» China: By Journalists Eyes X: Qing Hai Province - The First Night In Xi Ning
China: By Journalists Eyes X: Qing Hai Province - The First Night In Xi Ning
After four days in Beijing we packed suitcases and with our guide got on the plane. Before us is a big unknown - we are moving into one of the poorest provinces of China to west to the Tibetan border. It won´t be surprise just for us, but also our girls will visit Beijing - Ai Qing the first time in their life.
We are 6 hour of flight from our destination. In the capital of Xi Ning we landed about 8pm, dark and completely new types of faces welcomes us. At the airport is to know that here live totally different nationality than on the east. They have darker skin bigger cheekbones, narrower and bevel eyes, women with woven braids somewhere up to their waist. I am excited and look forward to what's next.
We are in the bustle of the city, which has noting more common with the Beijing than a few tall buildings and some neon lights here and there. Otherwise it looks quietly, quietly, sleepily, the streets are half empty. Hotel, where we will stay, but again does not disappoint us - a modern, luxury, glass, marble, detailed trim. Definitely not worth the time and probably is also the only of its kind.
Right at the reception we dealt drugs against mountain sickness - we is at an altitude of about 2500 meters a.s.l. and the risk that we might have a health problem. We wonestly swallow pills, later we have organized dinner but we are look forward for nothing more than to wander the night Xi Ning.
We go down Main Street toward the river, which crosses the city. It was after 10pm, but the streets relatively live. We pass various businesswoman who are on the sidewalk spread their goods (beads, trinkets, toys, etc.), stop at the painter cartoons and Hungarian colleague is allowed to perpetuate. Figure it is the equivalent of about 40 crowns.
We're the only "white" and it's a lot to know. People stare at us intently, stopping us, shout, show each other the finger and brave and is trying to touch us. A group of men, we took a lot, even sticks to us and scans our every move. It's high time to stop somewhere and shake them down - after all we don’t know the local conditions and culture and I´m afraid.
After a while we come to the street, surrounded by a kind of snack bars with adjacent outdoor gardens. Sit at the first free, of course, plastic table and waiting for service. It comes with a tight woman faces and colourful scarves on their heads, trying to hide the excitement of such a visit. We order a beer - we can say it in Chinese - so “pi-ďo” and we are looking for refreshment. Waitress but frowned moves the head and also her forefinger, and we understand that here it is waste to wait for beer.
Thanks and we are going to the next one, actually to the neighbours in the belief that we succeed with our demand. This time man we will come to serve, the rest of the family watches from the shadows of our buffet. We will try it again "pi - do". Tall Chinese with a turban on his head gestures that it is not in his offer, but he is more enterprising than the neighbour and keeps repeating "cha" "cha" ... wants to give us tea. Not that just hit our taste and mood, so we try to find out what else we could get to drink. Communicate but is impossible - absolutely does not work in English and Chinese and even the basics of one of our colleagues is not enough - in the Qing Hai harsh dialect is spoken. Efforts to reach an agreement to attract more people to our table, he looks here are two women and a boy. Attempts keep continue - Fanta? Cola? Chinese smile after a while, whispers something the young boy and he as a rocket fired into the unknown where xi-Nin night. Gestures indicate to us whether we sit and wait. Those less resistant of us swivel for tea in the end.
Women disappears for a showcase of their shop, we can see them casting a kettle and prepare the glass. The man remains firmly stand by our table. He doesn´t need to speak with us, but he looked at us as to animals in the zoo. When viewing images in the camera, calmly shoves his head between us and he made part of the spectator. Women bring snacks in between. I resisted, before fellow land a tall glass full of some floating plants and dried fruit. It does not look bad, but when you swallow the first sip, mop they face. The Chinese are smiling lightly. Out of curiosity and taste brrrrr - nothing sweeter in life I had in my mouth, tea flavour is zero, just horribly sugary water with bits of vitamins.
Suddenly in the distance we can see running boy who disappeared a few minutes ago. Breathless stops at our table, holding triumphantly chocolate milkshake from McDonald's. We do not understand. We started laughing. They do not understand nor our hosts. What is wrong? What our gesture in them the impression that we have a craving for a milkshake, decipher or later one of us. Anyway, we felt incredible gratitude and humility. Those people are trying to do literally what we saw in the eyes, although it was slightly odd look. And we have forgiven them and that when paying our purses crowded around and stared into them as into a well. Later we learned that staring, peeking, scanning, touching of strangers and lack of respect for the intimate zone.... it is all natural for local people and they do not consider it as nothing improper or indecent.
Text/photo: Andrea Fantová
Classical Chinese carpets have described Marco Polo in his travelogues, but till today in the world are still not too much to seen and know little about them. I look forward to our visit carpet factories in the province of Qinghai, Xining on the outskirts of the city, to widen my horizons. The lives of local workers I try to plug deeply into the subconscious and try to see the beauty around.
Exploring the China is join with infinite variety of impressions, perceptions, experiences and surprises for Europeans often shrouded under a veil of mystery, many time but just ignorance. I did get out of this country dominating feeling - China is incredibly colourful. Colourful from drab uniform gray to a beautiful rainbow combination.
To leave the province of Qinghai and thus few days of life in the past, sometimes the century before, it was the more sensitive nature really hard. Local on many places the virgin nature, proud mountain ranges, deep green valleys, vast dry plains, miniature boxes, herds of yaks and colourful mix of nationalities, often pristine civilizations us captivated, amazed, left imprint on the hearts.
We are in Shanghai, in a metropolis shrouded by hundreds of "firsts" that is, in the largest Chinese city. One "the best" there certainly lacks – the historic one. Shanghai, unlike many other Chinese cities has relatively short history, after the Middle Ages, you won´t find any foot mark.
When I looked at the city in evening from promenade of colonial Bund, Oriental Pearl enchanted me with its graceful shapes, and I watched long how at it clothed in new and new colours in regular intervals. I do not know, which one suits her most...
The second day in Shanghai. I slept great, the apartment from Chinese Ministry in one of the most modern hotels in Pchu - tung district, hardly compares to the most luxury holiday model.
Till the start of the World's Expo remains less than 11 months. Here in Shanghai the word Expo is inflected to suffer. Sky blue mascot of Hainan - pao exhibition more than a year before the outbreak this exhibition´s madhouse smiles from windows, posters, winks from light boards, and I decided to bring one teddy home.
The first ever Chinese word that I learned, and it still did not forget, is the "pi-jo". If you seem familiar, you are right - though vastly different languages, for favourite golden-coloured brew has phonetically very similar name as Czech and many other Slavic languages. Drinking beer is a hobby that is definitely common with the Chinese.
In China, people drink really everything you can think of. Everyday drink is inherent tea, whether green or black, fermented or semi-fermented. Water and hundreds of species of non-alcoholic beverages are part of food as well as beer or very popular traditional rice wine. On the tables of local "higher" classes but there are also wine from grapes, until recently marginalized drink.
To move on the other side of Euroasia is nothing easy for those who don’t know how. Especially when they are going to have a personal contact with a Chinese family, business partners, or politicians and officials. For such a stay it is good to make some little preparations, otherwise you will experience more than one faux pas.
Walks and rides in Shanghai are an infinite fount of learning unknown and different no matter where it is. I manage to sit down and observe rush around me for half an hour on one very busy avenue.
We have all this Christmas martyrdom behind us, more or less. New Year’s eve after-effects are the past now and everyday life came back again. Far in the east of our planet the holiday season is getting to its peak.
We had many formal meetings during our journey in China with government officials or top managements of some companies that tried to make themselves more visible through us, European journalists. In a hurry after these precisely scheduled meetings I always gathered prepared business cards and carefully placed them to my notes.
We all got used to all these superlatives surrounding China. I wouldn’t exaggerate if I said that she achieved some primacy every week.
If we set off to China it is almost imposible to miss out its capital - Beijing. Beijing is full of traces of history but Beijing also lives in the present and future in every of its wide avenues and narrow streets. Beijing is full of fabulous food, noisy traffic... And so on and on. Where would you look for peaceful moments in busy metropolis?
We are still in the far northwest of China, in the region, which is interwoven with Tibetan culture and history. After dense doses our Beijing hosts are served us bait to persuade Europeans ignorant about the interest of the central government in the development of local underdeveloped economy, improving people's living standards while maintaining support all the attributes of the original culture
Again our bus is going on the new highway, which I'd read that it was probably built for only one reason - to make available the Tibetan Buddhist monastery Ta'er. And really, this time not waiting for us any boneshaker dirt road and conveniently parked outside the gates of a large complex at the foot of greenish mountains.
Finally Beijing. Our journalistic team has battled a series of security checks and we find ourselves in an endless airport lounge. The feeling that the local crowd have to absorb us was not correct. Then we see a smiling Chinese lady and in minutes everyone sit in a luxury air-conditioned bus.
Profane language and pornography shouldn’t be on the Internet. We would certainly agree with that if only this wasn’t just a cover for endless clutch of the Chinese Internet censorship. Under the cover of a protection of national cultural heritage, and public interest and prosperity the Chinese government tries to hide its rough cleansing.
China's hard work and discipline accompanied us at every step and a visit of Beijing Foreign Studies University just confirmed it. Here we had a chance to appreciate even more characteristic of Chinese - adaptability.
Morning view from hotel window in Xining reveals a breathtaking backdrop. The city is surrounded by high mountains, over which the sun shines and I'm really looking forward for today's trip, which has sometimes copied the former trade artery between Asia and Europe - the Silk Road. The fact that I wet my feet in the Yellow River, it is still like science fiction.
Our bus goes on the perfectly smooth highway, where we ones a time meet some man in a hat, with a scarf over his face and a broom in his hand - he is alone, far from him you can´t see anything of civilization, the high mountains on both sides, and he sweeps the shoulder.
Our bus finally stops at the end of a long, dirt track, in which about an hour ago has changed as if by magic a modern six-lane highway. My worries we will finish up on the roof, fortunately not materialized, we drove past woods and gouged out before us, football pitch right and green has left. Everything was dominated by ground shabby, battered gray building - school.
Qinghai Province fascinates me at every step, or rather at every kilometre. A mixture of Buddhism and Muslim world humbly exist together is incredibly interesting phenomenon, especially for journalists from far, accelerated, often impersonal and intolerant Europe. This time we are heading into the valley that lies in Rebkong area, the centre of Tibetan art in the province.
The third day we devoured spell of western China and the knowledge that we have somewhere "behind" Tibet is our "ugly," said attractive. There, under the auspices of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, certainly can´t go, but Tibetan culture we meet at every step.
From the bus window, we could see Beijing crisscross, authentic atmosphere of the streets and alleys and hundreds of thousands of people in them, but we sucked up in the role of hikers and then of course after "bedtime" is ended with an official dinner with selected potent and our tired guide disappeared behind hotel room door.
Being in China and not visit the Great Wall is equal to savagery. The official program that the Chinese government has prepared us is this trip only alternative and we have to earn deserve it. From early morning we sit in the Red Hall headquarters of the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China and pretend to listen to propaganda papers enthusiastic speakers.
We "elect" could see the Chinese megalopolis through largely a luxury air-conditioned bus with a smiling dude behind the wheel. It is also part of local standard, certainly not just for a small group of natives and of course for wealthy tourists.
The first dining experience in China didn’t impress me too much. Five stars beautiful hotel, a lot of fuss on arrival our journalistic delegation - a bow and waving fans welcomed us beauties in traditional dress, from the table.
Beijing is for us concentration of paradoxes. Endless skyscrapers, luxury living residences, shops of all tech brands on one side and then thousands of artifacts, ancient Chinese culture. We are interested in both of it, but the traditional one is but much more interesting.
World media today proclaims that the Chinese state television CCTV triumphantly finished its job and officially opened a new headquarters in Beijing. The futuristic-looking building that should symbolizes the emergence of China on the world stage, journalists dubbed it - thanks to the remarkable shape for her grace in the world called the Chinese "Great boxers."
China - land of unlimited possibilities, a country which, unlike the developed world is growing and whose economic growth in today's world seems like a miracle. Country with many cultural and historical monuments, a country, that sends a man into space.
If you would like to have a stop in a locality, where the time is passing in another rate of speed, where everyday hunt for activity and stress do not have any chance, so, you arrived to the right spot. It is Yangshuo, small Chinese town, situated in nature karst along Li and Yulong rivers.
Photo: Amy Challen a Jan Lidmaňský