Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Qianling Park 

Yesterday morning I took a bus to the train station to stand in line for a ticket back home. No luck. I wasn't surprised. This is Spring Festival, and train tickets are at a premium. There are several reasons why buying train tickets can be so troublesome. Trains are the cheapest form of cross country transportation, so they are the preferred choice for the common people. Long distance buses are an option, and tickets are easier to get, but there are not that many long distance buses that go all the way across the country. But the main reason train tickets are so hard to come by, is that they are not personalized. If you want to buy an airline ticket in China, you have to supply the information on your passport when you buy the ticket, and then show your passport so they can compare it with your ticket when you board. If the names don't match, you don't get on. One time the guy who printed my ticket had looked at what I wrote down for him and written a "u" instead of a "v" in my middle name. Dauid instead of David. I had to sign a special document in order to get the airline to accept the discrepancy. But train tickets have no name on them. They are essentially currency. This leads to two problems. One is counterfeiting, which does happen, but is not as big a problem as the main issue: Tickets with no name on them tend to encourage a black market. Scalpers buy hoards of tickets, then sell them for inflated prices.

Not being able to purchase a ticket, I decided to head for Qianling park. I walked outside the train station and saw a guy sitting on his motorcycle. I asked him how much to take me the park. He said, "Thirty kuai." I argued with him a little, but not much, because I just wasn't interested in trying to bargain down from 30 RMB. In the countryside towns in Western China, I usually pay 3 kuai for a ride on a motorcycle. Guiyang is a city, but still, that's just too much. Probably more than twice what a taxi would cost me. Fortunately, I remembered that I had one US dollar in my wallet. I took that out and put it in his hand. He looked at it very carefully. The more he looked at it, the more he wanted it. Finally, he put it in his pocket, and I got on the back of his bike.

Click picture for larger image.
Qianling Park is actually a pretty place. It was quite crowded yesterday, because this is New Year week, but the park is a big one, so there was still plenty of room to roam, just not too much solitude.

One thing did bother me a little. I don't think it is a good idea for people to give junk food to the monkeys. There are many monkeys in Qianling Park. You don't see them everywhere, because they tend to congregate where tourists are giving away food. Guizhou is known as the "Park Province." There are lots of trees and hills, and, for wildlife, the demarcation between country and city is more or less invisible, so the monkeys Tarzan in from the countryside quite easily. Once they are here, they tend to stay, because there is a ready food supply.The monkeys are very grabby. If you set something down, they will definitely take it. But most of the food I saw them eating was not something they had stolen. It was thrown to them by the tourists. I did see one lady who seemed to be a local woman giving them bananas. That's OK, I guess. But most of the monkeys were eating surgary junk. That can't be good for them.

I did see some signs discouraging people from feeding monkeys. And there were several signs warning people not to get too close to them. Popular opinion notwithstanding, monkeys are not human. They are wild animals. But they are generally not aggressive. They are violent fighters, don't get me wrong. But if you don't attack them, or try to take food from them, they really won't bother you. I walked among them freely, and they just ran back and forth around me. I was holding a camera, and not threatening them in any way, so they pretty much ignored me.

I also saw several signs encouraging people not to litter. That's really unusual. It is very rare to see anti-littering signs in China. When you ride the trains in the hard seats, there are no waste baskets. People just open the window and shove their garbage out. The sensitivity toward the environment that I saw in Qianling Park was encouraging. China is a very populated country. There are lots and lots of people here. Even so, if a general sense of conservation prevails among the people, this park could manage to sustain a lot of use without too much trouble. But a park like this could deteriorate quickly if people are not taught to be considerate of the environment. The consequence of taking earth randomly is desert everywhere.

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