Yangshuo, China


Yangshuo, China
Originally uploaded by natekoechley.

We’re in Yangshuo right now, about 70 km south of Guilin. The whole area around here is full of this amazingly shaped mountains. There are supposedly 70,000 peaks around here, jutting up about 200m from an otherwise flat terrain. It’s great, because you’re right in the mountains, but it’s basically totally flat for biking and walking around.

Yesterday, we rented bicycles and rode outside of town, and along the Yu Long river. The town was quickly behind us, and we were in another words: rice patties, water buffalo, irrigation ditches, chickens and ducks, bamboo groves and all the while in the shadows of these totally amazing mountains towering overhead.
We rode north for maybe 10k, then stopped at this tiny room for lunch and a beer. Total language barrier. They took me into the kitchen, and I pointed at the veggies that i wanted mixed and fried with rice… Tomatos, chillies, garlic, ginger, and kale or some unknown green. The deal with food is that if it’s fried or boiled sufficiently, you’re all good. Still, it was a little unnerving when the woman carried the greens down to the river to wash them right in front of us.

Still, it was the best meal i’ve had in the mainland. Things were fresh, and because i watched her cook it, the standard unease and sketchyness were more or less absent. Ate it all. With two beers.

The whole while, everybody we passed yelled “knee-how, bamboo”. Ni’hou is hello, and bamboo was a solicitation to take a long-pole pushed bamboo raft ride down the lazy river. We said no about 100 times, finally negotiated an arrangement to be taken a few km south after lunch. It was peaceful once we made arrangements, as there was nothing else for them to sell us.

After lunch, we loaded our bikes on the back of this bamboo rafe, and sat under an umbrella while a strong teenaged boy pushed us down the river.

The ride lasted about 2.5 hours, punctuated every 20 or 30 minutes by a fairly exciting plunge over dams in the river. The raft was long enough that it just sort of extended, sloped and dropped over the dams. We had to hold our backpacks high in our laps (because they’re filled with electonics), and lift our feet up because the front of the raft sank maybe a foot into the water before leveling back out.

Even on the river you’re continually accousted to purchase things. On the river, locals would float on their bamboo rafts with coolers of beer and coke and water, ciggs, and eggs and other food. At the first one, we bought our push-driver two hardboiled eggs and a coke (his selection), and after that he steered clear of the other vendors.

We finally made it to our destination. We unloaded, and started to bike home. We biked upstread along the river, dodging water buffalo and kids and motorcycles. It was exceptionally beautiful, and fun and eye-opening. Everybody we passed waved and yelled “hello” and “nihow”. It seems that most enjoy an opportunity to yell the english they know, “hello”, “have a nice day”, “see you”, which is waaay more than i know in chinese so far.

We biked and said hello and waved and smiled for an hour or so, snaking back up the river. It was all new to me: one-room houses, free-roaming chickens, mud roofs, true farmers, buffalo-pulled plows (though there were many motor-driven rototillers too). Small orange trees, fields of lettuce and other greens.

Beautiful.

The trip has finally begun.