I beckoned to the man reversing the bus in the bus station that perhaps he should be so kind as to let me on. He shrugged one of those ‘why should I care’ shrugs and just pulled away – I gave him one of those ‘my finger has just picked your nose through your arse’ middle fingers and turned around. The crowd watching doesn’t understand interactions like this, emotional exchanges are kept to a minimum in South East Asia unless you are drunk and singing Karaoke, so I looked a little sheepish and returned to the throng whence some dude that looked a little too relaxed in sunglasses, smoking a cigarette, leaning, suggested that it was in fact bay ‘2’ I needed and the bus was still there.
You see this is a problem being in a country where you can read nothing and have a temper that flares at things a great deal more trivial than Spurs losing, it’s easy to feel like you are not quite getting the whole picture.
Here is a case in point. People overcharge you for everything here. It’s a sport, unless you happen to be in a supermarket where items are marked. I was at a juice bar the other day and asked for an orange juice. There was a huddle amongst the staff where I picket out a few words like ‘handsome devil’ and ‘looks like Brad Pitt’, but when the time came to be charged I had to point out that nothing on the sign-board above the counter came to anything near as much, I could get an icecream sundae that looked like a limestone Karst for half the price of my small orange juice. They just giggled and took the money.
You’ll pay a dollar at a street stall while the feller beside you is offering something that looks like one of the old half Pennie pieces, but heck, I am aware that with the new Chinese economic boom every one of them needs a moulinex so let me oblige and help a little.
The bus journey to Yangshuo was comfy and quick, but what a surprise Yangshuo is. It’s a cross between some swiss ski resort (without any skiing of course) combined with the lake district and a cut down version of the everyday Chinese hassle but with nice coffee shops to escape to. It’s a lovely little place and I shall put my feet up here until I have to leggit to Hong Kong at the weekend.
I hired a bike from my comfy little youth hostel (The Backstreet Hostel) and peddled down to the river for a looksie. I was gently lulled into a sense of well being by a young Chinese girl, Linda, who quite bizarrely sparked up a conversation in Spanish. Before I knew it I had employed her services as my tour guide for the day and set off on bicycles to check out the scenery around Yangshuo. Linda is her ‘English name’, having a passing similarity to Yin Degiong’, Yin De’ Lin De’ ‘Lin Da’ ‘Linda’, Ok and onwards.
We took a break at lunchtime in a small restaurant by the river that had a whole load of ducks drying outside. We had passed a whole bunch of ducks on the road that I suggested would have been quite tasty, this led me to drool at the gaggle hanging up, my mind greedily pondering crispy Peking duck and lots of it, Peking Duck being the Gina Lollobrigida of the food world it does rather get one going.
When it arrived it was a mess of chopped up bony dried ducky stuff cooked in something that tasted a bit like mobilube. The vegetables that come with it were rather nice though so I did my best while Linda berated me for picking around the duck looking for something that looked a little like, well, Duck.
We peddled on and Linda got a puncture. We deposited her back at the restaurant where some feller fixed the puncture then peddled around the countryside paying huge sums for fresh fruit, for instance when we purchased some from some little old lady that looked as if she was 125. She had a sign that said ‘I’m old and these extortionate fruit prices keep me in Satellite TV and the ability to watch movies with fresh young Hollywood actors in it so it’s either money or a shag’. Well it was something like that.
My high spot was when we stopped at a little little pagoda to buy some Pomelo (a bit like a grapefruit) whereupon the old feller selling them burst into song. I expected this to be a ‘lucre for a song’ pitch but now, Linda joined in and before I knew it we were swopping songs. I came out with Jacques Brel songs and before we knew it we had bonded like a teenage boy/girl band. We parted with a wave and a touch of sadness and continued along our way.
The scenery is amazing here. The reflection of the Limestone Karsts in the water of the rivers flowing through them has to be one of the prettiest nature has to offer anywhere in the world. We peddled and took snaps and headed towards some big arch of stone before the sun went down.
By the time we arrived I was knackered, but I hiked up the 800 steps with my heart pounding like I had done no exercise in the last four weeks and had replaced food with beer. By the time I reached the top I had redressed the balance, my blood was as clean as babies wee and my lungs were working again.
After this all I could do was head back to the YHA, fall into a shower and sleep face down and arse up in a heap in bed, I woke up at 4.30 am in time to catch Spurs/Spartak in the Uefa cup, Isn’t life just a peach sometimes.