Sally in the Zen

Confessions of a Befuddled Zen Buddhist

Homecoming – Conclusion

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Truth be told, during the entire trip in China, I listened with only one ear to all the history that our tour guides recited.  Admittedly, if I didn’t think to write it down in my journal that I kept, I wouldn’t have remembered what had been said and done. 

Instead, because I’ve always been a visual person, I basked in the entire experience of being where I was, being in the moments.

Like when we were visiting Guilin.  We sat for a spell in a teashop, sipping yummy lavender tea.

Like being with Zen Mum and Zen Master at the Temple of Heaven and Earth.  We were told that standing at that particular level was essentially being between Heaven and Earth.  And I remember I had thought, COOL!

Kevin, our Beijing tour guide, took this photo for us.


Or when we went to see Chinese Opera.  Zen Master sat enthralled throughout the entire show while Zen Mum and I passed out.  In all fairness, Chinese Opera is an acquired taste.

Or the goosebumps that I felt as I took this photo from within the tour bus as we approached the Great Wall for the first time in my life.

Or when we were at a famous restaurant that was renowned for its Peking Duck dinners.  It took 40 minutes to cook these birds and once they arrived at our tables, it was quite a show.


And definitely during dinner meals throughout the trip, which consisted of 80% vegetables and 20% meat.  It seemed that most of the vegetable dishes centered around celery, celery and what did you say? celery.  After the second or third dinner meal into the vacation, I realized that I was quite a carnivore because I craved chicken and pork sooo much, and I really missed my meats. 

It took some getting used to, eating mostly vegetables — celery — but the cool thing was that we didn’t gain one pound throughout the trip!

Or when we took the bullet train from Shanghai to Suzhou, only to discover when we reached Suzhou, that we had been on the maiden voyage of that particular train.

Or discovering when we got on the train that it was unlike the Amtrak Acela Express, where there were no walking between the cars because there were no interior doors that allowed passengers to move around.

Or when I burst into tears when we were at the Red Theatre in Beijing, watching Chun Yi – The Legend of Kung Fu.  That was my “Amy Tan” moment of the trip.

Or experiencing the biggest culture shock of all:  squat toilets.  I didn’t take a picture of this unforgettable sight, but suffice it to say, if you can just imagine a toilet built right into the floor and all one has to do is squat, you pretty much got the picture.

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Now that was a hard thing to get used to.

Thankfully it wasn’t a concern in the hotels. 

Although our trip happened in 2007, I can still vividly remember it as if it was yesterday.  The sights, the smells, the flavor of life there.  I had naively thought that it was probably going to be like an extended visit to Chinatown, like that in NYC. 

Boy, was I an idiot.

Zen Master, Zen Mum and I had agreed beforehand to not speak a lick of English while we were there.  We wanted to blend in and see where that took us.  From sight to sight, city to city, when we engaged with the folks there, we came away with one common observation that just tickled us when people spoke with us.

Everyone thought we were from Hong Kong.

All in all, China is simply awe-inspiring.  There really isn’t any other way to say it.

Would I go back for another visit?

In a heartbeat.

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Homecoming – Guilin – Part 5

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After being in Xi’an, dry and dusty as it was, we hopped on another plane ride and landed in the city of Guilin

What a contrast this city was to the one we just came from.  It was extremely humid, hot and quite moist. 

When we had landed into this wonderful city, our tour guide (I forgot to write his name down in my journal) took us straight away to climb this mountain. 

It was one of the main tourist attractions because it offered an awesome view of the city.  But first we had to climb this bad boy.

See those steps behind Zen Mum and Zen Master?  See how steep they are?  We had to climb quite a bit of them to get to the very top of this hill.

Did I mention that it was humid, hot and extremely moist? 

This is important to point out because as we made the slow climb up, I was wearing fleece.

Fleece + humid hot moist weather + the steep climb up a hill = wilted Sally in the Zen. 

Also, humid hot moist weather + the steep climb up a hill = sweaty Zen Master and an absolutely exhausted and irritable Zen Mum.  At one point in the climb, Zen Mum just stopped and almost refused to continue, she was that drained.

But she persevered.  And it was worth it in the end.

Interesting tidbit:  according to Wikipedia, photos of this city were used in Star Wars III:  Revenge of the Sith, for the planet Kashyyyk.

Yes, yes, what in the world was I thinking, wearing fleece?  I asked someone in our tour group to take this photo and I don’t remember who it was.  At this point, I think my brain was slowing seeping out my ears from the humidity and the climb.

The next day we woke up refreshed and gungho to explore the new territory known as Guilin.  But as we walked outside, the humidity and moistness smacked us silly in the face again.

After breakfast at the hotel, our tour group boarded a riverboat and cruised down the Li River for a bit.  It was probably the humid hot moist air that invigorated Zen Mum to try her hand in taking pictures for once. 

I’d say it turned out pretty well.  The humid hot moist air did absolutely nothing for my hair.  I think I was puffier than a poodle.

We cruised down the Li River for four hours.  And the sights were magnificent.

And it started to rain and mist throughout the rest of the cruise.

Since I had packed only fleece and sweatshirts, we went out and bought lighter clothing for me.  It was a lovely light green shirt and it shrank after I wore it one time.  But I still kept it as a souvenir.

The next day we went to Elephant Trunk Hill.  See the rock formation behind Zen Mum?  Elephant Trunk Hill.

There was an amusement ride near Elephant Trunk Hill, if you could call it that.

I called it the bubble ride.

I wanted to jump in there and roll all around the water but Zen Mum was adamantly against it.  She was concerned that the bubble would pop with me in it.

I guess we’ll never know because I didn’t go on it.  Note to self:  the next time we ever get to visit Guilin again, jump on bubble ride when Zen Mum turns her back.  I run faster than her.

During the evening, after dinner, we went for a walk.  And at night our hotel was lovely.

The two days that we stayed in Guilin were lovely, albeit humid, hot and quite moist.  I am never going to stop saying that because that is one of the most vivid details that I recall.  It wiped us out so thoroughly that we didn’t even have the energy to take in any dinner shows or evening entertainment.  We went straight to bed after our brief evening walks.

The overall feel of Guilin was more old school than Xi’an.  It wasn’t as modern or bustling, and it actually felt quite quaint, rustic.  Surrounded by picturesque mountains and being so close to the river, it didn’t nothing for my hair or clothes but did everything for my spirit. 

I adored it. 


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