A river trip on the "Xia Jianhe
Trip Start Aug 05, 2011
101Trip End Oct 08, 2012
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Where I stayed
The Xia Jianhe is the cleanest river around and I can take the bus there and back for 90 cents, not bad for a 20 KM trip through gorgeous country. But today was cool and cloudy so my friend "Steve" and I didn't want to swim, just exploring the surrounding area by bus would be fine. So we waited for the numberless yellow bus to arrive and take us as far as the bus goes. Took about 30 minutes to reach it's turn-around point, a place known as Gulonghe or "Scenic Drifting Area", to our surprise there were bamboo rafts there for tourists to sit on (I doubt that many westerns have been here) and ride up the river then back for 2 hours
We stepped on the raft and they said 30 kwai, we were down for that and went upriver while the two boatmen toiled against the harsh current as people have done here for thousands of years. The surrounding countryside was incredible, espiecially since the clouds were rolling down the steep karst mountains and the air was around 25 C, which made for a nice day to be out on a boat.
After 30 minutes the boat stops and the guide wanted us to agree to go further. He also changed his price and now wanted 600 RMB (100 US dollars), instead of the 5$ each that we had agreed on. He also wanted the money then and would not take us back to the starting point which was a bit of a threat as well.
I had him talk to my boss on the phone and she told them that we didn't want to go further and that 120 RMB (kwai) was all we were going to pay; she let them know we were locals and not tourists
They had us where they wanted us, but I unleashed my boss on them who negotiated the total price down to 120 kwai.. Thats about 18 dollars and a fair price to pay in China for two men to pole a boat up the river and coast back for an hour and a half. They were making like twelve dollars per hour, yet the younger guy sounded pissed. The whole way back he bitched to his father who was capitain of the boat. He wanted 5 times more than what his greedy ass got in the end. Be careful here folks... get them to write the price down if possible. Be sure to have a Chinese speaker available for phone calls, or just leave if they try to screw you over, or demand they bring a policeman. When hiring transportation in China (and other places) get the prices set in stone with no room for disagreements. Better yet: take a folding bike with you at all times and never use public taxis, scooters, tuk tuks, boats, rent a bikes... ect... You can bring a folding bike on most buses, trains, and planes
Tuesday August 7th: The day I left Dallas to live in China. It's been one year and quite a learning experience I must admit. Although I love China..... The language barrier will prevent me from staying for many years. I plan to finish this 10 month contract then move to another country, preferably one where I can communicate easier with the locals. Burma is on my radar as is Sri Lanka and the Middle East. Who knows?
Living in China as a single older person is like living in a cave or somewhere very remote. You will experience near complete isolation. I recommend it for those who have a significant other or even a solid best friend. I recommend it for people who can speak Chinese. Otherwise, I caution you not to come here for more than 1/2 a year. I am very interested in other cultures and fascinated by strange foreign places but I must admit... I have never been so alone in my life. Moving down south where there are only 6 westerners in this city of 500,000 might not have been the best idea, but the scenery and apartment are nice
Tonight I am making a chicken gumbo while listening to music. Jazz mainly, the music of gumbo. Nice to escape Chinese food for a little while. Nice to escape from the crowded streets and staring people. Nice to miss out on the excruciating sound of the buses airhorns and people talking loudly on their cellphones in public places. Nice not to have to constantly look down so you dont fall in a hole or step on something disgusting. I can stay up here for days at a time if I allowed myself. Nice to remember back through all the things I've seen and learned over the past year. I do not regret coming here, the experience has changed me in many ways. But I do enjoy the occasional evening of cooking and listening to good music. An escape from the escape as I see it.