Monday, July 20, 2009

The Guilin Of The North

Way down in the southwest corner of Beijing Municipality, not all that far from the Hebei Province border, is an area known as Shidu ("Ten Crossings"). I have heard Shidu billed as the "Guilin of the North." This would be the equivalent of calling an area near DC the "Grand Canyon of the East." High praise, indeed!

And so it was that Z and I embarked on a father-son adventure to check Shidu out with our own, Guilin-savvy eyes. I say "adventure" not only because of the hiking we knew we would be doing, but also because of the inevitable uncertainties we would encounter on our way out of the city into the countryside.

In one sense, the journey was pretty straightforward. We jumped on the 952 bus right at Saoziying, and then transferred to the 917, which took us all the way out to our destination. On the computer screen, as I mapped this itinerary out, I guessed it might take us two hours altogether.

But when it was two hours before we even reached our transfer station, it was undeniable that Z and I were getting way more than we bargained for! No matter...To Z's credit, he did not waver in the least, which helped me keep my spirits high as we rumbled farther and farther away from Beijing.

Actually, all of that time on the bus was pretty interesting, especially when we made it out to this area where there are a lot of rocks being quarried. This was quarrying with Chinese characteristics. Mile after mile of these roadside establishments that have huge rocks for sale. Some rocks are sold as is. You see, every apartment complex seems to have a big stone at its main entrance, with the name of the neighborhood carved into the front. (You are looking at Julie and Z standing in front of Yan Bei Yuan's central meeting place.) All of these stones have to come from somewhere! The same holds for all of those stone lions that are outside of banks, restaurants, and other business establishments all over Beijing. Well, now we know where to pick up these kinds of decoratives if we ever become China-based entrepreneurs.

When we finally jumped off the bus, and stretched our stiff legs out, it appeared as if we had suddenly been transported to somewhere in southwest China. Sure, there are more stunning sceneries along the Li River, in Yangshuo, and out in rural Guangxi province. But the karst mountains we hiked through that day were spectacular on their own merits. And they are right here in our Beijing "backyard"...



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