Saturday, July 4: Lijiashan, China
8:15. We take two minivans back to the truck which is parked about 15km down the road, on the other side of two concrete barriers. Firecrackers and a marching band are a sure sign of a wedding in the small village we pass through. It’s never too early to set off firecrackers in China.
9:40. We stop at the ‘Suide Rest Area’ for a bathroom break. After visiting the men’s room I wonder if the sign should have read ‘Suicide Rest Area.’ It’s bad, but apparently not so bad as to deter women from walking right past two very long open troughs that serve as urinals and entering the stalls in the men’s room. Some women and girls giggle as they pass men lined up at the trough but they enter anyway. Some but not all opt to close the doors to their stalls.
14:40 We have checked into a decent hotel in Yan’an. Duncan fires up his laptop and attempts to stream a rugby match from New Zealand. I realize that the hotel wifi will be bogged down for a few hours so I wash t-shirts and socks in my sink. I actually find it therapeutic.
16:00 I head towards the city centre and stumble upon a shuttered Apple store. I find it hard to believe that Apple would have opened a store with cheap peal-and-stick floor tiles – Steve Jobs insisted on a particular hue of honed limestone – so it’s almost certain that this was a knock-off store that Apple discovered and closed a few years ago. There are posters on the walls for iPhone 5 and nothing else – another sign that it was a fake store selling fake phones but no laptops, iPads, etc.
17:00 I stroll through an underground mall that looks like one very large version of Honest Ed’s (a discount department store in Toronto). It’s very busy but not pretty.
17:30 After exiting the underground mall I find an outdoor market with about 50 produce and seafood dealers. After about 20 minutes in the market I’ve had my photo taken by no less than 20 people. At one point I start taking photos of the photographers and they giggle but carry on snapping my photo. When two trishaws come to an impasse in the narrow alley, I pick up and move a pole supporting an awing so that one of the vehicles can move forward. The crowd claps and more photos are taken.
21:15 I’ve been back to the hotel, met the others in my group, and ventured to the Night Market for street food. My stomach tells me that it’s had enough punishment for one wek so I settle on two McDonald’s-style strawberry sundaes for dinner. This isn’t ideal but it will ensure that I have no issues on a long drive day tomorrow.