I've gone relaxation silly...

Trip Start Apr 29, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, May 4, 2006

How good is rice? Really. Is there anything it can't do? Rice, rice noodles, rice wine, popped rice, rice cakes, rice crackers, rice paper - even Tim Tice, the composer. It's brilliant. And my love of rice has risen even further after I visited the Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces north of Yangshuo. Imagine this: Mountains, rising up to 2500m above sea level, featuring rice paddies cascading down from the top. Seemingly impossible to farm, but absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, the day I visited was hideous, so I didn't get to see the full extent of the view of the terraces as they fell from the top. But even on that day, as the terraces rolled forever until they disappeared into the fog, the view was just silly and something I'll never forget. Possibly the most beautiful thing I've seen in China? Hmmm - I can't make that call now, but it's up there. Let's say it's definitely top 5. In any event, it's just another stunning natural wonder that this region of the world has to offer.

The natural wonders of this region have gtiven me a lot of time just to sit and think. See, I was sitting yesterday, thinking and came to the conclusion that cavemen get a bad rap. I mean - imagine being defined by the place that you live. It's not like people in the modern day are defined by wqhere they live - like apartmentmen, 4x2men or mansionmen (ok - except for trailer trash, but they're a different story). I think being a caveman would be kinda cool. You see, I went to this cave the other day and it was awesome. I would love to live in this place. Beautiful interior decor in the form of things that resemble stuff (do you ever notice how, whenever you go to a cave, the tour guide always points something out that looks like people having sex?), an enormous water feature in the form of an 80m waterfall (yep - that's right Snags - a water feature), a long pool extending the entire length of the house, and incredibly spacious. Ok - so the rent would probably be more than the apartment in Mt Lawley - but living in a cave in Yangshuo? Now that would be pretty cool. Brilliant even. I wouldn't mind cavemening it up for a little while, kinda like Captain Caveman. These caves were pretty spectacular. Inventively named Water Cave (in fact, the REAL Water Cave, to contrast against all the fakes going around) is enormous - 6 km long and apparently takes 3 days to navigate the entire cave network. The underlit photos don't really demonstrate the size of the cave because it's fucking impossible to take photos in caves (although I reckon the one of the chick in the waterfall is pretty hot).

So, the last few days? Well, except for the cave and the rice terraces, I really haven't done much. I've cycled, wandered, lay around, written, read, sang, slept and eaten and drank in surroundings that remain silly beautiful. I have, however, started to get slightly irritated by one thing in Yangshuo - the tourists. I always think it's slightly hypocritical when a tourish himself complains about the effect of tourism. But I'm going to do it anyway. During May week, when the Chinese have a week off, everyone travels. And Yangshuo, already a major tourist town on any given day, seems to be the destination of choice for everyone. There are tourists everywhere. Absolutely everywhere - literally. Yesterday, I found 2 travellers in my backpack and one in my pocket. I didn't mind the 2 in my backpack so much, but in my pocket? I was really quite restrained as I politely asked him if he wouldn't mind leaving (hmm - abstract). The consequence of having so many tourishs around has been that it has propelled me to more and more far flung and random areas, armed with a didgy map and a bicycle. In fact, at this very moment as I pen this entry, I'm lost in random wilderness. I'm sure I'll find my way back (and indeed, if you are reading this now, I will have managed to find my way back safely). In addition to my dodgy map, I have a trusty compass (because compasses are always trusty) which informs me that to my North, NW, NNW, W, SW, S, SSE, SE and E there beautiful mountains. Surely this will probide sufficient guidance. Another consequence of the touristy nature of this town is the presence of random shit that you would never expect in rural China. Exhibit A = Coopers Sparkling Ale (yep - 2 places in a row) sold by Alf from Sydney. More surprising than the presence of Coopers was the fact that there was an Australian called Alf. I really thought the only Australian Alf was on Home and Away. Anyway - Coopers. Brilliant. Takes like home...

Meanwhile, the managing partner of the firm Herr Doktor and Associates aka Snags aka Sagensnegro aka Snaginho aka Big German aka Papa Bouba Snegiop aka Snaggers aka Paul, has confirmed that the World Cup tickets have arrived. Therefore, it's all systems go and all the kids are converging on Germany. Although being so thoroughly relaxed and loving Yangshuo, I admit that the excitement of the upcoming World Cup is certainly playing on my mind. I don't know if it's this excitement, or the silly beautiful mountains, or the beer from last night, or a combination of the three that is playing with my mind, but I swear that the peak presently right in front of me looks just like Harry Kewell, little spanish pony-tail and all. Really. I think I'll call this hill Kewell Shan.

Kewell Shan overlooks a couple of old rickety shacks which have roofs that structurally resemble those matress cubby houses I used to build as a kid. It makes for a strange juxtaposition between the general poverty of the rural people, struggling with the necessities of life, whilst having these incredible, million dollar views to take for granted. (Kewell, wide on the left, brings it down, confronted by Cicinho, beats Cicinho, crosses for Viduukkka...)

So, it's time to leave Yangshuo. Yangshuo has been...brilliant - relaxing, simple, thought-provoking and, of course, beautiful. I've met lots of great people here and hopefully I will return. Now hoever, I have a 30 hour train journey ahead of me to Shanghai. That equates to a lot of instant noodles.

So, to the Top 5. This topic relates to a matter than has brought me significant enjoyment over my period in CHina. Yangshuo has been better than most. You see, places that are well touristed by westerners are a goldmine for english phrases that are nonsensical, ridiculous and just fucking hilarious. So, the topic is Top 5 english phrases in Yangshuo.

5. "Not Bad View Hotel" - talking it up...
4. "Face a guest soil special product supermarket" - this one is great because it just makes absolutely no sense.
3. "Beer fish deserves respect" - on a restaurant famous for selling beer fish.
2. "Buy 10 beers, get 2" - great deal.
1. "Step forward for civilization" - above an automatic urinal.

Shanghai it is...
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