Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Shanhaiguan, part VI - Return to Beijing

The next morning, our cellphone alarms woke us and we showered, collected our belongings, and went down to eat breakfast, which was included in the cost of the room. There was a steaming hot buffet, which smelled great, but it was otherwise fairly typical Chinese breakfast fare. We seated ourselves at an empty table and happily feasted with many other lodgers from the hotel. We were soon on our way back to the station to return to Shanhaiguan. Nearly everyone left the train when it pulled in, aside from a handful of senior citizens who eyed Angela and me warily. The trip back was quiet, we both read from the books we had brought.

When we arrived, we hailed yet another cab and asked the driver to take us to Mengjiangnu Temple. We had just enough time to sight see one more sight, and we thought we would squeeze in this. The nearly deserted grounds were well-tended and all of the buildings and pavilions were new, but we were totally disappointed. The attraction centered around the story of a woman, Lady Meng, whose soldier husband had gone off to the great wall for duty and died there. Lady Meng left to take her husband some warm clothing and, after learning of his death, ended her own life by jumping into the sea. Anyway, the attraction was not worth our time as there were a number of life-size displays from the life of Lady Meng which gave the whole place an absurd amusement park feel without the fun rides and atmosphere.

We didn't like the driver who was milking us a little by taking a longer route than necessary and then driving too crazily, so we ditched him by finding another driver to take us back. Our original driver had waited for us, even though we didn't ask him to do so, but we were able to sneak away without him noticing. Our new driver didn't say a word all the way to the station, we payed him, and went on to look for a good noodle shop when we arrived at the station in Qinhuangdao. We didn't find such a good shop, but the noodles were good. We finished, made our way to the station, and soon boarded our train and were on our way back to Beijing.

On the way back, there was a terrible looking woman with a scowling face, thick lips and high cheek bones on the train. I first noticed her when she was eating a tangerine, which she had peeled like a banana and held by the stem, sucking out the pulp and juice out of its membrane. I watched her, peeking up every so often from the pages of my book, eating pumpkin seeds for 45 minutes before tearing open a bag of dried haw berries. The woman was shaped like a large pear with legs. She was so terrible in appearance, but even more so because of her fashion sense. She wore a limp black scarf of knitted pink and brown flowers with white centers around her neck. Her loose wide-necked red sweater bore a couple of large orange buttons which were being taxed by the size of her breasts. Underneath the sweater, she wore a thin striped cotton long-sleeved shirt with a little hood, this stripes of which were orange, chocolate and tan-colored. In addition to the scarf around her neck, she also had a leather Diesel fanny pack slung around her neck and one arm in the way a shrewd Chinese clothing vendor might, and into which she would periodically rummage, pushing aside papers and tissues to find something else to shove into her face. She wasn't fat, but, I suppose, one might actually refer to her as big-boned. All of this was supported by thick legs covered with silver and black rattlesnake print with sparkles and finished off with a pair of heavy brown leather shoes. I was mesmerized...

Well, for a three-day excursion, that's possibly too much description and data. No matter. Look for more pictures of the trip in the usual location.

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