|not my photo|
So here we are, smack in the middle of these sometimes hairy looking giants. It's so easy to see how people imagined it as a dragon's back. While we've been here, the weather has been kind of dreary, overcast, often heavy clouds, occasional cloudbursts, never clear blue and sunny. I can imagine that presents a very different kind of beauty, but I actually enjoyed it exactly as we had it. The misty clouds clinging to the mountains made so much sense.
Our first afternoon, we took a taxi into Yangshuo, which is a small city with a highly (overly) developed tourist area marked by pedestrian-only streets. We saw the same kind of thing in Guilin, and we disliked it in Yangshuo to the same degree. Shops, restaurants, food stalls, street performers, and hordes of Chinese tourists jammed into the small streets. Unhelpfully, the street signs are in Chinese except for one English phrase: "Orderly Streets."
So we wandered around, felt the kind of despair we feel in places like this, and stopped for a bowl of noodles at a restaurant Marc had found ahead of time. Meh. It was OK. We'd had enough, and were a bit worried about the fact that we had three days here. Our hotel is away from the city, in a little rural area, and there are just small villages, homes, and gardens. What would we do?
Our hotel, the Mountain Nest, is just about as charming as it can be, and the women who work here, Erica and Kelly and two others whose English names I didn't get, are friendly and helpful and very kind.
|waving from our fourth floor room|
|in addition to the shower in the bathroom, we had this big wooden|
|beautiful view from our beautiful room.|
|All the homes, fancy or humble, have banners alongside the front door. Many are red....|
|...and some are white.|
|That's a water irrigation wheel used for farming, to the left. Or at least a replica of one. We have no idea.|
|All kinds of signs here and there -- usually poetic, like this, and usually|
focused on what it means to be a good citizen.
|Marc came upon this set of tombs, being prepared for tomb sweeping....|
|Just a random spot. Hard not to find extraordinary beauty here.|
I wanted to spend some time trying to sketch the mountains out our windows, so while Marc took an afternoon walk, I made a little pot of tea and assembled my stuff on the long balcony. I may not have been happy with what I drew, but I sure was happy with the experience of sitting there looking so closely.
|Green tea, almond kisses, my orange bag of pens and pencils, a moleskine Marnie gave me,|
and a new tin of watercolor colored pencils. Quiet peace and happiness.
|waiting it out|
As we pulled into the parking lot, a couple of older woman flocked to us, trying (we think) to sell us plastic raincoats. They pointed to us one at a time and held up two fingers, they opened a wallet and showed us some money, but we just had no idea what any of it meant. That much for one person? For both? For the raft trip, or for the raincoats? They kept insistently speaking to us in Chinese and we kept just as insistently speaking to them in English, of course, which was so silly. I pulled out my app to show them "I do not speak Chinese" and "I don't understand" -- the most obviously unnecessary sentences ever needed -- but they couldn't read the sentences printed in Mandarin. That left me with zero confidence in that app, I'm telling you.
I got overwhelmed by it, by the impossibility of understanding anything at all, and we drove off with them shouting at us. We stopped along the road and decided to go back and just try to make it work. I would've given up instantly, but thankfully Marc is persistent and less scared than me.
So tickets were purchased and we were given two orange plastic bags each -- the same kind we get in Chinatown when we buy something, funnily enough -- and escorted to a boatman. The bamboo rafts have seats attached near the back, and he stands behind and uses a long pole to navigate. There were two life saver ring things, and each had a strap which he wrapped around our waists. Later I noticed that ONLY WE had them attached to us. My most hopeful interpretation is that should something go wrong, since we obviously couldn't understand verbal commands at least we might be held up in the water or dragged to safety.
We figured out that the orange bags were meant to go over our shoes, so we tied them on and off we went.
|unattractive, for sure, but they kept our feet dry!|
|I liked him a lot. He was friendly and quite kind.|
|Only Chinese people on the river this day, and us. They often smiled and waved and said Hello.|
|Many stood on the end of the raft for a picture. Not me, sister. Not me.|
|that's our raft.|
|it was hard to breathe, it was just so beautiful.|
|that's smoke in front of the mountain, from a big explosion of firecrackers -- Tomb Sweeping!|
|I just can't even.|
|A shaky start, maybe, but SUCH a great experience.|
Before dinner we decided NOT to get bikes, but instead to head out on foot, so we rambled along until we found a very small road that disappeared back into a lonely looking area, a small village. Everywhere there are orange trees in thick blossom, so the air nearly makes me dizzy with the fragrance. There are beautiful, orderly gardens everywhere, and fat, healthy chickens running around. Old grandmas hold and walk little infants. People were either working out in their gardens or sitting on the steps in front of their homes, talking. We were usually just ignored, unremarkable in any way, but often people said ni hao, hello, and on occasion they said hello in English. I tried to say it to people I passed if I could catch their eyes. Smiles were rare but the hellos were friendly.
|LOTS of very healthy, fat chickens and roosters everywhere -- in this little village and everywhere else|
|This tomb is very near our hotel, and I heard the prolonged explosions of all these firecrackers.|
Bits of red paper were spread quite far away from the tomb.
And so today, after a big thunderstorm with a crack of lightning, we're piddling around and repacking before we leave this afternoon. We fly to Kunming, where we'll just spend the night and leave the next morning for Dali, in Yunnan Province.
Ah, it's raining again. Still. Goodbye, Yangshuo, and xie xie.