S t e v e
C a l l e r a m e
At a certain point, your tastes change. Like most travelers, I like exploring because it gives me the chance to see something new and unexpected. But after you’ve visited enough famous temples and cathedrals around the world, walked on enough beaches, and followed along on the same tourist routes that all the guidebooks recommend, the experience begins to lose its power. For all the magic it once brought, traveling sooner or later starts to become just a different form of sameness. But it doesn’t have to be. When an old Chinese friend invited me in December to accompany her to a bunch of places I’d never heard of –
12 mango metro
Jiuhuashan, Hongcun, Hangzhou, Wuzhen – I knew I had a chance again to experience that elusive feeling of surprise. Although both of us would still be tourists, we would be a different kind than usual. The plan was to stop along at sites widely known to Chinese people, but rarely visited by outsiders. I couldn’t wait. Our plane landed in Shanghai, which had already seemed like a futuristic city when I’d first seen it 13 years earlier. This time around, Pudong’s ultra-high skyscrapers seemed to disappear into the sky itself, with the tops sometimes hidden behind fog or air pollution. Nanjing Road now looks like a bona fide European shopping street, but for the Chinese characters. The Old City has a somewhat Dis-
ney feel to it these days. Very impressive in a certain way, but it was time to rip off the packaging and get to the real country. We boarded a train for Jiuhuashan (“The Mountain of the Nine Lotuses”) and took a winding bus ride to a village in the mountains. As with China’s other sacred peaks, the entire trek to the top involved climbing a regular staircase rather than a dirt trail, although the views to each side were refreshing and unspoiled. Buddhist temples and monasteries served as natural resting points on the way up, each one seemingly visited by a greater number of genuine believers than sightseers. Wild monkeys could occasionally be seen scavenging alongside the walking paths.
Published on Feb 1, 2016
February 2016 issue of Mango Metro magazine, an English-language, general interest / lifestyle / entertainment magazine distributed througho...