Laura and JM left Beijing for their long trip back to Kentucky on Saturday morning. Dad and I left just a half an hour before they did for Yanji, my city. We didn't do anything too exciting in Yanji. Just shopped for a microwave (Dad's gift to me) and ping pong paddles (Dad's gift to himself). We went to a bath house, a Sunday meeting, and to a few different restaurants to get a taste of Yanji.
Like I mentioned before though, we did visit a nature reserve that's about 5 hours away by bus. In most tour books, Yanji is only mentioned as a gateway to this nature reserve, Chang Bai Shan. When Dad found out that it was five hours away, he suggested spending the night. The tour book said that buses leave from Yanji at 5.30 am, but it's a little old, so we thought they might have added a time since then.
Anyhow, Monday morning, we packed a little bag (me thinking we would likely stay in Yanji that night and leave the next morning) and went to the bus station to find out what times the buses left. It was still just that one time. Dad was obviously not ready to give up. He looked for other towns we could go to. In the guide book, it said we could go from a small town named Erdaobaihe near the reserve. So, I asked again and got tickets on the next train to this town. The lady didn't speak Korean, so this was a challenge in itself. We used our remaining time to get a drink and some supplies for the next day's hike.
On the bus, we ended up sitting next to a girl who had come all the way from Nanjing (South China) with her friend to hike up the mountain and see the Heavenly Lake. Dad struck up a conversation with her while I took a nap. The two friends from Nanjing ended up being very friendly. When we got to our destination to stay for the night, we followed them to a small hotel where we stayed for only 20 yuan (about $2.50) a night per person. I don't know if we could have gotten that rate on our own or not, but we were happy about it. We went with the girls to a Korean barbecue restaurant and had a nice dinner together before going to bed early.
We got up early on Tuesday to meet a driver connected with our hotel who took us to the entrance to the reserve. The two girls and a Korean couple were with us on the bus. Once inside the reserve, we had to take another bus to the hiking trail up to the waterfall and the lake.
The hike is mostly up a LONG flight of stairs next to a waterfall that is partially enclosed in a tunnel. You can see the stairs as the light brown line to the right and above the waterfall in this picture.
It took us about an hour to make it all the way to the top where there is a beautiful clear volcanic crater lake. When I came here last summer, the weather was pretty awful, which made the hike more slippery and the view less spectacular. This time, though, the sky was beautifully clear. You can see how clear the water is with pebbles on the bottom.
We ate our lunch (packaged sausages, a cucumber, and an apple)next to the lake, took in the view as much as possible and headed back down.
At the bottom, we stopped at the natural hot springs where they boil eggs and heat up sausages and corn to sell at high prices. We bought eggs and they were tasty!
Dad opted for a bath in the hot springs bath house and I, the cheapskate, waited. The price to get in was eight times what I pay in Yanji, so I didn't think it was worth it.
The bus we wanted to take left at 4:00. I started to get restless when it was around 3:15-3:30 and Dad hadn't come out yet. So, I asked the guy at the desk if the tall foreign guy was still down there. He said he was and he was on his way up. He came up around 3:45. He had forgotten that we had to take a bus to the entrance of the reserve to catch the bus home. So, we missed that bus, and we were both sort of resigned to spending another night in our little hotel.
The guy who had dropped us off in the morning was back, waiting for people to take back to the hotel, and I asked him if there were any buses to Yanji that day. I was speaking Chinese, which I actually don't speak in sentences, just words. Somehow, my intention got across to him and the next thing we knew, after speeding down the road a little too quickly for comfort (I'm past the idea of being comfortable when anyone in China drives anyhow), we had caught up to one of the buses headed to Yanji. We got on, took the last two seats (one guy got on after us had to sit on a bucket) and settled in for an uncomfortable ride home. Dad had to sit sideways since his legs are quite a bit longer than the average Chinese. I fit, but had bruises on my kneecaps the next day. We had told the two girls that we would see them again on the bus, but since we missed the bus and then caught up with some random tour bus, we missed seeing them.
Back in Yanji, we got off at the first stop the bus made, found a place for dinner, and took a taxi home. We spent the next day hanging out on campus and got a surprise call in the afternoon from our two friends! Dad had loaned one of them medicine for a burn and they had found us (based on what little information we left them with) to return it. We had a fun little reunion in my room sharing pictures and chatting before they had to go catch their train home.
P.S. I just changed the comments so that anonymous users can comment. You don't have to have a blogger account. I don't know if that is keeping anyone from commenting or not, but now there's no excuse!