Travelling solo can be a daunting task for even the most veteran explorers. It offers up rewards unavailable to going with a group, or even a couple. While it is not for everyone, it is my preferred way to visit places, because while it can be lonely at times, and accommodation generally costs a bit more it also invites meeting new people.
My recent five days in Luoyang, Henan graced me with multiple new people; some fast friends, some day adventurers and some utter pricks. That’s the brilliance and risk of going it alone.
Here now are the most memorable people I met during my five days in Luoyang, as well as the two most memorable for all the wrong reasons.
The Kid on the Hill
Up at the Shaolin Temple I opted to hike a well paved mountain trail, the most frightening thing I saw during my whole time in Henan Province would be a 12 year old boy walking down the mountain, clearly in shock, his father and uncle holding his jaw in place in addition to some medical tape strung up over his face. Clearly this kid had fallen and slammed his chin onto one of the multitude of rocks. If that jaw isn’t broken, he’s a very lucky kid all told.
Shaolin Sword and silence kid.
A Quiet Walk and a Shaolin Sword
The mountain hike proved longer than expected, the rope bridge never seemed to appear. Finally cresting the summit of the mountain I realized one, this wasn’t the real apex of the range and that the cool looking hiking spot took another 3-4 hours to complete. Being as it was already 5PM, the thought of walking along a precarious trail at 8PM at night in China in the dark didn’t appeal. Instead I backtracked down the path (something I hate doing to be honest) and happened to meet a young man with some English but who happily walked in silence beside me. The scarcity of silence in a land of 1.3 Billion people made for a truly pleasant quiet walk.
Then he wanted me to meet his parents and the father insisted on buying a picture of the three of us together and giving me a wooden Shaolin sword. Not souvenirs I’d have selected for myself but appreciated due to the circumstances.
The Russian Trio
I got noticed in Henan, where the foreigner population dips dramatically from around Nanjing University area where I reside. At Longmen Caves and Shaolin Temple lots of people snapped photos of me, but that was a pittance compared to how many pics a pair of blonde Russian girls received due to being… blonde. The fact that one of them was over six feet with spiral curls only added to the allure. We struck up a conversation and eventually enjoyed a late dinner in Luoyang before I helped them catch a train to Xi’an. Too bad, a night out in Luoyang with a blonde amazonian Russian would have been epic.
After the Donkey Soup.
Donkey Soup Morning
“Do you want to try Donkey Soup for breakfast?” No but YES! And so it happened that TauGi and struck up an unlikely friendship. We dined on Donkey, then went to the (wrong) museum, then the right museum where I learned the long and impressive history of Luoyang, the capital for over five Chinese Dynasties! His English proved great and he’s spent two months touring China before he returns to Fuyian Province to settle down with his long term girlfriend. He caught a train at 2PM, so we enjoyed some lunch as well, which wasn’t nearly as memorable as donkey.
Creating art in 10 minutes? Having a better phone than me? Easily sketching out black-lined bamboo groves with a few simple brushes? Fantastic hair and goatee and eyes? Engaging me in translated conversation so I end up with some artwork?
Flat out coolest dude in Luoyang.
Soup Communist serves some up.
Most places in old town have the same number of customers and offer up with same general food. Except this guy. For 12 Yuan I got a bit of bread and some soup in a bowl. He cackled in delight when I informed him to add the spicy red paste. He chucked in liver, chicken, some other meat, some green onions, broth and… HOLY AMAZEBALLS the best meatballs I’ve ever had. Now I know why the night before a line of customers 25 deep patiently stood awaiting their chance to get some meatball soup. I wasn’t even hungry when I ordered it but I couldn’t gobble it fast enough. Best meal in China so far. (Not as memorable as Donkey Soup – but tastier).
Memorable for the Wrong Reasons
Beyond Stupid Bank Guard
I go to check my account balance at my bank, which I despise for a plethora of reasons. The ATM eats my card. I call over this brainiac to help resolve the issue. His solution… to slap the screen with his meaty fingers over… and over… and over again. When I inform him that will do nothing he suggest I return tomorrow and they’ll fix it.
I nearly put his head through the screen. I get that not everyone can be smart but even he should have seen just how useless his advice and solutions happened to be. It is rare to meet someone unqualified to be a door stop, but this guy managed it. Huzzah?
Hostel Dorm Cigarette Tool
I walk into the dorm where I will rest my head during my stay in the city and this Chinese guy happens to be wandering around the place smoking a stinky cigarette. Without thinking about it I snap at him to put it out. He does and apologizes. I get that China thinks smoking equals the cool but not where I sleep. Go outside. In a common area. Hell, go light up in traffic and I’ll laugh if you get hit. Just not where I lay my head.
Next morning, first thing he does is light up again. Ass! Amazingly the room suddenly empties except for me… so… out the window his pack of cigarettes go, onto the window ledge but hidden behind a stone support. Best morning of the trip watching him try desperately to find his disappearing pack of smokes.