Bob and I said goodbye to Jana who would leave later in the day on a train to Shanghai and then home from Hong Kong. The next day we took a train to Zhangziajie in Hunan Province.
At the Dragon International Hotel Coffee shop…Little Santas and Christmas trees hanging everywhere…like Cinco de Mayo at home…no one knows what the day really celebrates but it�s an excuse for a party…Kenny G on the stereo as usual…Old Lang Syne and Winter Wonderland. Our waitress, Liu Wen Qin, is a smiling friendly 19 year old…”excuse me, can I ask you some questions?”…absolutely we say…where are you from…where is your tour group…you are by yourselves? And we quickly become friends. She is from Hubei Province near Yichang…has two sisters one of whom she lives with in a room costing 120 yuan a month ($15) with the sister�s husband and five year old child…the child having a heart condition, she said. When she gets off work at 11am she leads us to the bus that will take us to Zhangjiajie Village in the Wulingjuan Scenic Park about 40 minutes away…by ourselves we never would have found the bus, one of many that all look alike.
The Park is truly stunning with craggy cliffs and columns rising out of sub-tropical growth…the winter fog sitting low in the narrow canyons-a place that would be wonderful for hiking in the summer. Lonely Planet said the best hotel in the village was Minzu Shanzhuang, a thatched, Tujia-run (a Chinese minority group) hotel…but this was winter and it had snowed the night before. We buried ourselves under blankets and hot water bottles because the heater was lousy…and quit altogether during the night…
Back in Zhangiajie City early the next morning we stumbled off the bus to the welcome-warm smile of Liu Wen Qin at the Dragon International Hotel Coffee Shop…glad for a place to park ourselves for the day until the train for Guanzhou at 6pm. We walked the streets awhile…a bookstore…Diary of Johann D. Rockefeller sitting right next to a book about Mao Tse Tung….in the window Bill Gates” Theories of Management and “How To Win Friends And Influence People.”
Since it was winter and hardly anyone was in the hotel, we spent most of the afternoon speaking English with Liu Wen Qin…Bob teasing her and loving it when, laughing delightedly, she finally catches on. When it was time to leave we paid the bill and by the time we had our backpacks on she had disappeared…the rumor that the Chinese hate to say goodbye apparently true…my throat getting a catch as I write this.
We settled in for what Lonely Planet said was a 24 hour train ride south back toward Hong Kong in a hard sleeper. But 6am the next morning, after only 12 hrs, we were awakened by the train attendent…we are here, she said…Guangzhou…Guangzhou!
After a night in Hong Kong we flew to the Philippines to warm up on a beach. Then we flew back to Hong Kong to catch our flight back to the States.
This is the end of our first year of travel around the world.