It has been a while since we let you know of the Adventures of the Traveling Tribe.
We are from Nelson Mandela Bay, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
We live in Jiamusi, in Siberian China.
Tasting a different Far-Far East.
Recently we traveled to Shuangyashan & discovered beautiful people & stunning places.
It was early morning when we left for Jiamusi’ s train station.
Train travel is inexpensive, here. We paid 8Y per ticket, for the 2 hour ride which would take us to Shuangyashan.
This was a first for us.
Taking the train in China.
We were a bit nervous of crowds & finding the right train on the right platform.
It remains quite a thing that we cannot read Chinese. Try to find your way & use public transport without being able to read anything! Or even ask for help. After 4 months in China we can say ‘hello’ & ask ‘how are you’ in Chinese. We can ask you about your day or how yoir family is & we can even respond in perfect Chinese, should you be so kind as to enquire. We can bargain for better prices, understanding numbers & we’ve become proficient in gestures, but none of that helps you if you have to catch a train from a station with many platforms.
We did it though.
We arrived at the station just after 4 and at about 5 we were on our way.
With the help of very friendly staff who saw that these foreigners might just end-up in Harbin or Beijing, if left to their own devices.
The train was clean & comfortable. The views of rural China, exquisite.
We saw the most beautiful sunrise over farmland.
Little villages all along the line.
Ting-Ting & her husband met us in Shuangyashan.
I remain constantly overwhelmed by the warmth & kindness of the people we meet here in the far north east of this massive country.
We’ve never met Ting-Ting or her husband Tang.
They are friends of friends we’ve made in Jiamusi, yet they’ve cleared their schedules for 3 days, in order to take us around & show us their bit of world.
After 3 days, they are friends.
I love seeing peoples’ worlds.
By Chinese standards, Shuangyashan is a small town, home to perhaps 500 000 people.
Here China & Russia rubs shoulders, daily busses bringing Russians to the city for shopping on a short 2 hour ride.
Everywhere, everything is marked in Chinese & Russian.
And everybody asumes we are ‘Ruskies’.
We arrive in Shuangyashan, just after 7.
We share breakfast, my first experience of Chinese porridge, which is very different from the porridge we know. It is more like a soup, with rice & vegetables & meat. With it we have dumplings, fantastic bread, for which this part of China is famous & some fish as well.
Then we head out into the countryside.
Our first stop is a reservoir which feeds the farming community & city.
They say Chairman Mao once swam here.
It is beautiful & we end up being cajoled into joining a group of locals playing old fashioned games.
Zuko & I enter the three-legged race & to everyone’s delight we win by a wide margin.
I thank the crowd, in my best Chinese, for their kindness, saying we are happy to be here & share their joy, before receiving our prize.
Pictures are taken.
Friendly conversations are had. Conversations of which we understand nothing more than they are friendly & kind & inquisitive.
Then we head for the forest, where we will have a picnic lunch.
Along the way we stop at a village of small farmers, bee-keepers & foresters.
It blows us away.
The care taken in creating a home for people of little means & less influence.
We take a rest & then we head into the forest itself, walking up a small hill, along a well kept boardwalk, to a beautiful pagoda, from where we can see amazing vistas.
Ting-Ting speaks good English & she is keen to practice.
Out here in the north there isn’t much opportunity to speak English.
After lunch we make our way to a Temple.
The forest has a temple as well, but we drive past it, Tang hoping to show us the bigger temple of the goddess of a thousand hands.
He tells us she is the goddess of grace.
In each hand she holds something she would like to give.
To the people.
As we walk through the temple, Tang explains every alcove & place of offering.
People are praying.
For good fortune.
At the top of the Temple Complex we see the Bhuda.
I am amazed at the lengths our kind go too, in order to feel connected to our Origin.
Reminded that all of us long to know our Creator.
To feel sheltered by our Source.
From the Temple we make our way to Tang’s family home.
This is special.
It is reserved for very special people to be invited to the family home.
Tang’s family are farmers.
They live in a little compound, among many more little compounds, from where they farm communal land, alongside others.
We make dumplings together.
Tang’s Aunt preparing dinner since early afternoon.
Then dinner is served.
Dinner, in China starts early.
No later than five-thirty.
And it is a slow, relaxed affair, with many toasts & easy conversation.
The table is heavy with scrumptious food.
Ting-Ting translates for us, so we can connect with their family.
Tang’s uncle declares that we are now close friends, for it is only close friends who’ve been to their home.
We express gratitude & complement Tang’s Aunt on delectable fair.
We eat outside, the cool Spring breeze contributing to the warmth of our experience.
We are reminded of what it is which is important.
Not oppulance or accumelated riches, locked away wealth, but hospitality & generosity, kindness & love.
By seven-thirty we retire to our hotel.
It has been a long first day in Shuangyashan.
Tomorrow we’ll head to Tsi Fung Mountain, climbing the highest peak in Heilongjiang Province.
Tang & Ting-Ting meet us at the hotel, just after eight.
We grab a quick breakfast & then we drive out to the mountain.
It is about a 30 minute drive & on our own we would not have found it.
We see a city being rebuilt & modernized. Along the way I count 17 high rise cranes. One building site has 9 multi-story towers, reaching 30 floors into the clouds.
The walk up the mountain is easy enough.
The conservation area extremely clean & well kept despite the number of people who visit this area every day.
We spend the day here.
It takes us about 2 hours to walk to the top where we rest, before coming down again.
Along the way people greet & try to talk.
They tell us how beautiful Maddi is & every few steps we stop for pictures with people we’ve never met.
At the top of the mountain we rest.
Then we climb along a treacherous chain to the very top, from where you can see almost the whole province.
It is magnificent.
It is stunning how doing things together, how sharing an experience, brings people together, binds our souls.
Our friendship with Ting-Ting & Tang & their family growing deeper with every step we share up the mountain.
On the way back to the hotel everyone is quiet.
In a good way.
We share dinner at a beautiful restaurant.
In a private room.
You’ll love the restaurants in China.
They’re places where you have time.
Most of them have private rooms with a dedicated waitress & tonight they grill our food at our table.
Restaurants aren’t expensive.
The 12 of us have a stunning meal for 350Y.
After dinner we find a spot with ice-cream for the kids, coffee for Zuko & whiskey for me, with some live music added to the mix.
It is the perfect end to a wonderful day.
Our third day in Shuangyashan starts with another scrumptious breakfast.
We do a bit of a breakfast crawl.
First we find coffee, which is special, since coffee is not normal in this part of China.
Then we find breakfast.
Then we head to the Park.
We spend an entire day taking amusement park rides & eating amusement park food.
We are silly.
We eat copious amounts of snacks.
We see animals.
We ride bumper cars & boats & roller coasters.
It is late afternoon when we head to the train station.
Late evening when we arrive in Jiamusi.
We don’t know if you’ll ever be in this part of the Far East, but if you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity, it is a place where you will find beauty beyond reason.