Saturday, 2nd, October, 2010. We got up at 5:30 and after a quick shower Sarah and I walked to the bus station to meet Candy. She was waiting for us and she had our tickets, we all packed onto a small bus, seats with just enough leg room for me to get my knees in. The bus was almost full and the last few people got on. There was someone who had very cheese feet, I suspect he had dent washed in a long time and there was also another passenger unfortunately sitting near to me who had super calafragilistic extra halitosis. It was vile. Chinese people smell different to westerners. In general I have found people don’t really smell in China and don’t use deodorant, I heard this lack of body odor is to do with them not consuming half as many dairy products as westerners but I haven’t touched the straining of a cow in months and I still hum when I don’t take a shower. But when a Chinese person does smell it’s very different from what I remember a good old western pong is like.
The journey took an hour and during it I entertained myself by watching Sarah beside me fall asleep nod her head and then wake herself up when her head lolled. At one point she seemed to have mastered the balance and was sleeping with an upright head but then she violently dropped her head smack against the window. It gave a comical smack and she woke up startled with me chortling. She wasn’t amused at my laughing and had that “off with his head!” look in her eyes, I dissipated this by offering up my shoulder as a pillow and I kept her head from rolling. I didn’t fancy trying to sleep even thought I was tired, Sleeping in cars or any form of transport is a fitful un restful experience.
When we arrived in Tai Yuan city the “fine day” Sarah had promised as she disregarded my idea of bringing a coat before we left had been kidnapped by a not so fine rather chilly and very windy day. We walked out of the bus station and the taxi driving jackals attempted to cheat us. I looked on in amazement as Sarah and Candy actually stopped and listened to what they were saying. “They say there are no buses going to where we want” Sarah told me. I just walked to the road and found the bus stop myself. We found a bus stop but decided to take a taxi in the end. Not one of the ones from the rank but a normal one on the road a jackaless taxi. We went to another bus station and met Cindy and Danni.
We met Cindy in Yang shuo when I first arrived in China; she was studying English at the same school as Sarah. Danni is from Spain and is her boy friend. We got on yet another bus and took a two n a half hour journey to an old city (ping yao ancient city), on the bus journey I chatted with Cindy and Danni. Cindy can talk the hind legs off a donkey, she is the most talkative and energetic person I have ever met. Danni on the other hand is very quiet and silent, in fact I could not hear a thing he said, he whispered everything he said I had to guess. Cindy talked about her job at the moment importing new Zealand wine to China and how she used to sell ice cream in new Zealand. “Tell her about our cat” Sarah shouted at me from her seat at the back. “Why don’t you tell her about our cat?” I shouted back. Sarah is obsessed with Catzu at the moment, in fact whenever she sees any cat she runs after it with open arms trying to catch them.
We traveled round the ancient city which was shaped like a turtle, with the head being the main gate and the arms and tail being minor ones, we went to a temple with different deities from Daoism, two large towers one with a drum and one with a bell where at either end of the temple. The city was very old and the walls where made mostly from dark gray bricks and sometimes straw and mud, the perimeter wall was at least 30 feet tall but the narrow streets had shorter walls mostly only 15 feet high. There was a big wide street running down the middle of the city with expensive tourist shops selling fake antiques, post cards over priced snacks. Wine shops, of one giving away free samples of which Danni and myself partook, There was an excellent sword shop with well made traditional Japanese kitanas, Chinese straight and broad swords and lots of new knifes, There was a great 5 inch blade which was attached to a knuckle duster so the weapon protruded from your fist. I desperately wanted to buy it but there are metal detectors before you go on all the buses so I left the shop sad and knifeless. Outside one of the antique shops I rubbed a magic bowl which caused the water inside to vibrate and dance about, After I had done so the sour faced shop keeper pointed to a very small sign at the back of the shop saying “one go on the prayer bowl 10 Yuan” I was about to walk away in disgust and was expecting Cindy, Sarah and candy to start arguing with the shop keeper but instead they all had a go on the bowl as well, they loved it, laughing and chatting excitedly as they rubbed the bowls. Sometimes I just don’t understand people reactions.
Before we left we bumped into one of my old students Amy and her sister Ariel, we had a little chat and then went back to the bus stop. Taking us around the city all day was a combed over young man in the most rickety 3 wheels motor bike car thing with seats on the back. Sarah had a very loud argument at the end of the day about payment, he wanted 100 Yuan and Sarah wanted to give him less because he had only taken us around for 4 hours instead of 6 after a lot of shouting I dragged Sarah away from the useless shouting match. We then got another 2 hour bus back to Taiyuan and then another 1 hour bus back to Xin zhuo. To my surprise someone lit a cigarette on the bus. There were no open able windows and when the smoke reached my nostrils and I craned my neck watching the man slouch in his seat looking like a bored frog sucking on a burning stick I shouting at him in English “ Oh what the fuck do you think you’re doing?” I bellowed as I gripped his seat. “Uh?” he said questioning. I pointed at his cigarette and his girlfriend snatched it off him and put it out for him saying sorry over and over again. The man just ignored her and me and stared out of the window. I have found that its more effective to speak in English when having an argument because then the Chinese person is more confused and is on the back foot where as if I speak mandarin they usually say something I don’t fully understand and then I don’t know what to say. Not that I get in to arguments very much but someone smoking on the bus is utterly unacceptable.
We finally arrived back to Xin zhuo and immediately went to a donkey restaurant. Dad joined us and brought along a bag with a bottle of bei jiu and 6 bottles of beer. The owner of the restaurant was Dads friend and he came and said hello to us all and gave us a free dish of maze nuggets, they smelt and tasted like the crisp brand monster munch. We were seated in a big private room, recently painted with a big window facing the main road, big neon letters obscuring the view. A big round table in the centre. When I went to wash my hands Sarah joined me “ Dad isn’t happy I think, You know Cindy is from Hubei which is known for cheating people and Dad was cheated out of 2000 Yuan from them when he tried to buy some medicine over the internet”, She said with a small laugh. When I got back from washing my hands I saw a clay pot with dark brown soup, donkey meat and potatoes was bubbling in the centre fire of the table. We also had a sea food dish with shrimps and yellow Japanese tofu, a salty salad and a pyramid of cuscus with egg and vegetables. I was so hungry as I had only eaten a burger and a bowl of noodles all day. Dad set the pace for drinking, pouring both Danni and myself a large glass of bei jiu. He is very sneaky and didn’t drink much himself but made sure we did. I wondered how Danni’s tolerance was. After we had finished all the alcohol we walked home and seeing a chemist I ran in and weighed myself on the old scales in the corner. I was just over 90 kg. When we got back home Sarah and I prepared their bed while Cindy talked to Dad and Danni held the cat while propping himself up against the living room wall. Danni was sick shortly afterwards and I went in to help and saw him in his pants (I didn’t know people wore pants anymore) crouched over a pile of sick. Cindy cleared it up and I took the bucket to the loo. Danni said “ ooooooooooooooo” and went from crouch to sit. When the drama was over we all went to bed. They are getting up at 4 in the morning to go to the Wu Tai Mountain. I am afraid that one day of travel was enough for me so I was be laying in bed why Danni Sarah and Cindy get on another bus.