Friday, December 11, 2009

Are you Yangshuo???

So, on the way to the train station in Kunming I happened to meet up with Sarah again. She was meant to be heading to Kunming on that day, but I saw her down near the train station and she was with some other travellers. The other travellers’ names were Omri (Israel), Eva and Jeremy (USA) and we were all catching an overnight train to Guilin. Once again the train was relatively calm, even though it was an 18-hour journey. The sleepers were quite good though, even if there were some strange things happening around me. When I arrived in Guilin I decided to take a bus to Yangshuo rather than staying in Guilin for the night. I headed there with the crew I had just met up with and we all hopped onto a minibus that took us all the way to Yangshuo bus station. We ended up finding a decent hostel right in the middle of town and we hit the town to find some food because we hadn’t eaten a decent meal for about 24 hours! The town of Yangshou is a very beautiful place. It is located on a river and there are tons of tall limestone peaks throughout the area. It was very impressive to see! I didn’t really have anything planned for my time in Yangshuo, but that was good in my opinion because I was able to relax and take it easy for a bit. The day after we arrived, we all rented mountain bikes and headed off to some nearby sights. The mountain bikes ended up being the best thing too, because the terrain at times became a little rough and bumpy. First we went to the ‘Moon Hill,’ which was a cool natural arch located just outside the town and we all hiked up it. We were followed by local touts who were trying their hardest to sell us water and whatever else they had stuck in their little eskies. After the hike we got back on the bikes and peddled out to find a village that was nearby. We found the village, along with locals exploiting their heritage and trying to charge an entry fee to get into the area. We didn’t want to pay, so we rode around the outskirts looking for another way in or even another way round. We ended up being stopped by the same pushers further up the trail, but we just rode past them and continued on. It turns out the village was not that special nor that interesting, so charging an entrance fee was ridiculous. Riding through the countryside out that way was really nice though; it was definitely a pretty place to see. That night we all ate together and we ate quite well because Eva and Jeremy have been blogging about food and they did some research and had found good places to eat in Yangshuo. The next day Eva, Jeremy, Omri and I got up early and took a cooking class. We began by heading to a local market where we look around for fresh produce and our Chinese master chef (Amy) bought all the necessary things that we would need to cook that day. She also showed us where we could see people preparing dog meat, so we stopped there to have a quick look. I not sure what I expected, but it was actually quite shocking! There were different parts of dog all cut up, and next to them there was a man with a knife skinning a dog that had just been killed on the ground. There was also many large dogs in cages freaking out, because they new that they were next! It was pretty shocking actually, so I walked in out of that area quite quickly! After we had finished seeing dogs being butchered, we headed to the restaurant where we would learn to cook Chinese food. We all had a pretty good time and we learnt to cook some nice tasty food! We’ll see if I’ll be able to replica the whole thing again though. I do have a recipe list and a plan to do more cooking classes through Asia, though I do have a poor memory and tend to just cook things the way I want rather than to the correct recipe.

After a few nights in Yangshuo, Omri and I headed to Longshan where we intended to go see some famous rice terraces that were in the area. The trip out took a bit of time and we had to catch a few buses to get there, but we eventually arrived late in the afternoon. We hiked up to the town of Ping-an, where we found a cheap room for the night. We didn’t see much of the rice terraces in the afternoon due to the fact it was a little cloudy, but we went to bed that night with high hopes for the next day. The next day we awoke to similar scenes to the day before, though this time there was a thick mist present, which was a little disappointing. From what we could see the terraces did look quite spectacular, though I couldn’t help but thinking that maybe they would’ve been a little better on a clear day. We hike
d on anyway and eventually found a village where some of the locals were cooking food and inviting people into their house (at a price of course). We ended up following a nice local into their home and let them cook a bunch of food for us, which ended up being very cheap and very tasty! After a nice meal we hiked on to the next village, but the day took a little turn south and we ended up getting stuck in the rain. It wasn’t that big a deal because neither one of us was worried about getting wet, but it was a little irritating. Eventually we found a minibus that was heading back to Longshan, so we squished into that and it took us to another bus that took us to Guilin. Eventually we made it back to Yangshuo early in the evening tired, a little damp and really really hungry! For the next few days I did not do a whole lot, just relaxed and took it easy. At night I went out drinking with Omri and I bumped into Annete and Gerald again. It was totally by chance! It was fun to hang out with them again though. They had done a bit of a different route, so it was funny that they ended up in the same place as me. After a couple of lazy days I left Yangshuo and started my journey toward Vietnam. When I was catching the bus to Guilin I met some nice English guys (Lyndsey, Alex and Sarah). They were heading on a similar path to me, so I caught the bus and train with them. I actually ended up getting a soft sleeper carriage on the train (due to a communication breakdown), which was nice, bit more expensive then what I was planning on spending though. I am glad I had the soft sleeper at the end of the trip though, because I may have become used to this nicer option hence spending a bit more than I’d hoped.

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