Friday, May 16, 2008

Yangshuo – China (Part IV)

I wrote about getting to Yangshuo from GZ, about a trip down the Li River on a raft, and I even featured some wild pictures from the scene in Yangshuo after dark. Then I totally forgot about the coolest part of my trip, a bike ride through the country side. Yangshuo is well known across the world for its spectacular views, rock climbing, and bicycle routes. All over West Street there were bicycles for rent and large groups of tourists heading out on their bikes to explore the countryside. I had my mind set on embarking on a similar adventure of my own on a bicycle. No ride free through the villages and rice paddies with my cameras, able to hop of the road and onto a beaten track whenever I please, to move through the landscape silently, enjoying the sounds of nature. But when I came across this moped for rent; I decided to go for that instead.

I rode far and wide, and I was seriously surprised how far I had to go to get away from all the fuckers on bicycles. I know if I was pedaling manually I would not have gone anywhere to close to where I went. I would have constantly been looking at the map making sure I was not heading towards and big ass hills or that I was not going down some one way path. But with the gas powered motor under my ass I did not give a shit. But some of these white people scare me. I mean there were loads of local tourists riding around but I lost most of them after about an hour. But even after 2 hours of riding when my butt was sore and my wrist hurt from twisting the accelerator I still saw the white folk peddling into the sunset with kids, and picnic baskets, and smiles on their faces. I swear to god, by that time I would probably have ditched my kid and eaten a portion of my wife’s ass to keep my energy level up. Normal people do not do cycle for 6 hours in the scorching sun!

But seriously, what a view. I reached places where all around me, 360 degrees, all I could see were these gorgeous mountains lunging towards the sky. I was out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by rice paddies, exploring old dirt roads. I went by rivers with where fishermen were at work, other spots where there were rafts for tourists to take rides down the rivers. Some rafts sold food on the river and other rafts sold cold beers. There were also some secluded guest houses I found owned by foreigners who have settled down in Yangshuo. Most of them had small kitchens where they prepared simple food for their guests and people passing by. There was one spot I found that was owned by a couple of Germans that was way off the beaten track and they had quite an assortment of German dishes, cooked by the proprietors themselves. That place was so awesome that I do not even want to reveal any more about it. I stopped at loads of spots along the way to take pictures. Some local tourists on bikes even made me stop to take pictures with ME!? I became a local attraction in Yangshuo.

Having this many mountains Yangshuo is also boung to have numerous caves. And these are also a very popular attraction amongst visitors. There are some very large and famous caves that have fresh water pools and amazing stalagmites and stalactites, but they get quite crowded during the national holidays. I got turned off by the long lines and rode on. Then I actually found one that had practically no one there except for the family who was running it. But it still cost me about US$20 to get in. That price came with a guided tour as well.

SO this young chick who was obviously still learning English told me the tour would take an hour and handed me a flight light and bottle of water then lead me into the deep dark cave. The cave was not nearly as dark as I had hoped. In fact it was quite well lit with stop lights and neon bulbs of every color. They did give the rock formations a cool effect and if I was a decent photographer I might have been able to take some cool shots there. I understand the ambience has been designed for that purpose. It was at least 8 degrees cooler in the cave than it was outside which was pretty refreshing. I was having a great time looking at the rock formations, contemplating how time has created them trying to enjoy the silence listening to water drip from the roof of the cave into pools all around. But every time I was getting into the whole cave vibe the little tour chick would say something like ‘Ohhhh, look there is a monkey!’ And I would get all excited and be like ‘where!’ Then she would point at some rock that looked vaguely like a monkey. It was mildly amusing the first 2 times when I saw a monkey and a butterfly, but then she showed me a phoenix, an old man, a lady and her baby, a nun, a flower… I almost lost when she pointed at a pool and said, ‘look a turtle’! I really expected to see some pigment deprived cave turtle and it was a fucking round piece of rock again. I almost rabbit punched the bitch right there. At the end of the cave we got to a large pool of mud that looked kind of man made to me. The convenient rock slide leading into it sort of gave it away. Plus they had showers and a changing room set up conveniently for people who wanted to bathe in this naturally invigorating and beautifying spew. I also spotted the electricity transistor box and asked her if we could turn the lights off. She actually obliged and we spent the next half hour walking to the mouth of the cave with nothing but flashlights. That was fucking awesome, especially because she could not see any funky rock formations to point out to me. It was unbelievably dark and quite. I loved it. One thing the tour girl did show me that was very cool was these shards of hollow rock sticking out of that wall that if you tapped them they made sounds like a low bell, all in different tones because of their various sizes. In the dark hollow cave the sounds bounced around and it sounded so eerie. The only reason I actually enjoyed the cave was because of the dark return and the funky sound rocks. Otherwise I would not really recommend it.

Another really wikid spectacle I rode up to was Moon Hill. It is a very popular attraction and it takes about an hour to hike up to the top of it. I strolled around the area for a while but did not make an attempt for the summit. I wanted to leave some stuff undone for the next time I go to Yangshuo with my friends. Plus walking uphill for an hour alone with a hangover was not what I needed at the time. But I really would like to climb this sucker one of these days. The view from up there must be mind-blowing. It is also a fantastic place to take pictures of, when you can actually catch a moonrise through the hole in Moon Hill.

Spending a day riding around Yangshuo, stopping every now and then for a cold beer or a hot bowl of noodles is just what my soul needed. I chilled out dipping my feet in rivers where there were no people, or watching farmer’s plant rice. It still blows my mind that this paradise is only 7 hours by bus from the GZ and I don’t know when I am going to find the time to go there again. China is full of these goldmines and I am really looking forward to exploring them one by one.

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