A hilltop pagoda in the middle of a national forest is a good place read The Jungle Book out loud to one another. Reading stories to each other is something we’ve done since before we were married (started with the Hobbit).
Our friends got married this weekend in Jixian (蓟县), a county to the north of Tianjin near the mountains and the Great Wall, so we ditched the first day of classes and spent two nights in a guest house in the Nine Dragon Mountain National Forest Park (九龙山国家森林公园). We finally 放假ed (took a vacation). (Hey kids: When you ditched your summer break to take summer classes, you’re allowed to ditch the first day of the semester to take a long weekend away with your wife!)
We needed the break: from classes, the city, the noise, the air… I’d literally forgotten how blue the sky could be. Tianjin city has the odd blue sky day (the whole region was especially clear this weekend), but it’s only blue when looking up; even on the clearest days in the city the blue dissolves into a light rust-ish colour on the horizon over the buildings. But in the hills we could smell the trees instead of cars, and the sky was bold and undiluted, with real, thick, white, shape-shifting clouds instead of the gray wispy smudges we usually see.
The second night we were the only guests in the entire place (30 some odd rooms). The chef just cooks whatever you want. The rooms was clean enough, probably somewhere between a cheap motel and camping. It cost us $70 for the entire weekend, including food and transportation there and back. It was Jessica’s first time to ride an old-school train. All we did was eat, sleep, and play in the forest-covered hills.
The place was full of weird bugs, especially big spiders that would shake their web at you (video) (I didn’t know spiders did that), massive butterflies, and praying mantises, which I’d never seen before. The mantises apparently don’t fear people; it was kind of unnerving, because they still turn to look at you. And some of them are huge. We saw the fattest snake I’ve ever seen outside of a zoo. It was sunning itself on a bench and lazily slid away when it felt us coming. That thing surely eats rabbits, and maybe even small children who skip school. There were caterpillars like I’d never seen, and even some of those big armoured beetles with the giant pincers.
It was too bright for the camera to get good scenery photos, but there are a couple in the Nine Dragon Mountain photo gallery, along with a pile of gross insect pictures. (Warning: the macro shot of the praying mantis eating the moth guts is suuuper gross.)
I don’t think I’ve ever been stared down by a bug before.