. I see he does not get it, so I stop him, get out my Asian phrasebook and, in the “emergencies” section (along with “Help!”, “Stop!”, “Go Away!” and “call a doctor!”) is “where are the toilets?” Finally, understanding dawns on his face and he turns us around and backtracks us to the squat toilets. The picture translator failed me that time!
We reach the raft, and when we realize we are the only two on it, we do a little happy dance! We shove off on our private bamboo raft, and the captain rinses some type of exotic fruit in the river and hands it to us with a “hello”. I get out my bandana to dry the fruit (not taking any chances!) The fruit is good, but he gave us a ton of it, and every time we stopped eating it, he would point to it and say, “hello!”. It was funny! The river ride was beautiful, with dramatic landscapes of huge limestone rocks jutted straight up. The same looking rocks that are scattered around Halong Bay (yes, we owe a blog for that one!!|) Every 15 minutes or so, the captain would say, “hello!“ point to a set of rocks and put his hands to his eyes- kind of like we would signal eye glasses, but we finally figured he meant “take a picture!“ And he was relentless, he would not stop pointing until Jeff got the camera out and took a photo! We also had a lot of Chinese tourists on other boats waving to us and taking our picture
. What do they do with all these pictures of foreigners?? It was a funny, nice, relaxing way to spend a couple of hours to get to a place! Once we docked the boat, I pointed to shore and said “Yangsuo?” and the Captain nodded his head in the affirmative. So, I figured we just had to walk for a bit to get to our hotel. A tuk tuk driver met us at the river, we showed him the address (we forgot to get it translated into Chinese - MISTAKE!), he nodded and we got in. On the way up the hill, he stopped, showed us a 20 yuan note, pointed to the hills across the river--turns out those hills are on the money! That was cool. Then he drove us through town, kicked us off the tuk tuk and put us on a minivan. It turned out, that we didn’t land in Yangshuo afterall! After 30 minutes of driving while wondering if we were heading away from or towards Yangshuo, we finally got dropped at the bus station in Yangshuo. We somehow got disoriented leaving the bus station, and soon realize we are lost. We start showing people the address of our hotel to try and get pointed in the right direction, but as we didn’t have it in Chinese, all we got was frustration and blank stares. Finally, we walked into a hotel that let Jeff use the phone to call the hostel and the nice girl came and rescued us!
Our hotel was great- we got a corner room on the top floor that was spacious and clean
. The girl that rescued us, Tao Lee, was adorable and spoke excellent English. We asked her to tell us about her favorite noodle place and favorite dumpling place. We ask her to write everything down in Chinese characters. We were hungry so we decided to try the noodle place. Well, there is no English on the signs, so we walk around trying to match the characters on the post it note she wrote to the characters on the restaurants. It was more challenging that you would think-- I think there must be something analogous to our cursive versus print writing. We looked for squiggly lines and dots--we finally had to ask around a couple of times. Once found, we walked in and saw chicken bones, napkins and all kinds of crap littering the floor, but by now we are used to the fact that the Chinese people seem to expect that they will be picked up after, so we tried to ignore it. After all, the plate, teacup, soup bowl and spoon were all hermetically sealed in plastic, so it had to be clean, right?? But since we were after the lunch rush hour, we were practically the only ones in there and they had turned off the air conditioning. As my food was fire spicy, I was sweating (nothing unusual in SE Asia!!), but we did have our own personal fan pointed towards us. It just wasn’t on yet. In most places we have been, they give tables their own fan. This is a nice touch! Things were much improved once the fan came on!!
Then we set off to explore the town
. Not much to do in Yangshuo except chill out and shop!! My kind of place! The first day we just window shopped to identify what we wanted to get and try to get an idea of the prices. Finding out prices is hard-- nothing is posted, so you have to ask. And of course the price is inflated, and once you engage in bargaining you feel sucked in and almost obligated to buy. The irony is, you get the best price when you are willing to walk away and don’t really want to buy! The Chinese are master sales people!
Day 2 we go wandering around and shopping. I have to really be in the mood to bargain--I find it exhausting and I almost always walk away thinking I could’ve gotten a better deal, so it is a frustrating process for me. But I must have been in fine form that day, because by three different sales ladies, I was called “tough lady”, “business lady”, and my favorite is when I was bargaining for t-shirts and once we agreed to a price, the lady was so seemingly pissed off that she violently threw the shirts at me and yelled, “you cheap lady, go away!!” That made me feel really good : ) We also visited the dumpling place that Tao Lee suggested, and we had her write “dumpling” in Chinese. It was a bit of a hike from the touristy areas, so I’m not sure they had ever had any foreigners in there-- the guy kept trying to talk to us in Chinese. Somehow, I think we finally got across that someone else wrote “dumpling” for us! They were the best dumplings I have every had. Absolutely delicious and there was some sort of peanut dipping sauce for them. We ordered a second helping. Then, he was making something for himself, so he came over and dumped some of it on our plates to try. Then he somehow got across that he wanted us to bring all our friends. It was an interesting exchange, and of course our interpretations could be completely off base, but it was fun nonetheless
One of the evening attractions in Yangshuo is cormorant fishing. This is their pre-modern way of fishing and these days is only kept up for tourists, but is absolutely fascinating (if not a little weird!) to witness. The captains raise the cormorant birds from birth, so he is basically their “mother”. The birds follow him around everywhere. He ties a rope to their feet so he can fetch them, and around their neck so they cannot swallow any big fish. Then, the birds go fishing for him! And when he sees them catch a fish, he hauls them onto the boat, grabs their neck and makes them spit out the fish. It was gross and amazing at the same time, and I admit I really liked watching it!! I don’t have any good photos, it was too dark with too much motion, but we have some great videos. We don’t have the speedy internet to load them into our blog, but let me know if you would like to see them!!
We packed a change of clothing and toiletries in our small backpacks, left our bags in Guilin hostel storage and were waiting for our 8am ride to go to Yangdi to catch the bamboo raft to Yangshuo. We waited and waited… the girl at the front desk kept saying, “8am ride, 2 more minutes!“ She repeated this until around 8:45, when we were finally picked up in a rather swanky sedan. We drove about an hour to Yangdi. Then our driver pulls into this small town, points to a guy walking up to the car and motions for us to get out. We are going to meet our “English speaking bamboo captain”. HA! He says, “hello”, we say “hello, how are you?“ he says, “hello”, we say, “what is your name?“ he says “ hello”…. you get the picture!! He walks us through this dinky little town towards the river. I say, “toilet?” He says.. You guessed it… “hello!” so I pull out the picture translator, point to the toilet, and he nods his head and keeps walking