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The Luck of the Irish

CHINA | Tuesday, 13 May 2008 | Views [967] | Comments [3]

I promised adventures, and I deliver! :-D 

It's not often when things go wrong and you ask 'Why? why has this happened?' that you actually get an answer. I was lucky, I got my answer the very next day, in the form of my new travel buddy, Estelle! I went to Hong Kong intending to catch a THIRTY HOUR TRAIN by myself to go exploring in Shanxi province. Along the way I ran into my friend Spark, who convinced me to stay in HK and fly out the next day (tough call). The only problem was getting my train ticket refunded, and what a run around that was, culminating in an international border crossing and 4 passport stamps just to get my money back! All in a days work, hey? lol So I catch up with Spark back in Hong Kong, and we go out carousing as we do....

The next day as we were sobering up over breakfast, Spark's friend Estelle - a crazy fun Irish chick - says she doesnt want to fly home yet, so I say, Come with me! Come explore Shanxi with me! And that's what we did :-D  With no money and without even properly sorting out her plane ticket off the bat we took off for the airport, sans plane tickets, as has become my M.O. Our luck held out and we got a flight to Taiyuan, from where we continued on to Pingyao.

Pingyao is an ancient city, nearly 4,000 buildings in 6kms are from the 1500's. It's is cute, quaint, and very very old. Our best day of the trip I'd say was when we rented bikes just to ride around and explore. Along the way we inadvertantly crashed a local wedding! No kidding! we were in a tiny alley and heard a bunch of music, so we checked it out and they invited us in! We weren't even sure it was a wedding until I saw the groom, and realized, oh crap! Then, they took us in to where the bride was getting ready!! No kidding! They wanted photos of us with her, which we did, and then got out of there as quick as possible. They stopped us for another 20 or so photos before we escaped, hehehe. When we got a little distance away, we stopped and asked ourselves, Did we just crash a wedding?? hehehe, what just happened? :-D 

And there's more! We kept cycling and found a basketball hoop; we were told if we came back in an hour there would be a game. So we come back with tennis shoes on and fully played a game of b-ball with a bunch of these young local guys! (we did pretty good too, although they weren't playing defense nearly as hard on us). It turned out that they were students at the performing arts college and they invited us to their show that night. This show is a big production, the tickets normally run about 300 yuan each (thats a lot here in China), but the guys gave us their family tickets and we went free! The best part was one of our basketball buddies was the star of the show :-) The guy we'd just been shootin' around with was now dancing and twirling the girl in the air! awesome

After Pingyao we went to Datong, where there are two major sites, the Yungang Caves and the Hanging Monastary. The cave network was amazing, carved into a hillside that ran about 100 yards were 50,000 BUDDHAS  :-O  From as little as 3cm tall to 17 meters tall, there were tons of them. The most impressive ones had intricate pillars carved inside the caves, with every inch of the surfaces covered with figures depicting different stories. Hopefully my photos convey some of it.  The Hanging Monastary was even cooler :-) I've wanted to see it for years, and it was worth the trip. This monastary, when you see the photos, is 50 meters in the air, literally clinging to the side of a cliff face, and its been there for 1500 years! In the photos you can see long skinny wooden pillars that support it, but those are secondary; the actual support are the horizontal beams that are imbedded in the cliffside. The part we see is 1/3 of the beam, 2/3's is in the hillside. And we got to walk through this place, not just look at it! The pictures somewhat do it justice, but it was really really cool.

For having had nearly 3 weeks off, I'd say I did pretty well. I managed not to be by myself for more than a day or two, hehe. I spent the first whole week in Hong Kong with my passengers from the last trip, then a few more with other leaders at our apartment, and finally met up with Estelle -- who calls herself 'officially Bonkers!' which is why we get along so well ;-)  I'm in Beijing now, started my next trip last night. They're an interesting group, I'll let you know how it goes; this trip is only 11 days, so you'll be getting another story very soon :-)

Currently Reading: The Bookseller of Kabul (very good, if somewhat frustrating)


Tags: basketball, luck, no reservations, wedding crashers



WOW that is all I can say about the photo. I can not beleive you were walking around up there though. My heart is doing double time just thinking about it. Have a great trip with the group, dont take any wooden nickles. I am so glad you are safe.

  Dawn Marie May 14, 2008 12:37 AM


thats the best part travelling, you're never alone!
you did amazing things again! I wonder when I can crash your wedding :D

  Carin May 15, 2008 5:47 AM


Wow, talk about no reservations. What an amazing adventure!

  Crystal May 24, 2008 12:15 PM

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