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First Taste of Freezing

I think, for people like them, just to be able to grow up from a tiny newborn baby into an elderly, is already worth called an accomplishment.

View Beauty and the Freeze on automidori's travel map.

Jiuzhaigou, December 25th 2011

The staff of "Jiuzhaigou Self Tour Youth Hostel" or "九寨沟自游国际青年旅舍" ushered me to my room on the third floor and left. It was a room for two, but really small. The first thing I could think about when entering this room was "cold". I searched around. No air conditioning. Well, I had read about such thing on other accommodation around this vicinity. However, I didn't really prepare myself to experience it in this hostel I've booked. For a moment I feared whether I would survive the night. What if something happens to me in the middle of night, such as short breath, who will notice?

I went to the bathroom to wash my hands. I turned on the tap to the red point, thinking it must be for hot water. I waited several seconds and then put my fingers the tap. Ouch!! It's a combine feeling of cold and hot. It's like burning ice. I left the tap running and went to check my bed. Great. There was an electric blanket on it. I plugged in the plug. I barely could touch the mattress with bare hands, because the mattress felt like ice. So I just stood by the side of the bed waiting for the blanket to warm up.

Neither did the blanket nor the water from the tap turn even slightly warm. My fear doubled.

Desperately I went downstairs to ask the staff. She could communicate in English, but only for the very basic things. She seemed to have memorized certain phrases. The other staff was a complete-hopeless. So when I asked about a rather complicated matter like the tap water that doesn't turn warm, she just went with me upstairs to take a look.

It turned out that the tap needed more than 5 minutes to warm up. Once it has warmed up, the next time I turn it on, it won't take so long. But if I don't turn on the tap for several hours, I would have to turn on the tap and let the water flow again for about 5 minutes until the water gets warm. The same thing it is with the shower.

While her hands were under the tap testing the water, I asked the staff, "Do you have a room with air conditioning?" I pointed on the word 空调 in my Berlitz Mandarin Chinese Phrase Book in case my pronunciation had been awkward.

"No kòngtiáo," she replied.

Next I asked about the electric blanket. Ah! There was a switch under the bed which I didn't notice. Although not instantly, the electric blanket didn't take as long as the tap to warm up.

When the staff left my room, watched the water flowing from the tap with much amazement. It turned the tap up to the maximum hot. Smoke was covered the water flow. It looked like boiling water. However, the water on my hands felt just like warm water. I moved my hands and put them back under the water. Same. Just warm. My brain tried to recall the physic lessons I got in school. How cold is the water actually?

Since it was still bright outside, I decided to take a walk. There were several shops selling bags, clothes, and shoes. At last I got myself a pair of light brown winter shoes. They served more warmth to my feet, because they were almost like boots that covered up to the bottom of my shank with fur inside. But the most important thing to me was that they weren't slippery. I tried to skid and the difference between these and my sneakers was obvious. They seemed to be perfectly designed for walking on slippery snow. The shopkeeper was extremely kind. Although we couldn't communicate smoothly in terms of words, she did her best to please me but without making me feel pushed to buy something.

Happy with my new pair of shoes and satisfied with myself who successfully bargained in Mandarin, I thought of treating myself with a good dinner. However, I saw only one big restaurant opened. There were many people inside. Through the glass wall they seemed to be chattering loudly. I thought I would feel awkward eating there alone. Meanwhile the wind became more chillier and chillier. Though gentle, it brushed through my ears and face making me like putting my head into a refrigerator.

From a fancy dinner in mind, I finally settled down on a cup of instant noodle. I bought several cups at the mini market under "Jiuzhaigou Self Tour Youth Hostel" and also a big bottle of mineral water. Today I've had instant noodle for lunch also. That was because the food at the restaurant my bus stopped by didn't seem appealing to me in terms of cleanliness.

I thought I would enjoy my instant noodle while watching TV. But... brrr... my air-conditioningless-room became colder and colder as the hours went by. Usually whenever I eat hot food, I have to leave it awhile, because my tongue is oversensitive to hot stuff. In Japanese they say "a cat's tongue", "nekojita". Here in Jiuzhaigou, I almost don't have to wait. On the contrary, I have to eat my food or drink my tea fast, because the temperature goes down quickly. My idea of relaxing on bed in front of the TV with a cup of instant noodle next to me simply didn't work. You know, what I pictured was, to have one two mouthful of noodle, put it aside, watch TV, laugh or cry because of the show, have another mouthful of noodle, put the cup aside, watch TV again, laugh again or cry again... and so on. I had to just concentrate on my noodle in one sitting. I was competing with temperature. Or with nature?

The mineral water bottle I left in the room while I took a walk had already turned into literally ice water. Therefore I had to boil water for drinking. After several hours I would have to re-boil it. Never had I felt an electric kettle that useful.

Ooops! I forgot something. 圣弘源 Shèng Hóng Yuán Rhodiola Capsule. Here's what the instruction of English version said:
[Target group] travelers, explorers, persons whose work is realted with aviation or sport, or those suffering from high altitude reaction or low immunity. (Sub-health), brainworkers, the middle and old aged and the weak and sick.
I bought this at my hostel in Chengdu, Lazy Bones. According to the instruction, I should take this medicine in the morning and afternoon before meals. But this morning I had forgotten to take it. So to make it twice a day, I will take it now. The staff and Lazy Bones Hostel said that this medicine will take effect in 2 days. I have started taking this yesterday. So hopefully tomorrow when I go to Jiuzhaigou National Park, it will be already working in me. That's why I should take it now. Ah, and it should be taken before meal actually.

I remembered I still had one piece of bread I brought from Chengdu. But when I took it out from my bag, it was hard just like when you put bread in a refrigerator. However I forced it into my mouth to go after the Rhodiola. Morevoer, I thought that just a cup of instant noodle won't be sufficient to provide energy to keep me warm through the night.

I already decided I wouldn't shower until back in Chengdu. Yes, the water in the shower has already warmed up. But entering the bathroom itself is like entering a freezer. Even the thought of taking off my clothes is enough to make me shiver. Can you believe it that I was squeezing myself under the hostel's double blanket (thanks to that) while wearing double pair of stockings, a pair of jeans, double vest, sweater, and a pair of hand gloves? Oh ya, please note that the electric blanket under me was on. Lastly I unfolded my sleeping bag and squeezed into it. Magically the warmth from the electric blanket under me spread all around my sleeping bag. Thus, I could feel warm not just beneath but all around my body. Ah... I was so glad I had brought this sleeping bag all the way with me.

I spent less than an hour reading a book. You know how I did it? I used a reading light under the blanket. Why? Because if I let my head stick out, it feels cold on my face and in my ears. That was the most uncomfortable way of reading a book.

Then I switched to putting my Mandarin to the test by text messaging the shopkeeper in Chengdu Airport who sold me a SIM Card which was said to be suitable for international calls but turned out didn't work so. Text messaging can be done under the blanket without a reading light. I got a reply which I guess meant asking me to bring my SIM Card to the airport to have it checked. Aaarghhh, the taxi fare back and forth the airport will cost more than another SIM Card.

I laid in bed through the rest of the night, bedridden. My admiration for the Tibetan tribes living in just tents in the Himalayas doubled, tripled, quartered. They surely don't have an electric blanket. No electric kettle either. They cannot just roll over in bed, switch the kettle on, boil water, keeping lying down for a few minutes, and then drink. And if they need to pee, maybe they have to go out of the tent? Wow... I think, for people like them, just to be able to grow up from a tiny newborn baby into an elderly, is already worth called an accomplishment.

I never felt dizzy. But just rolling over left and right in bed, seemed to consume me much energy. I bet the air was rather thin.

Posted by automidori 17:44 Archived in China Tagged winter china jiuzhaigou high_altitude_sickness

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