Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Couple of Cloudy Days

Happy 2012!  It's been a while, but I do have a ridiculous number of pictures in tow... so I will probably soon create a large quantity of new posts and backdate them appropriately.  In recent times, I started interviewing for jobs, my parents and sister visited Beijing, I had finals, and began my January travels.  Quite surprisingly, I had absolutely no trouble with transportation this time around.  The two times of year where travel in China is most difficult (specifically train travel) are October Holiday, which I experienced to the fullest with my trip to Xi'an, and around the Chinese New Year, which this year, happens to fall on January 23rd.  Basically, something like over 120 million Chinese people travel home for the New Year, generally by train, making it exceptionally difficult to buy tickets.  Fortunately, I think that not only has my Chinese improved significantly since October, but I also learned how the system works!  So, ten days in advance, at 8:30am, I lined myself up at the train ticket office, and purchased my tickets to Guilin for the 9th.  I also managed to get my ticket from Guilin to Shenzhen for the 13th so it all worked out beautifully.  Finally, I was a bit worried about getting back to Beijing to fly home, BUT managed to find a cheap(ish) plane ticket on so it all worked out perfectly.  Glorious.

Anyways, my parents left Beijing on the 8th, which left me with an approximately 15 hour period to accomplish EVERYTHING before I had to leave the next day.  So I packed, bought all the necessary things, dropped off most of my luggage with a friend in Sanlitun, met with my language partner, had dinner with a friend, answered all my emails, AND still nearly overslept and missed my train in the morning.  Haha.  Fortunately, I did not, and boarded my train at 8:18am and then spent the next 30 hours IN TRANSIT.  That's right, the train from Beijing to Guilin takes exactly 27 hours and 28 minutes, followed by another 90 minute bus excursion to get to Yangshuo itself.  I am quite happy that I ended up spending the whole three days in Yangshuo, instead of returning to Guilin as I had planned, given that approximately 15 minutes after arriving in Guilin, someone tried to pickpocket me (BADLY, I might add).  Not a super awesome city, although perhaps the experience of others may differ.

Yangshuo (阳朔) is insanely beautiful, by the way.  It was apparently one of the first locations in China opened up to backpackers back in the 80s and so has kind of developed into a full-blown tourist town, but that really doesn't detract from it in my opinion, despite what people may say.  The scenery is beautiful, full of these strange rocky, mountains that seem to burst out of an otherwise flat area and rivers and small, yet-undeveloped villages.  The primary activities in Yangshuo are outdoors ones: biking, climbing, hiking, rafting, etc.  I have a feeling my sister, Olga, would love it.
I stayed at the En Attendant Godot Youth Hostel, an homage to an absurdist, 20th century play by Samuel Beckett.  The owners were young and really friendly and in general, very helpful.  What's more, I was sharing a room with some other westerners (Chris, Amy, and Stan) who I ended up spending most of the trip with. The first night I arrived, we went out for some tasty local beer fish (啤酒鱼) together.  The next day we embarked on a bike journey to see the Dragon Bridge (not nearly as impressive as it sounds), and up to the town of Baishao (白沙 ... I think) to see the local market.  It ended up being a 30 km bike ride that continue to pain my body for the next couple of days, but it was also really lovely.

There was one section where the path stopped completely, and in fact, the only way to continue biking was to hire a bamboo raft to cross the river blocking the route.  So, for around 40块, we embarked on a wholly terrifying journey across this river.  Stan, the resident Dutchman, went across first with the bikes.
Stan with the bikes

Meanwhile, Chris really, truly, empatically, did not want to buy any oranges off this one
super persistant women

The view from the Dragon Bridge, which again was not as impressive as the name implied.
 At 白沙, we grabbed a quick lunch and explored the market, which was... an experience.  It resembled an Eastern European Bazaar of sorts, from my childhood, where they sold quite literally everything.  Clothes, cosmetics, food, toys, New Years decorations, etc.  The most interesting, and simultaneously disgusting, was the meat section.  They just had chunks of meat hanging out in the open, along with intestines, whole birds, pigs' heads, etc.  What's more, I learned just how removed from my food I am as at this market, you could buy super FRESH meat, as in you would choose a live chicken and they would butcher it for you on the spot.  The fish were also all very fresh, but much more intent on their freedom and so we saw MANY jumping out of their shallow tubs and eventually flapping around on the ground until the 'shop' owner decided to notice and toss them back in.  The fish, by the way, were made somewhat more hilarious, and perhaps I'm a terrible person for saying this, by Amy's apparent fish phobia... In any case, it was certainly an interesting experience.

The next day, we decided to charter a bamboo raft up the Li river to the town of Fuli (福利).  This is the first time I've been in China where I actually felt like I was ripping someone off and not the other way around.  The woman offered us a trip to the village for 100块, not per person, total.  The trip itself is about 1 hour each way, and when we got there, the guy did not even demand half the money and what's more, waited on us for TWO-AND-A-HALF HOURS while we explored the city.  We (and by we, I mean, Amy and I) felt so bad we tacked on an extra 30块 when we paid.  In any case it was wonderful, and we saw some truly beautiful sights.

The town of 福利 itself, was like most villages, an interesting juxtaposition of new and old, and generally representative of a stereotypical run-down Chinese village, with perhaps the slight stipulation that it was a bit more tourist-friendly.  In any case, as for the buildings, it seems like instead of maintaining or fixing up the already existing buildings, the people of this town (as well as the many others we saw on our bike ride the previous day) were content to just throw up new ones right next to the old ones.  Bizarre.  

 We bought some things at the village that were also ludicrously cheap.  For instance, 8 pairs of decorated chopsticks for 10块, scrolls for 20块, etc. There was also a market in 福利 the day we went.
The entrance to the market in 福利.

We decided that eating at one of the stalls in the market was a bit on the sketchy side and would possibly give us food poisoning, so we found what looked like a hostel or very cheap hotel and ate some hot pot there.  Better, right?  WRONG.  I know that innards are supposed to be a delicacy or something, but the fact is we got an entire plate of intestines, liver, stomach, and more to dip into our hot pot and absolutely no real meat.  The veggies and tofu were not exceptionally tasty either, and when we asked for noodles, the owner dispatched his son to run to the market and buy some.  It was... special.
Potentially the world's worst hot pot.  ever.
 We felt bad about leaving out bamboo raft guy waiting for so long, so we got a little motorized rickshaw thing to take us back, also for only 10块.  It was quite a bumpy ride as he very quickly turned off the main road and onto these alleyways... which were so narrows that two of these cars did not in fact fit.
 Overall, a day well spent, although somewhat chilly near the end.  We ended up in Lucy's, a small cafe in the touristy part of town, for drinks and dice and cards.  This was... possibly the way we spent every evening and every morning (for breakfast, of course) as well.  We were well on our way to becoming regular customers.  :)
Lastly, for your amusement, I present "Minnie Mao's Cafe".  Yes, that is a picture of Minnie Mouse in a Mao cap.  No, I do not pretend to understand.  That is all for this post.  I do have to say that Blogger's new interface really is the bee's knees and that creating this post was SO MUCH EASIER than in the past.  Expect a lot more back-dated posts in the near future as I have a lot of photos and stories to share.  hearts and stars,马雅

No comments:

Post a Comment