December’s birthday trip was spent at Anhui Province, a few hours from Shanghai. Boarded a fast train, and the last 1/3 of the ride was done backwards, like we lost our way. I spent a day at Xidi Ancient Town, where I was lead to based on the premise that it was a nice place to take photographs, and that it was the second most touristy ancient town in the area, and therein strikes a good-enough balance for me. Worth going to? Good side-trip, good for an afternoon, but the place is dead after sunset, and I didn’t sense any promise of shooting at night.
The break to the nine-month blogging hiatus is going to be about what has become a regular, semi-daily routine for me: biking.
My first bike here was an Oyama folding bike, which I bought on my first year. The justification in getting one boiled down to why-not, because-I-can, and this-is-China-bikes-are-everywhere. I chose a folding bike mainly because of my apartment situation (fourth floor, no elevator). Yes, I can park the thing somewhere else relatively safe, but it will surely stick out all black and shiny, among its rusty, dilapidated cohorts. Several years and apartments later, I decided to not have anything to do with it -and biking- after an accident. Yes, it didn’t really go far, and the most excitement I had with it was going around, scouting photo opportunities during Chinese New Year festivities, and riding the Huangpu River ferry from Pudong to a stop around The Bund.
I swore off bikes for a time, until when I had to use one to ride a bike trail with a group around Yangshuo (read about it here) late June, last year. Riding almost non-stop for 6 hours had me crawling for my bed -since I could not stand on two feet- at the hostel right after, but the realization that I had enough stamina to go through this means one thing for the solo-traveller self: I may not have the knees or footing to trek mountains, but maybe, just maybe, I’m a competent-enough biker.
Today’s tour was for the East Course, which had two UNESCO World Heritage sites on its list (Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, and Manjang Cave; Jeju women divers were also recently put into the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List), which I would safely assume were the main reasons the only seats available on the bus were at the back. I had already checked out from the guesthouse before I left.
My birthday breakfast was the leftover soy fried chicken from last night. Getting older at my current state in life just feels better in a different place, or I could put it this way: this escape from reality just feels apt. The unfamiliar sensations one gets with travelling just trigger different stimuli.
There were birthday travel plans already for Nanjing, when an officemate mentioned that she’d be heading out to Jeju Island in South Korea for a weekend. You know that eye-frown you make when you wouldn’t think that was a real swell idea to go for? I had that, until she told me her budget, and the following facts: plane fare was relatively cheap coming from Shanghai, and a Philippine passport wouldn’t need a visa stamp to visit the island. Then that eye-frown quickly went bug-eyed, and the sense of a good opportunity welled up in my brain. This annual December undertaking of mine won’t be done back home or in China anymore, and the only thing I know about the specific area was fed to me by a movie, which I happen to really like.