Another week, another adventure. This one bringing tales from the powerful seas, of decrepid boats, of a flat pack tourist destination.... a dream location. Yes Putuoshan, an Island off the coast of China, a "dream location" was what it said in the lonely planet or the loony planet as I have recently heard it called, "a utopic scene of China as we all imagine it" the book promised. I have one word in response "debatable".
Of course, one must not beleive everything we read (especially in China), but we naively trusted that book, which now has almost biblical relevance to my travels so far. I feel betrayed! Putuoshan, offered a back to nature experience, the clean way! It was as though, someone had bought an island in a box from Ikea, read the instructions and assembled all the parts. We firstly waned to hike to the top of the mountain, which is situated in the north of the Island. On with our walking boots and prepared with waterproofs in our bags, we set off. We were greeted by uniform wooden huts, all selling the same tourist tat, plus ice creams (just what I need on a cold winters day). Following from this, were "ruggid" wooden signs pointing the direction of a paved pathway, which leads walkers to the summit. Fortunatly, every few steps, are more uniform wooden huts selling... the same touist tat. There were even toilets along the way! But by far the best attribute was the "atmospheric" music, that was playing throughout the island, through speakers camouflaged as rocks. What?!
Maybe I am being too cynical, the architecture of the town in the island was quite spectacular. Hundred of years old, with very ornate details. The huge number of Buddhist Temples there, added some flavour to our trip. The labyrinth of cobbled streets were also quaint and REAL! The weekend we were in Putuoshan was the World buddist Forum, this meant that all the hotels, street and restaurants were inundated with Monks. They were very friendly and peaceful people. It was interesting to see them climb the mountain because it holds huge religious importance. As we climbed the immaculately maintained stone stairs, they climbed one stair at a time, kneeling and praying at each one. I assumed that this was some kind of meditative prayer. And the number of people climbing the stairs this way was quite astonishing, It would have taken them hours, but this simply shows the religious significance of this place.
It was altogether a very funny few days, which, yet again, encapsulated chinese culture and chinese tourism. We are still humming that tune in our heads... have they got into my brain? Help me!