Mao’s Country Pt. 1

Ok, so Nanning.
Average to poor.
We arrived after an overnight debacle at immigration from Hanoi. Armed, passports in hand, one of which with the wrong date within it. Drug paraphernalia dumped at the last minute. No sense of local language or communication.
Woken up by the biggest Asian man I’ve ever seen in full army get up and his little companion, Mrs asian-hulkess armed with a clipboard. Here we are trying to both wake ourselves up from the little to no sleep we got and pack our things up, while this hulk of a man and his mistress meticulously looked throughout our cabin of innocence for an excuse not to let us into their already full (and rapidly growing) Utopia called China.

Underwhelmingly ready but still, ready.

We arrived in Nanning with no clue. A city we, and by the sounds of it no one else, had never heard of. For good reason. There’s not a lot going on in this southern town (gigantic city of hecticness) of China. We circled around and decided on a central hotel which was luxury for what was to follow. A walk at night took us through the local park which was, of course, filled with 1000 people doing Tai-chi, dancing, some-zumba-things. A back alley clothing market teeming with, you guessed it, insane amounts of people. Sorry Chinese market man as much as I would love a new shirt covered with a somewhat adjective vomit of babbling words arguably containing the english language that if spoken out loud back home you would be locked up in a happy home, I don’t think you have my size of said shirt. But I will take a supreme hat. Shishi.

IMG_1318-0.JPG Chicken feet in Nanning

The clothing market opened out onto a street food alley with all the delicacies of home- chicken kebabs, sushi, dumplings, paos, fritters, soaked or fried chicken feet, brains, something from the sea (I think), Peking duck, Peking dog hung up (with a live one in a cage underneath) and, my favourite, stinky to-fu. Yea, stinky. Now this stuff looks like deep fried to-fu and when it’s cooking it smells great. So when Karl took a whole block in his mouth then proceeded to gag profusely I assumed he was just doing a funny. Then came the coughing. Then the dry retching. Then the swearing. By this moment I had half of it in my own mouth and proceeded to follow the path of the less fortunate mentioned above. This stuff honestly tasted like cigarette butts and ash stuffed into an old gym sock. From here a variety of weird foods and beers were drunk and before we knew it there were naked Chinese men walking around, but ill leave that for another forum. We visited ‘the people’s park of nanning’ what a wonderfully run down gift from Mao. By now on the trip we all look like a bunch of weird, lost, free traveling white folk so photos a plenty. Taken at every opportunity possible. I mean the Chinese watch and listen to a lot of American trash but it was like the whole county had never seen the likes of us- especially steele with his pasty moon tan. Imagine that, feeling like 1.4 billion people, close to a 5th of the god damn global population not seeing anything like you. We would be walking down the street and people would be walking infront of us taking selfie snaps with us in the corner, it’s insane! With the ego boost we found claypots and sweet dough made from bread dumplings and we were ready to mission onto Xi’an. Home of the Terracotta Army and one of the five holy sisters (peaks), Mt Hua Shan with the infamous ‘sky bridge’.

IMG_1474.JPG Steele showing off how comfy our beds were

Unfortunately our future train tickets throughout the rest of the Chinese journey were cancelled. That is all. Thanks anonymous online Chinese company, awesome work, you really fucked us.
So we had to re-book the next two legs of the trip urgently to secure spots. Little did we know it was also Chinese summer holidays and everyone would like to travel everywhere. Everyone, everywhere, forever. An ocean of people.
It was hard and to stay on track timing wise for our future expeditions to Tibet and Russia we had to take what we could get. Which happened to be a lovely 33 hour seated train ride. Perfect, just peachy.
Come with me on a journey through time and no space… Imagine a Transperth bus seat for 33 hours but multiply the legal amount of passengers by three, turn the aircon off, throw in the occasional criminal pickpocket, a lady selling migoreng and a fuck load of card games. Now half the little amount of fun you can imagine from the above description and hopefully you’ve got a fair idea of how things went down. I slept on the dirty floor. I slept on my towel, with my bag as a pillow while countless people walked over or around me throughout the night because in China no one sleeps. Ever. And if they do they must have reserve awake people hiding somewhere to take their place because there’s fucking people everywhere.

IMG_2986.JPG Everyone.

The scenery was magical and diverse. Ranging from endless fields of rice to gain industrial projects of sky rises, factories, government propaganda the size of multiple football fields all dwarfing, in stark contrast, the wooden, broken, frail huts and people who are found track side. You can find my video of it here.
Huge krasts (limestone pillars) loomed upon the fore & background dotted and rising like a schoolboy’s face. It was like halong bay without the water.

IMG_1398.JPG Xi’an main square at night

An awesome upgrade from nothing, I mean Nanning. A city that’s truly alive. The remnants of an imperial city wall still line the inner quarters, 8km each side and you’re able to bike the whole thing. Unlike the last town, where we were wasting time, here in Xi’an we had no where near enough. So much to explore of both the city and the outer regions but we did manage to squeeze a few gems. After a failed attempt on the bullet train we moved onto the mission of the Terracotta Army. What an amazing thing they were. We met alot of people, mostly Americans, who said not to do it. It’s underwhelming and not worth the time or money. Well, if theres one thing I learnt in that country its don’t ever listen to an American in China. How wrong they were. After pulling out Australian ID and saying it was a student card we were in well under budget for the day.

Over 8,000 individual soldiers, bowmen, chariots and noble men kept preserved for over 2300 years. Each used to hold actual forged weapons ranging from basic spears to chrome tipped bronzed arrows vas bows. Chromium covered knifes an arrow tip were found to prevent rusting and preserve aesthetic lustre. Rust protective coatings developed 2000 years before the west to then just be buried for the sake of it.
China, I think you’re freaky but I like you a lot.
Late night beers and a street side barbecue and we were ready for a sleep and in the morrow round 2 of Xi’an: Mt Hua Shan.
As we bored the bullet train I felt like I had stepped into either royalty or japan. Cleanliness and efficiently were screaming at me. 300kmh of pure comfort. Before we knew it we were outside the station staring up at the 2400m peak before us and just barely making out a gondola running up the side. We were in for another fun and people packed day. We arrived at the visitors centre ready and armed with cash but not a lot of time so bus and gondola it was for us. To clarify we were in 35 degree heat and at about 30m above sea level so we’ll be damned if were climbing steps up to 2400m. I learnt my lesson in Burma. It was a 40min crammed bus ride up to the gondola and the start of what would be the closest I’ve been to needing nappies on this trip. A 20 minute cable car ride over one peak then precariously spanning an entire gorge to then ascend up to an even higher altitude of 2050m and finally ending in a James Bond style cave. The sense of flying (or terror) while being suspended, hovering a kilometre above river beds in a steel box with nothing but the quiet sound of the wind passing through the carriage was both exhilarating and peaceful; wonder and terror rolled into one unforgettable experience…

One love


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