while. Last Tuesday morning I took a plane to Tokyo.
Having spent 7 weeks in China - including Hong Kong - I think it is safe to say that I have a good perception of how China is. I have traveled all around East, South and Central China and I have seen amazing things. Obviously 7 weeks is not enough to see the whole country, and I regret having rushed in some occasions, because you could easily travel around for a year. China is rich in some of the most beautiful sceneries I have ever seen and they seem to change over couple of hundred kilometers. Not just the sceneries change, also the people, the culture and especially the food changes radically. It is really interesting to see how China works, also politically. People seem to know that their government is not an angel, but generally accept their rule. A lot of people seem to be up-to-date when it comes to the removal of 'traitors' and corrupt party members. But also a lot of -even educated- people seem to be oblivious to some things. For example the bloody student protests in 1989. The strict regime has created a safe environment and it seems to me that people are just trying to live a happy life and accept most of the things. Because I they don't go against the stream they will not be harmed by the totalitarian regime. Another interesting thing is how the most communistic country turned into the most capitalist country, still operating under the cover of communism. Rich top-party members abuse their power and the farmers and the laborers, the heart of every communist movement have not profited nearly as enough as the capitalist businessmen in the bigger cities. The distribution of wealth and resources is way off between the big cities and the rural areas and it is not likely to change any time soon.
I loved the Chinese people, even though they can be a bit rude sometimes. It seems that the great periods of hunger have created a mentality where everyone should put themselves in the first place, at least when it comes to for example standing in queues and getting in the metro. But generally, they seem to be enjoying life to the fullest. I instantly got a big smile on my face when I saw people practicing Tai Chi in the parks, or dancing, playing badminton or playing board/card games.
Chinese food is something I will never forget, from the weird stuff I have eaten as pig's ears, dog, critters, century egg and chicken foot, to the classics as kung pao chicken to the mouth-numbing spiciness of my Sichuan hotpot. I am definitely going to try some of these back home!
China is also home to a lot of amazing sights, mainly consisting of beautiful nature and traditional architecture. I am pretty I will never forget the beautiful things I have seen!
China, you have been very good time and I am pretty sure I will ever return to you once more!
Now I am in Tokyo, Japan. I have already seen some crazy things I can't describe any other than "Some crazy ass Japanese shit". I won't go into much detail now, I'll save that for my blog post on Japan!
Big hugs from Asia!
14 februari 2014 09:08 | Door: Space
Echt ontzettend gaaf om te lezen, word er behoorlijk jaloers van ;)
En het begint bij mij ook weer een beetje te kriebelen haha.
Heel veel plezier in Japan en hou me op de hoogte!
15 februari 2014 05:17 | Door: Stan Verlinden
Thanks Peet! Wie weet kan je volgend jaar weer gaan, als alles goed gaat met de studie ;)
Veel plezier in Nederland en veel succes met het AHC surfkamp organiseren.
Spreek je als ik terug kom!
16 februari 2014 04:48 | Door: That "New American Chinese friend" was me
Looks like you're having fun. Keep enjoying your crazy Japanese shit.