Friday, June 23, 2017

The Great Wall

Every visitor to the Middle Kingdom visits the Great Wall and it seemed appropriate that after a morning offering sacrifices to the Gods at the Temple of Heaven that a visit to the Great Wall would be timely. Firstly a word about the temple complex, it is one of the best examples of Ming Dynasty architecture in Beijing covering several acres. Temples to past Chinese Emperors with their ornate decorative interiors were visitors may leave offerings abound. Still a active monastery the monks sell ink paintings to raise funds for the upkeep. At one point we were ushered into a large studio with a large selection of images of historic deities. The monks and other devotees paint here. The standard of the art work was of a very high standard depicting Chinese landscapes, along with the Gods and more modern images.

Then we drove about a half hour or so to the Great Wall that naturally has been developed into a major tourists destination. The wall itself was a surprise, clinging as it does to the edge of ravines and across steep gullies. The wall runs up hills and across the mountain tops. From our car park it ran in two directions, one a fairly modest clime while the other more or less ran straight up the mountain ,naturally the direction I took. Built of bricks and stone, each step  a different height  that makes the clime very taxing. Every fifty metres or so there is a fort [very breezy with no enclosed windows] were the troops lived and slept while on duty. I was told that soldiers lived here for months or even years on end.

As I'm only one month away from my 80th birthday I decided to see how fit I was and qualify for the title of  Chinese Hero for climbing the wall. After an hour of climbing I reached Fort 12 that required a lot of pulling myself up by the handrail with frequent stops. Still I'm pleased to say I succeed and felt that the evening massage was a just reward.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Haircut by any other name.

.Arriving in Suzhen on a hot June day I decided to try to find a barber for a haircut. On receiving  instructions from the hotel porter I  turned off right instead of left as instructed, but could  see no barber in sight. Not being sure how Barbers advertised themselves in China I undertook several enactments of a person receiving a haircut. Eventually after a few false starts I arrived at what looked like a cross between a lady's hairdresser and a barber. After being waved inside I was firmly conducted towards a barber's chair were I was presented with a sheet of Chinese writing. The gentleman standing over me seemed to indicate that I should point at whatever performance took my fancy. Not having my glasses didn't help and the page appeared as a big blur. He naturally spoke no English and my Chinese to say the least was non-existent, so anything was possible.

After several minutes I trust a finger at what appeared to be an attractive character. He immediately attacked me with mechanical clippers removing most of one side of my beard along with what little hair I had, just one or two remained on my head. By now I was rather anxious about the likely outcome, but as the barber's chair had been laid right back there appeared to be little I could do. Then the cut throat razor came out as face, eye brows and the top of head were examined for any likely hair in need of removal. While this was going on another assistant started to rub some sort of lotion into the top of my head. This in turn was followed by a conditioner and heaven's know what else. Then came the shampoo, not that the last time I looked there was a lot of hair to wash, certainly after the clippers had done their duty.

So there I was , razor man on one side and another with a hose washing down the shampoo on the other. Then the messages started. Firstly, ears and eyes, followed by head, nose and cheeks. The massage continued down my back, across my  shoulders, arms and a final hard pull on each finger. After the final workout my head was dosed in hair cream, the reason for which still escapes me as I'm pretty bald, then the job was finally finished. I suggested that the bill when it arrived must be a mistake, after all I only wanted a haircut. But no $72 was the correct amount. Long negotiations then took place. I would write one amount on a piece of paper, the barber another. This continued for some time and I was at loss as to know what to do  At last I comprised and paid him $50 that was still the most expensive hair cut in my life. Such are haircuts in China.