Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Malaysia's Home in Inner China-A climbing traveloque

China had been long told for its sheer landscape beauty and various ethnic people with intellectual invention that were invented by them such as compass and gunpowder.(just to name a few).

Being a Muslim, it is written in the holy “Quran” to find knowledge and wisdom from as far as China.

In 2002, I was given the opportunity to follow my path to China. It was really unexpected as I had never thought that my climbing passion would take me there.
I was invited by the China Mountaineering Federation to participate in the First International Chongqing Cliff Climbing Competition.


Subsequently on the 29th of April 2002, I took flight to Guangzhou and another connecting flight to Chongqing, the 4th largest province in China.
The weather at Chongqing is cold like the highlands in Malaysia.. It is located by the Yangtze river and have an average of 30 millions people.. I can see lots of floating hotels by the river . I saw no foreigner on sight and i could even be the only Malays here. Lots of people stared at my dark tan skin as I sort of contrast from the public.

Chongqing is a big town and is having a speedy growth as a result of the three river gorges dam that was built near its town. I was told that soon, tourism industry will increase as huge cruise ships will be able to sail up to its town . Here, you can witness the meeting of modern and old traditions along its streets. There’s still food hawker that uses bamboo stack at their shoulder to carry foods and amenities in between the shops that sell high tech electronics devices.
I stayed at Jintai Hotel overlooking the river and after breakfast with climbers from other nation I was taken to the jetty of Chongqing town and took the ferry to sail upriver for 7 hours for the cliff competition venue.
Throughout the journey the ferry pass steep gorges and many small villages. Whenever theres a bridge built connecting the gorges , a small town is visible. The scenery was as perfect if not better than I had imagine of the inner china. Lots of caves along the gorges with bonsai tree sprouting from its cliff and water gushing out of the cave.

A few hours pass by and the haze was now at our altitude. Every time the ferry pass by a huge gorge, the scenery changed as if I’m leafing through a fairytale book. We reach a small town called Wu Jiang for lunch where I was interviewed by the CCTV representatives and were told by them that we are the first foreigners/climbers to be taken to Wu Jiang. Even some of the Chinese official have never been to this remote places in China. We continued our journey and I could see a lot of agriculture's activities along the river. Apples, and more apples orchard besides vegetables and orange were spread through along the delta rivers. These rivers were the source of life for the people living among them. Along these gorge I witness the ancient road that were built by digging through the rock cliff. These ancient road is as high as 3 meters and slightly wider than a bull cart. What amazed me more is that these so called ancient road was as long as I can remember. Whoah!

These Chinese are really ambitious people and always plan anything possible and do it even though it will take them a generation or two to finish it.! Respect!!
Finally at 5 pm I reached a small village by the river called Gong Tan. Estimated founded in 1743, it is a small village by the river in a place called Yuyang. The province is Chong Qing.These old village by the river is famous for its salt trade. In the old days, villagers from the other remote parts of the river will come to Gong Tan to get their supplies of salt. The altitude at Gong Tan was at 1100 feet.

We had a very warmth and surprising welcomed as the whole villagers wave with flags and waited for us along the rivers. I do feel very much appreciated !!
The view from our boat was breathtaking with whole villagers waving towards you while on the right there’s these huge 70 meters posters on these 150 meters cliff rock face of our cliff climbing competition venue. We were taken to our hotel located by the river, overlooking these beautiful cliffs and to top it all out we were the hotel’s first guest. I could have never imagine to have these type of privileges. Thank you China Mountaineering.!!

Another day passed and after a good breakfast we were taken for a tour along the old village of Gong Tan. These villages along the river were made of pine trees which dated back 260 years ago and some old ones are made without nails. Some of these old house can be as high as two storeys. The path between these beautiful houses were made of solid rocks that were stacked and arranged accordingly. I felt as though I was walking through a time tunnel taking me back to the old Chinese world.

After lunch at the hotel, it was free and easy. I took this opportunity to explore more of this village. In the middle of this village there s a small spring water that has been flowing ever since. They built a small pool out of it and believe me it tastes cold and fresh with a mild taste of sweetness. During my exploration, I was invited inside one of the villagers house. From the moment I enter, I could see the kitchen, bedroom and even the living room are all in one room. I sit at the living room and were serve Chinese tea and sesame seed snacks. I told them no “sek fun” which means no food please in Chinese. I was sitting with an old guy ,two middle ages man and an old lady. Neither of us can communicate since they do not speak or know English and my Chinese was very,very bad. They started showing me pictures of the mountains nearby, old coins and even old photos of their ancestors. Today, I experience that communication has no barriers.
We communicate a lot using gestures, sketches and photos. It was fun and we laughed together a lot. As I was about to leave, I was serve with a bowl of hot water with sugar and an egg boiled in it. These taste very strange to me but I manage to finish the bowl. I bid farewell to my new friends and went back to the hotel.

Competition Day

The small village had been overcrowded by peoples from other villages that came to witness us!! News about the competition were being aired live on China TV network. I witness a colourful opening ceremony with dances ,performances and fireworks.
I was to be lucky climber number two. I will be competing with the world top climbers such as Chris Sharma and Tommy Caldwell of USA, Lee Jae Young of Korea and Roman Bagirov of Russia just to name a few. The route to climb is a 50 meter of rock face and there’s a time limit. I climbed up till 45 meters during the time I was asked to stop. The route is not hard ,maybe 6C but the condition of the wet rock as a result of raining the previous night with a time limit of 5 minutes makes it more challenging, there is even a bolt ladder section on one overhanging rock. As predicted Chris Sharma emerged the winner.

Next day was rest day and all the climbers were taken to a place named Youyang which is a 2 and half hours bus ride. The view along the countryside was breathtaking with padi fields, vegetables and fruits orchards as far as the eye can see. The morning breeze haze was always at our altitude. Our bus traveled along and through ancient dug out tunnels alongside limestone's hill and gorges. We were very lucky indeed since during the 1st till 7th of May, it is a public holiday in China and almost every province had some kind of festival. We got to witness the colourful hand waving dance.
We were also taken to a place called “tao hwa yuan”, its and old Buddhist temple with tea houses. First you enter a huge entrance of limestone cave, and once you’re inside you witness the towering limestone towering around you just like the coliseum in ancient Greece. I climbed the steps up the limestone's hill to an ancient tea house and further up the hill to an entrance of another cave with curtains of water flowing from the top. Awesome!!

We were back in our hotel for dinner and were told that tomorrow we are going back to ChongQing town for our wall climbing competition.
I spend my last night exploring Gong Tan village and was invited for folk dancing with them .The dance was a bit like ballroom and poco poco. It was really fun and interesting to be able to have fun with no racism or language barrier involved. World without strangers indeed!! Almost the whole villagers join in ….old lady and men, young lady and men, boatmen/boat women, small kids and even grandma and grandpa.
About 20 villagers accompany me back to my hotel. Even though I only knew them for a day or two, I will remember and missed them . Goodbye and thank you for all the kindness and hospitality given. Only God will repay for all of their kindness and I do hope I will get to visit them again someday.

Next morning before we leave the whole staff of the hotel had a photo session with each of the competing nation. However,I was not on the picture as I was out early in the morning jogging along the old village breathing the fresh air but I do get to sign my national flag for them. The hotel manager told us that they will frame and hang the flag and photos as a gesture that "Malaysians" will always be welcome and have another home in these remote part of China.

Yes, I do feel at Home indeed!!
Malaysia ,we have another home here!!.
“The Beautiful Riverview Village of Gong Tan.”.