Jul 23, 2006
|SUNDAY, JULY 23, 2006. YANGSHUO, CHINA. An hour south of Guilin along the Li river is Yangshuo. It's China's equivalent to Khao San Road (Bangkok, Thailand), Pushkar (India), and Kuta (Bali, Indonesia). Shops, hotels, restaurants, and bars line pedestrian only (a rarity in China) Xi Jie street leading to the Li riverbank. Alas, this is not an undiscovered jewel of a travellers' hang out such as Turkbuku, Turkey, which my sailing friends and I discovered at the beginning of my travels (Turkbuku was not in Lonely Planet and hopefully will remain so--Visit now before it gets discovered! See Bodrum, Turkey, July 2005 post for more details). There were plenty of Western and Chinese tourists wandering about. Yangshuo does appears to offer many of the things travellers look for including, among other things, cheap accommodation, cheap food, cheap drinks, beautiful scenery, good shopping, and outdoor activities (e.g., rock climbing, boat rides, cycling, rafting, hiking). It should be a pleasant few days here.
MONDAY, JULY 24, 2006. YANGSHUO, CHINA. I rented a bike today (Y10; $1.25) to explore the countryside. Alice, a university student who wanted to practice her English, offered to be my guide for the day for Y20 ($2.50), to which I agreed. We set off west and south of town. It was extremely hot, making our ride quite exhausting from the very start. Nevertheless, it was great to get out of town and into the countryside, with few people and beautiful scenic peaks revealing themselves to us at every turn. We rode along country roads and dirt paths, passing mostly rice fields and a few other crops, and the occassional farmer tending his/her crops. Along the Yulong River, Chinese tourists by the busload boarded bamboo rafts for a drift down river. We continued riding, enjoying the peaceful Chinese countryside far removed from the hustle and bustle that so often characterizes modern China.
TUESDAY, JULY 25, 2006. YANGSHUO, CHINA. Due to the heat, I rented an electric motor scooter (Y60) today to tour more of the countryside. I visited Moon Hill, a mountain with a hole through it in the shape of a moon. It took about a half hour to hike up the stone stairs. By the time I reached the top, I was dripping in sweat. The reward, however, was a commanding view of the Yangshuo countryside. As is common in China, the view was somewhat obscured by the haze (presumably caused by pollution). In the late afternoon, I rode out to Fuli, a small Chinese village downriver from Yangshuo. It was market day in this particular town, but, as I was late, I only caught the cleaning up.
This evening, while buying some ice cream and speaking a mix of Chinese and English to the saleswomen, I thought a blonde woman next to me spoke to me in Chinese. I turned and asked her if she spoke Chinese. I must have misheard her as she did say something to me, but it was not in Chinese. Turns out she was Danish. Her name was Sofie and she was with her cousin, Kamilla. After chatting for a bit, Sofie and Kamilla continued on towards the river. Later in the evening, while I was surfing the Internet at Lisa's Cafe/Guesthouse (my accommodation), in walk Sofie and Kamilla. They coincidentally were also staying at Lisa's. We've made plans to cycle the countryside tomorrow. (I can't let two Danish women go cycling into the Chinese countryside without a Chinese-American guide now, can I?)
WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 2006. YANGSHUO, CHINA. The Danes, cousins Kamilla and Sofie, and I rented bikes and rode out into the Chinese countryside with plans to follow the Yulong River, one of the more scenic routes around Yangshuo. The weather was overcast and a lot more pleasant for a bike ride. Almost immediately, I was lagging behind the Danes, but this wasn't a surprise as their primary transportation back in Copenhagen is by bicycle. We cycled through dirt country roads and trails skirting the Yulong River and passing through many small villages and rice fields, with towering limestone peaks as a constant reminder of the beauty around us. Along the way, we encountered other Danes cycling and stopped an American, Gary, to ask for directions. Gary had just turned back. We invited him to join us and we continued to cycle upriver. During our ride, I learned Kamilla was an immigration attorney for the Danish government, Sofie was a student, and Gary was a recent MBA graduate.
A couple of Chinese women cycled ahead of us and became our unofficial guides as they lead us to an old bridge that crossed the river. After a light lunch offered by our Chinese guides, we crossed the bridge and proceeded back downriver. At one point, the trail ended and we had to cross back to the other side of the river, about 50 meters wide. The only means of transportation was a bamboo raft. The Chinese punter loaded our four bikes and us onto his raft. We assumed he knew the weight capacity of his raft. As we pushed off from shore, the raft began to sink. Luckily, the raft didn't sink below our ankles. The punter called a fellow punter over and we redistributed the weight load. As we safely crossed the river, we all laughed at how fortunate we were to not completely sink.
After dinner, Sofie, Kamilla, Gary, and I did a pub crawl around West Street. In our first bar, Kingfisher, we joined a couple of Chinese men in a dice drinking game. The Chinese men didn't speak English, so the rules of the game weren't entirely clear. It seemed, however, that one definite rule was to get the foreigners to drink. At our next bar, while Gary danced with some Chinese girls on a small stage, I danced with Kamilla. Many of the Chinese men and women on the dance floor got between Kamilla and me--All wanted to dance with Kamilla. Although annoying, this was understandable as Kamilla has an amazing presence. She's also very tall at 178 cm (I'm 180 cm). We ended the night off at Lulu's, where the Danes played a game of trying to locate as many native English speakers from around the world. They found a couple of Brits, a Kiwi, and an Aussie (Steven).
THURSDAY, JULY 27, 2006. YANGSHUO, CHINA. The Danes, Gary, and I decided to take a boat ride organized by Lisa of Lisa's Guesthouse (Apparently Lisa viewed me as the leader of the group as she was continually giving me grief for not having our group eat at her guesthouse). Our boat ride took us along a stretch of river depicted on the Y20 note. We enjoyed a pleasant couple of hours on the river.
In the afternoon, while strolling around Yangshuo, we came across a preschool and ventured in to see the children at play. It was great to see that children around the world are all the same--laughing and smiling while at play. Later, we hired a boat to take us across the Li River for a swim and relaxing on shore. Steven, an Aussie from Brisbane, who we met the prior evening, joined us. Steven and I were lazing about in the water when we heard some loud cheering. We turned to see a boat full of Chinese tourists passing nearby. They were reacting to seeing Sofie and Kamilla changing into their swimsuits on shore. The women, getting into the spirit, playfully teased their Chinese audience.
In the evening, Steven took us to the outdoor night market where we enjoyed a fabulous meal of dumplings, grilled meats and vegetables, fish, and beer, all for less than Y80 ($10) total. While we were eating, Steven asked Kamilla, "How much are you paying for your room [at Lisa's Guesthouse]?" Kamilla was speechless and gave Steven a look that was priceless. Apparently Kamilla thought Steven asked her, "How much to come up to your room?" For the rest of the night, the guys, armed with new Danish code words, periodically asked Kamilla, "How much are you paying for your room?" We finished the night off with drinks at M.C. Blues Bar and Monkey Jane's Rooftop bar.
FRIDAY, JULY 28, 2006. YANGSHUO, CHINA. Yangshuo has certainly been a highlight of my travels in China. I had planned to stay here only two or three days. It's now day six. The countryside, mountains, and rivers around here are simply beautiful. And it was really fun to enjoy it in the company of a couple of great Danish women (Sofie and Kamilla), a fellow American (Gary), and a fellow Aussie (Steven). I'm glad I bought that ice cream a few nights ago.
The Danes, Gary, and Steven have all left for their respective next destinations in China. I've stayed for another day to catch up on rest and my journal. My plans now are to head to Guangzhou tomorrow and then Hong Kong on Sunday or Monday.