Well.... our little trip to Tai Shan was definitely one of the most interesting 24 hour periods of my life. Tai Shan... Taoist and Buddhist holy place, center of Chinese creation myths, and the most climbed mountain in the world. The plan went something like this... we would take the train to Jinan, take a bus to Tai an, hike Tai Shan all night, watch the sun rise, hike back down the mountain (eight hours of hiking in total), and then take a train back to Tianjin and be there for class on Monday. We rode on a sleeper train from Tianjin to Jinan on Saturday afternoon, and got in at about 10 to Jinan. The buses were all closed for the night, but our "friend" from the train promised to find us a taxi that would not rip us off. Actually, that's what we assumed she was saying since all of the translation tools we had with us did not help with our communication at all. And recognizing characters means nothing when you don't remember what they mean. At first we thought that she was asking us if she could climb Tai Shan with us, and then we were just
confused. Turns out... that she was trying to turn a profit, as we learned when she and the cab driver start arguing about how they should divide up our money. That's interesting. Did I mention that the drive was two hours to Tai an, and that it was pouring and that the whole sky kept lighting up with this crazy lightning AND we were speeding on a wet China freeway in the middle of nowhere dodging between semis. Okay... but we'd come all this way, and we were not about to turn around, so we kept going. We had agreed on 200 RMB, which is US $25, but when we got to Tai Shan, they wanted 300 RMB because, he said, he had to drive our friend back to Ji Nan. Okay, well, we didn't really have a choice.. because what were we going to do, tell the police? (one of my friends in the program went to jail after a cab driver hit him in the head with a beer bottle- okay there's a lot more to that story, and he probably deserved some kind of punishment- but he didn't hurt the cab driver- just the cab- and the
China prison system/ level of police integrity is not very high- if we had complained we would probably have had to pay more than they were ripping us off- that's if we could get our message across). So after several "bu gao xing" s and "bu hao" s (not good, not happy) to our "friends", we started hiking. It was pouring, there were toads hopping across the steps, and I was soaked through my poncho. My extra clothes were soaked through my backpack and my poncho, and we were hiking straight up 6,660 stairs on a Taoist mountain in the middle of nowhere, China, at 12:30 in the moirning in a lightning storm. It was SO surreal. I wish I had some pictures of the night, but I was too wet and tired to take any. It would be almost pitch black except for some mist, and then there would be a Buddhist or Taoist temple in front of us, with a couple of lights, some incense, and puddles of water all over the temple. It was beautiful. We hiked for two hours until we were halfway up the mountain, and then we decided to ditch our itinerary and improvise
a little. We read that there was a great hostel halfway up the mountain, but of course when we got there it was full. And the people were NOT nice. They tried to charge us 100 RMB to sit down, rest our heads on a table for a couple hours, and a glass of tea (that's US $12.50). I told him that that was ridiculous, and he went down to 10 RMB each as we were walking away, but we were so angry and wet and tired we didn't care. We found a tea house, and the people there were SO friendly. The woman charged us 10 RMB to sleep until morning, and she gave us the best tea I've ever had in my life. That said, it was probably the worst sleep I've had as well. I slept under a table, soaking wet, with my head on my soaking wet backpack filled with my wet stuff, surrounded by soaking wet snoring people... but somehow we managed. I woke up (the final time) to the owner cleaning the tea house, Pete and I the only ones still asleep, still soaking wet, and FREEZING. We pulled ourselves off the ground, were treated to an amazing view of the sun peaking through fog surrounded green mountains, and decided we were too wet and cold and burned out to finish the hike, so we rode the cable car up. The peak was unexciting and foggy, so we quickly rode the cable car back down, and then a bus the rest of the way, and then another 2 hour bus ride, 6 hour train ride and we were back in Tianjin. And never had Tianjin been so beautiful.
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