Today's going to be a busy day so I'm up and about early to fit in all I need to do. I had breakfast about 0530 (on the balcony of my friend's penthouse apartment - I am thankful for the wonderful friends I have) and want to work out, shower, do laundry, sort and repack clothing (I need to ship another box), write this post (I'll fit it between other things this morning) and eat an early lunch before a busy afternoon.
I'll start by visiting with a wonderful coffee shop owner I met Monday while trying to find the medical clinic I needed to get to for my tests, and who went out of her way to help me. When she called the clinic, they told her I needed to get there in five minutes before they closed for lunch so I had to leave immediately, but I returned after being poked, prodded, x-rayed and blood-let to thank her and we had a long chat. She traveled a lot when younger, she told me (she's younger than me, of course, but now married and running a business), and many people helped her so she tries to help others in return. I love that spirit of passing good things on.
Then back to the clinic to collect my results. Assuming I'm cleared (and I passed a much more extensive round of tests late last year), I'll then drop all my documents at the travel agent in order to get my working visa for China. Then I'll arrange to have my phone unlocked, pick up a packing box from the Post Office, drop that back at the penthouse and get ready for a Girl's Night Rooftop Party at Jen's apartment in Gunja.
For now, on to the Lonely Planet guide's 11-20 "Top Experiences" in China, and whether they make my list:
11: Kashgar's Sunday Market, Xinjiang
LP recommends the Sunday Livestock Bazaar in Kashgar, where Uighur farmers trade sheep, camels, horses, donkeys and cows, saying, "It's dusty, smelly, crowded, disorientating and wonderful all at once." I suspect I'm going to get plenty of that feeling in Beijing and doubt I'll travel to China's western frontier, officially the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region just to see that.
Although, researching outside of LP makes me realize it must be a fascinating region, as it shares borders with Mongolia, Russia, a number of stans (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan), Kashmir, Tibet, Qinghai and Gansu.
Not surprisingly, there's a fair bit of unrest in the region and the Kiwi may let discretion be the better part of valor and skip this one, at least if traveling alone. I'm sure I'll find plenty of adventure during my travels without seeking out danger deliberately.
Having written that, I realize I may have another reason to want to visit Kashgar, but that is LP's No. 25, so will have to wait for another blog post.
12: Huangshan and Hui Villages, Anhui
According to Unesco, which has it on its World Heritage List, Mt. Huangshan is known as the "loveliest mountain in China" and has been acclaimed in art and literature throughout history. It is shrouded in mist and light rain more than 200 days a year, but that has its own beauty in the photos I've been viewing. If it has inspired painters, poets and writers for millennia, I may have to seek spiritual renewal there myself.
The nearby Hui villages feature well-preserved residences and ancestral halls in a distinctive architectural style. The bridge at the entrance to the village of Hongcun, another Unesco World Heritage site, featured in Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," one of many Chinese-flavored movies I need to rewatch.
13: Diaolou in Kaiping, Guangdong
Another World Heritage site!
These look surreal - multi-storied defensive residences, communal towers and watch towers built in an eclectic mix of European and Chinese architectural styles scattered across farmland.
The fortified buildings were a response firstly to raiding bandits, then later to protect residents from Japanese troops. Many were built by returning emigres who had gone to work in the United States, Canada and Australia and returned home after amassing their fortunes.
I expect there are a lot of stories to be written there, even though many of the residents have again moved away.
NB: I'm doing much more additional research today, so will end this blog post at No. 15, simply so I can get on with the rest of my day.
15: Cycling Hainan
LP recommends cycling China's tropical island and it does seem a wonderful way to relax from the hustle and bustle I know is Beijing. This one is a definite maybe, though I may prefer to spend a few quiet days outside of China, in neighboring Thailand, Laos or Vietnam.
Time to get moving - more to come tomorrow . . .