As Singaporeans, most us have absolutely no problems with the concept that “The best things in life come free”. But while we’re here in China, we found out that the general populace is not that trusting about freebies. Big surprise. The general shop-owning populace here is not really that big on the concept of giving things away for nothing either.
Don’t get me wrong. As it is, things in China are relatively cheap, but there’s something about getting a bargain (even if it’s just a 1RMB trinket) that makes the shopping experience just that little bit sweeter.
While we were in Zhangjiajie, we saw billboards and posters for a culture performance called ”烟雨张家界“ (Smoke Rain Zhangjiajie????) almost everywhere we went. So, it was kind of surprising when we heard from XiaoLi that the show was still in the pre-production phase (and apparently has been in the pre-production phase for more than a year already) (the show exists in a wrinkle within the space/time continuum where the productivity of the Chinese do not infiltrate) (probably the same dimension as all the service staff that invariably end up servicing us at restaurants).
Anyway, there are twice daily rehearsals for the performance at a theatre near Huang Long Dong (黄龙洞) (an underground cavern within the Zhangjiajie county containing more ermm… rocks) and quite surprisingly (to us), the tickets to these rehearsals cost the grand price of ZERO.
That’s one of the reasons why, even after our traumatic experiences with the dancing half-naked men of Zhangjiajie (when I say “our”, I mean “my”), we decided to stay one more day in the city to see the performance and (why not?) visit Huang Long Dong as well.
First off, Huang Long Dong is billed as a cavern containing the biggest collection of underground geological formations (read: rocks) in China. If I need to describe it in one sentence, I can only say that it is BIG. It’s so big it is surrounded by its own village and even has an underground river running through the cavern. The entrance tickets included a boat ride down the river.
The highlight of the caves is the great amount of stalactites and stalagmites formations (secondary school geography projects!) that are lighted up with more neon colours than a Chinese billboard. And as typical of Chinese attractions, even though the formations look (to our untrained eye) like phallic-ly shaped popsicles, they were all given poetic names such as ermm… I can’t really remember.
Jo and I were having too much fun (re)naming them Ice Kachang 1, Ice Kachang 2 and Ice Kachang 4. (we lost count after a while…)
Towards the end of the tour (we were not allowed to wander through the caves by ourselves), we were given an option to top up the entrance ticket to check out other sections of the caves. We politely declined this kind offer because we wanted to go to the theatre early to grab our seats and also because IT’S MORE ROCKS!
Anyway, in typical Singaporean fashion, we reached the concert hall early, and found out we were more or less the only people watching the show. On hindsight, given our recent scams-periences (it’s a thing), it’s quite surprising that our alarm bells did not go off when we saw this…
I suppose for the locals, if it’s too good to be true… it’s a scam.
I’ll just like to say for the record, that for a free twice daily “rehearsal”, the producers of the show spared no expenses. The theatre was huge and comfortable, the sets for the show were spectacular and really, kind of gorgeous. There was even air conditioning!
And they even have (more) half naked men whose only duty seems to be sending people off at the end of the show.
And no… it really was NOT a scam.