China: Studies - Sidu: River and Mountains
Spring was coming soon which lured us to the nature outside Beijing. “Why don’t you go to the Sidu river 十渡?“ one teacher–friend told us. The description suggested it is beautiful there: allegedly „Guilin桂林 of the north“. It is a vast karst area covering 300 km² in north China. This area was formed by the Tu-ma river. Sidu literally means “ten fords”. Today the fords are replaced with modern bridges yet they say the place has still some magic in it.
We set off one April morning. The road was beautiful by itself. We rode through villages, the road was wavy like a snake between mountains. Meanwhile we were enjoying surrounding nature. However, Sidu caught us off guard. Well, we had to expect it. But we are stubborn and we expected unspoiled nature. Instead, we got to a parking lot hearing distant music and screams of people doing bungee jumping. The civilization arrived there. Hence, we took our backpacks and set off in the opposite direction.
So we walked and talked. We felt air getting warmer and everything was becoming merrier with the upcoming spring. After we encountered about tenth man offering us a pony ride for ridiculous price we decided to walk off the road and head right to the mountains. It was there where we really started to liking the place. Mountains were getting green, sun was warm, and we discovered hidden paths used by locals. We climbed up to the summit of one hill and watched swarming down by the fords. The noise was distant and we finally felt well that we avoided the crowds.
Soon it was getting dark. We had no other option than to go back downhill. Yet we got lost a bit on our way. It got us to a small village near the fords. Two old ladies noted my fair hair and started talking to us. They told us with pride for how long they had been living there. We were sorry that we could not travel back in time with them to see the Sidu without bungee jumping and loud speakrs...
The Sidu and the landscape surrounding is certainly worth a visit. If you do not have a car that can get you there, you can get there also by bus 917 that departs at Su-chuang subway station 苏庄, or you can take a train. You don’t pay any fee to enter the area. This does might not be true for some attractions where you simply have to open your wallet. Should you be interested mostly in landscape then you spend some money only to buy a ticked to the Sidu, and to buy some refreshment. Safe travels!
Text/photo: Hana Bašová
Do you know this feeling when you just want to try something new, different, just set out for some adventure? After spending whole January in Beijing we missed China so much we found the cheapest flight tickets and we decided to spend summer again in China.
I was much more smarter on my second turn in China. And before my first stay in China I had heard many advice by my class mates. “Try not to use handkerchiefs often.” “Don’t stick your chopsticks into the food”.
We managed climbing up the hill very well. We walked through a small village. Some watched us, some obviously had met tourists efore and waved at us. Once we reached a crossroad we suddenly saw its contours. And we also recognized contours of a small shop at the crossroads. It wasn’t overpriced. Surprisingly. We refilled our water and sugar supplies (popsicles). If there exists something like an addiction on popsicles, I was an addict in China.
One day we decided we decided with L. to see “culture,” literally. Chengdu is well known for it Jinsha Site Museum金沙 (literally “golden sand“), (in Chinese Tin-Sha-c po-wu-kuan). The easiest and cheapest way to get here is probably using one of the city buses: right here, buses like 5, 81, 83, 7, or 37.
When you are studying in China and you want to learn more than you would at classic lessons you can ask about optional classes. There are usually many as such at universities. You can choose everything from sports, literature, or trivia to calligraphy or local dialects.
We survived the trip on the Great Wall of China. We liked it but ahead would be waiting pre-departure preparations. We were busy packing, me and B. As it turned out, packing one year worth of life in China to one coffer is far from easy and takes much more than just one afternoon. Therefore, I took T and P to their guest house and left them to take care of themselves.
It was easy to count hours before the departure of the girls (and our as well). Still, we intended to utilize them as much as possible regardless the unbearable heat in Beijing.
The day had finally come. The day of T’s and P’s departure. The girls were preparing for the departure. Me and B had still some time before we left China. The best moments of our one year stay in China were running in our minds and we also give a thought on T and P. They would surely face many questions regarding China.
When me and B were thinking at the airport about all prejudices our Czech friends have, we realized even our Chinese friends’ idea about our culture is not much accurate.
„You study Chinese? So you can read scattered tea?“
„Chinese? Ping Pong?“ „Do you have skew eyes from eating all those rice already?“
„To terminus? What will you do there? There is nothing! “
For as long as I had travelled in China, my main reason was studying the Chinese language. As more and more people ask me how learning Chinese in China is going I am going to spend some time explaining how it is.
Beijing – Datong– Hohhot... and Yinchuan was supposed to follow. As we were amazed that we managed to get some tickets, we didn’t examine it.
As it has been already said in the previous article, Yinchuan is the capital of Ningxia, an autonomous region of the Hui people. Long story short, the Hui people are Chinese Muslims and you may recognize them at first glance for men as well as women wear typical hats.
One of most popular tourist attractions of the Province of Ning-Sia are royal tombs about 35 kilometers from the center of Yinchuan. It is a landmark you just have to visit. We set out there soon after we get an accommodation. After while we found a bus heading to Shun Hing, literary “western Xia Square”.
When you set out to Hohhot, it is almost impossible to miss famous Mongolian steppes. There are plenty around Hohhot, we chose Si-la-mu-zhen. With our backpacks we got in a bus and two hours later the driver unloaded us in the middle of nowhere.
A journey from Beijing to Datong was smooth, without complications. We arrived at the place few minutes to midnight and the city was unusuallay quiet and deserted. It almost seemed as some sort of furious storm swept through the city and wiped out everything alive. Even lamps were turned off. This made our orientation, if we can use this term for a situation when we had absolutely no clue...
From Bejing to TaZ Pekingu do Datong. From Datong to Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, our second stop on our way across China. We waited on the Datong train station, instant noodles (in Chinese their name is fang-pien-mien, „comfortable noodles“, a really convenient name), we held happily our tickets. There was jing-cuo written on them (“hard seats”).
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?
Days at Chengdu school went by quite quietly. We started at half past eight and ended at noon. Occasionally we had an extra optional class in the afternoon.
At the airport, I get in the bus heading to my university. There are always traffic jam in Beijing. I have a lot of time to think. How it was back then. I had already settled, bought several necessities to get by… and then I just had been waiting for my roommates to show up.
There is much more happening in Chinese parks than in Czech parks. In the previous article it was mentioned dancing and all kinds of performances. But this is not all.
If you are in China, you wont omit to shop in a supermarket. But there is a supermarket supermarket. There are shops of western type, and then there are Chinese supermarkets. And of those, let's say something.
Every once in a while, our University has decided that it is necessary to educate us in culture. Or at least try it. I always then appeared on the bulletin board announcement on various trips. Such notification shall we, though as administrative students who went on a diet mental, more or less perceived as an invitation to tour a huge banquet that this trip will end, all of course in the direction of the school.
Another land, another habit. I realized this every day while I was in China. It did not take long. It began when I get out of the plane, continued with unbelievably intense portion of Sichuan pepper that were included in my dinner, and continued once more during - breakfast.
After some time my life in Chengdu 成都 was becoming quite monotonous. On one hand, every day was quite new but it was apparent that everyone longed for a break.
After registration troubles in the office, I managed to go through the rest of the week pretty well. I did not have to worry about the housing. Gradually, I was getting to know my new roommate and our new pets – cockroaches.
Our stay in Jiuzhaigou was coming to an end. The last day we devote to exploring the area. While L. was just sitting at the furnace up to one hour and then suddenly stood up and said she was going to the mountains, me and V. we climbed the nearest hill and enjoyed the peace that we so lacking in big cities. We even run to the village and bought a few souvenirs, especially the warm Tibetan scarves.
Who was in summer in China, knows what I am talking about. Once you get off an airconditined airport, its like by a switch somebody turns on sauna. At least I felt like this when I arrived to Chengdu.
During walk in Dujiangyan Cityu the school invited us for a generous lunch. All ate properly. Soon they regretted as they had found out that we would go to Mount Qingcheng青城山.
This is how my first three meals that I missed in China the most. Of course, one find out that IKEA is about an hour of bus ride off the campus (in China my perception of what is “near” really changed) and that you can buy there some cheese and chocolate, to feel better there.
We will live in a small house hand-built by his own cousin, the Tibetian, we call Z. here, told us. Once again he awoke curiosity and enthusiasm in us, partially suspended by a long journey. Except this we were so tired we could fall asleep literally anywhere. Still we could not believe our own eyes when he stopped in front of the building.
A queue to get a round stamp seems infinite. Next I have to just pick up my baggage, get on a bus that would take me from the airport and get at the campus. Everything according to the plan. Only with some extra time in queues or in Beijing traffic jams. Two years ago in Chengdu, if my memory is right, it was not that easy...
Bus taking me from the Beijing airport to the place of my stay. First couple of days it is not a school but a flat of my friend. I will stay day until the registration at the university. How will be the school? What about teachers? And classmates?
Several days have passed at Chengdu University. Days went by rather in same manner. Some were less calm and some calmer. We had no trip ahead of us and waited what would happen.
I am waiting for tickets to get from the Beijing Airport. I have to just sit in a right bus. An hour later I am on place. I am really curious about my new place, campus and its surroundings. I have to remember my first campus in Chengdu two years earlier.
Another place I planned to visit before my arrival to Chengdu 成都 was Luo-Tai. According to the guide and our enthusiastic friends the place was worth visiting.
Summer. Heat. Beijing. Getting a round stamp was the only thing left when I got off the plane. But I have to wait in a queue for some time. Well, I am in China, again.
Despite the title looks promising there wont be a long description of my acting career. As we promised to the elderly, we came on the following day to another “rehearsal”.
Back in Amsterdam when I was waiting for my flight to Chengdu, smiling pandas surrounded me. On the background there was a clear blue sky. No. In reality there were no pandas in every park in the city, no blue sky, so my ideals immediately vanished. I decided to see pandas with my bare eyes.
Before you find yourselves in some foreign country, perhaps you would not know what you have to do. Mostly, those are things that are completely normal in your homeland. These things are usually a routine, no one even think about. For example shopping. Lets start right on the street with stalls.
Of course, from time to time one just gets this urge to “bargain”. In case that you consider this rather amusement and you do not have nothing better to do. I even thing that if you are lucky, you can buy many things really cheap at market. Moreover, you will chitchat while doing so.
Before my flight to Chengdun where I had studied for half a year, there were several other trip. One of them took me to Leshan, the place with the largest Buddha statue in the world.
In China, there are places famous for their parks and gardens, for example Su-chou州. You can find several parks in every Chinese city. Chengdu成都is no exception.
I have written about one of Chinese minorities, the people of Hui (回族) in one of my previous articles. I praised their cuisine and their kindness and knowledge about the place of my origin.
In couple of articles already I mentioned the same topic – hot water drinking. Since young age I have been frightened to drink hot beverages when ill. It is easier and tastier to use just syrup with water, I had been always saying. And then I left to China.
First, I have to say that I come from a small town. Arrival in Prague was a large shock for me. When I was then hustling in Prague in darky morning trying to find the right address, I had no idea such an experience was not my last time. Next time it would be more intense.
Perhaps everyone who has visited Beijing and had little spare time paid his visit to famous Summer Palace (Yiheyuan 颐和园), northwestern Beijing. Less tourists, however, know, that near the “new” Summer Palace is also Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan圆明园).
As I promised myself on my exploration tour to the campus I fulfilled that promise. At the beginning of September I trotted to my future campus.
Days in Beijing passed by merrily. School in the morning, studying, chats with friends… Everyday routine was diversified with weekend trips. Summer Beijing was not very magical, to be honest.
When before the departure from Chengdu I decided to final packing of my things, I found out that I have a lot more than a few things.
Certainly there are lists of the most used words in any language. We learn what words we use the most in our mother tongue. We do not wonder as those are mostly words that are logically the most common as well.
It is true that I base my articles on my experiences and remarks of my friends, yet I have this feeling that everyone gets to the point when he needs to leave the big noisy city for fresh air in the countryside.
First registration procedure was successfully done. I had a Chinese bank account, submitted about eight passport photos, and other required documents, and while tired I read through the instructions in my room. When I found out that there is a difference between the Chinese and English version, I decided to trust the original, in Chinese.
I know the old proverb starts bit differently, yet I hold to the opinion that this tweak has some truth to it. At some places I think about this proverb more often. At some places even every day. Perhaps you already realized that by the latter I mean China.
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