I rode the Chinese train for the first time Saturday. It is everything you’ve ever heard about it – loud, crowded, hot. We couldn’t get seats so we had the stand in the aisles while a woman selling ice cream bustled up and down the train cars. She wasn’t selling any ice cream and I wanted to punch her in the face after the fourth time she went by.

We rode the train to Benxi, south of Shenyang. Once in Benxi, we caught a taxi to the water caves. I expected the caves to be this tiny attraction with some pretty cool stalactites. Instead, there was this whole amusement park build around the caves.

The caves themselves were pretty cool. We rode this boat down the river and ohhed and ahhed at all the stalactites. What I liked best were the signs with the names of the stalactites on them – Animals Playing With Water, Dipping Sword, Seal Playing With Pearl, Three Fairies Palace. It was like playing "Can You See It?" with Natalie all over again! (Natalie – you would have loved it!)

After the caves, we rode the golf cart-van thingy down to what we thought was an alligator show. There were certainly alligators – and a bit with a guy wrestling an alligator in wet socks – but when we arrived and looked down into the caged alligator pit there was a white-faced drag queen belting out some Chinese ballad. At first it was very puzzling – Drag queens sharing the stage with alligators? WTF! But, slowly I warmed to it. It took some balls to sing with alligators (Granted, the alligators were probably heavily drugged, but still!) It took drag performing to a whole new level!

I’ve posted some pictures on Facebook if anyone’s interested.

Next week is a major Chinese holiday so I don’t have to work. I’m planning a trip to Beijing (four hours by fast train) with some other teachers, but I’ll probably post again before I leave.