China days. Ugh.

06:05 Paul Robinson 1 Comments

Qinghai lake is one of China's most popular attractions and was one of the main reasons to visit Xining but I just couldn't be bothered with another long bus journey. Instead, I decided to go for a hike along Beishan.

My taxi driver dropped me outside a huge open-air DIY market and gestured that I should walk through it to reach the mountain. The market sold everything from from paint and building materials to tacky fake Romanesque columns. This being China, there was dust, fumes and airborne particles everywhere. I could see the mountain looming ahead, so I moved quickly through the market to avoid the inevitable stares. Despite being able to see the bloody great big mountain, I couldn't find a way through the market. The maze of market stalls seemed to expand at every turn. I tried two completely different routes but both were blocked by highways or by more stalls. I carefully traced my footsteps back to the entrance and hailed a taxi.  I figured a taxi would get me past the highway barrier and asked to be taken to Beishan. The driver refused to take me and just waved at the mountain. He must have thought I was a total idiot.

I wrote off the idea of a hike and checked my watch. 11am. I had no other plans. I decided to give the hike one more attempt. Some people were laughing as I walking past them for the third time. Feeling determined, at every single corner I asked for directions. Eventually a convoluted route unfolded through the market and I found an entrance onto the mountain. It's ridiculous that the tourist attraction is only accessible through the DIY market, but it isn't surprising. Its China.
The Taoist temple situated on the mountain was a total letdown. I wandered here and there without interest. After a while I found a door that looked like it might actually lead somewhere interesting. I was just about to ignore the 'no entry' sign when I heard some barking Chinese behind me. Rumbled. The man led me away and continued to lead me once we were back into the main public area. It turned out he wasn't security, he was another visitor and wanted to give me a guided tour. Chinese people are often friendly but the way they speak can be so misleading. It's harsh. China is the most populous country in the world and there are always new babies born, which is amazing because Chinese is probably the least seductive language I've ever heard.




Back on my impromptu tour, I was walking a few paces behind my guide in-case he turned out to be a mentalist. This allowed me to inspect the grass stains on his shirt and the bottle protruding from his pocket which definitely didn't contain milk-tea. He had obviously slept on the mountain. Noticing me lagging behind, he walked back to me. Between his slurring and noxious breath I couldn't make out a word what he was saying. Then he turned around and started smelling the flowers behind us. He encouraged me to do the same.  Only in China would a drunkard offer to give a foreigner a guided tour of the best-smelling local fauna. I humoured him for a little while and then made my excuses and left. Maybe I should have taken the bus to Qinghai lake after all.

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