Yangshuo is like something that would be made as a movie set. The pointy karst formations with their rounded tops are right in the town and all around it. Apparently it was formed eons ago when the area was a seabed. It’s like nothing else I’ve ever seen. It’s like the old Chinese paintings that seem totally unrealistic, but these odd mountains are real.
Since it is so outstandingly lovely, tourists, especially backpackers, flock here, and the two main streets of this small city (300,000) are rows of hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Still, it is quite charming even if it is a little like the State Fair.
Friday night I went with a group to watch the cormorants fish. The birds have a string tied around their neck and when they dive for fish, they swallow them, but of course the fish doesn’t go down farther than the string. The owner then scoops the birds out of the water and empties the fish (two or three) into a basket. There were eight cormorants on one fishing boat. Two boats of tourists were running along side. It was dark, but the fishing boat had bright lights so we could clearly see the activity. They apparently do this for the tourists for an hour or two but then go out further on the Li River and fish all night, commercially.
The next day I joined a group for a boat ride on the Li River. The scenery was wonderful with the turquoise water, the bamboo trees bordering the river, the karst mountains behind them, and farm animals and other bucolic scenes dotting the landscape. The weather was perfect—about 75 degrees F at midday, and very sunny. Two of my roommates, Rudolph and Joost from Holland, (I’m staying in a dorm) also went on the boat ride. They were very pleasant young men.
The next day I went for a long walk over two bridges (the Li river) with lovely scenery all around me. It’s nice to kick back here, and spend some semi-lazy days. Fun to have a beer with my roommates and chat.
A woman, Ruth, that I met on the Lonely Planet Internet site, invited me to stay with her family in a town near Guangzhou. Before I got there she emailed me to say that an email acquaintance of hers (young American man) was in Yangshuo and she gave me his email address. I emailed him, he answered, and we met for a beer, along with several Chinese friends of his. He is spending a year in China.
One day in Yangshuo I hired a motorcycle tuk tuk to take me through the countryside to Dragon Bridge. As I made the deal with the young woman driver and we started off, there was something about her that made me suspicious—I didn’t trust her. Just after we started she pulled over and cell-phoned somebody. There have been some muggings around here, and I wondered if she were phoning somebody to say she was bringing a lone female to Dragon Bridge, and they could rob me. After about an hour of going along quite a rough road, I asked her to turn around and go back to Yangshuo. She resisted, but I insisted. When she finally did turn around to head back, she again cell-phoned somebody. And when we got back to town a woman called to her and she nodded ‘No.’ Was this all innocent or some diabolical scheme? I’ll never know!
I left Yangshuo on the express bus to Guangzhou on Wednesday which took nine hours. I met a couple from Singapore on the bus who could speak English and who interpreted for me—toilet stop, 10 minutes—lunch stop, 40 minutes, etc. We arrived after dark and Wing (woman’s name was Ling!) suggested that I take the taxi with them and stay at the small hotel where they always stay, which I did.
The next morning I had my hair colored and cut at a shop with no English. As usual it turned out too dark (why does that surprise me, in China?) but the hairstyle was great! Soon I’m going to let it go gray as this causes me too much consternation!
I stayed in Guangzhou for a day, and then met my friend, Ruth, from the Internet of the Lonely Planet website. She, her husband and two daughters live in Panyu, which is a bedroom community of Guangzhou’s. They teach English here, and are from Victoria, BC, Canada. We explored the local area, ate at some wonderful restaurants, and I had a good time visiting, learning about life here in China. We also spent a wonderful afternoon visiting the Baomo Gardens, an over-the-top Chinese fantasyland with pools, rivers, buildings, a temple, artwork, 100,000 beautiful fish that we fed, rocks, flowers and wonderful foliage—in short, another Chinese masterpiece of which there are too many to count! The family was lovely and hospitable, and we ate some wonderful food, too. (Thanks, Ruth)
Then, on to Hong Kong (two buses and a ferry from Ruth’s house) and home to Minneapolis. Now to go through the two bags of mail, three boxes of things that I mailed from China, etc. and life will be ‘normal’ again.
I think that this was my ‘best trip ever,’ but then I think I always say that! Anyway, China could keep a traveler busy for centuries, and some day I will surely go back. Thanks for being such good ‘listeners’ and good emailers, too. It was fun keeping in touch while in China.
Kindest regards—ROGER AND OUT!!!