Lumps of rock and strangling Cormorants

Trip Start Apr 08, 2005
Trip End Jan 19, 2007

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Flag of China  ,
Monday, October 3, 2005

No you cant get to Yangzou from Hangzou, its the Chinese holidays dont you know. So we trek back to Shanghai (three hour train trip), then catch the overnight twenty-six hour train to Yangzou. The total door to door travel time was forty-eight hours, so we weren't pleased to be informed upon arrival at midnight that they were unaware of our reservation and had no rooms available. Luckily for us they found us a room at Mr. Wong's place, he's an English teacher. He lived in a mansion at the foot of the mountain and he kindly gave us his best room, which had views of the mountain.

Upon exploring the town it is more like the rustic China you would expect, especially if you get a tandem bike and cycle to the countryide. The town itself is like a beach resort, which is full of bars, restaurants and tat stalls, but with an element of realism. This is apparent when you walk through a food market in the evening, and you see plastic bowls full of live seafood and chickens, some of which regularly jumps out of its shallow bowl and is chased by its owner. They have outdoor tables and chairs and you simply point at whatever live creature you fancy scoffing and they kill it there and then. Can't get fresher than that.

Yangzou is famous for it's Li River, where we embarked on a short river cruise. The countryside is full of the strangest shaped mountains. They are all rounded with no rudgedness about them, Slartibartfast would have been proud. We followed the river on our tamdem, where you can also go for a ride on a bamboo raft. We opted out of this when we realised the amount of racket the locals make whilst travelling down the river. They are even encouraged to make even more noise than usual as they are given water pistols.

Another odd thing you can do in Yangshou is go Cormorant fishing. So after dark, we followed our hotel receptionist (dressed in white) to a tour operator (Smaller, dressed in white) who we followed to another hotel where we followed another woman (even smaller dressed in white) it was a bit like following a set of Russian dolls, except Chinese. Then we found the boat man, who wasn't dressed in white, rather grey and covered in dirt. Then it was onto the worlds noisiest boat to catch up with the fisherman. We thought, for some reason, that we were going to witness some age-old tradition carried out now by a very few people to sustain a living. We should have known better as by now we should know that all these things are just rather disturbing tourist cicuses. This one involved some trained Cormorants who dive for fish, they catch them and can't swallow them as they have string around their necks preventing it. Once they are full the "fisherman" empties out the fish and the cycle re-starts. At some point there is a pause for photos and a chance to give the "fisherman" some money for his efforts. We didnt like it and would suggest that if you are ever there, not to go.

Anyway we leave for Vietnam today, we will miss China for its culture and their friendliness but definitely not for their spitting, pointing, pushing, shoving, shouting and eating bits of animals that we would normally discard. And the smells.

Big love

P.S. Starting to miss home now :(
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