Thursday, November 22, 2007

Back To Nature - Moganshan

Last weekend, five teachers from Karen's school and us ventured off into the wilderness in the mountains 'just outside' of Shanghai. Although the innkeeper at the place we stayed told us she has made it into Shanghai in just under two hours, our mini-bus ride bumped up against the seven hour mark. We didn't really ever figure out why - traffic, indirect route, getting lost - but we had snacks and drinks and an adventure ahead of us. The most memorable part of the journey was when the driver missed our exit, backed up a ways on the freeway and decided, as backing up was too slow and the darkness and fog made it hard to see, to pull a complete u-turn on the freeway and drive back (in the wrong direction) to our missed exit. In the end, the trip was a great opportunity to get out of the city, smell fresh air, see trees and mountains, and relish a weekend of social conversations in English.

Moganshan is basically a mountain with some village areas. It was apparently a place where the expats of raging Shanghai back in the 1920s and 1930s would have summer homes away from the city. It was me and six ladies (named in order, per the group photo): Karen, Jo (England), Paula (England), Laura (Canada), Mary Catherine (Canada), and Nicola (Scotland). This picture is at the top of a mountain, part of the way through our 'short' hike through the bamboo forest. You wouldn't know it, but we are standing at the scenic overlook next to the Queer Stone, where instead of seeing a beautiful sea of bamboo from a mountaintop, we were lucky to see then feet in front of our face due to the dense mist.

The mountain is more or less covered in bamboo. The mist was really pretty nice; it kept us cool and provided a kind of eerie shroud over the forest that made us feel like we were even further from the bustle of Shanghai. The hike was supposed to be just a couple hours, but after 2.5 hours or so, we walked past a temple (picture at the top) and a pig farm, and found ourselves confusedly studying our tiny map and wandering down a road that may or may not have been on the wrong side of the mountain.

Here is the pig farm. The pig rearing area is to the right (the big part) and the pig farmer's house is to the left (the small part). The two structures were attached. An old woman who walked by told us that there were 80 pigs in there. This and most of the other homes and structures we passed on the walk were quite modest - a nice glimpse of a different side of China - rural, quiet and simple.

We kept walking and were fortunate enough to wander into the tail end of a Chinese wedding that was going on in the town. We, as a group of gawky, lost westerners wandering around the countryside were an interesting sight for the wedding guests. We met the groom, shook his hand, and attempted to make small talk. They wanted to know where we were from and were generally very nice and helpful. If you could imagine a group of seven random Chinese people wandering down the road and interrupting a wedding we might attend - the cheerful welcome might unfortunately be missing. After several attempts at map drawing, pointing, repeating apparently unintelligible Chinese, we figured out we weren't going to figure anything out, called the hotel, and they sent a mini-bus to pick us up.
While we waited, we made it into the wedding video, saw the bride come out, and watched the fireworks go off. It appeared the family had rented (or owned) a lot of shiny, black and expensive cars, which are used in a sort of symbolic procession to somewhere with the bride and groom in the front car. The bride and groom drove a nice BMW decorated with flowers. Here are a few pictures - the groom, the bride, and the firecracker haze.
A $10 mini-bus ride and 30 minutes later, we were back in the lodge, ordering up a late lunch and preparing for an evening of wine, Marks and Spencer biscuits, Scrabble and cards. Plus, I had the pleasure of watching both Sweet Home Alabama and Bridget Jones' Diary - just me and the girls. It was a good little trip; hopefully we'll make it back sometime. Thanks to Mary Catherine and Jo for organizing!

1 comment:

rgorion said...

Ah yes - the joys of married life - I have seen those two movies as well Matt! - Dan W.