Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Fragrant Hills Park 

Michael was in town doing some stuff today, so I headed up the trail by myself. It was a cold, cloudy day, but I was actually glad for that (although I strongly prefer sunshine), because it really cuts down on the number of people you run into. I only met three people today. One guy passed me up as I was climbing, and after I got up to the road, and started walking along, I met a lady and her son, which turned out to be fortunate, because she knew the area a little better than me, and led me down a trail I had not seen before.

Fragrant Hills Park sees thousands of tourists every year. In the fall, I would say thousands every weekend. The peak season is when the leaves turn bright red. I have been to the park several times, and it was an experience, but the park is not a place I would normally take people to, because it is so desperately crowded. But I did not know about all the trails outside the park until Michael introduced me to them last fall. That changed my whole opinion about the place. If you visit the park during the fall, you see gazillions of people everywhere, and spend the whole time climbing a bunch of concrete steps. There is also a chair lift you can take up the mountain. As you climb, you occasionally see signs telling you not to pick the leaves, and later, you will see someone sitting by the side of the road selling red leaves. Nauseating. How could they pick all those pretty red leaves just to sell them. I'll let you in on a little secret. They don't pick them. Thy dye them. I saw a couple people dying maple leaves up by Michael's place the other day. Still, it is not the kind of thing you would pay to encounter.

The trails outside the park have one big advantage that the park does not. Solitude. You can actually end up spending hours just hiking along by yourself, especially if you come during the middle of the week.

After we came down the mountain, the lady and her son wanted me to have dinner with them. I had the other half of a Subway sandwich in my backpack, because today is "Buy One Get One Free" at the Subway near the Bank of China building. But I was curious about the restaurant they were telling me about, so I went with them, and I am glad I did. After dinner, I headed into town on the 331, and gave my Subway to a beggar who was prostrated on the sky bridge after I got off at Qinghuayuan. He thanked me and opened it eagerly. I tried to explain to him how to eat it, but I decided if he was hungry enough, and he sure appeared to be, he would figure out how to get it down. That, I would say, is the main difference between beggars in China and beggars in the US. Here, if you give beggars food, they eat it.

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