Well today is the mid-Autumn Festival in China. It’s a national holiday so most people have the day off. The festival is on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. This year it happened to fall on September 19th.
In ancient China people used to worship the sun in the spring and moon in the fall. The festival is always held when the moon is the large in the sky.
Like everything in China, there’s a bit of folklore behind this festival. One story mentions how there once were ten suns that would always burn the farmers’ crops. Deciding enough was enough a hero named Hou Yi climbed Kunlun Mountain and shot nine of the suns out of the sky with his magic bow.
One day Hou Yi ran across the Empress Wangmu of Heaven. The empress gave him a special potion that would turn Hou Yi into a celestial being. He didn’t want to part with his lovely wife Chang E so he gave her the potion for safe keeping. This was all seen by local troublemaker and scoundrel Penguin Meng.
Chang E was alone at home one day when CRASH, Peng Meng smashed the door to splinters and began to cause a ruckus. ‘Hand over the potion or I’ll stick this knife in you!’ Afraid and unable to beat Peng Meng, Chang E quickly drank the potion. Her body floated out the window and into the sky.
Hou Yi returned in the evening and learned what happened from the servants. He looked up to the sky and saw how much fuller and brighter the moon was. There was also a shadow that looked like his wife. He chased the moon but was never able to catch it.
Realizing his wife was lost, Hou Yi set a small table of Chang E’s favorite meats and fruits and held a memorial ceremony for her. The local people were so touched by the ceremony they started to pray for Chang E and worship the moon asking for good fortune and peace.
I’m not going to bore anyone with the details of what geocaching is. If you don’t know by now then you can look it up really quickly.
What I am going to tell you is how geocaching can help traveling.
The most obvious use is that you can see things a little off the beaten path. Caches by nature are often hidden in interesting, sometimes remote places. Just hunting down a cache can reveal a different part of a city or area you may never have visited.
The other, less obvious use is how awesome the official Geocaching.com smartphone app is for travelers, even if you don’t want to take part in the activity. For a one time payment of $9.99 you get unlimited, free, GPS enabled, offline maps of almost every place on the world.
How? The app is designed that while you have 3G or wifi you can search for caches where you plan to travel to. Log on to the Geocaching.com site, search for cache near your destination, then plug the GC code – GC27TZ8 or similar – into the app. If you have wifi it’ll bring up the cache info and you’ll find a super useful feature called ‘Save to Offline List’ under the menu in the upper right corner. Choose the option and wait a few moments.
Now you’re done. You have a map of the surrounding area near the cache. You don’t need 3G to view it so data charges need not apply. For better results download multiple caches in the same area.
The only downside is I don’t think there is a way to add your own points to the maps. That can be frustrating not being able to drop a pin on your hotel
And never have a problem finding your way back. Maybe that’ll be a feature in a future update?
I’m in a Chinese city that Lonely Planet offers nothing more than a paragraph to, so the odds of me finding a decent map for the smartphone are between zero and chickens revolting and enslaving mankind. But that also means since I was able to get this trick to work here, it’ll probably work anywhere.