I managed to find someone that did a traditional kosher massage and nearly missed my bus because of it, but I managed to hop on and find myself a little bunk by the window.
It’s lovely here, the Chinese have built a little shangri-la by some of the most eye catching scenery in the world. It’s not perfect and it would be easy to walk around with a critical eye, but it’s a great place to pass the time so today I did my spring cleaning and re-charged my batteries. This consists of cleaning out the rucksack by throwing away the pile of rubbish that accumulates on the road. Everything seems to have a value when you are travelling, even reciepts in languages you cannot fathom, so I have been ruthless and disposed of them all. I then washed my clothes which are drying right now, scrubbed myself, washed my hair, combed out the dreadlocks by dragging my fingers through my barnet and now I feel a good deal lighter.
I bought an expensive local jasmine tea and have been enjoying that all day, for lunch I ventured out to a local chinese eatery and selected from the goodies below…
If you click on the picture you will get a larger image to pop up. This techological advancement is cone of the many free add ons provided in the wordpress add on library gawd bless em.
I also booked my ticket to Shenzen and hence onwards to Hong Kong. I have planned my time there to take in some of my old haunts from when I lived there over 11 years ago, so that’ll be a trip down memory lane.
Tomorrow I might cycle up country and take a bamboo boat trip up river, my bus isn’t til 8pm and I know the way well enough by now to find the river landings for the bamboo rafts.
So, I’m not going to rabbit on anymore as I am going to get some dins with a German feller called Fred that I met on the way through Guilin. I like yangshuo, but then again I have fallen for quite a few places on this trip on reflection. It’s a wonderful world. (right now a Chinese girl is watching TV in the YHA munching on raw sugar cane, she looks like a panda and reminds me that we are all still animals at heart).
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.
Tony dropped me off at the station and made sure I was a happy web designer. He is paranoid that I’ll pull the plug on his shiny new website as I haven’t had what could be described as the most hassle free stay at his place, but I’m more pragmatic than that so he’s OK with me, his website will be OK.
The Vietnamese train looked like someone had taken the plans for some posh German hi-speed train and had then had the mutoid waste gang build it for them. It was sleek but patched up and scratched up so I wondered what kind of wars this train had been in. Train wars, trainzilla versus train kong, it’s obvious this train didn’t come out looking too pretty, but that’s the Vietnamese, they might suffer indescribable losses in their scrapes but they win, pretty or not.
So we pootle off to the border where we arrived before midnight. We sat chilly in the cold night air in a cheerless waiting room as we went through customs, some poor women in another glass fronted room peered through a sign that implied she was looking out for people with contagious diseases, she looked like she needed a break.
So after our spartan Vietnamese train we then boarded our Chinese counterpart. A Vietnamese officer checked our passport whilst looking as casual as he could, ciggy hanging from his mouth and his army jacket loose he was trying to be a James Dean to his Chinese counterparts impassive and upright demeanour. They stood close enough at the train door to share a kiss but didn’t swap a word, I guess they are still a little pissed off with each other.
The Chinese carriage was the same design as the Vietnamese one, I guess both made in China, but here the similarity ends. The Chinese train was warm and comfy, carpeted on the floor and with guards that were polite and helpful. I settled into my carriage with three friendly and chatty Vietnamese and after swapping stories, as well as passport necessities with the authorities, slipped into the best nights sleep since I was snuggled up in Streatham.
We stopped in the morning at Nanning where I slipped out of the station and experienced China for the first time (I spent a year in Hong Kong but it was British at the time). I had a plate of Dim Sum and a bowl of noodles that were both delicious, then hurried back to the train where we boarded again. I was woken again at 1.30 as were were soon to pull into Guilin, I arrived refreshed and happy to be in China.
I am now sitting in a youth hostel with a great wifi connection near the river in Guilin. I will head to Yangshuo tomorrow where I will hire a bike and get out into the country side.