At 5:00 p.m., it was still 25 degrees Celsius when we left the Longmen Caves area. All around us, the Chinese people wore sweaters and wool leggings. Our tour guide, Lisa, wore red sweat pants and a fleece jacket. We foreigners sported shorts or cargo pants and short-sleeved Tees because we were hot. The boulevard back to the bus was again another l-o-o-o-n-g walk.
Our driver turned into a pot-holed dirt road in the middle of no man’s land. What? I don’t recall buildings or much of anything that looked like civilization for a short while. We rounded a tight corner on the bumpy road and like an oasis in the desert, came upon the strangest sight–at least to me. Two long buildings materialized meeting at right angles at one corner. I can only describe it as a motel—with a second storey.
Dinner was served through Door 111 in the front room barely large enough for a round 6-foot table, and us.
- Noodle soup
- White rice
- Sweet and sour chicken
- Scrambled eggs and chopped tomatoes
- Cooked sliced potatoes and ground beef
- Pork and scallions
- Garlic sprouts with sliced red peppers and fungus
This time we were served—count them—two baby glasses of drinks. I had beer. Twice.
The bathroom was an open-ended building with six or eight stalls. No outside doors or plastic against the elements did I see at either end. All were squats but someone had taken a card chair, removed the seat and stuck a toilet seat on it. I opened the door and slipped inside. Afterwards Sue grumbled because I had lucked out somewhat with the only ‘throne’.
Along the way to the facilities after dinner, we passed two young ladies with a plastic container filled with cutlery (forks). I saw no soap in the water, no sponge or wash cloth. Agitation seemed the customary /accepted practice to clean the flatware.
Maybe this was a restaurant after all. At the end of the building opposite the facilities, we heard kitchen noises and a teen in a not quite pristine kitchen jacket appeared. He ran to the washroom and out again without stopping. Had he touched our dinner?
Another man (not from the kitchen) washed his hands with the liquid Palmolive soap before entering the facilities and washed them again on his way out. Sue and I gaped at the scene and then each other.
A large fat bug floated in one plugged sink, legs pointed heavenwards, with no knowledge he was dead.
I asked Lisa about the building. The year before, she had brought a tour bus of visitors when only the ground floor had been finished. The second floor had just been added and was just a decoration. What did that mean? I noticed a couple of large windows revealing cardboard boxes stacked high and wide.
I asked her again what we call this place.
“A restaurant. A different type of restaurant. I think this is a different experience from other restaurants.”
What? Never mind.
We arrived in Zhengzhou a couple of hours later. The time: 7:00 or 7:30 p.m. in early spring. Is this how dark it is at home in the spring? The hotel was attractive but appeared empty and quiet. The interior design cost more than the building. We dragged out luggage inside. Lisa went to the desk with our passports to get our room keys.
I asked why the furniture was so big since the people were not. It was a sign of wealth and prosperity.
Quick Luoyang facts:
- Population 2 million
- This is a tourism city
- Copper mining, glass factory
- Heavy industry: tractor, first built in 1959
- The Peony is the city flower (blooms in April)
- This is an old capital city
- Buddhism popular
Next on August 29, Day 7, International Shaolin Kung Fu Training Center and Shaolin Temple
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