Day 5 – Not The Day I’d Planned
I met Shawn at 9am outside my hotel as arranged and as always he was bang on time.
Although it was Sunday, we’d planned to visit some factories so it came as quite a surprise to hear that the plan had changed… There would be no fsctory visits today, it’s the start of Qingming festival so instead we’d visit the temple where we would burn fake paper money for dead relatives!
I’d see several documentaries on this and had no idea it happened this time of year. It was pure fluke as I’d always wanted to witness it first hand.
Ivy, our guide in Hong Kong, was in China for the festival and we made our way to her hometown to meet her family.
Snakes Loose In Restaurant
Like every day in China, no plans can commence without eating and a Sichuan restaurant (hot spicy) was chosen. Part way through the meal, panic took over; a mischievious teenager came into the restaurant and kicked over a bucket of eels. The snake like creatures were wiggling around the floor with staff and punters desperately trying to capture them all! Ivy’s father managed to catch one, I think I might have made a little scream.
All food eaten and eels captured, it was time to make our way up the mountain the the temple.
VIP Treatment By The Police
The town we were in was about an hour north of Shenzhen. It was very busy due to the Qingming Festival and thousands were making the pilgrimage up the mountain. It was about 4 miles away and a steep road up. We arrived at a police road block and I presumed from here it was a hike.
Ivy’s father wound down the window and shouted agressively at the policemen manning the road block. He pointed at me, I smiled at the stern looking policeman. The policeman shouted to his colleagues.
I’ve no idea why what happened next, happened: the policemen started to block people on foot crossing the road, lifted the road block to let just our car through, while another policeman escorted us on a bicycle to the next road block and waved us through. We drove up a mountain road passing what must have been thousands of people on foot. At the top a policeman waved us to park right by the entrance to the temple, there were no other cars to be seen.
Hitting A Tortoise On The Head
At the top of the steps to the temple was a large pond with a stone fence around it. Hundreds of ‘pilgrims’ crowded round each side, blessing themselves and praying. In the pond there were hundreds of tortoises and I noticed the bottom had money in it.
Shawn whispered to me that it would bring me a full year of good fortune if I threw a coin and managed to hit a tortoise on the head.
I’m not sure why; China is a wacky place at the best of times, but I confidently selected and pointed at a tortoise and launched 1 yuan at the poor little thing. It was like slow motion : the coin homed in and cracked Terry the Tortoise on his head, I raised my arms in celebration… But then noticed gasps from the hundreds of people worshipping around the pond. You’d have thought I’d brought a curse upon everyone who witnessed, and I probably had. Shawn told to me that he was only joking and I had to publicly apologise the the tortoise.
Burning Paper For Dead Relatives
The Qingming Festival lasts for 5 days and is also known as the ‘Grave Sweeping Festival’. Today was the first day and people were burning candles and incense. In the corner of the main square was what looked like a giant pizza oven (maybe I’m just craving) and people were queueing to buy what looked like fake money which they then burnt in the pizza oven thing while praying.
Paddington In Cantonese
We met up with Ivy’s parents and had an evening meal. After the meal we walked about 2 miles. When we arrived, Ivy’s mother proudly proclaimed that she owns not just an apartment but the entire 5 floors of the block2. She beckoned me to come in and see her apartment on the 3rd floor, all others were rented out.
She showed us around the apartment then sat us down for tea. While making tea, I noticed ‘Paddington 2’ advertised on the TV and I casually explained that I shot some special effects scenes for the movie. It clicked with them and they gasped, I felt like I was in a room full of people having asthma attacks. When they managed to get a lung full they insisted we have to watch the film now. The only downside for me… It was in Cantonese!