Saturday, October 30, 2004

A blog 

Shanghai is cool. Opium dens are harder to come by than you would
think, but we did see a little shady late night in the bar old white
man with young chinese girl sketch moves. Pics will follow.

Where the hell did I leave off the last time I posted, anyway? Once
again, I'm irked at the inaccessibility of my own blog!

Let's go with this-in Shanghai, we stayed at a hotel in a very
run-down part of town. But here's the thing-even though it was
run-down looking it was great. If I ended up in a part of Chicago that
looked better than this area, I'd be scared shitwitless, with good
reason. But here, that's not the case! We felt (and were very safe.
It's so different here! Why did I love it in that neighborhood? Nice
people, no beggars (like we keep seeing in touristy areas) and more
authentic. People are cooking for their 'restaurants' (tables out
front) in their homes' kitchens. Great food, not westernized, and such
an interesting area! R and I were noticing that hitting an area like
that a couple weeks ago was a bit more....shocking. Now we almost feel
like we fit in (as much as we can as 2 westerners walking around a
part of the city that rarely sees such types).

Good times

Now we have moved on to Tai'an, locale of Tai Shan which is China's
most holy mountain. We are going to climb it on Monday. Tomorrow we
are making a day trip to Confucious' home town. I'll be overflowing
with wisdom by Tuesday! I'm looking forward to it all, but the best
part? We are staying here, in the same hotel and hotel room, for
almost a week!!! That's the longest I've stayed anywhere since leaving
Chicago! Very exciting and it'll give us some time to relax some more.

Saw a table on the street the other day selling meat. Had what looked
like a dog's skull sittin' with it. Fido ain't fetching no mo' sticks
and stones breaking my bones the walls come tumbling on me. Rolly
polly watched us all thru the looking glass mirror on his humpty
dumpety wall board closted freak needs to get out more and experience
some dirty nasty stank-ass rhymes

I need some food

This next part for those of you who have not forgotten about us (yet)
and find it in your hearts to worry about us:

If you read our emails or my blog and get the impression that we are
upset, unhappy, or in grave danger, fret not. I think our emails/blogs
come off funny to each other because we are here and know what's going
on. But we are not upset by the situations we have found ourselves in
or by what we see. Please don't worry as our emotional/psychologically
states of mind are fine (well, R's is. Mine has always been a bit

As for the dangers and whatnot, they really aren't there. The bus
drivers are quite competent in their rambunctious ways, and there has
not been a situation yet where we felt our lives were truly in danger.
I swear.

As for what you read here....I have been known, on occasion, to maybe
stretch what could be seen as the truth. To take some liberal
licensure with actual names events and periods in history

So to you loved ones, don't worry (and take what I say ith a block of salt?).

To the rest-I swear it all happened that way! That dangling participle
nearly decapitulated onto my head in a swarm of misogynation!

My sis and I just got done 'instant messaging' back and forth (this
comp lab is AWESOME!! Just wait until later this week when I'm awake
and have more time to sit in here and dump my brain. It's gonna be
awesome! It's super cheap and the comps aer fast as hell) and she just
nixed my latest idea. I want to see Tibet, but she has forbidden me to
do it legally (she has been there and in no way wants the Ch*nese govt
to profit from the Tibetans). So I thought, maybe, after we go to
Uzbekistan in January, we drop by Tibet for some tea. She has nixed
the idea, something about Tibet being the "land of snow" and cold and
roads closed and crap like that. I just think she's scared! Yeah, take
that B!

Ok seriously. I need to eat something now.

Tomorrow is Halloween. I feel like I should dress up. Unfortunately my
only option is to dress as Rachelle. I think I'd look great in her
bikini (she seems to think that is a terrible idea for a costume), and
when I send her out for food tomorrow I'll throw it on and take a pic
for y'all. It'll be scrumptious!

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Thursday, October 28, 2004

More blog 

Crap. I screwed up the name of the book I'm reading. It's "Visions of
Cody", not 'life of cody'. I'm an idiot. That is another one of the
downfalls of not being able to access my blog directly-i can go back
and edit out blunders like that!

We are still here in the comp lab, so what should I write?

There are some crazy shops here, selling everything from cop lights to
surveying equipment, all specialized and seemingly selling one product
type (not indicative of all shops in the city, just the couple of
roads we cruised down earlier today). There are also science type
shops. Rachelle just blew her budget for the month. I don't know if it
was the erlenmeyer flask or the titration machine, but she went gonzo.
She bought the erlenmeyer, and had been titrating iodine into our
water bottles in precise amounts to make sure we are not wasting any.
but wait, it doesn't stop there. she then procures a sample and checks
it under her new microscope to make sure there are no swimmy things
left running around. That is why we are still here typing. Her typing
is continually interrupted by her 'experiments' and her maniacal

And it gets worse. We went into McD's today (which sits adjacent to a
Starsucks. Yes, I got a pic). I ate a fry or two, but R got the full
spicy chicken meal. And guess what? It looks just like a McD's at home
(with some extra chinese speaking people). Same menu, basically.
Though you could buy a hello kitty charm...oof. Some chick sat down at
the table next to us and stared. Fascinated as if she couldn't figure
out why white people were in there. It was rough, but I have not been
traveling as long as her so maybe the urge for USAish food will hit me
later? I'll let you know (probably not).

I am not the sole object of curiosity in our traveling vagabond
brigade. R's blonde hair is no match for my face. Let me explain.
Chinese men have very little hair. I had this illustrated to me thru a
bad game of charades and a semi-translator. On our t-ride to Xi'an, we
ended up chatting with 3 other guys. One of which spoke english. The
one dude, who very much wanted to communicate with us, looked at me
laughing, pulling on the hair on his arm (just one. Like a bad hairdo
he'd wrapped it around and around his arm in the strangest comb-over
I've ever seen) and then pointing at mine. His friend let me know how
strange the guy found all my hair. Yes, I am hairy, I know this all
too well. I offered him mine, in all seriousness, but he declined. My
point? Since I am now sporting the full shaggy beard (no razor has
touched my face in over a month, and won't until we hit thailand.
Can't have a beard on the beach, you know?), I am like a bearded lady,
only not so much a lady (how would YOU know?). I now garner all the
stares wherever we go to R's delight. Guess they've never seen a
Wookie walking around in town? Who knows.

More cultural plights

Standing in line yesterday, after 17 hours on a train, waiting to get
a ticket for 3 days hence to Tai'an. That's the situation. We found a
line that had a sign over the ticket honcho: "english spoken here". we
chose wisely. 2 people from the front of the line (believe it or not
there was an actual line. No personal space though. The older woman
and dude behind us kept walking up into our very obvious backpacks. I
kept swinging mine around in maddened glee! Feeling it hit them and
shove their little selves out of the way made up for their riding up
our asses), the woman starts cussing us out!! As if it was our fault
she couldn't stand back a bit. It was great. I let her know how
minimal my chinese is, and offered her some advice that would correct
her problem-STAND THE FUCK BACK! Yes, it was annoying. As I was paying
for our tickets (R was off hiding behind a pillar) she tried to push
in front of me to order hers, as did the guy on my right! My
basketball coaches would be so proud of my boxing out skills! She
cussed as I left, and I mocked her. I am a bit worried to get back in
the states, because lowering my shoulder and knocking into people is
the norm (and necessary) here. Not so much at home.

One more. Getting onto trains, as I've mentioned, is a huge pushing
match and then a foot race. 2 trains ago we decided to join in,
thinking the sooner you get to the car the better seat (lowest bunk)
you'd get. So we shoved up front early, pushed thru the turnstiles and
got our tickets checked (did you know: when you get to your
destination you need to show your ticket to get out of the station?
odd.), and started almost running. Then we shoved up to get on the
car. And you know what? It don't matter a bit. You are where you are,
no matter when youget there. We are done hurrying, though our
curiosity has only increased at this phenomenon.

One more one more. Ramen is back!!! It's the in thing here! I love it!
Here's the catch-it's so much better than in the states! We've been
getting little buckets of it (super cheap and great for trains.
they're about a quarter0 and they come with full peppers little chunks
of meat and are the best! the best, jerry, the best! so there, take
that scoffers!

seriously guys, I gotta eat!

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We are in Shanghai right now. Since the other night (Monday maybe?) we've travelled for 35 hours on trains. How's that for long? Left Monday night from Chengdu on an 18 hour ride to Xi'an. Saw the terracotta warriors (very cool) and were back on a train 8 hours later for the 17 hour ride to Shanghai. And we are still here until tomorrow night when we catch a 10-hour train to Tai'an, a small place between here and Beijing. We are going to climb the holy mountain there (TaiShan) and rest up a bit.

Train travelling is less stressful than busing, but it has its own issues. Lights (all) go out at 10pm (and if you decide to write in your journal until 1am, sitting on a vent by the bathroom, everyone [workers, old chinese men in long underwear, women, children, dockworkers....] looks at you very strangley. Especially since journaling is unknown to them [is that correct, sis?]). So be it. I had a good time. Oh yeah, I was discussing the issues. Hacking up phlegm is huge here (horrible air. Our boogers have been black for weeks now, as an example. And so is Rachelle's fingertip but that has nothing to do with the air) and when your beds are last in line right next to the bathroom you get to hear it all night.

Noise. Our last train had tv in every bed stall (there are 6 beds, 3 to a side) and the noise was cranked to full volume. When they weren't playing karaoke videos or commercials or movie previews, a broad came over the speaker to say...something for 10 minutes at each go. The english translation came out as: "we are stopping here for 4 minutes. Be warned". Hm.

What else....smelly feet (usually our own) stink things up. Speaking of stinking, remember the other post when I bragged about being clean and washing my clothes regularly? That is a thing of the past. Sort of. After all the bus rides and train rides, with no time to hang clothes up to dry, we got a bit...ripe. I've been wearing my rain pants (very comfortable) for a couple days now because my stained and stinky pants needed a break. I wore the same socks and skivvies for about 3 days and my t-shirt demanded a rest or it was going on strike. It was bad. We finally got to wash last night so we are backin business.

Shanghai. Interesting city. We walked around in circles last nightbecause we were told our hotel was in a place it wasn't. They pointedat one place on the map and after an hour of wandering (and me beingsure I was losing my mind and was actually a little worried that sinceit was dark we wouldn't be finding the hotel) we figured out thelittle discrepancy (1/2 mile error). It's cleaner than the otherbiggies we've been to and there is sun here which is nice. We've beento 6 opium dens and 4 brothels so far, and after catching theacrobatics tonight we will hit a combined brothel/opium den/beerhall/library. Should be interesting.

Speaking of books, so much for winnowing down the crap in my pack. We found a western book having bookstore today. Did I buy any books? Of course! I've been trying to read Kerouac's "Life of Cody" slowly (which is succeeding due to the book. It's cornfuysing at times.). I need a break from the solid reader, something light and fluffy likecotton candy (only in a literary sense). I got Dostoevsky's "TheIdiot", and Dante's "Inferno" (it's a comedy, you know?). Think I'm smart? I don't. At least I have something to read during all this traveling. (By the way, Brenda? You live way the shite out in the middle of freakin' nowhere. I am in Bangkok for new years and have to make my way out to you after that. Looooooooong train ride!)

What else has been going on? Not too much. Our hotel right now is in a pretty cool area. Very run down, very not-touristy, which means great food and atmosphere. It's quite the contrast with the fancy new condos they are building right behind, but I like it. Tourist areas are boring and sterile, and you can taste the westernization of the food.

My face is squelched and belching volcanic ash. Don't ask, I don't know what it means. I am still in recovery mode from the trains.

We went up to Jiuzhaiuo the other week. A fancy touristed out nature area. Cost us $30 (a day) with bus to get in, and we stayed inside the park despite their signs saying it's not legal (they lie. All the workers there do what they can to help the people living in the park). Not a bad place, though I felt like I was in monk training. It was very spartan. Two beds, a small wooden table and 2 chairs. And barely enough room for it all. And not heated of course (~9,000ft). Cool though. Had a nice common room and we were living in some guy's house so it was homey. Even though he ripped us off pretty bad. But we showed him! We took his picture!!!

The winner of my contest is Paul (I know it's you! I couldn't access your new blog site though because blogspot is not legal here, which is why my poor mom has been posting all this crap I send out). All the advice was good (Jeremy-while I like your efforts to get me to burn my underwear [kinda like the braless revolution, eh?][why do you want me out of my skivvies anyway? You're married with a kid on the way!], you didn't quite cut it. Mom-too practical! I can't get rid of my books, are you crazy! It's like having cigarettes in prison...I've been told), but Paul not only mentioned the lemur, he incorporated a poop joke in his response (and you all know how much I love poop talk. Though not as much as some...DHM). So Paul, here is your authentic Chinese email.....

Hi are you doing, Paul? I am Fang Ang Gong. I born in Shanghai and send you email for Corey. He come in my..how you say....message palace yestertoday? I rub his back and he ask me for favor.

Today I write you email for big tip Corey present me. You are winner!

Congratulations!! Here in China, we are all winner. But don't have children number 2, or you big big loser! Birth control means preserving more land for us. I know this, the big sign say so.

Um, well, yay, Paul! Me love you long time!! I go back to work now.You make Corey much happy!

Hugs and kissers, Fang

So, Paul, do you feel lucky? I'll bet more of you wish you had tried to win so that YOU could have gotten that personalized message, don'tyou?

Incidentally, we saw the billboard Fang mentioned. Pretty crazy stuff.mnAnd yes, the one kid rule is in effect. More than one? HUGE monthly fines. But since 80% of the populace lives in the country where enforcement is tough.... A guy we talked to on the train said: "Yes, the govt said that and we just accept it." Rachelle of course threw in: "Well, in the US the people would never let the govt do that!"


That is enough from me now. I am tired again and need some pick-me up (food).

Peace out, I'll chat at ya later

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Sunday, October 24, 2004

I am my sister's brother 

Finally time for me to finish the Siguniang area talk. I am on a decent keyboard finally, but it's full of Chinese characters-good thing I am familiar with a keyboard!

It was day 2 of our stay. Waking up in the frigid morning air we hurriedly dressed (why do I lie? We went to bed dressed in our warmclothes. Womb type coverings nonwithstanding, it was damn cold! FYI-my sis informed me that China south of the Yangtze never gets heat. So this place, at 9-10,000 feet, never gets heat [unless you are wealthy enough to afford brick coals?]. Yikes.)) and headed down to meet our Chinese friends for breakfast. Good times and our hotelier drove us to the 'trailhead'. Actually, he dropped us off on the side of the road next to a deer trail looking path up the side of a hill. I was preparing my pack when Oliver (Chinese friend's english name. Muchlike mine was Diego in high school. I look like a Diego, don't I?)told us to hurry and run. Huh? I looked up and they were all gone so I grabbed my pack and scampered up shoving bushes and thorns aside in hot pursuit. My first hint that we were scofflaws.

We wandered for a while, the Chinese folk lost and confused as to where to go (though Rachelle and I knew right away). After following them down a couple wrong paths, we took control and started leading. Long story short (since we have to leave soon to catch a train, and a majority of this day isn't all that interesting.) time. We were prepared for a long day-lots of water, bread rolls from breakfast, peanuts and crackers (the right stuff for a growing boy!). 5 hours into the day (after 1 the other 4 looked ready to drop, but in the interests of posing with the end view they doggedly kept walking. This day, we vowed to not let them kill themselves and leave us stranded in the dark [no horses were present]), a beautiful day ( we got amazing views of the 4 sisters [blowupable and frameable I am hoping. Eventually I will download all the digs and put them online. Hopefully in Beijing in just under 2 weeks], the trail was on a marvelous green hillside filled with yaks old structures working Chinese Tibetan hillfolk and surrounded by snowcapped peaks. Whew!), we stopped for a rest. Since it looked to be a long one, I ate my crackers then laid back and put my hat over my eyes. The warm sun covered me up and the cool breeze kept me at the perfect temp. Finallyu away from the noise of people and cities I pushed the buzz of converstation and focused on the wonderful peace and quiet. I drifted in and out and as I was going down for the third time, Rachelle told me I had to get up and that we had to hide? Still mostly asleep I arose wondering from who/what we were hiding. Still packing my bag, Oliver told us that park people were ahead checking for tickets in. Oops. We started moving (waiting for the signal from our guide [the Chinese hired a Tibetan woman we passed to be our guide. Down this easily discernible trail. But she was about to be worth her weight in RMBs) and almost immediately the guide waved us into the bushes.

Now, I was still mostly asleep and all I saw (barely) was quick movement from the others. I took off pellmell towards the trees and was 30 feet in (scratched and beaten) before realizing what I was doing. I dove headfirst into a bush (stupid pointy razor sharp leaves! Who came up with that idea?) and covered my head. R walked up shaking her head and sat down beside me. Clapping 15 minutes later reassured us that we were ok and we resumed hiking.

All was well and good for the next hour (yes, that's 6 hours in now) and then more waving. This time I was awake which was good-all thefoliage near the trail was low so it was a longer run. But I found the perfect little hiding place and almost took a nap it was so cozy! So yes, I am like my sister in that I have now had to flee and hide from the po-po. I have no idea how much we skipped out on paying or what the penalty would have been, but that's ok. I don't need to know. HEHE!! What fun!

Our hike out ended an hour later, 7 hours in. And these guys were BEAT! Our guide fortunately (earning her money again) pushed them to keep moving and we made it out in 3.5 hours (yes, we were barely moving going out). Fortunately we made it back before sundown and caught a sunset that was....anticlimactic. No good colors on the 4sisters. So be it.

That was the exciting parts of that story. It's fun to be scofflaws!

Sorry to those of you I have not emailed back yet. I'll get to it. The computers here are finicky and we can't always access our email (somedays gmail works and yahoo doesn't, the next day is reversed, etc). We are leaving Chengdu in a couple of hours on an 18 hour train ride to Xi'an to see the Terracotta Warriors. We'll then leave either tomorrow night (hopefully, even though we'll only have been off the train for about 10 hours) or the next day on a 20-hour or so ride to Shanghai. After that we are going to another region (I forget the name) to climb a holy mountain, see Confucious's place and relax for a couple of days before training again to Beijing where we are meeting up with one of R's friends and one of my buddy's brothers (who lives there).

That is our schedule (subject to change at a moment's notice) for the next couple weeks. After a week.5 in Beijing it's time for Thailand! Warmth and less travel, I can't wait! And surf lessons!!

A couple of notes:

Audis and VW's (mostly Jettas which are the car of choice for taxis) are huge here. So if you have, or have ever had either, you would fit in perfectly here (if you are reborn as Chinese of course).

That's all for now. Gotta run and eat lunch so we don't go another day without food (we had a stretch of almost a weeik eating very little. A couple days with no real meal and the rest of our food was ramen typestuff crackers and oreos. Yes, I am losing weight. But not from my stupid oversized hips where I need it gone! Poopers!)

Peace out

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Bus roundup 

Bus roundup

First, my excuses for bad typing this post. I am tired; we had a
12-hour bus ride today. I have to stand on the space bar to get it to
work and that gets old. Quickly. When I press the left shit bar, the
following happens:

When I press the 'enter' key, this happens:
\Annoying. So let's move on. I have another hiking experience to
recount from last week (it's a good one. Let's just say that
I've proven again that I am related to my little sis).

Let's talk about busses. First, our ride back a few days ago from our
first jaunt to the mountains (see earlier posts about part of that
trip). On the ride out, the latter part of the ride was in the dark
(and fog snow rain. I also neglected to mention the karaoke [the tv
had music videos with the words playing over and over and over]
thruout the ride as well as the random singing. Before I am done with
China I may haveto give them a taste of David Allen Coe) and I am glad.
I don't think I would have survived it twice.

Background-in the past, I have had control issues (no, not my bladder.
That was a different issue altogether) involving vehicles. Cars,
motorcycles, waverunners, planes, jump ropes. If I am in control
(don't ask for plane stories. I am not allowed to speak of those ever
again) I am fine. If someone else is driving, it can be bad. But I've
been so much better! Until this ride.
Let me explain. We went up and over a mountain pass. The summit of THE
PASS was over 15,000 feet. It was cloudless that morning, cyrstal
clear piercingly beautiful blue sky and cold. The near side of the
pass wasn't too bad, as the driver was forced to go slow (i.e.-not
pass everyone on the road) because of the grade. Then we crested. The
far side? MAYBE 24 of concrete, no shoulders, no guardrails (though
occasionally there were 2' high, 4"x4" concrete pillars? And some
concrete little wedges that I swear are impromptu ramps for errant
vehicles), SHEER dropoffs. Not the CO style, we're talking a LONG way
down. 15,000', remember? Not a tree on the downslopes either. Just a
long tumbling ride down. No superelevation (banking), decreasing
radius curves (not ideal in any way in my opinion), very sharp curves
(buses have to run wide to make them), and other traffic. Did our
driver take it easy? Of course not. He was passing cars trucks buses
yaks and boulders at every 'opportunity' regardless of pavement width
or presence of blind curves. I crapped my pants. Twice. I have not been
that scared in a long time (Old Wolf Creek Pass in a motorhome,
anyone?). The driver didn't even notice, and neither did the rest of
the bus (except Rachelle who insisted on clutching my arm and
gasping/shrieking just in case I missed the gut-bombing look straight
down at the valley floor 5,000' down). Not fun. And this is the road
we drove at night in the fog/rain/snow happily singing karaoke
oblivious to death out the window.

Oof. We survived. Cool part-there was a very distinct cloud layer
(that we spotted in the next valley) at we're guessing 9,000'. I've
never seen anything like it. A solid cloud layer extending
out....forever. We saw some VERY far off peaks poking thru but that
was it. VERY awesome. Though one we passed thru it we didn't see the
sun until our next mountain excursion.

On to that trip! We left last Thursday to go up to Jiuzhaiguo National
Park (rip off touristy place. Overall it was a bad experience that
spoiled us on the place. But that is for a later post). It started out
fine. We thought for once that we had a sane/ calm/rational driver.
Not so much. Just manic. This trip followed much of the same route as
the previous (unfortunately we had to run thru the construction rutted
road narrow streets muddy mess again). This time it was raining, so
the mud soupy slickiness of the construct-me area was much worse. We
arrived at this section (a couple/few miles long) and our nice driver
went nuts. Instead of easing off the accel and onto the brake he
stuffed the accel peddle back under the floorboard as this FULL-SIZED
BUS careened and bounced up the road, in the left lane, narrowly
missing oncomingj trucks and buses and somehow not flipping ass over
grille or bouncing sideways off the road. It was not cool. Rachelle
leaned over and told me that she was sure our bus was tipping today. I
pooh-poohed her (complete with the honey jar and hand stuck in the
tree while piglet makes eeyore uncurl his tail just out of earshot!).
Until we hit back-to-back ess-curves for 9K miles on pavement (dad,
you would be in heaven on these curvy roads, except for the lack of
any sane drivers. You think Italian drivers are nuts? They would be
scared to drive here. Have I mentioned that pass-zones and
-no-pass-zones do not exist? If you want to pass you don't need
sufficient room. You pull over and honk and honk. That's it! Sounds
easy doesn't it? zoinks...). I thought we were either tipping or would
be taking one of those road edge wedge ramps into the river. Even the
Chinese on board were silent. It got so bad that most of the bus was
crash ready-1/8 of them were asleep, 1/8 were vainly trying to remain
upright in their seats while everyone else was either heads down hands
over their necks or against the seat in front arm or leg braced.

To make matters worse, this 11-hour trip took 14.

We had the same bus and drivers back today.Similar scenario only
slightly less manic behavior and dry roads. Today it took 12 hours.

Another 'need-to-mention'. On these long trips there are several
reasons to stop. For potty breaks, random breaks I have have yet to
figure out because nothing really happens, tolls, food stops, stops to
clean the bus (facede, I'm telling you. Looking good is important),
and stops at the top of hills/mountains TO WATER AND COOL DOWN THE
BREAKS!! No, this is not an exaggeration, I've watched it.

My thoughts. These drivers are ex-racers. What kind I am not sure.
Indy car mostm likely. They take to the curves as if they had small
low to the ground well handling cars instead of big old no shock
having buses! How do they take the curves? Come inwide at full speed
and slam on the brakes right before hitting the curve (VERY
disconcerting when straight ahead is a 5,000' cliff with no stoppage
devices and the brakes are squealing as if a herd of pigs were all
getting oinked at the same time), come in thru the very inside of the
curve, letting off the brakes and jumping on the gas (like I am
jumping on this space bar right now) just before the apex of the
curve. Passing and weaving like pros (in a small car or motorcyle
would/should). I am incredulous at the scarcity (apparent) of
accidents. There were way too many instances where R and I were
certain we were dead. Unreal. I can't wait to start taking trains
again (tomorrow. an 18-hour ride followed a day later with a 20+ hour
ride to shanghai [i can say i've been there and be cool, though it
sounds kinda boring]).

More on the ride out last Thursday. Full of bad things. Before getting
out of town there was a back up. Some older guy on a 3-wheeled pedal
mode of getting money (bike-type taxi) must have done something wrong
because the cops showed up and forced (with hitting) him off the bike
he wouldn't let go of tipping it over while they continued to hit him
on the ground. A minute later they helped him up and were righting his
bike as we passed. Very strange. Later in the ride, a motorcycle hit
by a bus (somehow the rider was not dead. Had his head on someone's
shoulder [standing up] who had a rag pressed to his head.). R saw a
van off the road on its side. Today a car/SUV type was on it's side
while the driver stood in front calling in his favorite karaoke song
to the local radkio station.

But don't worry about us. I figure that if we showed up here with nine
lives we have at least one left.

More on our adventures (non-bus related) tomorrow

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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Last one I swear! 

I forgot. I have lots of pics, and have many downloaded onto a cd. Now
I need to find a computer with a cd-rom so I can get them on the
internet. Relax! I'll get there!

It's time for a contest!

My packpack has more in it than I'd like it to have. The contest is to
determine what can be trimmed out. The winner (I determine who that
is) gets a bonafide email from China!!

Here's what I have:

2 short-sleeve shirts (one wicking one cotton)
Long sleeve shirt
2 pairs of pants
1 cotton pair of socks, 2 liners, 3 hiking socks
3 pairs boxers, one whities
warmer fleece
tuc and gloves
sun hat and bball cap
cam towel
books (none are going! stay away!)
first aid kit
cameras (digital and film type)

Let's see what you can come up with!

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One more blog before the next last one 

A couple of random things, some of which I may or may not have mentioned yet.

Cubs-you effin' bastards!! After I started the season with some hope
in you? That's the last time....But I still love you!

The people up in the area we just left (much more Tibetan influence)
are beautiful. Darker skin, rosy cheeks, very attractive. Not that the
Chinese aren't. I swear I'm not saying that (quit hitting me!).

Hitting between loved ones appears to be common (love taps). We have
seen many a girlfriend slapping her bfriend's back and arms. It's
kinda funny, but it's giving Rachelle some crazy ideas

I know you are all concerned about my hygiene. Here it is-I'm clean!
With the exception of the last couple of days when we had no heat (do
you really want to take a shower and get out into a 40 degree room?
Didn't think so) I've been showering no less than when I had a job.
And though I have one change of clothes, I have been doing laundry
every couple of days (the novelty of hand washing is wearing off).

On our 25 hour bu trip, we stopped at 4:30am for a pee-pee break.
There were guys using hand mixed concrete to patch part of the parking
lot. In the dark and rain. On their knees, using hand trowels. At 4:30
in the morning. Later we saw guys breaking up part of the road. Not
using heavy machinery, using slegdehammers.

Men and women do manual labor. Even construction type work-both are
shovelin' and hauling shite and assorted other tasks. New to me (not
that women aren't just as capable, you [or at least I] just don't see
it very often.

We saw yaks

Goat is tasty

Baijiu is bad (yet good!)

My cold is mostly gone.

Rachelle is now coming down with a cold

More to come later....

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Post-bus ride 

Post-bus ride

Sleeping in the frigid room was fine. Getting up was horrid, but we survived and headed downstairs for breakfast (a rice soup, puffy bread roll things, hard boiled eggs and other stuff [I have no idea, but good]).

More background. All R and I knew about this place was that the pics were nice and that hiking existed in the area. The tour lady (whose tour we didn't take) was not much help. Fortuanately we had new friends who were prepared. For those interested, we were in Siguniang (we're not sure if this was only the name of the surrounding mountains or also the town. In fact, we have no idea what town we were in. Yes, I was a Boy Scout and know the motto. But what's the fun in always being prepared?). BEAUTIFUL area. There are 4 main peaks, the 4Sisters. The tallest is over 20,000 feet and the other 3 are between17,500' and 18,500', and snow capped.

The owner of the hotel (reminded me and R of Johnny Depp.Tremendously. If Depp was a Tibetan/Nepalese looking cat.) had us at the trailhead at 730am (to get in before having to pay entry fees). Cool.

Backtracking again. We are hiking up a valley along a river. We have no idea the length or approx time. Or elevation. Or anything, really. How prepared were we, 2 veteran wilderness players? We each had a nalgene bottle of water (1 quart), some crackers and peanuts. No sunscreen or sun blocking hats (do you need those around 11,000' in all day sun?). We are S-M-R-T.

Off we set. The trail: wooden slatted trail the kind you see thru marshy areas in CO. Only this one went the distance. It was ice covered and banked and steep and it was a mockery of walking that occured in that Chinese forest. At least when 8 kajillion pictures weren't being taken. For those that don't know her, Rachelle is (in)famous for hiking very slowly and taking oodles of pics. These characters put her to shame (thank the buddha above for the dig age). SHE was complaining about how long they were taking! That amused me and I laughed (which earned me a flurry of punches).

3 hours into this hike the 4 Chinese in our group looked about done in. Me and R were rarin' to go. And on we ALL went. Since we didn't really know these guys, and their english wasn't the best and since we knew nothing about this hike or their hiking experience, we said nothing. Oops.

At 2:30pm (7 hours in) we got to an incredible high alpine meadow.Well worth the hike, but I was worried about getting out before dark(2 of the 4 collapsed at the very edge of the meadow), or even getting out at all. The plan, it seemed, was to take horses out (horse purveyors abounded all along this trail). Ok, fine with me, at least we won't die in the Chinese mountains (dying in the CO mountains makes so much more sense to me! Shipping costs would be much less).

After much haggling (and confused giggling by me and R), we mounted up. These horse are smaller than the ones I'm used to which caused problems I'll get to in a minute. I don't know if all these Chinese horses are like mine, but I am almost positive that this horse responded to Chinese vocal commands and had no rein control (much like the skies above CO. Seeding don't work!! Give it up! Mamma N is goingto do what SHE wants!). I held the reins out of habit but they did nothing. Instead this guy following behind me holding the reins for the girl behind me (at least he didn't clip my boys and lead my horse. By hand.) yelled out words every so often to guide my horse. Strange but more fun than your typical trail ride because the terrain was very steep and rocky and muddy and Caine-raising. Getting off the horses was amusing, in a way. I was first in (my horse had the bell so he/she was a born leader) and as soon as my feet ht the ground I knew I was in trouble. Pain coursed thru my knees and ankles and the muddy rocks almost tossed me to the ground. It was close. But shite it hurt! I was glad to see that everyone getting off seemed to be in as much pain as I was and they all stumbled around for a bit.

Long story much shortened, we made it out. Starved and dehydrated, but happy. All in all, it was an 11 hour day (the horses dropped us off with 1-1.5 hours of hiking left) (we guess we hiked about 11-12 miles).

For those interested-Rachelle totally won the hike! (I really did but let her think she did to make her happy. Good boyfriends do things like that, you know? It's the little things!)

I know this entry is lacking, but I'm tired. We had another 11-hour day yesterday and the return 9-hour bus ride today. I'm tired. But since we are getting back on a bus at 8am tomorrow for an 11-hour ride to another nature place (hera help me. if this ride is bumpy I may not survive!), I wanted to get a couple quick updates out. Once again, I am not sure when email will be around and I can pop my ugly littlehead up again.

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Further adventures ... 

I have now effectivey shattered both of my spleens. My plan right now is to only explain the first episode.

If you haven't guessed yet, it ruptured due to the efforts of a jouncing bus. This ride had most of the 'joys' of the last one I wrote about (minus the length), as well as some added bonuses.

But let me backtrack a sec. The day started way too early. 6:30am fromthe bus station next door. The lan was to grab a ride across town to another station and then grab one from there at 7:30am to a pretty place up north (a "6"-hour ride). The first part went well, bt the 7:30 bus was full and the next was at noon. So we sat. And slept. ThenI slept some more (face first on my arms, then face first on my travel pillow, then against my pack propped against the wall). When I finally awoke (Rachelle was throwig ice cubes at my head as an incentive to get up), we started a long double solitaire tournament, disrupted only by a pause for food (a noodle soup thingy for something like $0.30).Eventually our game drew a crowd (cards is huge here. People sit around everywhere playing [no, not in the loo or shower. At least not that I've seen], and crowds always form) and after the initial self-conscious stutter playing we settled in and went to work entertaining some kid for abuot 45 minutes. He pulled up a chair and sat down, singing with his music, helping us out at times (Hooter-maybe you should get you a Chinese kid to help you speed up your DS play?) and really getting into it. When I ran to get a very healthy drink from the store the kid sat in for me and really whupped up on Rachelle! Hr face was hysterical whn she realized how badly she got beat! You should all ask her about it.

I prattle like a 14-year old girl at times, don't I? Our bus was easy to find-after we were pointed in 3 different directions, told that the 'bad bus' was coming but maybe the good bus would arrive. A nice guy (Li, future best friend) informed us that 'bad bus' meant a bus that would break down on the way. Hm. Fortunately, the 'good bus' arrived and our buddy led us to it.

No real issues yet. Until we left the highway. But first-at a rest stop (FYI-most toilets here are not so much toilets as holes in the ground. Squatters, my pet name for them. Strange at first, but I've grown to like them. Maybe too much. I wonder if they are easy to intall [asuming I ever have a home again]?) I made a new best friend walking back to the bus. His name was Oliver.

Back to the bus. Do yu remember grade school, when the back of the bus was where every one wanted to sit? You could jump with the bumps and get some killer air? The only part of that that has changed is wanting to sit there. The rear seat was a 5'er across, the middle person sitting at the end of the aisle. That was me. The seats are narrow so both of my legs got real friendly with the guys on either side. Instead of having a back to my seat, it was a long foam pad to be used as a backrest. The guy next to me had it the entre time-jacked up to give him a pillow and me a cushion up to my mid-back. At first the bumping wasn't too bad. Then we hit the real construction. I think we may have wandered onto a motocross track because we were all over the place. And of course our driver was always honking and passing. Guardrailess mud roads that may have been 24 feet wide, chaos all over. My head seriously almost hit the ceiling a few times (no, Iwasn't jumping) and I felt like a handful of jumping beans tossed into a can of sardines (I feel like I used this description with the last bus ride. But I love it so!)! It was insane. I have never been popped around so continuously and with such ferocity. Too bad it wasn't enough to distract me from the tires on the edge of the sheer drop to the raging river passing around blind curves but look at those guys hauling rock up the scaffolding supported by a rod with a sling not a sign of traffic control to be found madness outside. This went on for forever. When we weren't jostling, we were stopped. For long periods of time. Construction, accidents, narrow "2-lane" road, yaks, carts, people, so many obstacles!

By the time we stopped for dinner (around the time we were supposed to be arriving) I was raving. The bumping, men sleeping on my shoulders (no cuddling thank zeus), constant honking (I swear the horn served more than the typical uses. My guesses: 1. It was somehow attached to the pleasure center of the driver's brain and he weas trying to pleasure himself to death. OR, 2. If his honks dropped below 2 honks a second, the bomb on the bus would explode) and again, the isane amount of body shaking were enouhg to drive me mad. I sloughed off the bus and we ate (pointing at stuff in the kitchen and shrugging our shouders at the constant jabbering directed at us). Very good! Getting on, the guy sitting next to Rachelle (she got a seat closeish to thefront) gave up his seat to me-the poor bastard, but I owe him. So much smoother (only now that we were thru construction, the guy was jet-setting around the constant switchbacks and curves tossing us side to side. However, I managed to fall asleep. And wake up to the fog game. Dark out, raining, and fogged in. Yet we continued on. And the strangest thing happened-the honking was minimal! We still can't make sense of the logic (sunny clear-honk. Dark and foggy-be very very quiet. We's hunting wabbit!). Whatever. There was a short stretch of clear, saw snow on the road sides and drop offs into the black and when the fog returned we breathed again.

Down the mountain, into town. Ish. Our friends and their respective women got off the bus and let us know it was also our stop (without them we may have ended up in Russia. Their language has GOT to be easier than Chinese!). Falling off into the cold the stars out overhead one building in view dark no idea where we were...it was fun? We were pretty lucky to have made friends. They took us into the hotel and then to the next (the 1st had no hot water, the 2nd was buried on the fringes of town). This began a ritual that lasted the next 3 days-our 4 Chinese friends talking and talking and us having no clue what was going on. Hagglers, huge hagglers we latched on to. I highly recommend choosing similarly. We got our rooms for 50Yuen a night(~8.2Yuen=$1US) and free breakfast. Sweet! Into our room we walked-small but clean, a squatter....and no heat.

I need to check with my sis, but I know where she is in China she can't turn on her heat until a certain time of year (November?). That may have been the case here. Regardless, it's late October, we figured out the hotel was at ~10,000 feet and that makes things cold. But oh!The beds! A heated blanket (SO nice!) and heavy heavy covers! When you dropped the covers onto you, it felt (to me) like being back in the womb. As a fetus. Warm embracing pressing in on all sides in the most reassuring manner ("don't worry little one! I'll protect and keep you!"). Well, I guess since my head was not under the covers it was more like being a fetus mid-birth, just the head protruding. Does this make sense? Trust me, it was nice!

Getting out of bed was another matter altogether....shivv..er!

That's enough for this post. I'd better run off to start another.

If words are misspelled, it's this stupid keyboard. The letters are hard to press and my dainty hands which have been away from computers so much of the time lately are having trouble with them

Sleep on my wayward son

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Friday, October 15, 2004

Maybe last blog for a while 

Baijiu Baijiu I'm in love with you
Baijiu Baijiu my mouth tastes like a zoo

No, Baijiu is not a form of poetry or kung fu. Don't ask.

Speaking of my loves, I have decided to give my heart to fried rice
and to fried noodles. I can't get enough! Irregardless of how often we
eat them (often), I find myself drawn to them like a water buffalo to
mud. Mmm! Don't worry, Rachelle knows about this (as well as my flock
of hens and traffic). She knows that these are loves that will never
be requited so it's not an issue. Again, don't ask about the Baijiu.
Rachelle loves it too so now a love triangle has formed.

We are leaving Chengdu tomorrow (I swear we won't back out and stay
longer like we did in Yangshuo). We are heading up thru a couple of
national parks so hopefully we will get some fresh air and hiking time
in the mountains (and hopefully it won't be too cold). That's the next
week or so.

Assuming we survive that, our next destination is a 3 day trip along
the Yangtze River thru the 3 Gorges area. I'm told the view you get of
the damn from the boat is lacking, so we'll see if any deals can be
worked out to allow me to rappel down it or something.

Then to Xi'an to see the Terracotta warriors and whatever else is there.

And finally Beijing.

That will end OUR time in China (MY time will come later after
Rachelle deserts me and heads to warm Australia while I head into
wintry western China to see my sis (who is continually chastizing me
for being so close right now [half of China away] and not coming to
visit her now).

For the record, there are water droplets on my screen. I think it's
safe to assume that they are spittle from the former occupant of this
chair. Spitting spitting everywhere spitting. But I guess when you've
been inhaling shit all your life, you will have some phlegm in your

We saw people playing badminton the other day. Shuttlecock....

Not much has happened since our bike ride. I can't remember if I
mentioned seeing the...no I didn't!

The Chinese opera, Sichuan style. Very interesting. Not one continuous
story (like western operas), many short ones. There were guys wearing
masks and changing them as they pranced while another dude spat fire
(I love that!). A cool sequence with large 'puppets' held aloft arms
moved with one hand head and body on other hand functioning the major
body movements. Other strange musical interludes, singing, large grops
of colorfully dressde chaps and ladies running about while one central
lady waved her hands and sang. The music and singing was very piercing
and horny (non-sexual H, the brass kind) and different to our ear. We
were given tea and peanuts, the tea continually refilled with a 3 foot
brass nozzled tea kettle hard to manage and impressively shot. Outdoor

People here, another observation, are always in a hurry to
get...somewhere. The odd thing, once in a rushing mass of people,
there is no hurry. For example, the opera. Everyone was up and rushing
the doors before it finalized (rude to us as was the constant chatter
and murmer and running around and loud talking and flash photos), yet
once they were in that mass, they chatted and barely moved along and
seemed perfectly content to be smashed together and stuck. We waited
until they shoved off, then joined the rear guard and moved thru them
still (I did feel tall then as I could see over them all). Quite the
phenomenon. I need pics of it.

Yesterday was a bust. Everything we did. Internet worked (was that
yesterday? the days run together). Our lunch was not very good (WAY
too many pepper balls hidden in the food made our faces numb and our
lips tingly and strange) so we didn't finish. We tried the Art Museum
but were too late. Dinner was good though. Finally got some noodles
with the meat/green peppers/onion/ginger/pepper/potato/ hot pepper
mix. Good stuff. BTW, any meat meal comes with bones, most every bite
is a mix of meat bone fat any one of which may be missing (rarely the
bone). Got to the bar in time to see some wanker dancing and prancing
with the chinese ladies to some boy band crap. The rest of the night
was dedicated to re-running celine crappin' dion over and over and
over. My ears have finally stopped bleeding.

Rubble rubble everywhere here. Buildings are torn/knocked down and
another is erected behind it without removing the rubble of the old.
All over this is the case. Almost every major city we've been in has
been experiencing major construction (force the poor further into the
shadows and attempt to increase the thickness and effectiveness of the
facade) and they leave the rubble! It's similar to the movements in
Chicago and Denver to renovate old areas and improve them. Only here I
don't think there is any effort to relocate the displaced poor or
provide them with anything. And they are poor. We walk the back
streets and alleys, eating at restaurants with no english menus or
speaking (point and serve), seeing the poor and wondering at the
numbers of places the countless same stores over and over wondering at
the misery that would be exacerbated were they to learn how we live in
ease and opulence and safety and security.

Of course they laugh and stare. No way to leave this place and see any
other way of life or people just the strange folks with money walking
thru who they're told and beneath even them and are animalistic
heathens. only concerned with self-preservation (yes of course they
try to screw you don't fault them for that they have nothing and
survival of the fittest is the only law here and to not work at
screwing over means surety of death and hunger and a hastened
progression to increased misery.). The constant presence of laundry
hung everywhere from any conceivable place is of course the norm. I do
my laundry 2 days or so due to the lack of more clean ones so they
have the same issues no clothes must be constantly cleaned.

We can leave and return to clean(er) air, safe warm sound homes, jobs
(I am told unemployment is 45% here. Does farming count as working?
What age is this measured from? I don't know. Many many people here
sitting around doing nothing, playing cards looking hungry trying
cainly to peddle wares. Nothing else to do. No jobs to be had), no
glimmer of the desperation seen all over here.

They can't leave.

Continue on, Taker people. Continue this onslaught against us all
making us dependant on a lifestyle unworking for centuries but
continued blackmail brainwash Mother Culture lead us on.

Thank you whomever for my plight at birth.

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If you are a mother family member or someone who cares about Rachelle
(or me) getting home alive, do not read the following post. You may
become upset enraged or silly. We the writers for "JIMSPEAK" can not
be held responsible for the content of this site or any emotion
wreckage that may result from a review of the drivel contained

With that out of the way, on to the story of yesterday!

The Brit boys in the bar the other night suggested we ride out to the
Panda Research Center and check out the cuddly pandas, and if we were
to reach there by feeding time (9:30AM) all the better. Here's the
kicker-Rachelle and I have been avoiding set tours and tour buses and
anything remotely looking like tour groups. We have been stubborn and
thus far, it's worked out. The boys told us it took them 1.5 hours to
bike there. Not a problem!

Or so we thought. Waking at 630am (after going to bed at 1am), we
dressed and headed into the lobby to rent bikes and get directions.
Any and all maps we could find were not broad enough in scope to show
the Center. This is what they had: a major road leading north out of
town, a zoo (6km from our hotel) along this road at the edge of the
map and an arrow pointing off the map to the Center (another 6km). No
address, nothing. The office that arranges tours was closed until 9am.
The bike renting lady wasn't supposed to show until 8. The desk lady
told us we could ride up and ask directions (directions here consist
of pointing and sending us in pointless circles). We assumed most
signs would be in Chinese. Frustration and irkment followed.

I am getting too wordy and am avoiding the best parts. Let's move on.

We got bikes, decided to try our luck and set out around 7:30am. BUT,
our bike situation was, well, tenuous. Rachelle had a nice looking
newer mountain bike. Me, well, let's just say that the bikes birthing
presaged mine by quite a while. Recall any images you've seen of old
Chinese men riding to market on a decrepit piece of shite. That's what
I got. I felt like that old Chinese man, only not old Chinese or
heading to market with a basket full of...stuff. The thing weighed
about 200lbs, had them rounded sit-you straight up in your seat
handlebars (I felt like I would if I ever drove with my hands at 10
and 2). Both rims were shot to hell and bent like Dickens. The front
wheel was so bent that if that damn bike hadn't weighed so freakin'
much, I would have been doing wheelies with every rotation of the
front wheel. And brakes? Marginal but operational. Acceleration?
Barely. I'da had to weigh 376lbs to move it. Weaving/maneuvering
ability? Akin to steering a blue whale (and you know how ornery they
can be!). Seat....not good. Remember that episode of South Park where
Cartman is abducted by aliens and gets a..probe? I kept waiting for
the bike to speak alien to me. Ugh. At least there were rusted out
dented fenders in front and back that felt so much love for the wheels
that they rubbed continuously.

Now let's look at traffic. Rush hour in a city 9.3 million people, all
of them on the same road as us. Just a tich busy. Let me say this-the
traffic 'laws' in this city to me are like an unrequited love that has
finally realized the error of her ways and realizes that I am her one
and greatest love. I would kill to spend my life driving/riding in
this traffic. I'd crank some tunes into my ears and ride for days!
It's so much fun and adrenaline inducing that I'd OD on it if I could!
I might even go so far as to say it's a religious experience for me.
See, I'm not the Antichrist! I'm almost like a priest! Even on this
rickety bike it was great. I love using other riders as 'blockers' for
cars (as though their frail bodies would prevent a car from plowing
thru them into me) and riding crossways thru traffic without pissing
anyone off or getting runned over. A rush. The best!

Back to getting there. By random luck, I picked an overpass for us to
climb up to (we needed to make a right somewhere, but apparently
street name signs are taboo) and it was the road we needed. On we
went, carousing thru traffic, me fighting the beast between my legs.
After an hour or so we realized that we'd missed the zoo and now were
in unmapped territory (still crazy busy smoggy choking traffic). I had
a feeling. We crossed a road and I let Rachelle go back to the corner
and ask the military dude posted there (they are everywhere) if he had
any ideas. That was our street!! I am SO good!

Pandas. Cute, cuddly unless they are eating you, and fun to watch (red
pandas are the best. I tried to sneak one out in my bag, but they
caught me. They wanted more for it than I had on me. Damn!). Chinese
tourists-loud, obnoxious, photo obsessed, self indulged and
consternating. But it's their culture, and that is a later post
(that'll come after I am done traveling here. Can't play it too safe).

Fun times, but we needed to leave. It was ~11:30 and all we'd eaten so
far were a banana and half an orange each. Svelte-ing down are we!

Back on the bikes. 10 feet later I stopped due to a loud bike rattling
clunking noise. 12km away, no Chinese skills, aw hell no! I figured
the crank or a wheel was coming off. Instead, one of my rear brake
pads was lose and was hitting every spoke. I tightened it and we began
again. 20 feet later, same thing. No tools on me, I took it off. Again
we pedaled, all was now good!

Now the last road we turned on to get to the pandas was very lightly
traveled and there was never any need to stop. Which was good with no
brakes. (Sidenote: most of the way back was downhill. We realized this
quickly. I didn't feel like each leg was dead lifting 600lbs and if I
wasn't worried about the chain coming off I could have coasted.
Rachelle realized that she coasted twice as fast as I moved pedaling
furiously. She pulled up alongside me and may have pee'd her pants
from laughing. I do know she was crying from laughing so hard. Not
necessarily because of her easier ride, but because she was getting a
full on side view of me and now realized how completely ridiculous I
looked and she laughed the entire way back, no joke). The rest of the
way was very busy, very bus car bike moped ped and bicycle choked.
Brakes, while not a necessity, are highly encouraged. My lack of
stopping ability became well known very quickly. Going thru a very
large intersection, the opposing left-turn vehicles were going and
some bikes were threading their way thru (common practice). I threaded
a needle that no one else saw. Not because I wanted to, I had no
choice. Rachelle said the guys in the car were laughing very hard at
me and my frantic attempts to not die. It continued this way until I
grew tired of the excitement. Fred Flintstone had it right back in his
day. At lights, I began making full dismounts onto the left side of
the bike and using my entire body weight to stop, or slow down enough
to jump back on and scream thru every minute gap in traffic. This may
sound like a seamless solution to the problem, right? Not the first
attempt. There was a rack over the back wheel on which my fanny pack
rested. I didn't gain enough clearance the first time and my foot
caught and I tumbled. Don't worry! I didn't fall! I kept a hold of the
handle bars and was dragged for about 30 feet before I could get back
on my feet. How is this possible? Wouldn't the bike fall, you ask? IT
MIGHT IF IT DIDN'T WEIGH 300LBS!!! It's inertia prevented a little guy
like me from knocking it over.

The Flintstones never caught on here I'm convinced. No one failed to
laugh at this manuever of mine. Which worked out well, because many
drivers would lift their feet from the accelerator while laughing and
give me more room.

Speaking of people laughing at me, EVERY person on the road found me a
funny sight. Everyone. People riding past me (even the pretty in high
heeled stockinged pantsuited little chinese women blowing past me as
if I were riding in molten lead) would stop and I assume offer
condolences or advice while street walkers (not the slutty kind)
stopped to point and laugh at the big goofy looking white boy riding
the old chinese man's bike.

It was exciting to say the least, and don't worry-there are pics. My
fave part (I was annoyed at traffic on the way back. It's not nearly
as fun when you have no real control over your mode of transport) was
the last 2 blocks. I was fed up with the bike. The bus station is
right there and the road is clogged with taxis, bike taxis and buses
and cars and people. The gaps I was hitting were unhittable (R showed
up 10 minutes after me). It was pure genius.

All in all it was fun and exciting. Never ride those old bikes. My
level of respect for those old guys riding them damn bikes up hills
baskets or cages filled increased immeasurable. Studs they are.

I really need to go to the bathroom now so I am going to go.

Oh yeah. We went to the Chinese opera last night also. Good, and
unlike any opera I've ever been to. There was fire! I'll describe

Peace out

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Thursday, October 14, 2004

More adventures! 

Maybe some of you are worried that I haven't submitted a blog in awhile, thinking that the bus ride did me in and that now I am a quivering mass of balled up mucous spewing gelatenous ooze. I'm hereto tell you that that is only partially true. Which part I won't divulge, you'll have to use context clues to figure it out.

Much has happened since last I wrote, and will take a couple of posts to catch up (maybe, or I'll go bonkers and do it all now. This is, after all, our big email day [it's cold drizzling miserable foggy smoggy ugly weather dour casting on us) and these computers rock!

Chengdu is a great city. We've met many good/nice people and are eating like kings if kings were vagabonds from America roaming the streets of Chengu. The day following the bus ride was a relaxer in the streets of the city. Breakfast was et at the restaurant adjacent to the hotel-not bad, but I'm not used to warm milk. Not sure where it came from either. Some background: our hotel (the Traffic Hotel, the'Backpackers Palace'-it says so in big block letters on across the entire building) sits on a river much like the Seine. Only instead of being a big dirty river running thru France (where I can't understand what people are yelling at me) it's a big dirty river running thru Chengdu (where I have no idea what people are laughing about as they try to run me over). There is a nice path running alongside the river(20 feet up and paved) where people like us can walk and amuse the local Chinese who find our mere existence to be laugh-worthy. That is what we did to relieve the ailings caused by the bus. Before we reached the river, however, we were forced to pass a middle school. It was recess and chaos reigned supreme on the blacktop (I remember the days of stickball on the 'blacktop' back home only now it's a damn park but they kept the stairs leading in which is nice all the days I spent biking up and down those stairs mom not knowing....). I spotted some hoops and ineffectual attempts to emulate....athletes. My buddyPat in mind (I did it for you, Pat!!) (he likes to choose opponents-such as 6 year olds-to beat up), I walked over to scope the scene. Spotted easily (being the big goofy white boy in the city), the kids started calling me Jordan (I may look like a stellar bballplayer, but black I am not. I don't think) and beckoned me over. What ensued can only be called my greatest moments on the court-I was dunking (low hoops), shot blocking, dribbling circles around the kids and clearly being the dominant player. Rachelle stood outside the playground and pretended to not know me (didn't work didn't work!!). I finished with a 2-handed from the foul line double twist jammerama, grabbed my jacket and walked away. It was great!

We moved on. This was our first day really dealing with the true chaos of city traffic, and I love it! It's so much easier to cross streets when lights mean nothing and everyone is SO good (for the most part) at avoiding each other.

Regardless. Our first stop was some park with a pagoda, built...a longtime ago by....people (Taoists) who felt no need to use nails or any sort of securing device, just nooks and crannies. And it's still standing! Aren't you enthralled? Didn't think so. Here's something to make up for that history book type sentence-before we got to the pagoda (in the Taoist section of a larger paek) we passed by a phenomenon. For those not in the know, karaoke is huge here. Unbelievably huge (a couple we met the other day said on their cruise up the Yangtze River, there was a bar and karaoke rooom and that at random times of day people would go karaoke, even with no witnesses. But I digress). Well in this park they had dueling karaoke. Not on purpose I'm sure, but 2 stands set up about 30 feet apart, volume cranked. It was amusing for....10 seconds then my ears hurt. Imagine Ream (you are famous now Jefe! You've been mentioned on my blog! Loser) singing. This was worse because it was amplified.

Bad, eh? Later in the day, in another park (this one was being scoped out for a tea house-a big building where you drink tea and act Chinese. We failed miserably. Rachelle kept talking in English), there it was again! Only this time people brought their own sound systems and instruments! It was horrible, but made an interesting backdrop for the fan dancing class we were watching while eating lunch (cookies and fanta). Hehe! There was a guy in the class who was so only there because his wife made him go!! I laughed, then followed Rachelle thru the flower gardens....

The only other exciting event this day was meeting some Brits at the bar next to our hotel. They had been teaching in Inner Mongolia and suggested we never ever go there. Their favorite suggestion of mine was to email coworkers right then (there was free internet). Keep in mind-this was about 10-11pm Monday night here, which made it 8-9am inDenver! That was fun! And I got responses, most of which can not be repeated in public...

Next day was not the same day. It was Tuesday. We thought it'd be a good idea to head out to Leshan, home of the world's biggest Buddha(take THAT Vail!), another 2 hour bus ride. Thank Pan that not all buses in China are rumbling sacks of cattle dung. This one was actually nice and smooth. Good vibes that were soon to end.

For the most part, we've not had many problems here. People have been very nice to us, even though they stare take pics/vids. Nothing aggressive or spiteful has happened (that we've understood). Leshan changed that. It's supposedly a tourist town, but it fooled us. Immediately upon alighting from the bus we were surrounded by hotel reps and bike cart people. They wouldn't leave, kept tapping me on the arm, and one bike dude followed us on the street for blocks. As we walked around looking for our hotel, I stopped to look at the map and get my bearings. An old man came up and stopped to look at us. And pointedly laughed at us. A little kid made a move as if to hit me as he passed (i was ready with my punjabi stick, so he's one of the lucky ones!). There was a general feeling of, dislike I guess. And our hotel. We've picked better. They advertised in block letters across the front that they are 'Lonely Planet Recommended'. We need to warn the LP and have them not do that anymore. A poop hole. (Mom's and concerned family members, don't worry about it. We're fine!!) Dirty,dank, one cockroach (about 3 inches long) that we saw (Made Rachelle scream and me feel like a mighty hunter), and the bathroom ceiling didn't just leak, it was as if a dike were breached and the Mississippi drained into our bathroom. Nice.

The town itself was covered in smog our entire 2 days there. We ha construction workers harass us, shop workers, most people we passed.The whole place made us uncomfortable and cranky. No matter, we came out of it fine and with some digits!! You see, the next morning we took a boat across and down river to the Big Buddha park and met another Brit couple on the ride. We spent the day with them and ended up swapping emails at the end of the day.

I know what you're saying: "Tell me more about this Big Buddha! I'm enthralled!" Ok, I will. It's mighty big! And surrounded by throngs and throngs of people. It was insane. You could walk up around his head and take pics down at him, and there was a trail leading down alongside, past his feet (a nice look up his skirt?) and up the otherside. We declined the trail as the line to go was immense and full of shoving yelling Chinese. Around the head the picture phenomenon was abundant (and the noise was overwhelming).

What is the picture phenomenon? It appears that the main goal in the life of a Chinese person is to pose for pics, usually with a nice background (I am very much doubting that the background is really noticed, that it's more for the bragging rights later). It's unreal.They shove to get to the forefront, get you out of the way, work on their pose for about 30 minutes and then spend another 30 taking the pic. So strange! But to each his own. I hate getting my pic taken and won't pose (right Rachelle?) so I guess I'm biased.

It was an experience, and we were more than a little relieved to catch a bus back to Chengdu as soon as we were able to commandeer a boat back across the river to Leshan.

We were supposed to head to a holy mountain for a couple day trek before going back to Chengdu, but the weather haze smog crap was overwhelming and our high hopes were being trod upon. And we both felt the need for a couple more relaxing days without travel.

Of course our day was ended in the bar, and this time we made a new Chinese friend (med student). I promised him a place to stay in the US if I ever get one.

So here we are, in Changdu again.

A better post if following. Wait for it.....

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Sunday, October 10, 2004

Chinese Bus Ride from Hell 

I am going to be pissing blood for a week

You heard me right. And let me tell you why!! If anyone ever asks you to take a 22 hour bus ride thru China....don't ask me for input, I have no idea. Our ride was supposed to be that long but wasn't. INSTEAD, it was almost 25 hours long! I know you are wanting the details, so hang on. It's a bumpy ride....

We boarded the bus at 4pm. Since the place we bought our tickets (a table by the train station) was not the place to catch the bus (no one told us), a woman from the table almost literally led us by the hand to the bus (a few blocks down) and put us in our seats. Which was nice since again, everyone here speaks Chinese and we don't. The trip started uneventfully. We were in the second to last seats and the initial higway was fairly smooth and the scenery very nice. I found problems with my personal situation quickly-my seat would recline, then slowly work it's way back past straight up to "shove his face into his crotch" position. My vent would not close (having cold air blowing on your head is a great way to get over a cold!) and my footrest was stuck mid-position. I never sleep while traveling anyway, so I wasn't too worried.

Then it began. The tv came on, and a night of horrendous programming started. A kid's show kicked off the 'entertainment' and was quickly followed by 2 movies that as far as we could tell were about prostitution, rape, murder, and general mayhem. The last (ended at midnight) was a karate kid rip-off, but in english. Still didn't watch it. And just so you know, they dub over EVERYTHING in China (I've decided) no matter what the language of the original. So here we're watching a Chinese movie dubbed in Chinese? According to these movies,all women laugh in a pitch high enough to shatter crystal and shriek loud and longly enough to kill meese. Unreal. On top of all that,EVERY movie had fancy kung fu. ALL of them, even the kids' flicks.

On we go. Several stops were made for potty breaks (China is all about the squatter toilets, or troughs, for men and women. No privacy and not much sterility. Keep that in mind. THey were no big deal as I'd decided to keep my consumption to a minimum. I hate being stuck in a vehicle having to wee, especially since the only way to communicate to the driver would be the pee dance. They laugh at me enough here, I don't need to encourage them (seriously, it's just like home. Buying groceries before we got on the bus everyone in the store found me funny. I don't get it!). At 930pm we stopped for dinner at what I thought was a garage (I was paranoid the whole time that the bus would break down. I've heard stories). I know spine was a part of it since I chunked a tooth on a vertebrae. Not bad though. However after 20 minutes on the bus I worried that it would create unsavory conditions in my gut. Don't worry, I was fine. At that point, I stopped almost all consumption. In the end, I had a pastry, that dinner, a small pastry sammich, a small bottle of water (free with a 25-hour bus ride!) and half a nalgene. I am still dehydrated if you are wondering.I'm a damn camel though! But slightly less smelly.

What else...oh! There really was nothing to do on the bus. Thanks to the wailing soundtrack for the movies, talking was impossible. The nice highway did not last long so writing was out. Since our individual lights never worked, reading also became not an option after dark. Thank god for minidiscs!

Sleep, let's discuss that. I've decided that every vehicle in this country is mounted on the wrong type of springs. They haven't figured out that springs are supposed to DAMPEN and ABSORB shocks, not create the aforementioned trampoline condition. Our bus had at least 45 springs. To add to the 'fun', many of the aisle seats (of which mine was one) were also apparently mounted on springs. As soon as I would start to drift off, we'd hit a gnat and my head would bounce 79 times off the back of the seat and the entire chair about turned damn 360s in place. Unreal. I did not sleep much at all. The one time I finally drifted off for 10 minutes I awoke to this scene: dazzling ravines on both sides of the bus, a narrow road, construction, rain and fog. I looked out the front window to see an approx 12 foot wide patch of concrete that we had to drive down to (~6" drop) then back up off of, with no guardrails and mud covering the road. I shat my pants. Literally. Don't worry it wasn't the worst smell on the bus. We made it, and proceeded to drive thru fog for the next 12 days and it was thick! I don't know how the driver saw anything. I don't think he did, his bottle of vodka was nearly empty....

Unlike the rest of this country, garbage cans were present on the bus (no bathrooms, I forgot to mention). These were small cardboard boxes that acted not only as garbage cans but also as spitoons. Don't step in them leaving the bus.

Shizzy dimples on my bum make it hard to leave behind the memories of that day in guantanamo bay brazil and the piglets i left behind

After these 25 hours of 'fun' (I am still rattling. My brain is bruised from the shaking seat and my stomach is churning still.) we arrived in the wrong town. I guess our ticket to Chengdu got us within one town. Back on another bus (STILL RATTLING!!) and then some wandering to our hotel. Whew!

Dinner was good. We had pig's feet. Well, I did. Rachelle refused to chase the buggers around. See, here in China you eat what you can catch. It's ok though, they have muzzles. Rachelle said the texture got to her, I think she's was scared by the massive sows.

It was a bit chewy

Love and smookums kisses to you all

I am tired

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Saturday, October 09, 2004

The Rooster! 

The rooster.

For those who've been keeping up, some damn rooster took up residence
outside our bedroom window in Yangshuo. 5:30am he'd be up, quackling
every 10 seconds or so. Rest for a while, back at it. ALL DAY!! To say
it annoyed us would be a hell of an understatement. The morning
Rachelle threw a chair at the wall and shrieked like a Wailing Tree I
knew it was time to take action. Once I calmed Rachelle down, I
clothed my feet and went outside, where I realized that I'd forgotten
my pants. As roosters are notorious pranksters (they love 'pantsing
people) I returned to the room for my pants and fowl proof belt.

The alley

It was dark, as the sun had yet to crest the limestone horizon. Dank,
smelling of molting fowl and congealing poop (yes it's disgusting, but
that's not my fault! I am reporting the facts as I see them). My eyes
slowly adjusted, taking full advantage of the crackling neon signs
streetside. No sign of the fowl beast. A feather fluttered down just
askance my brow. I froze, knowing their eyesight is keenest in failing
or growing light. Too late, I'd been spotted.

One two three four I declare all out war

The corner of my eye caught his movement atop the balcony to my right.
My god! With the speed of a gazelle being pursuited by a jaguar and
the agility of a chimpanzee chasing a...banana, my heart froze when I
realized there would be no catching him! Whirling back towards the
street, I saw my escape route blocked by his flock of chickadees,
hatred and malice in their eyes! Was that a glimmer of hope at being
freed of his grasping claws? Time would tell.

Settling in for war, I faced him again. Only to be plocked in the face
with fowl feces. If you've never experienced, don't. It's bad. Juju

(some BD Boy just offered a crowd member [it's a live album] some of
his chest hair. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with these guys and
how ca...never mind)

Now I was irate. To show my scorn for his putrescence, I wiped off the
stenching poo and reapplied some to my cheeks as war paint. This made
his stutter step, but only for a second. He came right at me, wings
aflapping and claws a grasping! I ducked, and he chunked off the wall
behind me (no, roosters are not known for their intelligence)! Seizing
this opportunity, I grasped his head in one hand and ducked his
reeking body under my reeking armpit and.....pop goes the weasel! Down
for the count. I dropped body and severed head to the damp gravel, and
turned to face the flock. Ow! Damn rooster beak in my calf, body
flappin' and clawin' at my arse! I forgot about the headless chicken
routine! Running around, I waited the final gasp.....he was done.


Striding to the mouth of the alley, the hens parted way for me. I
stopped amidst them, alerted them to their new freedom, and we all
clicked down the street, arm in wing into the rising sun, ready for
the new days and adventures ahead of us!


It only took a block for me to remember that I am no rooster, but a
human guy whose place in no way could be considered the inside of a
hen house. Though I loved the attention, my place is with people and
my girlfriend. Leaving their sad eyes (they would have been crying but
chickens have no tear ducts. What purpose would that serve? Silly
goose! I mean chicken!) to gaze at my rump (oh sweet irony!!), I
returned to Rachelle.

She mentioned a racket in the alley and the ensuing lack of crowing. I
beamed, awaiting her praise. Instead all I got was: "you stink worse
than before! Take a shower!" Pride wounded, bleeding from my sores, I
ran back out to my hens!! Alas, they had already taken up with the
owner of the hotel.


Don't read my blogs. They are meaningless drivel. Just wait until this
cold is gone, my head gets back to 'working', and I stop sleeping
again. Then the fun will begin.

Wish us luck on this bus ride!!

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Gold Help me! 

No, not because of the 22 hour bus ride we are getting on in 3 hours,but because we are in an internet cafe in Guilin and they're damnplaying the Backdoor Boys. My ears started bleeding, and now the only sounds registering are....nothing any more. Thank god I've gone deaf!

That's right, we finally got out of Yangshuo. We caught an early bu to Guilin this morning, intending to get a sleeper train to Chengdu. Guess what? They ran out of tickets!! Bastards. This was at 10am thismorning. So instead we got tickets for a long bus ride and have been lugging our packs around town all afternoon. Fortunately(?) we ran into a Chinese guy very eager to practice his english, so he found us this place-as well as the art studio where at he and his prof dude were having their last day of an art show. Rachelle and I both bought something. I have to not give in to stuff like that, because otherwise\se I will find myself coming home earlier than planned (or proselytizing myself). And we don't want that, do we? Didn't think so.

The last couple days were a bit uneventful, with the exception of the rooster incident. I will get to that in another entry. Let's just say that that flea-ridden bag of cockadoodlecrank won't be waking anyone up early anymore. We sat around, talked with English speaking chinese(they love to practice), went for a bike ride to catch sunset on a bridge while the locals held burn the countryside down night and ate and ate and had one beer each. That's all I swear.

22 hours....long long time on a bus. Yikes. But once we get there we will have giant pandas to play with, perhaps the world's largest buddha, and I'm going to wash my underwear.

Let me give a shout out to all my homey's in cellblock 6W. We out herein the Chinizzouse appreciate the 411's on the white world and your lives that you are passing along to us out here in the land of winkin'blinkin' and noodle. Doesn't take too long for me and the R-ride to run out of new stories to tell each other (though her's sometimes take3.5 days to come to conclusion. Ask H. He knows) and it's nice to have someone else's livelihood to discuss. So keep 'em coming! For those that have remained reticently retreated riting rudely not, ain't no thang! But you ain't gettin' that bag o' rice I had planned to pass along.

On a lighter note, my horoscope predicts great things for me this month (Susan Miller at Astrologyzone.com. My little sis swears by and may be in love with her. Speaking of my sis, I mentioned a route intoTibet to her, and she swore to castrate my eyes if I took the spoken illegal route without her. I guess it's worse than the one she took when she went in [my life was also threatened if I decided to go in legally. Free Tibet, eh?] {The Backdoor Boys are now singing "Kiss" byPrince. Seriously, I'm about to commit Harey Carey here. No, that joke never gets old]). October is supposed to be my world's greatest month ever, though the dets are hard to come by. Something about money for writing? Kick it in to higher gear and let it ride on red! Right now,I'd settle for this freakin' cold to go away. It's close, but it's still kicking a bit.

Question-do you think that brushing your teeth all the time with pure baking soda will do bad things eventually? It's making my smile all pearly white (though not so minty fresh. and isn't pearly white bad? that's gotta be an off white) but the backs of my big teeth are feeling funny. Maybe it's just a calcium deficiency. That'd be better

Roto rooter that sumbitchin' thing home!

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Friday, October 08, 2004

Adventures in China! 

I lied. We didn't leave Yangshuo. Again. We decided to stay anotherday to do some more relaxing. Since we hadn't actually sat by the Li River and done anything yet, we decided to take a day and do that (it also puts off another dronerous day of travel across this enormous country). Instead of discussing today's 'activities', I will digress to a couple days past....our second day of biking in this area....fadeout....

It was a day like any other, except for the fact that we are 2 white unemployed homeless chillens in China. After a quick breakfast of pastries (they are tasty and perfectly healthy I swear. I feel as strong as a lumberjack [i sleep all night and I work all day. i put on gloves, I wear high heels, suspenders and a bra! I wish I'd been a girlie, just like my dear papar...] after eating them.) we again rented high end mountain bikes and decided to ride up north to the village of Xingping and take a ferry ride back down the Li toYangshuo. It was a 24km ride, and it started off badly, only because our undercarriages (I like that terminology don't you?) were still badly rutted and dinged up from the long ride the day before. But we persevered. This ride alos began with a tunnel excursion.Unfortunately, this one was a bit longer than the one the day before. And I guess lighting is unacceptable, at least in said tunnel. Midway thru I could feel the darkness crushing my skull and forcing my eyeballs out to better gain the fragments of light that were issuing forth from the far end of the shaft. Oh yeah-lots of traffic whizzed by continuously, and no, a tunnel is not seen as a valid reason to not pass at any and every opportunity. (Sidenote: it is SO easy to ride around and cross streets here! There is so much expectancy and prediction by everyone that they are not the oblivious bufoons that careen around our nation's roads) We shuffed out and continued on. After approx 7km we made a turn off the main road (It only took us 1/2hour to ride that far. And I was totally winning the ride!) and started up what could be considered a country road. Not much traffic, passing thru more small villages/collections of buildings, great scenery. Loved it. Since we were away from the river and out amongst the crops, we got to see their water moving methods. Their irrigation ditches are used for everything. Concrete or brick or dirt, they move water to the fields. In one 50 foot stretch we saw someone washing their clothes and another couple washing some food (same water). This water is used for pretty much everything and no, they don't filter or use iodine or anything. You do what you have to do, ya know?

For those of you that know Rachelle, you know she has a penchant for snapping photos. We stopped approximately every 10 feet for her to either:

1. Line up a shot, pull her camera out of her bag, take the pic, and put the camera back in her bag; or 2. Study the scene for a while, half pull out her camera, then slide it back in and move on.

A fairly entertaining routine actually. She'll have more (and better) pics than me I'm sure.

Overall it was a great ride. Uneventful but very nice to be away from the traffic and people.

Digression-in my description of life in this town (and China) I completely freudianed to mention the constant honking of horns. This is how you let someone know you are coming, warn them to move over, announce a pass, let them know you successfully respired once more. Constant! It was amusing at first, then grating, now it's passed into the cacophany of background noises.

No one killed that damn rooster outside our window. The freakin' thing woke me up again, repeatedly, this morning.

Back to the story. We arrived in Xingping (nice small rundown place. Standard) and rode thru over to the river to scope out a boat. One was scooped for 250 yuan total (~$30) and we boarded an overloaded little skiff. With our bikes. It was jampacked, but I thought it'd be neat to ride downriver with all these Chinese folks (who of course were looking at us very curiously). 50 feet and 2 minutes later we reached the opposite shore and offloaded. Our 4 foot tall guide lady led us down river a short spell where a small boat eventually pulled up and brought us aboard. Rachelle took a pic as I got on and said I dwarfed the boat. Yeah! I'm huge! It was maybe a 15-footer, a roof over partof it and a motor. Leader lady told us that we wouldn't get getting all the way to Yangshuo, that we'd have to bike back part of the way. Our guess is the legality of the boat and it's captain are questionable and can't boat passengers into town out of fear of legal swooping. No biggie, on her map it didn't appear that far for us to bike. A short bench was laid on on the front deck for us, and we scoofed off. It was great! I had forgotten how much I love being onthe water, the scenery was great, and it was a lot less work to have the noisy belching black smoking little engine push us downstream than to pump our burning (sun, not lactic) legs on worn out bikes. Good times. Then we pulled over. In the middle of nowhere. There were some old ladies sitting on the shore under a large tree with leaves, hanging, checking the scene. Off we went, arms were pointed in a vague direction, off they chugged. Silence descended and there we were. Ok, nothing to do but get moving so we did. A smiling ni hau to the ladies who responded in kind, and we moved off thru their little 'village'. Got some pics, no one was around. Then out into the sun and the fields. Our guess is that we were dropped off closer to ~1/2 way back. The ride ended up lasting an hour or so and this time we were up and down hills, around bends, river vista viewing, people chatting, the whole 16 yards. Fatigued, hungry/thirsty, undercarriages pretty much completely shot (trampoline for a seat again, no padding on the seat or my rear), we made the ride and loved it. More great scenery, more little villages and people (all very friendly). The last stretch we hit after coming down from on high out into an enormous waving field. Red and yellow long grains waving in the wind, soft watery looking, colors changing, look over there at that woman pop her head up to check out life above the chaff as we dart past, sunlight caressing the crops and the people and life. Wonderful. Rachelle made me ride ahead so she could get a pic of me out in this vast 'nothingness'. I think I just stank and she was tired of riding in the waves of my stench.

Great ride again.

To make up for all the work we'd done that day, we had dinner twice. Yup, you heard that right (I hope I am not repeating stories. I can'tcheck that pesky blog of mine), 2 dinners! We walked over to the whitewashed Tourist Market for Rachelle to shop. She changed her mind, too much work. Heading back to our hotel, we passed a place (Hard SeatCafe) with a sign offering: "Buy 2 drinks get one free". Can't beat that! Sit we did, drink we did (one), which aroused our hunger. Weate. Not nearly as good as the food off the Tourist Market, so we complained to each other. And decided to hit our regular place for one serving of fried rice. We did and had another beer ($0.30 for a dueceduece! Good times!) as well.

Falling asleep was not a problem that night!

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Thursday, October 07, 2004

Latest one! 

Hey gang,

nothing to do today so Rachelle and I are back online! We had dinner
at our fave place again-schezuan (that may be spelled wrong. I blame
my cold) chicken, fried rice with pork, and 2-600mLs of beer each. The
servings were huge. Ask me what we paid-I dare you! About $4 each. Not
bad, eh?

Let's go back a couple days.....

We arrived in Yangshuo after that eventful yet uneventful bus ride.
Nerves were a big frayed from no sleep and bad train rides (and yes,
my cold) but we were alive. The morning after we got there, after
sleeping for 12 hours (ok, I slept 12 Rachelle slept 11. Happy now?),
we awoke and walked down to a 'bakery' and got some breakfast
pastries. Then after milling about for a while (we still have no idea
what took us so long to rent bikes) we rented bikes from our own hotel
(took us 3 hours. Again, don't ask) and took off to find some
wonderful view from atop the limestone thingies. Unfortunately, our
map sucked and being stubborn we refused to ask directions (both of
us. Let's not be sexist, ok?). I let Rachelle take the lead but after
a short stint in the wrong direction, she ceded the 'map' to me and we
took off. Let me remind you that traffic is insane. Thru a tunnel? Not
any better, but we poofed out the other side in one piece. Then 1/4
way around a roundabout and we jetted off away from traffic and
people. We weren't sure it was the right way since no one was around,
but the scenery was nice and we were so glad to be out of crowds and
noise we didn't care. Some pics were taken, and eventually the crowds
picked up. Then it happened. A bridge over the Li River. We stopped
for pics and were instantly assailed by vendors selling...I don't even
know. My fave was the little girl whose sales tactic was to be as
annoying as possible and follow you around until you bought something.
I loved her "OK" song. It went: "ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok
ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok
ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok
ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok
ok ok " all in a sing-songy voice. Then she started in on the: "how
much?" I started replying with a "0" shaped with my hand. This added
to her consternation and her cute little face wrinkled up in
annoyance. I loved it!

We moved on

The crowds thinned, but the tourist traps increased. We were fine
until we passed the 'salesfolk' who'd come equipped with bikes. What
the hell? That's just unfair! How do we bike past them when they're
keeping up? We spoke German. Yup, we did. And they ran, rocks sailing
over their shoulders. We rode on a ways, took more pics then turned
around. We knew that back at the bridge was a road that followed the
Li River and was supposed to be nice. We turned up it. It was a gravel
road and very scenic.

Now, we were on rented mountain bikes. While they are newer than most
bikes we saw, they sucked. Dual suspension yes, but barely. The fronts
absorbed nothing (great on baby-soft un-gloved hands), and the
rears...well...they acted more like trampolines than shock ABSORBERS!
Suffice it to say, my ass bounced the whole time and came out of it
bruised. I checked. REgardless, it was a great ride even though we
inhaled dust and dodged rampaging cars the whole time, as well as
constant offers of: "want bamboo?" (bamboo being bamboo boat rides).

Then we hit a fork in the road. One path was wide and seemed to head
up into the hills, the other was a single track heading back to the
river. We took the single track. It led to the highlight of the trip
for me thus far. First we passed what seemed to be a trout farm of
sorts-small ponds stocked with fish for tourists. Then we got into
some very small villages. Lanes barely wide enough for us, ramshackle
homes and crumbling walls (and yes, they are inhabited), and the
nicest people yet. First there was a mom (?) and 2 little kids.
Overjoyed to be saying "hello" and having us return the favor. They
were ecstatic! There was an old man, laden with crop (in baskets on
both ends of a rod over his shoulder) who laughingly pointed us back
in the right direction. There was a collection of men in a pavilion
(small) type thing smoking and talking. We passed thru fields of crops
and people tending them, people with strings of ducks (still alive and
quacking) over their shoulders, beautiful river/mountain vistas,
echoes from...something that honestly went on for minutes....it was
amazing. It was also refreshing that people were saying hi and being
friendly with no intent to sell anything. I can't even describe how
elated I felt as we passed thru these places and encountered these
people! It never would have happened on a tour or in a bus. Just me
and Rachelle out riding our bikes around (between this day and the one
after, I have decided that I am buying a bike in Vietnam and am seeing
the country that way). The highlight for me. So far anyway.

We found a way back that took about 1/4 as long as the way out which
was fine. We rode for almost 5 hours and our undercarriages were a bit
sore. It was so worth it though.

After quick showers we walked down to the the 'tourist market' (where
it seems all the white people hang out. We had no idea there were so
many in town!). This area is rife with western restaurants and bars
and shop after shop after shop with trinkets and stuff. And again,
there are the malformed people there that break your heart. The MAYBE
4 foot tall women with huge baskets laden with fruit over their
shoulders trying to sell to you...beggars...very sad. We ended up
stopping at the 'Hard Seat Cafe' for their 'buy2 get one free' deal.
Instead, we got one beer each and a westernized version (we think) of
chinese food. Not so good. So we headed back to our usual place, split
a fried rice meal and had another beer, and I regaled Rachelle with
more of the details of my new outlooks on life and that sort of bilge.
It only scared her a titch. i think. Unfortunately my thoughts are
still abramble so it came out not nearly as clearly as I'd liked. I
need to work on that. We then went to sleep.

It was a very good day.

I will say again, I LOVED riding thru those tiny villages and
connecting (as brief as it was) with the people there. So amazing.
Rachelle even commented on her disbelief at how friendly even the
older folks there were. That they didn't seem to be jaded by having
nothing and seeing people like us come thru with 'fancy' stuff. They
were as happy and as friendly as the little kids. Yup. It is amazing,
but maybe not having much or not being sucked in by what society says
you must have can leave you happy, even though people like us consider
you poor and pathetic.

Think about it

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Name: Corey
Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I'm on a journey with no destination. The path is constantly changing direction but there are always adventures to be had. "Never" and "always" have left my lexicon.

WWW http:/www.jimspeak.blogspot.com