We woke up to huge skyscrapers outside our window. Our first site of this incredible city was breath taking. Massive towers of various heights crammed in between the surrounding mountains that soared over the bay. We cleared customs and set off in search of a travel company that could assist us in booking some flights. I had yet to decide what I was doing or where I was going, the only thing I knew is that I was going to find some fish in a country that not one person, website, or lonely planet even mentions the fact that fishing as a sport is even a possibility. I searched the web for days, and contacted a number of people and companies while they all had the same response, “there really isn’t any fishing in China.” I wasn’t convinced. Take a look at the map of China. There are mountains, rivers, and lakes everywhere, and the country is humongous. There has to be fish somewhere! Well I was in for a rude awakening.
At the travel company I asked the lady who spoke okay English if she knew anything about fly-fishing. After she gave me an expression of much confusion she said, “I know nothing what you talk about, I think there no fishing in China.” While I was starting to get discouraged I proceeded to attempt to try to book a flight to Dali. A small town on the edge of the Himalayas that sounded awesome in the lonely planet and one internet site said they fish for green fish at night on some lake. It sounded pretty sweet, but didn’t have a clue what the hell a green fish was, but it said they get up to 40 KG which is pretty huge. So I spent about an hour trying to plan out a flight, going to a neighboring town Kumming, and then taking a tiny plane into Dali. I was torn, I didn’t know whether I wanted to take a chance and go to some random place, oh yea, it was about 100 KM from the Mekong River, which I’ve heard a lot about from the guys in India. I left the travel company’s office with out booking a flight; I needed some time to weigh my options. So many options, so little evidence supporting one or the other. It was either go to this random place, or head to Beijing to check out the great wall and pray that there is a river nearby because I did hear back home that there are nice rivers and steams near the wall, but the wall is so long and there are so many different parts who knows where they were referring to. After a meal and a beer I went back to the travel company yet to make a decision. I asked the lady if I could check out a map. I looked at a Map of Beijing and the surrounding area. There were a ton of rivers, all in and around Beijing and the great wall. Literally hundreds. That did it for me. It was half the price and probably less than half the hassle. So I booked it. For once I was doing what every other kid on this ship was doing I was going to Beijing.
I spent much of the afternoon pondering if I had made the right decision. I thought, dang, who knows what this Dali place could have been like, but sometimes you just can’t trust a guidebook especially when they mention fishing, because they rarely do and when they do the company they mention, so you never know, probably paid them. In the course of one afternoon I felt like I got to see a lot of Hong Kong.
The city was cluttered with these large billboards and signs covered in Chinese Characters.
We visited an electronics market which we heard was going to have really cheap prices but apparently we were at the wrong one because the prices weren’t anything special. After we headed for the tram to the top of a mountain. We paid a couple bucks and got in what looked like an old school trolley car.
It traveled up tracks set on a very steep angle. (this is crazy Dan Rand, he’s the man) At the top there were a couple look out spots then one on the top of big mall. I climbed up over this wall and set up my camera on the edge of about a 50 foot drop, yea it was a little sketchy but it was worth the footage I got.
I set up the camera and let it roll through one tape, from 30 min before the sunset to 30 min after, it should make an awesome time elapse shot.
That night Ian, Chris, and I headed to Lan Kwai Fong street. It’s the main party street in Hong Kong.
We checked out a couple bars along the street. It was a great scene, people sat outside the bars lined up the street and everyone could walk back and forth, across the narrow one-way street that was packed with cabs. We ended up going to a Russian bar that had an a little room titled “The Ice Bar.” The small room was covered in ice, the walls ceiling and floor all resembled ice, and it was real cold. So cold you could see your breath. They give out fur coats before you go in.
God we’re tough. We thought we were in the Russian mob.
After, we went downstairs to another bar that had a live band playing, there were a ton of semester at sea kids there and the band was awesome.
As you can see the band rocked. They were playing all sorts of great songs, Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys, and Nirvana, just to name a few. We liked it so much we started a mosh pit. The Asian people there didn’t have a clue and were probably real scared, but we were having a blast so hopefully no one got demolished.
This is how the night ended from right to left: Chris was puking (what a wuss) Ian was cheering him on still drinking (he needs AA in his life) then Adam (another buddy of mine from CU) either fell on the ground or was just taking a rest.
I woke up early and caught my flight my flight to Beijing. Chinese customs took forever.
I headed to a hotel and called one of the many “adventure” travel companies I had found in Beijing. The lady spoke good English but once again didn’t have a clue about any fishing. I tried to explain to her that I wanted to hire a guide that could take me hiking, maybe camping in the backcountry near the great wall. She said the water was really low at this time of the year. Great, just what I wanted to hear. She kept bringing up these fishponds. Where fish are raised and you can fish for them and pay for what you catch. I told her I definitely didn’t want to do that. She called a couple guides, then got back to me. Finally we set something up. I got a guide, a driver, for two days and one night leaving early the next morning. I was happy to have set something up with such short notice.
You can’t visit Beijing with out eating the infamous Beijing Roast Duck. So I teamed up with another independent traveler, and we took a cab across town to what was supposedly the best one in town The Hepingmen Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant.
We decided we wanted to order one roast duck, and some appetizers. We flipped through the laminated pages of the menu and looked at the pictures and descriptions. Everything looked real weird and different, so we figured why not order something weird and different.
So we ordered Jelly fish
and mustard webbed duck feet.
The pictures on the menu looked a lot better than what we got. I always brag that I love everything. I tried the webbed duck feet first, while filming I pinched one with my chopsticks and stuck the whole thing in my mouth. I was expecting it to be hot but it was cold. I crunched my teeth down on a bunch of bones and slimy skin. Nearly gagging I struggled to finish chewing and swallow. They’re very few if any things that I haven’t liked or tolerated to eat in my entire life. Honestly, I love to eat, and I love to eat almost everything. Well I now have officially found two things that I do not like. Mustard webbed duck feet and jellyfish. I hoped the jellyfish would have been better. Nope, again they were cold and served in a vinegary sauce. They too were very crunchy and slimy. Again I wanted to gag and couldn’t bare the taste and texture in my mouth. I always feel obligated to finish any food left on the table, so I continued to eat both, but after a couple more bites I just couldn’t do it. It was too disgusting. I used to think I would do real well on those fear factor eating challenges, but now, I think I’m going to go ahead and wuss out. I’ll stick to chicken wing eating contests.
On the other hand the fried springs rolls were very good and the roast duck was incredible. A chef rolled out a cart with a full golden brown roasted duck displayed on a cutting board. (It reminded me of the Christmas Story) The tall Chinese chef carefully and diligently sliced up the duck while I filmed. I think they thought it was rude that I was filming, the chef seemed a little mad, while the waiters and waitresses stared at me. Maybe they hadn’t seen a camera as big as mine, or a man as large as I am. I don’t know, but I didn’t care because I had to get this great footage, plus we couldn’t communicate with any of them because there are very few people in China that speak English.
I woke up early and my guide Lee arrived right on time. On the contrary he did not only speak English, but pretty good English. We loaded up the driver’s luxury sedan (not quite what I had expected to drive to the mountains in) and set off. We stopped at a grocery store for food and drinks for the day. I tried to get as much info about fishing out of Lee as possible but he had the same things to say. The rivers are real low, so we can fish in the fishponds or in some mountain reservoirs. The reservoirs were the only hint to some potential fishing.
After a couple hour drive we reached our first destination. Our plan was to hike up this canyon and check out the river.
This was the entry gate to the canyon.
Surrounded by high rocky walls the arid canyon was filled with rocks. I was a bit disappointed when I saw the river.
If you even want to call it a creek.
We hiked up about a mile or so. The creek was a big disappointment but the surrounding canyon was awesome.
Lee and I
Lee explained that he had a couple other places in mind so we left after about an hour hike.
Next he took me to the reservoir. We drove through rural China where Lee had to constantly stop to ask local farmers for help in navigated to our destination. We finally made it through some villages up to the base of the mountains. He hiked up about 200 yards to a great looking reservoir. Lee said it was called Yanqihu ( which means: yan-wild goose, qi- habitat, hu-lake sounds pretty sweet, wild goose lake habitat), It was small, but Lee explained to me that the locals had told him there are decent size fish in there. So I was excited to get a line in the water. I threw on my sink line and began to cast from the damn where there was a wall with a gap in the middle so it was perfect to cast from. I worked the salty bugger pattern for a long while. I worked everywhere from about 5 feet depth to letting my fly sink all the way to the bottom. Lee had never fished in his life and was amazed by what I was doing. I showed him my flies and he goes “whoooooa” in his Chinese accent. When I started to cast he kept applauding me when I’d make a long one. “Ohhhhhhhhh! Nice one!” It was nice to have him cheer me on. After about an hour of fishing from the damn we decided to have lunch and then check out the other side. We hiked along the high rocky cliffs surrounding the reservoir to find the other side was very shallow and not suitable to cast from with the brush and high cliffs. Lee then explained to me that he knew of a great hike we could do that went up into the mountains where we could explore parts of the original great wall. I asked “Any rivers up there?” I think he had heard this question a few to many times. He replied “No I do not think so.” I said, Oh well, lets do it.
The hillsides looked like they were covered in snow, but really it was hundreds of apricot trees in full bloom.
It was a beautiful site.
We set off. Lee pointed at the mountain where you could see many watch towers and the Great Wall rubble winding up through the mountain. He explained that we would be hiking up, through and over the huge mountain in front of us. No fishing but hiking through to the Great Wall got me real excited.
When we reached the top I got my first close look at a watchtower.
I understood why they chose this spot for a watchtower. You could see for miles.
Up close the apricot blossoms looked great.
We hiked 8 miles from Hefangkou to Shentangyu, which is a small mountain farming village. We arrived at the “farm house.” Which really was a small restaurant, store, motel, and farm all in one. I met the hosts, which spoke no English. They already had started to prepare dinner for us.
Counter clockwise from the bottom: green beans, fresh vegetables (cucumbers, lettuce, and green onions) I forgot what the white stuff was, above was corn meal cakes and rice, then eggs with chopped green onions in it, pork with green peas, then in the middle is pork with mushrooms. The meal was served with green tea that was very hot. They pour tea a lot different than we do. They pour the hot water into an empty cup, and then just put the bare leaves into the water. When ever you want more you just add more water and it still tastes good.
The food all had distinct tastes but at the same time it all was somewhat bland. I don’t think they use many spices and seasonings, but one thing I did like is that they served a ton of it. So much that us 3 (Lee, the driver, and I) couldn’t finish, sorry no clean plate club this time. This meal could of easily fed 10 people. I was completely stuffed and very tired after dinner so I hit the sack. They had nice little rooms with furniture and bedding straight out of the 80’s. To my surprise the bed was very stiff. So I gathered all the pillows and cushions from the furniture and piled them up. It was a probably the sweetest idea ever.
I set up a very early wake up with Lee. We were in the car heading to another reservoir by 5 AM. We drove down through a small valley on a road that was set next to a river, but not really a river. Every 100 feet or so was a man made damn forming pools or as Lee called them, fishponds. They were built next to buildings where the fishpond businesses were run. Lee explained that the locals damn up the river then raise fish to sell. People come and fish and pay for what they catch. As we drove by, there was damn after damn with no natural river flow. It really got to me, the fact that some day a long time ago this was probably a beautiful free flowing river. The surrounding area was gorgeous but this river was completely depleted of its natural existence. This was a crappy way to start the day. We drove across a bridge and I asked to stop so I could look down into the “river.” The first thing I saw was a nice fat carp right below. I told Lee to grab the camera and keep an eye on that fish while I rigged up. After I was ready the fish had disappeared. So we got some footage of me fishing anyway. I got no action but everyone who passed by look at me like I was and idiot while some stopped and watched, I am used to people staring at me waving my stick at this point. So it was no big deal, but I asked Lee to get some shots of the peoples reactions. It was good fun besides the fact that it was freezing.
We got in the car to warm up and headed to a large reservoir down stream. It didn’t look promising, there weren’t any good spots to cast and it was very very cold. The warmest clothes I brought on this trip were a long sleeve shirt and a rain jacket. So you can imagine how freezing I was. So we made a collective decision to head back warm up, have breakfast then do another hike up to the wall.
So we did, we hiked up a mountain near the farmhouse where the wall ran along the mountain’s horizon. We reached a point where the trail disappeared into the brush. We were already halfway up the mountain and Lee wanted to go back down and try to find the trail (he hadn’t been this route before, the owner of the farm house recommended it) Lee and I disagreed for a while, I really didn’t want to hike back down when the wall was 100 yard ahead. A little brush can’t be too bad. So Lee ended up wussing out while I made it to the top having no problem. It was nice because I got to spend about 15 minutes sitting on top of the Great Wall of China by myself. Remember this is the original great wall, most sections tourists visit are re-stored, and that’s why they look so perfect. Well this section hadn’t been touched for about 500 years.
Finally Lee made it to the top when…..
It started snowing!
Lee was way more excited than I was, and I was real excited. He explained that it never snow’s in April. He kept saying “we lucky.”
Then it started to snow really hard.
So then I started a snowball fight with Lee. It was pretty fun. I was in China on the Great Wall having a snowball fight with my new hiking buddy. Pretty sweet.
After we were soaked so our hosts had some dry clothes waiting for us.
They taught me how to make dumplings. It was obvious which ones were mine because all of them were perfectly put together then mine were all mangled and deformed. This jacket they gave me was probably the biggest they had. It was 9 XL, yea that’s XXXXXXXXXL, and it still was to small.
Once again they served us tons of food. It was great after a long wet hike.
This time we all were members of the clean plate club.
After the great lunch we said our goodbyes and headed back to Beijing. I checked into a very cheap but nice hotel that Lee recommended. We then found a place to eat dinner and after I said my goodbyes to Lee.
I flew to Qindao to meet the boat. It was the last night in China so we made some big plans to go big. So out of all the bars we could have gone to we decided to go to the New York Club. We came all the way to China to go to the New York Club. Personally I didn’t want to go but it was a group decision (I’m a team player)
I was a good choice, as soon as we walked in we saw that they had a live band and within minutes of sitting down we found out that they had a bottle deal, if you buy one you get one free. And the bottles were only 60 bucks. (Most bars they are like 200)
Devin (Lenny’s lost twin) with our 3 bottles. We found out that it was buy one get two free. Probably the sweetest deal in the world.
Ian told this dude that I played American Football. He said “you very big man” and took of his shirt and tried to compare muscles with me. It was hilarious; he had one to many buy one get two free bottles.
Once again a Chinese band that totally rocked. So much that these guys Jon and Dan (Jon and Dan were previously seen in Brazil, South Africa entry and Dan earlier in the tram) Moments later they did some stage diving.
And the usual crowd surfing and moshing. When this group of guys gets together we always end up in a mosh pit, and its always the most fun ever. We introduced it to the kids in Brazil and now to 2 sweet rock bands in China. They think we are crazy but we’re just having fun right?
After a long night of dancing and bar hoping we ended up at a little restaurant.
We had these awesome BBQ skewers that were real spicy.
We met some Korean dudes that taught English in China.
They were really cool and spoke good English. They ended up buying some beers and Ian claims they paid for our food, but I don’t remember.
To our surprise it was daylight when we came out of the restaurant. After comparing my taekwondo skills with the Koreans we headed back to the ship.
We were docked in an industrial area where Chinese men were shoveling rocks out of a train into these crates. At the end there was an empty crate and shovel. A China man must have taken the day off, so Ian and I filled in. They appreciated the help from us hard working Americans.
We spent the day walking around Qindao shopping and whatnot. It was freezing and I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt so I was on a search for something warm to buy, not to mention the endless stares and glares we got from everyone.
The Highlight of the day was a visit to the Tsingtao brewery. Blake and Vinny were wusses and didn’t want to do the tour so we just sat there and drank some beers. Germans settled in Qindao back in the day made a bunch of breweries then left. At least they left something good.
China is one of the most economically stable countries in the world, but at the same time they are depleting their resources rapidly. I found this out with the fishing. I think they need more regulations on development as well environmental programs to conserve and protect their natural resources. For such a big country to have only one natural river that isn’t damned in the whole country is a frightening thought. Hopefully something will be done soon.