Sunday, May 20, 2007

Saturday and Sunday May 19-20, 2007

Today was our tourist adventure day in LYG. We started the morning with breakfast at the hotel and met our guide, Allen, and driver around 9am. Allen brought his 12 year old son along which was nice for Peng to have someone to talk to.

We headed off to Monkey Hill, the “home” of the famous Chinese Monkey King found in literature. The hill is actually a pretty big mountain and fortunately, we decided to take the bus up to the first stop. Unfortunately, the bus driver had played too many video games as a teen but we survived the trip to the midway point of the mountain anyway. We got out of the bus and walked up some very steep steps to a Buddhist Temple area. On the way we encountered our first “wild” monkeys on the side of the path. There were three of them and they are wild in the sense that this is their habitat but it is obvious that they depend on humans for food. Heidi opened a PowerBar, for herself, and the monkeys recognized the sound of the wrapper crinkling and came running. We tried to stay clear of them as we could see from their interaction with others that will “attack” to get the food they want and scratch or bite if they think you are going to take their food from them. Still they were cute and Peng told us that he wants us to get him one.

We entered into a courtyard and one structure seemed to be the main temple building with three golden Buddha statues side-by-side, each about 15' tall. In front of that there was a large alter with smoke pouring out of the top. Like we had seen at the temple in Hong Kong, there were many people worshiping with various sizes of incense (some of them up to several inches in diameter and held in bundles). The pyromaniac side of David thought that any religion with this much importance in burning stuff must not be that bad. We found it interesting that both temples that we visited were both “working” temples and tourist traps at the same time. We saw actual monks and people sincerely bowing and worshiping with their incense while there are gobs of tourists, cameras and people selling souvenirs. We have seen this to a lesser degree in Cathedrals in Europe, but it is so intertwined and on top of each other that it just strikes us as odd.

From the Temple we went up some more steep steps to the Water Wall Cave. As you might imagine this is a cave with a wide sheet of water falling across the opening. Very beautiful. Sarah and Peng went through the water to the inside and back—Sarah walking carefully and Peng running at full speed on the wet rocks and laughing out loud. Ahh, boys.

From the water we took a cable car the rest of the way up the mountain to a peak which was a really fun ride. The view was fabulous and no one was scared, (well except maybe David a little bit--he is not a big fan of heights).

At the peak there is a statue and more monkeys. This is the tallest peak in the province at somewhere around 2000' feet above sea level. We took the cable car back the whole way to its lowest station figuring it must be safer than the bus with the crazy driver. At the bottom of the mountain there is a pond where coi fish live with the sole purpose of hoping tourists will give them food. If you walk near the water they see you and come running by the thousands. When you actually throw some bread they literally crawl on top of each other to get to the food. At times you can see fish that are above the water and suddenly start fighting for a hole to get back below. We have fed hungry fish in ponds before but this was amazing. I think with a loaf of bread you could walk across the pond on fish and never get your shoes wet.

Along the road we saw a very tall pagoda called the Asoka Pagoda—we were told is over 800 years old. It is the tallest pagada in the area at about 130 feet and withstood an earthquake of 8.5 magnitude at one point in its history. Leaving this area we grabbed a late lunch at a pizza restaurant and headed toward the seaside.

We passed by our hotel and went across an earthen dam (that we could see each night from our room) and onto an island. The dam is the longest in China at about 3 ½ miles long, with the Yellow Sea on the left and the protected shipping port on the right. This is one of the largest shipping ports in China and we saw some fairly large ships in the harbor. What was most interesting to us was the local fishing trade. As we drove around the island we saw hundreds of wooden fishing boats that were about 30' long—obviously not for deep sea trips. They were all unpainted and weathered and looked to be quite old—perhaps passed from generation to generation. Allen was really well versed in normal tourist attraction facts but did not know much about these boats or people. Many of the boats flew the bright red Chinese flag and the contrast to the weathered wood was beautiful.

To the sheer confusion of our guide, we spent a couple fascinating hours taking pictures of these boats in the sea with the sun setting, the fishermen unloading their catch and related fishing tasks. Heidi talked to a few fisherman through the translator and learned that their main catch was a large minnow looking creature that was processed into pig food. Further along the road there was a community of a hundred or so brick houses, most of which had been demolished. Allen told us that this area had been determined to be a development area for tourism and the people were compensated for their trouble and forced to move inland. It must be hard to move from this picturesque area to a land-locked, high rise world.

We said goodbye to Allen, our guide, back at the hotel, ate some dinner and went to our room. As we have done most days when since we have been here, we made a Skype phone call to Heidi's mom and dad so that Zion does not forget who were are. We brought a small webcam so Zion can see us but we were very pleasantly surprised to not only talk to Zion but to see her for the first time (thanks Dad for buying the camera!). It made us miss Zion more but also it was comforting to see she looked very, very happy with Grandma. Peng looked in over our shoulder and I think is starting to get the fact that there is another kid in the Sneath clan.

On Sunday morning we hired a driver to take us back to Nanjing—again about a four hour trip. We arrived back at the same hotel where we had stayed before having not seen any other American, European or Canadian people at all for 3 days. At the hotel in Nanjing there are a number of other adopting families from the States. Our Nanjing guide, Linda, came by our room and gave Heidi and Sarah some very nice sets of 5 matching purses that nest inside each other—beautiful and unexpected presents. We also received Peng's passport and notarized and translated birth certificate, orphan documentation, and adoption decree. We have all of the paperwork that we came to Nanjing to get and we fly off to our next adventure on Monday morning.