Friday, July 25, 2008

Encountering the I in China

I got my visa last week, so the China trip is a go! I was a little worried about obtaining permission to visit because I own a cute Go Team Tibet scarf and mitten set, and I was sure the Chinese government would know about it and reject me out of hand. Thankfully the Olympic mantra, Amazing Awaits, has become my own.

The holy-geez-it's-only-a-week-away planning has begun in earnest. As if time pressure and a giant scroll of must-dos wasn't enough to stomp my excitement into nonexistence, my rather significant Other has decided to offer mounds of unsolicited advice, further muddying already clouded waters. Understand that while I've spent the last twenty-something years covered in baby barf and laundry soap, he's traveled the world -- usually with a pretty girl whose name seems always to end with an i (no doubt topped with a cheerful daisy or heart-shaped flourish).

Not surprisingly, Other and I have a difference of opinion as to how I should spend my time in China. Although I'm excited as hell to see the Olympics, I want to see more of China than simply the Bird's Nest and the National Aquatics Center. I am wringing my hands trying to figure out how I can see as much as possible without running myself ragged, while still giving Beijing its due. He, on the other hand, has been to China and has his own ideas. He spent a month in the south of China, visiting only two provinces, and is pushing the notion of me doing a similar mini cultural immersion trip. Truthfully, I'd love nothing more, but I may not be back this way again soon and I'd like to see more of China than his plan would allow.

Long and short of it. I am ignoring his advice and doing things my way. And he's fine with that. But I still have hard decisions to make because there are so many things that I really really want to see and do. Horseback-riding and camping in Inner Mongolia (Genghis-fricking-Khan!). The Li River cruise in Guilin. Biking through the rice paddies outside of Yangshuo. The five Sacred Peaks. The Wall. The Warriors. The pandas. Damn.

I've narrowed it down to this. I want to hike Mount Huashan, known by the Chinese as The Number One Precipitous Mountain under Heaven. And I want to see the city of Li Jiang and the nearby 18,000-foot Jade Snow Dragon Mountain.

Funny how solo travel helps you discover hidden truths about yourself. You can tell by the name of my travel blog, Culture Chakra, that I've always thought that my travel would be about people, about culture. Turns out it's all about the mountain for me. Maybe it's the Colorado upbringing. I tend to feel a bit sluggish below 5,000 feet.

But really, in my defense, aren't towns and villages, and the people who inhabit them, largely influenced by the surrounding landscape? Haven't the best hiking guides come from the Himalayas? And is it any surprise that the Jamaicans don't win the bobsled competition, and the Norwegians kick ass at ski jumping?

The food people eat, the clothes they wear, the houses they build, the instruments they play, even the gods they worship, are inextricably tied to the earth and sky that embrace them every day.

I'm off to pack. But I leave you with a video of Modern Gonzo's Mount Huashan trek.


chanpheng said...

Looks like an amazing trip ahead of you. I've never been to China so look forward to seeing it through your eyes!

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