Sunday, September 13, 2009

“Heaven Pool” in the hearth of China

This article was published by Sunday Chronicle on Sunday 13 Sept, 2009 under "letter from China" column.
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By Song Yan in Shenyang, China

WITH Mathew Yakai’s encouragement, I boldly present this article to you, the genuine readers of this column.

Many Chinese do not speak and write good English and I am one of those. But I hope that this article about my visit to “heaven pool’ will be clearer and interesting for you.

Before my summer holiday I, planned to travel but not sure where to go. I had several places in mind. The first is Inner Mongolia, where the vast grassland is appealing to me and tourists can ride horse and spend the night in a tent.

The second is Changbai Mountain in Jilin Province in the northeast China. There is a lake on the top of the mountain called Tian Chi in Chinese meaning “heaven pool”. Those who have been there say that the “heaven pool” is very spectacular. That is my dream place.

You know as a female, it is good to have a partner to go with so that they can take care of each other when emergency occurs. Of course if she has a boy friend or a husband, to go with will be better.

It is pity I don’t have husband and my boy friend is far away so I have to find someone else to travel with.

Jane is the one. She is my best friend and we work as English teachers at Shenyang University of Technology. She likes traveling too. Furthermore, neither of us likes to go alone. Maybe Chinese women are relatively dependable than the western ones. So Jane and I hit it off right away.

We chose to visit Changbai Mountain first because it is nearer than Inner Mongolia. While we were in Shenyang, Jane bought many newspapers, hoping to find a good travel agency with excellent service and low price in the travel column. But after some research we gave up this dream-like wild wish because that kind of agency doesn’t exist in the world.

We finally found one. We were charged 528 RMB (K213.82) each covering transport, board and lodging. This travel would take us three days with one day to visit the “heaven pool”. Most time of the other two days were spent on the road (it is about 7 to 8 hours by bus).

Besides that, some at-one’s-own-expense experienced scenery spots like drift in the river. The next day, August 7, we set out at 6am. The bus was completely full.

I was very excited all the way because I would see the dreamy Tianchi soon. Every now and then I ate the stuff I bought the last evening while appreciating the scenery vividly from of my window.

Both sides of the highway were vast green farms and sometimes big trees and flowers growing. There is always a sweet reception in my heart every time I see greens and flowers.

I was born in countryside and have been used to the trees and plants so I have a very close association with them. I thought that even if I was unable to see the “heaven pool”, the scenery along the road side is sufficient to satisfy by quest which is worth watching by everyone.

I had my breakfast and lunch on the bus. In fact I didn’t tell which breakfast was and which lunch was. I just ate the food whenever I felt hungry or ate something because I wanted to do so to keep occupied.

We passed many rivers, lakes and forests. Sometimes we drove on the winding road meandering along the river. The air was so fresh and it seemed very quiet outside.

We didn’t see many people walking, only some one-storey houses, some farm with cattle’s eating grass near the roadside. I like those places with rivers. In my opinion a place will have more spirituality if it has a river nearby or to run through.

How I wish I had a house in such place. There was no noise and disturbance. What it has there is fresh air, crystal river, big green trees and wild flowers. Living in such place will increase people’s longevity.

The group we traveled together soon got to know each other and talked to each other friendly. The atmosphere in the bus was very harmonious. I thought it must be that we were happy inside so we try influencing each other.

At about 6:30 pm, we arrived at a town named Er Dao Bai He at the foot of the Changbai Mountain and ate in a restaurant. Nine people shared one table and eight dishes and one soup on each table.

We altogether have 45 tourists so there were 5 tables for us. As to the tour guide and driver, they ate at a different table.

The rice was very good and one was allowed to eat as much he/she wanted. In fact, nobody can eat that much.

Nowadays, Chinese people’s living level has increased a lot and most don’t need to worry about food. They can buy and eat almost anything they want anywhere. So here the food on each table was enough for each tourist.

At last, there were a lot of left-over after the tourists finished the supper. We didn’t eat too much because we were not very hungry. Each of us had bought much food to eat on the bus.

At about 7:30pm we settled down in a hotel outside the downtown. Because of the busy travel season, the hotel was full and had inadequate beds for us so 5 people had to share one room instead of the original four. For some young or old couples, they stayed in double-bed room after applying and paid extra money (about 60 RMB per person) before they arrived at the hotel.

It was too late to ask for a standard room now because there is no room left. To my comfort, the room was nice, the sheet and quilt cover were white and clean. Undoubtly Jane and I were in the same room. Two were a mother and daughter.

The daughter is a sophomore in a university. Another one is a wife who came here with her husband and son. There is no room for the whole family so she (there were also several other women like her) had to share the room with us.

The people in town were very kind. Maybe they know that they depend on tourists to make a living so they are hospitable. The town is beautiful but not big, yet you can buy nearly anything you need.

Many tall buildings stand in the town. It’s rare to have tall buildings. The infrastructure is better than many other towns I have seen before.

To be honest, I didn’t prepare well for this travel so after arranging my bed I went to downtown with Jane to buy something for tomorrow’s mountain climb. Besides, we also wanted to know the small town.

That mother and daughter also went out with us but we parted after we arrived at the downtown. It was a little dark when we set out for town. I bought a cheap raincoat with 5 RMB (K2.) along the street and then a pair of shoe in a shoe store with 40 RMB (K16.13).

Jane and I each bought a bottle of water for the next day. Of course one bottle was not enough but we had a big bottle on the bus.

Next day, we could take it and fill it with pure mineral water because we would go to a place where water was cold and clear from the underground. It was much better than the water we drink at home everyday. Jane put the two bottles of water into a plastic bag and carried them.

When we walked back we had to pass a road with very thick forest on its’ sides. There were no road-lights so it was completely dark, so dark that you even could not see your own fingers.

We were not walking back, actually we were feeling back. When we were on the bus, our tour guide once said that there were also some bad guys in town so we were warned to be careful, esp. walking in the dark.

I consumed his words seriously at once as I was too scared that I started to drag Jane to run. She was not good at running. Compared with her, I was better so I had to pull her hard in order to run fast.

You can say I am chickenhearted. As long as not letting me come across a robber, I don’t care what you say. Finally we saw the lights coming from the hotel and we were so relieved. But just at that time when Jane stepped on the high part of the road and suddenly twisted her left ankle.

The two bottles dropped off from her bag and fell on the road. Her sudden scream really scared me. I hurried to help her and picked up the bottles. She limped back to hotel.

Before visiting the “heaven pool”, we were taken to visit “Volley Float Stone Forest”. It is the introduction of the valley. It says the Valley Float Stone Forest is a well-known scenic spot in the Changbai Mountain.

It is located on a rift created by volcanic eruption and diastrophism. It is about 5,000 meters long. Natural air slakes and rain wash have created about 30 sites with float stone varying in size. Some shape like snakes, some like eagles.

There are also a lot of clear small rivers, big trees and the forest are as vast as the ocean. They are the characteristics of the Changbai Mountain.

Here smoking is forbidden. The protection of the Changbai Mountain derived from Emperor Kangxi in Qing Dynasty. It was said that Emperor Kangxi found it too beautiful and the mountain was the birthplace of their ancestors so he ordered that fishing, farming, hunting and lumbering were all forbidden. The Chinese government has also taken a lot of actions to protect Changbai Mountain.

After visiting this valley we were taken to Baiyong Spring, where we could fill our bottle with the drinkable water. The water was so cold that I had to take my hand out from the water now and then while filling the bottle.

I lived on this bottle of cold water whole day, believe it or not.

The water from here is colorless, odorless, free from visible alien matter, crystal-clear, with no sedimentation or seston, nice and cool to drink, with unique sense to the mouth.

The spring has water temperature of 6.5-7 degree celsius. The mineral water contains cilicic acid of 48.5-49.97 mg/L.

By the way, the two scenic spots are not free or included in the 528 RMB (K213.82). We visited them voluntarily and paid 50 RMB (K20.14) to enter.

Going out from the Baiyong Spring, we were taken to the gate of Changbai Mountain and were going to visit the “heaven pool”.

We were not sure whether we could see vividly as the weather is unpredictable on the top of the mountain.

Note: The writer is Chinese who teaches English at Shenyang University of Technology. She loves PNG so much and believes her experience will give some idea on the importance of tourism products in PNG. For comments, e-mail m_yakai@hotmail.com or SMS 71489901.

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