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