Saturday, June 28, 2014

Thunder, Lightning, and Rain in Yangshuo-6/17-20

After I arrived by morning train in Guilin, I tried to buy my train ticket from Nanning to Hanoi both at the train station and at the CITS travel agency with no luck. Since it was about lunch time I decided to stop at local restaurant. Nothing was in English, so I pulled out the Lonely Planet phrase book and ordered. I should have ordered just one thing because the portions were enormous. I got some beef swimming in some spicy sauce with lots of very long bean sprouts, cooked cucumber and red pepper, and a big sausage with a sunny side egg on top along with rice chased down with some beer.

After that I headed back to the train station and spotted a bus bound for Yangshuo. I have learned to read the Chinese script and match it up with the city name shown in the Lonely Planet. However, the Lonely Planet said the cost was 10 RMB----my 2009 guidebook--and it is now 20 RMB. No matter I was on my way for an 1 1/2 hour scenic bus ride.

It turned out they had moved the bus station in Yangshuo about 2 km outside town where before it was right at the West Street, walking street. After an hour sweaty walk with moto taxi drivers offering to give me a ride, I finally got to the walking street. My rain jacket works well, but I felt that I was walking in a sauna it was so humid despite the rain and clouds.

The weather dashed my dreams of bicycling in the country side and floating down the Yulong River on a bamboo raft. Instead, I checked out all of the vendors, many selling similar items. I also was able to get all of my laundry cleaned and got in a few massages that cost about 138 RMB---$20USD--for 90 minutes. I thought about getting a fish spa treatment where you stick your feet into an aquarium full of little fish that like to eat off your dead skin. I tested it, but the little nips were too ticklish for me to handle.


While I was down by the Li River a group of young Chinese invited me to share their 3 liter draft beer while watching the boats float by.

Yangshuo is quite a destination for the young Chinese to mix and mingle. In the evening there are competing LOUD venues each featuring bands that try to be louder than the next one.
I decided to try one of the Yangshuo specials: stuffed river snails with an eggplant hot pot. While I was waiting for my order two young Chinese girls asked if they could join me for dinner. Of course.
The woman on the right has an English name she picked up in her college English class of Evelyn. Both are from Changsa and Evelyn works for a residential real estate company. The woman on the left did not have an English name so I suggested that she call herself Fiona----the travel agent's name who is getting my final train ticket from Nanning to Hanoi--and she liked that name. I told her to check out the singer Fiona Apple as well. She works in construction as a civil engineer. They ordered a pizza and a vegetable dish with some shredded pork.
After dinner, they headed off and I found a bar where just guitar players were performing so it was a bit quieter. At first I was the only patron, but after a few minutes the people started streaming in. I told the waitress, Wei Ling, that I should get a commission for getting the people to come in. Many of them had their picture taken with me which has been a common occurrence while in China. Here I am in front of the guitar bar with Wei Ling. She is working two jobs and has been accepted to college this fall, but does not know what she wants to major in. Her English was very good and she treated me to some sunflower seeds. As I was leaving, I tried to tip her, but she would not accept. The same thing happened at another restaurant where I left 2 RMB tip---$0.33--and the waitress chased me down to return it to me. I guess by accepting tips it would be like an admission that their wages are not enough.
Here are some more pictures of the Yangshuo activity. Guns, Bullets and Beauty---a live ad for one of the shops along the walking street.
The Li River arrival point for Yangshuo from Guilin.
Bridge over a stream in Yangshuo.
Vendor stalls as you get off the boat from Guilin.
I finally found a travel agent at the Guilin Ronghu International Tourism office who said she could get me a ticket on the weekly international train from Nanning to Hanoi. She said that she needed a commission of 150 RMB to do this. Well I did not want to take my chances upon arriving in Nanning so I agreed to proceed with Fiona Jiang. I paid her the 370 RMB for the ticket which was 215 RMB and the rest was the commission. When I paid her, she said that I needed to give her my US Passport. Boy did that make me nervous. She said that you could not buy an international train ticket without a passport. I said how about a copy. No go. She said that my passport had to go to Nanning and that they could return it to me at my hotel in Guilin on June 20th. Talk about trust. I gave her my passport, money for the ticket and crossed my fingers. For the next two days, I stopped by her office and asked if everything was ok. She said no problem. I would find out when I got to Guiln, if that was true.
I then started thinking all kinds of thoughts. It was a rip off, I would never see my Passport again, I would be stuck in Guilin or have to find a US Consulate or Embassy to get another Passport, I should have just gone to Nanning and bought an international ticket myself, or got a bus to the border, walked the border and got a Vietnamese bus to Hanoi. Why did I let go of my passport?------trust!
After breakfast on the 20th and as I was leaving Yangshuo, I again stopped by Fiona's travel agency and she said that there was no problem, but I should call her when I got to the Ming Palace Hostel and let her know my room number. I hopped on a moto taxi for 10 RMB to the distant bus station and as I arrived I caught a bus that was just leaving to Guilin or at least that is what the Chinese symbols looked like. A good omen.
What a scenic ride into Guilin with all of the jagged peaks rising from the rice fields along the way. After a few wrong ways and asking for directions, I finally made it to the Ming Palace Hostel and my single room. As I checked in, Betty said that she had my Passport and Nanning to Hanoi ticket. Betty gave me her phone to call Fiona with the good news, and all my cares evaporated.
Now for some R & R for the afternoon and evening in Guilin before tomorrow's train to Nanning. After a shower and lunch at the hostel, I took a stroll on the walking street and got a massage. It was brutal as she kept finding more knots in my back and calves. It was the longest hour I have spent here in China. But now that I am here trying some shredded calimari with draft beer along the pedestrian walkway, I think the massage was great but painful at the time. The only English the therapist spoke was "no pain, no gain". Amen to that.
Just as I was about to leave the walking street, a big down pour started. In the streetside restaurant I am in, the water is now about an inch deep. All of the people are hiding out under cover until the rains lessen.



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