Today, last year..

This time last year we were in a National Park Forest in China.  We had gone to China because the astro-dweeb had been invited to give a couple of talks at Nanjing University and the Purple Mountain Observatory and then to participate in a workshop at a Remote Observing Station.

We travelled about 4 hours on a bus from Nanjing with about 40 Chinese nationals, into Xuyi Province and a National Park Forest.  We were given a tour of the remote telescope – conducted solely in Chinese!  Our guide was so caught up in the tour that he forgot to translate!

Our hotel was eco-wilderness – minimal everthing.  Called the Tieshan Temple Forest Holiday Inn I am pretty sure it is not part of the Holiday Inn chain. The water from shower and handbasin drained into an open pipe which finished just below floor level. The hot water was only turned on between 8pm-10pm – and then it was just a dribble.  

It seemed that just about everyone on our bus was a smoker  – there was not one smoke detector in sight and no signs asking them not to smoke in bed but plenty asking them not to smoke in the forest!  


There were mosquitoes everywhere and yes, the thought of malaria crossed my mind. In the evening the hotel girls would bring in funky little burning things meant to keep the mosquitoes away.  There was a huge spider web under one of the beds!   I sprayed Deet around the perimeter of my bed – on the bed linens!

For 3 days the astro-dweeb went off straight after breakfast for the workshops – which were also conducted in Chinese except for his presentations!  He got plenty of time to work on codes etc!

This left me in the company of our bus driver and the hotel staff.  No-one, absolutely no-one spoke English!  If I wanted anything I pointed and gestured and there was usually much giggling but eventually we would work things out.

The hotel was about 10 miles from the nearest village so I was basically stranded.  On the first day of wandering I came across a group of 200 school children camping.  There was great excitement as they wanted to practise their English so for a little while I had people to talk to.  They were very excited to find out I was Australian and then many of them wanted to have their photo taken with me  – for a short time I felt like a movie star!

I spent my time reading some precious (foreign language) English books I had found in Nanjing and wandering with my camera.  It did rain for 2 of the days though so my photos were a bit blurry.

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28 responses

  1. It is
    experiences like this you can’t plan for but stick in ones mind for years, and
    in my experiences these always end up to be a good memory even though at the
    time you would certainly place them in the bad column if you were sorting out
    good trips bad trips!

    Love the
    photos it looks so lovely there but it is always seems like it would be a true
    culture shock coming from where no one really smokes any more to it is allowed everywhere!
    But I am surprised there wasn’t more who spoke English for it is the business language,
    and they seem to be teaching it for as long as I can remember to everyone, like
    French is hear in Canada our official second language!

  2. Amazing journey! The observatory you visited represents China's entry into modern astronomy and apparently was built in 1934. Along with its more modern instruments, the observatory is sait to still display much older astronomical devices. Too bad the translator forgot to do his job but I can understand the distraction. Looking at your photos of the place and those taken by other people at other times, I'm struck at how hazy the atmosphere is there! Do you recall noticing that? Thanks for the excellent views and impressions you offer. — JG

  3. It was amazingly cool! The whole experience was cool – though I did feel pretty isolated out here – I had expected that we would be in a sort of village. There was no internet and the television did not have English subtitles so when forced indoors by the rain I entertained myself by making up dialogue to some pretty funny Chinese programs.

  4. In Nanjing many people speak English and school children learn English but the area we went to was very remote and probably there is not much schooling done at all. Some of the scientists had rudimentary English and a couple had excellent English – but I only saw them at meal times. The area was incredibly beautiful but my time was spoilt a bit by the bad weather. I will be posting more about China – I had misplaced my DVD of China photos but (lucky for you all) I just found it! πŸ™‚

  5. Yes – it sure seems like that sometimes! πŸ™‚ I think I just married well! ha..ha… I have had some terrific experiences travelling with my husband.

  6. Purple Mtn was started in 1929 and operational by 1934. This one at Xuyi is a remote station which is fairly new and is not open to the public. Purple Mtn itself is now mostly a tourist destination and yes it does have some fascinating "things" on display. (I have posted some today). The "haze" in photos taken in China is usually just really bad pollution – though in these photos can be attributed to rainy weather as Xuyi is far enough from Nanjing to not be so badly affected by pollution – the difference in air quality was very noticeable.

  7. I used to get to travel more before I had my "wretched" green card! There was something quite nice about not being allowed to work here! I have been incredibly lucky.

  8. Aren't they great? They were the only things in the area that made an attempt at an English translation. Everyone around us was smoking all the time – except on the bus. In the hotel in Nanjing there was a sign requesting that you "not smoke in bed" … I don't think I took a photo of that. Nor did I take a photo of the exposed electricals coming out of the wall!

  9. LOL! Yeah – you don't really seem this Holiday Inn type …. no internet to start with! πŸ™‚ Fascinating experience though. When I realised that I was going to be on my own & isolated for 3 days, I scoured Nanjing looking for books in English – I went to a place like Borders (Chinese version) and found some in their foreign language section! They were locked up in a glass case!!! It was so funny – they were not great literary works – just your basic airport paperbacks. I bought 4 and was so glad I did even though they were way overpriced – and I suspect one or two might have been pre-read!

  10. Hi Sergio, yes I was very lucky – just like all the wonderful travels you have! It is an interesting experience to be someplace where you don't speak the language.

  11. Oh yes! It was like that!! I think that you would love China based on your other 13 travels! I hope you get there before the traditional China disappears and that is happening too quickly.

  12. Yes it is very interesting and you can have other feeling with the people. And even if they don't speak your langage there is something coming far away from the human communication pass through the body like when we were primitive.
    It is really a strong sensation of kindness you know that they have a lot of things to say without sophistication, simply directly to your eyes and heart.

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