As I said in the last post the visit was very enjoyable. Our friend who lives both in Canada and China, wanted to show us different China than one I had seen in 1997 and then again in 2004.
The first thing I notice on my arrival to China was a new, very modern and clean airport; I was pleasantly surprised. I was ready to embrace the crowds and the pollution as I stepped out of the airport; pleasantly surprised because our friend had arranged to pick us up in a Toyota Highlander. Even though it was rush hour traffic we were very comfortable riding in the Toyota. We arrived at our friends place, top floor pant house with 360-degree view of the Beijing. It felt like we were in a Sacred Sanctuary and cares of the world were left at the doorstep. In slept like baby in a luxurious bed.
We woke up and was treated to fine breakfast of congee, French butter and beget, eggs, freshly brewed coffee and not to mention local fresh fruit. In the evening we had dinner at a restaurant that specialized in dumplings. I never tasted such dumplings; they had extra juice in it that exploded in your mouth with delicious flavors when you bit into them. Apparently it is quite a skill to get them just right.
Next day we went Hangzhou on air china first class, very nice. We took a Cab to a historic Westlake Hotel, this is where Chairman Mao used to come for his retreats and foreign dignitaries often stay here too, apparently Henry Kissinger and President Bush were guests. Walking along the lake was beautiful and weather was perfect sunny 22 degrees. The food at the hotel was excellent, I had leisurely three-hour breakfast the first day we arrived.
We went to see an accomplished, locally well-known, herbalist. He showed us the local herbs and what they were used for. He is an old man but loved to show off to local young men by putting his arms around the Canadian girls. He apparently has a gift of insight about people and some of us were astonished how accurate his insights were about us. After he had finished showing the herbs he got his moon shine out and poured it out for everyone, whether one wanted or not. I could handle one small glass and switched to real wine my friend had brought along. As the evening went on he entertained us with his guitar and sang old revolutionary songs.
From the west lake we went to San Qing Shan Mountain. It was about six-hour ride and when you thought the trip couldn’t get any better, once again we were surprised. The mountains were astonishing beautiful but different. I can see now why the mountains in Chinese paintings are always painted differently than ones in the western painting. It’s because they are different. We stayed in a hotel at the top of the mountain for 3 nights. The first day we got up really early to watch the sun rise; it was a long climb to where it could be viewed from but the experience of the sun coming up was worth every ounce of the effort needed to get up there. The next day we went all the way round the mountain and again we were blessed with a perfect weather. On the third day after a quick breakfast we made our way down the mountain and were back at the airport for the flight back to Beijing.
Beijing has restaurants that cater all the world cuisines because there are so many foreigners doing business in China. All the top car producers have factories in China. Most of the cars on the road were BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai etc and hardly any bikes on the road. Unfortunately the roads in Beijing were designed for bikes and not for cars; it is difficult to turn corners with a cars. I wouldn’t have noticed this myself until my friend pointed it out to us as he was turning a corner on the way to a Korean restaurant. The Korean food has its own taste and textures; wonderful to say the least, but I was struck with a special ice desert with fruit and sweat sauce on it, very satisfyingly light and yummy. Ice apparently has to be at just the right temperature and has to be shaved very finely from the main block.
Enjoy the photos; they will speak for themselves rather than me telling you about China. Of course its not the same as going there; the hustle bustle, the smiles, the kindness of some people and unkindness of others, the conversations, the long car rides, waiting in the airports, being with friends, just sitting and listening to the silence, appreciating the world just as it is – “perfect in that moment”, the massages, browsing book stores, visiting a tea house and talking with someone passionate about teas and strolling the open markets. It’s that much more special when all the experience of different culture strips away your own assumptions about life and you learn or see a glimpse of yourself you had long forgotten or thought you never had.
I will post more meditations soon.