Where do I start…?

September 14th, 2011 by | Country: China | No Comments »

Where do I start?  The past several days have been nothing but misery and humor.  I know it’s a strange combo, but let me explain in this post.  Last Saturday early morning, Sophia, her husband and I took off for a three day tour to Sanya, a nearby destination in Hainan province.  We went with a Chinese owned tourist company.  While normally when travelers are with tourist groups, we do not get the rich cultural experience; however, for me, being the only westerner on the tour group was a surreal experience.  You can imagine all the stares I got on the bus!  The bus was in bad condition – it was totally worn down and it looked like it was from the 1980′s or 1990′s and the bus should be thrown in the garbage by now.  So, off we went!

Garbage on the bus – disgusting!

At our first stop, we stepped on boats made of wood or materials that appeared to be made of bamboo.  These boats were not typical boats…they only had a floor and no walls to protect us from falling.  Cool!  I have to admit that I was excited to be sailing on a very exotic boat!  A Chinese man who was paddling the boat pointed to my bags and told me to give them to him because we were going to get wet.  Ok…but I want my camera to take pictures!  He insisted that it needed to be put in a bin to stay dry.  Then a moment a later I saw some water squirting and it looked like it was only going to get worse.  OK.  I wasn’t going to wreck my expensive camera for umpteenth time and so, I put it in the bin.  The next thing I knew, I was completely soaked by BIG water pumps squirting water at me and others!  My hair went from dry and straight to completely curly and dripping water.  To make matters worse, rain was pouring hard!  I had a long day head of me before I could get into a shower!  Ugh…


Then we headed to a beach where it was drizzling a bit, and the scenery was rather distasteful thanks to the weather that ruined it!  I imagine if there were sun, I would see glistening bright blue water with white sand.  Then rain poured down really hard again. Sophia and I were both standing by the ocean, holding one umbrella together as the wind gushed away.  Sophia screamed in hysteria wanting to get out of the rain.  I said to Sophia as we were standing in the rain, “If we were in Kenya and outside in the rain,  we’d be dancing and rejoicing in their country because it means the crops will grow and they will have food to eat! So, let’s enjoy the rain!”  Sophia looked at me like I was a total idiot, but I insisted her that it was true.  I understand that dealing with rain can get old, but I was trying to be positive in midst of this misery.


Then we had lunch at a random place where food looked gross.  I just ate nothing but rice.  This kind of meal, including dinner, continued throughout the trip except for the second night when Sophia, her husband, and I took off from the group and went to a Brazilian restaurant on our own.  I would call it Chinese-Brazilian because it definitely had some Chinese flavor.

Somewhere along the way, we made a stop at a coconut “factory” shop.  The reason I’m quoting “factory” is because the place claims to be a factory, but it’s really a big advertisement place trying to grab our attention to buy their products.  Then, we made a stop at a fish market, then at a gemstone place, then at a tea place, then another big random outlet shop.  We didn’t just stop and shop there.  We also had to sit through the lectures, listening to presenters promote the products.  Of course, I couldn’t understand a word, but just from observing and hearing Sophia’s brief translation, I got the gist that I was practically sitting in a live commercial show.  The scenes were rather quite a riot!  Sales people were holding the products throughout the show, telling us why we should buy their products and giving us deals.  By the time we got to the fifth commercial stop, Sophia raged out of the place and instead of watching the comical people trying to sell us crap, we watched Chinese people driving down the road.  In my own American eyes, it was more exciting to watch people on the road than at the commercial stop because the vehicles and people were so interesting and exotic.  Seeing four teenagers sitting on one motorcycle, a group of people sitting in the back of a trunk, and one man whispering to another man and staring at me in a car was all amusing.








I later learned that the purpose of these stops was that they were giving the tour groups money and therefore, that is what made our tour group cost so cheap – 200 RMB!  That is equivalent to USD $31 for three days, two nights, all meals included, hotel stays and a few admissions, such as to a couple temples and parks!

Speaking of visiting some temples, we visited a few Buddhist temples, and it was my first time seeing them.  It was a real eye opener for me to see religious sites other than Catholicism and Judaism.  When I first stepped in a temple and gazed at the interior design, I nearly had a heart attack.  I saw “swastikas” everywhere and said, “How can that be?”.  As a Jew, it was hard for me, at first, to grasp that this symbol was shown everywhere in the temple.  Then I remembered from my middle school history class my teacher telling us that the “swastika” is actually a very old symbol that has been around for thousands and thousands of years in Buddhism and represents happiness, good and long life, luck and good fortune.  I came to realization that the Nazis totally ruined the impression of an integral symbol in the Buddhist religion!


I had an opportunity to attend and observe a service.  In Buddhism, the religious teacher tells a fortune to each person or to each married couple after a service.  When it was my turn, Sophia stood next to me waiting to translate for me.  Sophia asked him, “Do I need to translate your fortunes for her?”  The religious teacher knew from my physical appearance that I am not a Buddhist and so, he said, “No, I know that she doesn’t practice Buddhism and so, I need to respect her beliefs.”   I was thankful that he was a wise man who recognized that there is a diversity of people who come from all walks of life.


Interior of a Temple

Interior of a Temple

Rain continued to pour throughout the trip.  Sun barely peaked through the clouds.

We finally came back on Monday night, and I will tell the rest of the story in subsequent posts.

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