We got up super early in Phuket… taking a taxi (15min) to a van (4.5 hours) to a bus (1.5 hours) to a ferry (2 hours) to a jeep (35min) to our bungalow on the beach on the north-eastern coast of Koh Phangan island, in a village called Haad Thong Nai Pan. Interestingly enough, the most expensive part of the journey was that 15 min taxi ride.
We were on a mission to check out the full-moon party going on in Haad Rin later that night… but Koh Phangan is a seriously beatiful island, much smaller and much much much less crowded than Koh Samui next door. Well worth a visit.
I updated my Chongqing 101 post (October 31, 2009) with 13 new images… check ‘em out!
(* Taoist proverb)
Thought I’d share some stories from my days in Chongqing. If you just want the photos, check below for the previous post.
I was picked up at the airport by a Taoist (Taoism/Daoism are the same, just difference pronunciation) volunteer/disciple/monk who although had GPS in his car, didn’t have a clue on how to get back to the monastery. It was one of the scariest drives I’ve ever been on, considering we stopped on the highway three times. He would then get out of the car and go running off into the bushes to ask for someone, anyone for directions. When I say “stopped on the highway“, I literally mean that… not on the shoulder, not pulled off to the side, but in the middle of the lane (and there were only 2 lanes). I felt like a sitting duck as cars, buses, and trucks came whizzing past all honking and flashing their lights. We also picked up a hitchhiker to help us part of the way (who we had to pay 20RMB for his troubles). When we finally got into the mountains and to the monastery I understood why he couldn’t find it… there’s no way in hell I could ever find it again either. It was about a 2.5 hour drive that time, when it should have been more like 45minutes.
The monastery itself was tranquil and beautiful, located in the Wudu (“foggy”) Mountains I understood the name immediately. I was greeted with amazing spicy food, from chicken and beef, to liver and strange vegetables. As well as a home-made rice wine, which was made only from local rice and fresh mountain water they collected right by the monastery. I met many of the monks, although most keep quiet and to themselves… learning almost instantly to cup my left hand over my right with thumbs parallel, giving a slight bow and saying “wu liang shou fu” (blessings, and may peace be with us).
“Cupping of the hands represents a ‘taiji’ symbol (ying & yang), which symbolizes the whole universe in harmony, linking our sincerity and heart to the whole cosmos.”
I was there to document the monastery as a whole and to photograph the annual Ceremony of the Protector (the last several images from this post, below). Also scheduled was a annual auction of Chinese antiquities from pottery and statues to stamps and scrolls… all of which have been donated over the year by Taoist followers. These followers wear white shirts, whereas the “professional” (ie-fully devoted) Taoists wear black or navy blue.
I also had the honor of meeting Mr. Lee, actually one of the most important religious figures in China. A quiet and sweet man said to have amazing abilities including healing the sick with electrical currents. I had been having tremendous back-pain for over a week (Chinese airline seats do not help!), had visited the hospital in Shanghai and received muscle relaxants and pain killers (did no good). He was to administer his healing powers, but I admitted to my fears of becoming paralyzed. Instead we opted for the more “traditional” Shaolung method… which involved a intense full-body massage with slapping, chopping, rubbing, and the release of stress through pressure points. To say it hurt would be a understatement. Then I was to find out what it felt like to become a human teabag (see image below). I was put into a incredibly hot bath filled with herbs, spices, and blessed mountain-water., after which I was laid on another bed and made to rest… still covered in what I can only refer to as tea-particles. I can not honestly say my back is healed (I still have aches to this day), but it did alleviate 80% of the pains.
Anyway, most of the trip is documented in the photos, as I could continue writing endlessly about the events that took place but hopefully my images are worth a thousand words.
The only other thing I would like to mention is CKG; Chongqing aiport… considering I spent too many hours there. I arrived just before 5pm to find that 30+ flights were delayed (many supposed to have left between 6-11am), not to mention the fact that there were still 5 flights supposed to leave from my gate before me. I knew what was going to happen. What a chaos it became, people yelling and screaming… sitting/sleeping everywhere, and not a single person in that entire airport (staff included) who knew what was going on. Sure, it was a little foggy outside and raining, but not that bad. I have landed in typhoons, on snow, super dense fog, and this was nothing to write home about (although now, I’m writing about it on my blog ). At just past 9pm, my 7:10pm flight was delayed 20min and said to depart at 7:30 (which was 1.5hrs ago)… so obviously no one knew what was going on. There were also surprisingly little foreigners around, those several hours I spotted maybe 8, luckily for me I randomly met an Aussie about my age who was also trying to get to Shanghai, although he was supposed to have left around noon. We witnessed a riot-starter, who was chanting something and then having everyone else reply… it was quite the scene, especially when both police and military police showed up to shut him down.
Well, around 1am the obvious news came that our flights were canceled… We somehow managed to get our hotel coupons and find the right bus (don’t ask me how, with all the pushing and yelling, I still do not know how we managed it so well). More pushing and shoving later we were on the bus for almost an hour at some dodgy hotel (the lobby was on the 4th floor, the rooms were on floors 1-3 & 5-6). To make a long story short, we were back at CKG around 8am the next morning (with double the fog density), and I finally took-off around 1pm. I had never been so happy for a plane to leave the ground. I have flown 1000+ hours and visited some 28 countries across the world without a single cancellation… something tells me this is just the beginning of another adventure.
Bring it on.
(apologies for the quality of the photos, they were all taken with my phone)
I am back from Chongqing (pronounced tchong-ching)!
I took 800+ images of a Taoist monastery in the Wudu mountains (“foggy mountains”) in the Beibei district north of the city, truly a great experience. Not even my return flight through hell could diminish the amazing experience. I was supposed to fly out of CKG at 19:10, but didn’t leave until 13:00 the following day… “bad weather”. No worries however, as the verbal arguments, physical altercations, and riot-starters kept me amused.
The last couple images show the Ceremony of the Protector (the only religious ceremony I was allowed to photograph), the fog/mist mystically amplified the mysterious mood (!).
I am currently in the process of creating a 2010 desk calendar, roughly 500 will be printed and all proceeds will benefit the monastery.
ps- Happy Halloween!
I met up with a buddy yesterday and we aimlessly hit up SH, meeting at People’s Square and walking east down Nanjing towards the river, grabbing some dumplings then catching a ferry over to Pudong and hitting up the Jin Mao Tower. We had wanted to go up the SWFC, but weren’t about to drop 150RMB for the experience. We figured we didn’t have to spend 70RMB for the JMT either, as we could just walk into the Grand Hyatt (the hotel that occupies the top 35 stories) as “hotel guests”. We were right.
Standing from inside the Jin Mao, I had forgotten how unsettling it was to stand there and look down all those hollow stories, the spiraling balconies don’t help either.
One picture also shows the footprint for the 632m (2073ft) Shanghai Tower set for 2014 completion and designed by Gensler (a nice video can be found on their website).
One thing that I think is kind of funny, is how back-in-the-day all the tallest buildings were in Europe, then they all moved to North America, and now Asia. China/Hong Kong/Taiwan as of right this moment account for 6 of the top 10, Malaysia has 2, the US has 1, and I hear there’s a beast of a building in Dubai. Europe’s tallest on the other hand, comes in at #89… and it isn’t even in “Europe-Europe”, it’s in Moscow.
To put it in perspective, the Shanghai Tower will be 3.5x taller than the London Gherkin or almost 2x that of New York City’s Chrysler Building. I’m pretty excited to witness the birth of a crazy structure (I gave up on the Freedom Tower).
This blog will begin shortly… images, stories, and general nonsense about a lonely Belgian-American photographer-extraordinaire and his relocation from Brooklyn to Shanghai.