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Long Qing Xia 龙庆峡 Great Dragon Gorge

June 30, 2010 8 comments

龙庆峡 (Long Qing Xia in pinyin), Great Dragon Gorge in English, was our destination this past Sunday (6-27-10).  Long Qing Xia is located approximately 60 miles away from Beijing and is, as we learned, accessible via the bus system.  Throughout the week we researched the place and determined that it was a single day destination and then in a combination of my conversations with the front desk lady about taxis there and the existence of a van in Beijing that could take more than 4 of us at a time (this is a bizarre idea, apparently), Taylor, Sarah and Yun’s wrangling with the official site and other online information, and Yun’s Mandarin skillz we figured out how best to get there.

It was a series of three buses. From PKU’s west gate we took bus 118 to xi1 san1 qi2 where we got on bus 919 to yan2 qing4 nan2 cai4 yuan2 where we boarded bus 920 which finally arrived at long2 qing4 xia2 (that detail was for you, future UMPKU iREU students, as well as any other visitors to Beijing).  The buses went smoothly except for having to literally run to catch the 919 bus (if we’d missed it we just would have had to wait a few extra minutes), then nearly getting on the wrong version of the 919 bus.  It was pretty funny.  As our group of westerns ran to the bus everyone started shouting “bu2 yao4 na ge” (you don’t want that one) and “no, not that one!” because they could tell we didn’t totally know what was going on. Yun came to the rescue and figured out that one of the two was the express bus, which we wanted.  So it was fine. We managed to get seats and everything was alright. The buses were even a pleasant temperature.

2 hours and 40 minutes of bussing later we arrived at 龙庆峡 long qing xia. We considered renting some horses and riding those to the entrance of the park which was determined after some talking to be a relatively short walk.  This, combined with their general grubbiness and shadiness dissuaded us from the horses. (About 10 of these guys literally came jogging over to us the minute we stepped off the bus and followed us until it was clear that we were not coming back.)

Long qing xia is some sort of government-designated park area. It is a fairly tasteful tourist destination. It is formed by a dammed river that flows down between very abrupt mountains.  The first thing you do when entering the park is go to the top of the dam, but this is done in style.  The world’s longest series of escalators, housed inside a large dragon-shaped hallway which winds up to the top of the dam is the entrance to the park, and makes for a good introductory photo!

Snapping some photos before riding the dragon into Long Qing Xia

Veronica, Sarah, Lily, and Matt near the entrance to Long Qing Xia

The attractive dam at the entrance to Long Qing Xia. The dragon is on the right.

Upon ascending the dragon you can immediately hike up into the hills or take a boat up the river to a dock farther along.  We took the boat to get a look at some of the scenery and explore around the next dock where more things were located.  The whole area is very picturesque.  Steep slopes covered with trees make up the walls of the waterway and valleys between peaks are absolutely lush with greenery.  The area is a bit hazy and looks sort of like the smokey mountains in that regard.  The pictures will probably describe it better than I can.

A shot from within the gorge

Post-boating we set off walking to the “illusion pavilion.” We determined after about 5 minutes that it was much farther than we thought it was.  It was an invigorating (By invigorating I mean very hot. Despite being quite a bit cooler than Beijing the walking in direct sunlight up a mountain was quite warm, surprisingly enough) walk up a path made primarily of rough stairs formed from rock and cement that ended at a small pavilion with an impressive view of the gorge:

The view from the "Illusion Pavilion"

After our little hike we stopped for popsicles and proceeded on to the zip line and bungee jumping.  Most of us ended up going down the zip line and one did the bungee jumping, but most of us decided that that was pushing our trust in the Chinese facilities and the strength of our spines a bit too far.  The zip line was cool and watching people bungee jump while waiting for our person was funny. You could see them looking anxious and hesitating before finally asking to be pushed or falling off themselves.

Veronica prepares to go down the zipline, or "rapid descent" in Chinese-->English translation.

Following the excitement we wound down our stay in Long Qing Xia with some snacks and boating.  We rented rowboats and went up a small branch of the waterway.  The rowboats were typical wooden boats but the oars provided were clearly homemade.  They were relatively straight, relatively round handles attached with U-bolts to what I suspect was once a piece of wooden siding that was approximately the correct size for an oar blade.  The boats didn’t really have the leg room to be conducive for me to row, and none of us really had lots of rowing experience so we took the oars and paddled with them.  We had a very pleasant and scenic hour in the wonderfully shaded canyon.  I was interested to see the continuum of paddling skill that emerges every time I see a random group of people get in boats.  Basically it breaks down along the lines of more experience and more strength result in more skill. Just interesting… Anyway, here are some more pictures!

Me, Matt, and Lily paddling our boat at Long Qing Xia

The view from the bow while paddling at Long Qing Xia

After boating we began our journey back to the city as the park area closes at 5.  Conveniently enough it also was starting to rain around 5, but since we were leaving anyway we didn’t feel like we’d gotten rained out.  So after a dash to the bus stop (which really wasn’t necessary since it rained very politely) and another long bus ride we got back to Beijing.  The trip was a perfect length for a day trip and I highly recommend it to anyone spending some time in that area.

For dinner once we got back we returned to the place with the pineapple rice since we liked it the first time.  When we were ordering I decided that what the people near us were eating looked good so I went over and asked politely what they were eating. The guy I asked was really excited and said that my pronunciation was really good (Yun translated that bit) and then started asking me things.  At first I was uncertain but then I realized that I was understanding a lot of what he was saying.  He was asking what I was doing in China and where I was from, and things like that.  So, excited by the revelation in my comprehension I definitely said “American” and possibly said “I’m from America” (depending on how well I said it, haha).  I then said “I’m studying at 北大 (PKU)” to which he exclaimed that one of the women he was eating with was an alumnus of 北大. Anyway, I got the name of what he was having, we ordered it and it was delicious though quite spicy.  I had a great dinner with the bonus of feeling slightly like I’ve learned a modicum of Chinese so far to wrap up a great day.

ong Qing xia: we intended to leave at 7:15-7:20. Chanan got down at like 7:19 and we found out the bus route had changed from the plan the previous night and thus his friend wouldn’t have been able to meet us as planned. Luckily his friend was running late and was able to get in a cab and meet us at the west gate (西门) of PKU and get on the bus with us. 2 hours and 40 minutes and 3 busses later we were at long qing xia, the great dragon gorge. It’s a beautiful gorge formed by incredibly abrupt mountains. The waterway is formed by a series of dams and, of course, the mountains. The area has been made tastefully tourist-friendly. There’s a boat that takes you up the gorge a while then drops you at a dock from which you can go hike into the mountains (we climbed up one there were LOTS OF STAIRS), go up to bungee jump and Zip line (most of us Zip lined (which was fun but not as long or awesome as I’d hoped for. Many people had never done it before and it was a good intensity for them, though), Other chanan bungee jumped with no ill effect), we got a snack then went in row boats. We all ended up paddling our row boats with the home-made oars instead of rowing. It was really fun.  The scenery was amazing—nearly sheer cliffs rising hundreds of feet, dappled with small trees clinging to their surfaces. Valleys between the mountains were overflowing with vegetation. We took the buses back (we had to stand on the longer of the trips because seats were full) and I went back to the place with the pineapple rice (the Dia restaurant). At dinner I went over and asked a guy what he was eating because it looked good. He shook my hand and complimented my pronunciation and asked where we were from, and if were American. I explained that we were students at bei da (and by that I mean I said “student” and then “bei da”. He said that the lady at their table was an alumnus of bei da and they offered the name of another delicious looking dish they had.  It was really pretty awesome they were so nice and I was able to understand the vast majority of what they were attempting to communicate, if not actually what they were saying. We discovered the existence of a few more restaurants down that-a-way for the future.

A great weekend

June 27, 2010 Leave a comment

I had an excellent weekend. Notable events included lots of talking with friends, playing some Mahjong, a thought for a design for my project, dinner at the fancy vegetarian place, and our Sunday trip to Long qing xia.

More complete blog posts are pending. For now I’m worn out and need to get some sleep. Rest assured that I’m living life to the fullest and all-together having a blast here in China.

Good lunch, Behai park, 包子 dinner, relaxed lab time

June 21, 2010 2 comments

I went for a run with Veronica in the morning and told her about Chanan’s plan to go to Long Qing Xia I heard about last night. We tried recruiting more people but for assorted reasons they weren’t really up for it. It got down to Chanan, veronica, me, Taylor, sarah, and Anya would go. Sarah and Anya had tickets for a ballet at 7, though, so they were going to leave earlier or we were all going to go back earlier.  I got down to the lobby ahead of them and began asking the front desk about logistics to make sure our plans were good.  The lady at the front desk was incredibly helpful and said that it would take 2.5 hours by car, and longer by bus. It eventually emerged that we could hire a car/driver to take us for 500 RMB round trip per car, which is fairly reasonable considering that allows us to spend the whole day there. We might look into getting a van to take a gaggle of us at once instead of 2 sedans. Maybe it would be more economical…  In any case there are plans in the works to do that next weekend, possibly. It sounds like a really interesting location with good scenery and good activities.

After that fell through we retreated to my room for a while to plot our next move. We decided to go to Beihai park, then to a tea house, then back to the hotel for possible swimming. We took the subway there and realized we were hungry so we wandered down a side street and found a really good restaurant.  It was a small place that wasn’t too expensive, the food was amazing, and the staff was really nice.  We struggled happily through the ordering process, notebooks full of useful characters spread across the table, wild gestures and slaughtered pronunciations blazing.  We had some delicious eggplant and fish and some less delicious tofu. Chanan’s friend Chanan (seriously, they were both named Chanan) who he met at temple this weekend met us there and spent the afternoon with us.

A group picture with our incredibly kind waitress

From the restaurant we went to Beihai park which, surprise surprise, was essentially another place the emperor built to party at.  It has a complex of buildings at the north side and a large lake with a central island and temple in the center. The whole place is attractively landscaped with willow trees and grass and rocks.  We rented 2 paddle boats and puttered around on the lake for an hour. The girls’ boat was apparently a dream to paddle while ours make grinding and clumping noises and really didn’t do a great job of moving us so we had a bit of a struggle.

Me at Beihai park. In the background are a series of pavillions in which people are dancing and singing.

The park was nice and afterward we moved on to the Tea house phase of our plan.  We’d heard good things about the Laoshe tea house, so we took a cab from Beihai to there (only 10 RMB! Taxis in China are inexpensive).  We got there and it was, indeed, very nice with a relaxed room where you could drink tea and be serenaded by Chinese musicians. Unfortunately a single cup of tea (unless the menu was translated poorly) was 5-11 dollars, which we felt to be a bit absurd.  As such we left for the hotel.

Sarah and Anya went to prepare for their ballet show, Chanan’s friend went home, and Veronica, Chanan, and I went and got dinner at “the dumpling place” as it has come to be known.  We can’t read anything so we just make up names for places. It usually has to do with the location, type of food, and color/style of decoration of the restaurant.  This is a bit of a misnomer though as they do not, as far as I could tell, actually have dumplings. They have steamed buns (Bao1zi包子) which are delicious.  It was very inexpensive. 22 kuai for 18 包子 which filled the three of us up nicely. On my way home from dinner I decided to stop by the lab to make sure my worms which I started growing the day before were doing well and just generally make sure my stuff was doing ok.  Everything looked great and I got to talk with some of the people in my lab. I tried asking for something in Chinese which set off a whole conversation trying to explain some stuff to me.  It seems like the lab is a fun place but they get their work done and save socializing for down time, which is probably for the best.