On this part of the journey, China presents its large cities! We travel from Guangzhou to the capitol of Peking, passing Huangyao and Guilin. Impressive limestone mountains characterize the South Chinese landscape. No matter where we go, it seems that there are always 100.000 tourists there before us.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - Today we drove from Wuhan to Kaifeng. I already mentioned that Chinese drivers most probably know a few traffic rules, perhaps even all of them. And pedestrians, especially at zebra crossings and on pavements, are thought to be an extreme nuisance to Chinese drivers.
Jürgen had warned us: "Never stop when a pedestrian is stepping on a zebra crossing, it could be their death sentence!" So we have experienced it: Ingo stops, the pedestrian steps on the road, and the car behind us passes us showing no mercy and speeds over the zebra crossing. But our Chinese pedestrian sensed that it was a trap that Ingo had accidentally set and thus survived the daily adventure unharmed.
We arrive in Kaifeng in the evening and visit the night market. There, we marvel at the Chinese noodle pullers who are very artistic with their dough. ... It was the finest Chinese dinner.
Thursday, February 21, 2013 - Kaifeng is situated by the Yellow River. A Swiss newspaper once called it the "offside imperial city", since an imperial dynasty ruled here a long time ago. Also, because the city has not been plastered with high rises yet. We shoot in a stinking street. That is the same street that turns into a culinary market at night, into one of the most famous in China, mind you. The street then offers the most distinct scents, sweet, aromatic, unknown, wondrous, but also peculiar.
The streets are packed at dinner time between 6 - 8 p.m., everywhere is being cooked. The odour is extreme. But a true Chinese probably thinks that a Harz cheese stinks, as well. Anyhow, I can report that after shooting on the night market of Kaifeng we had two cases of indigestion in our expanded travel group.
Friday, February 22, 2013 - The planned two hour trip to Dengfeng turned out to be five due to an unplanned flying visit to Zhengzhou. It is also a megacity, and this tower reminds us of home! The trip takes longer because of the many obligatory stops: the indigestion from yesterday is leaving its trace.
We shoot in a Shaolin school and are impressed by their discipline and perfection. Even the youngest are full of vigour. I think that soon Shaolin will attain a ® as a registered trademark. Because there is a lot of arguing over the name Shaolin. Why? Because you can make a fortune with it. Really! Every former active Shaolin warrior monk opens his or her own Kung-Fu school in Dengfeng.... with thousands of disciples, no lie.
I feel sorry for the little children. The atmosphere in the schools is like that of a Prussian military base. Who needs so many Kung-Fu fighters? The film industry? The sector of night watchmen? The bouncer scene? But perhaps I am unfair. It is surely a wonderful thing to break wooden boards using your head.
Saturday, February 23, 2013 - On our way to Shijiazhuang we briefly stop at a Shaolin monastery. The highway was empty, so we were already in a city hotel in the evening. Shijiazhuang is the capitol of the province of Hebei, and the major part of the city is brand new.
Monday, February 25, 2013 - Today was another day off and each went his own way. We all met coincidentally in front of the Forbidden City, where the imperial palace is located. We were channelled through several back doors and separate paths into this unique cultural site. Suddenly we stood in the forecourt of the imperial palace. Exactly there, where usually thousands of tourists step on each other's feet. We were let into the Forbidden City on a closed day. No guards, no porters, no one to tear off the entrance ticket, no one. Even the emperor of China has never seen his palace like this. It was a very memorable event to me.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - Today we are shooting at the fire station No. 45. One must know that the fire department here is part of the Chinese military. I ask if any Western television team has ever had an insight into the everyday life of the Peking fire department before, the Chinese official says: no, not one! And nothing was tense on this day of shooting. They quickly got used to us and were helpful with everything. The whole fire department was tuned into us. Just not during alarm, which we had twice. Once we even made it keeping pace with them. Gregor was the emergency driver. Respect, Gregor!
The fire station has one special feature: A very detailed model of the station with little figures affectionately made out of catkin with glued on bug limbs.
Friday, March 1, 2013 - In the morning it was freezing cold but sunny. The wind seems to come from Siberia. Today was our last chance to get a few city shots of Peking, and Thomas laboured hard. But most of the time was spent trying to get through the traffic of Peking. But we were successful, nevertheless.
Our Chinese escort even managed for us to be able to shoot our long shots from the tops of the high rises, even though all high rises were closed off due to some political event. The police is very present in some special martial outfit, not to be overseen these days. Now part 8 of our farEAST project is completed. Yes, I admit I sense a bit of melancholy. Who or what will I miss? China? The travelling? The two vans? Most certainly I will miss my - a nice old word for that - companions.
Now I will have dinner, Peking duck as a welcome. There, I will hand over the pen for the travel diary to the next author, Britta-Susann Lübke.
Dear diary readers, I hope that I haven't bored you all too much. I would love for you to also see the film later on. Until then I send heartfelt greetings, your Christian Klemke