Month: January 2014

Man with Red Pouch

I saw and heard him at about the same time.

He was singing loudly, and intermittently hitting himself on the back with a red pouch tethered with a white string, which was then wrapped securely around his right hand.

As we passed on the sidewalk, me failing horribly to suppress images of Monty Python,  I asked him if I could take his picture. He said yes, but didn’t want his face to be shown.

We talked for awhile. Him about the medicinal purposes of the pouch, and then asking me where I was from, how long had I lived in China, my age… the usual stuff that I’m asked about. He then asked me to guess his age. I said 60.

“66,” he said with a wide smile.

Hua Shan Plank Walk

My friend Craig and I climbed Hua Shan and went on the Plank Walk in May of 2010. I’ve previously posted pictures from the mountain to my flickr and facebook accounts, but didn’t blog about the experience. In light of an article making the rounds calling the plank walk the most dangerous hike in the world, I thought it might be good to offer my perspective on the subject.

First, if you are afraid of heights, stay off the walk. It is as simple as that. If you want to do some immersion therapy, do it somewhere else on the mountain. The path has two-way traffic, and having someone frozen in fear just isn’t conducive to the harmonious environment that we who live in China seek.

This is the path leading to the entrance of the plank walk. Notice that there are chains on both sides of the path.

Most of the articles I’ve read that talk about how dangerous the plank walk is gloss over or omit that people use safety harnesses (with redundant connections to dual steel safety lines) when walking on it. The harnesses are available for a small fee (which I think was refundable on return).

I’ve seen old pictures of the walk where there weren’t any safety harnesses or cables, but I’m fairly sure these have been in place since at least 2008 (for the influx of tourists coming to see the Olympic Games).

Craig on the ladder leading down to the plank walk. Again, notice the dual chains, as well as the steel safety cables on either side of the chains.

And, of course, the beautiful landscape below Craig.

Skyward view from the ladder. The weather was wonderful that day.

Two entrepreneurs setup a picture taking and printing service about midway out the walk.  When Craig and I were there, they were smoking and listening to music really loudly.

Locks left on a link of chain (for good luck).

Looks back towards the start of the plank walk.

Again, absolutely beautiful terrain.

The destination of the plank walk (or at least the present incarnation of it).

A sign in traditional Chinese. My friend Loren translates the characters as:

  • sì = to think, reflect; meaning
  • guò = to pass by, past;
  • yái = cliff, bank, ledge, precipice.

He further states, “[p]ut them all together, and you should get the general idea”.

We passed these two women on the way back. As you can tell, everyone in the shot was horribly shaken by the hiking experience.

Craig calling home. Yes, there was cell reception.

One last look down before heading up the ladder and off the cliffside.

Craig took this picture of me on a portion of the walk that was just carved out of the stone. I really liked this part of it.

And, finally, on what was probably the most dangerous part of the trip, doing a bit of free climbing.

ZH Song and Dance Club

Located not far from my apartment complex. I’ve walked by it numerous times, but haven’t had my D300/14 mm with me. Was tempted to come back again when I saw the small car parked in front, but decided it might add a bit of interesting contrast to the enormity of the building behind it. I really like the reflections in the black glass of the building, as well as the tinted glass of the car. (In Beijing, it is legal to have the front side windows tinted… probably because there isn’t as much risk of a police officer getting shot here during a traffic stop as there is in the states.)

I’ve never been inside of the club.

Chong Chong at Three Months

Chong Chong turned three months old today. To celebrate, we bundled him up, and took him to the neighborhood square to get some sunshine and enjoy the blue sky. Shanshan and I took turns holding him, and walking him around the square. There were around six other children around Chong Chong’s age in the square as well, all bundled-up in a similar fashion.

Also in the square were kids playing, and older folks intently playing cards.

Here are two more pictures:

Dragon Claws

Detail from one of two dragon pillars outside the Tiananmen Square entrance to the Forbidden City.

A picture of one of the pillars, taken by Sidney D. Gamble and dating from 1917-1919, can be found in the Duke University Libraries here.