Aaron, Summer, Lorna and yours truly. [photo by Lorna]
I’m not entirely sure why I always attempt to write these entries when I should by all accounts be gently passed-out beneath the covers of my bed. I mean, there’s nothing stopping me from turning this laptop off and getting my much earned sleep… yet, here we go.
After three shockless (as in the part, not the event) bus trips and two rather chaotic transfers… I’ve returned from two days in rural China visiting Bingyu Valley (Bingyu Gou), a surprisingly semi-unblemished bit of nature about 250km from Dalian.
Tuesday night, after spending a fun-filled afternoon playing ping pong and pool with Tina, I headed to Dalian to meet Lorna and Summer. We went for some noodles and after watching 15 minutes of the strangest cinema I’ve ever seen (some old French film… Le Chien Something) we crashed to assure we’d be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for our early morning start.
Evening out both the male/female and Chinese/Foreigner ratios, we met Summer’s friend Aaron at the bus station. To get to Bingyu Valley you must take a two-hour bus ride [34 RMB] to the small town of Zhuanghe and then transfer to a local bus [8 RMB] that in the course of about an hour takes you, and every other rural-dweller, on a tailbone jarring trip through countrified Liaoning to the mouth of Bingyu Valley.
When we arrived at the outskirts of the valley we were presented with two options – we could A) stay at the park’s hotel for about 300 RMB (for a double) per night, or B) stay at a local farm house for considerably less – 10 RMB/person/night. We went with the latter, and got to experience The Simple Life first hand. Lemme just say Paris Hilton’s got nothin’ on us! We chose to all share a room with a kang, a big traditional Chinese brick bed that is heated by a fire beneath it, and a wonderful view of the back garden and toilet.
The weather was a bit crap, and getting steadily worse, so we decided to wait to tackle the park the following day when we’d hopefully have some sunshine and definitely have more time. Instead we took to looking around the area, walking along a river, hiking up a hill, talking to the pigs… just general rustic-tourism at its finest.
 Aaron, Lorna and Summer.  This odd housefront built into the mountain.  A closer shot.  A man fishing, in a full suit.
In the late afternoon the skies let loose and soaked us coming down from our first “mountain” trek. We hid the rest of the day indoors napping, playing cards, snacking and laughing at the inventive ways in which other guests of the house were using umbrellas in the roofless outhouse. After a bit of dinner we broke into the beer and I taught Aaron and Summer Kings.
 Lorna and Aaron enjoying the well earned view.  The group hiding from the rain on our kang.
Somewhere during all this Summer was kind enough to teach me a more polite version of xie xie (thank you), as I had told her I liked to learn little Chinese phrases to impress and surprise random Chinese people. She, out of the kindness of her lovely little heart, explained that “jia gei wo ba” will surely get the result I was looking for. So when, merrily into our second round of Kings, we ran out of beer and the woman of the farm brough us some more, I decided this was an excellent opportunity to use my new lingo and confidently spat out “Jia gei wo ba” to her. I’m not sure if it was the look in her eye or Summer falling to the floor in hysterics that told me I’d just been burned by my sweet new friend… but regardless, there it was. Incidently, I don’t think the woman accepted my marriage proposal and I’ve committed to not learning or speaking any more Chinese – ever.
A drunken few hands of Crazy Eights and we hit the kang for the night. Sleep was a little up and down as Aaron was a bit of a syphony with his nostrils (not that I can complain; though I’m not a snorer – I had been drinking, so I may have been equally musical). The morning came far too quick, but brought with it some better weather and a Chinese breakfast.
 The farmyard – the red-brick think dead centre is the toilet.  A closer look – trust me, this is as close as you want to look.  Piggy – yeah, I felt a bit guilty when we ordered pork the day before.  Standard farm fauna.
We sorted our bill [three meals, a load of beer and the accommodations for the night @ only 50 RMB ea.] and headed to the park. Initially I thought the entrance fee of 100 RMB was a bit steep, but in hindsight I do think we got our money’s worth. We spent the entire day trekking around the place and got three boat trips (in, out and a scenic one in the middle) for the approx. $15 CND.
 At the Bingyu Valley gate.  The only way to get into the park from this gate is via boat. [3/4] The view from our first (and only) scenic climb.
The park wasn’t fantasticly stunning, but definitely had its moments. The Lonely Planet guide says that it’s not going to replace Guilin (a place of drastically beautiful scenery in the south of China) anytime soon, and I guess it’s right. However, and this is the plus about know-it-all guidebooks, it set my expectations low and I was definitely surprised to find any sort of natural beauty around these parts. In true Chinese form however, there were crap fibreglass statues littered randomly around the park.
 Summer nearly being blown into the river so I could take a photo.  We walked for about 1/2 hour down this horse trail – it was pleasant, though Summer may disagree as she repeatedly stepped into the streams.  We’ve stepped into The Shire.  Random park view (creative, I know).
 Aaron  On our scenic boat ride.  Also while on the boat.  One of many Buddhist shrines throughout the park.
Anyhow, that’s it… time for bed. I made friends with a Chinese girl on the train the other day and she’s going to give me a shout tomorrow… time to call it a day.
And what would an outing in China be without some Chinglish?