Monday, May 25, 2009

5/25 - To Yangshuo (Take the Li River cruise)

We awoke Monday early so that we could enjoy a powerful shower (it was the one and only nice thing I can say about the Zhongshan) before a trip back for an alleyway breakfast of noodles, sticky buns, sesame buns, and rice wrapped in banana leaves. I say "buns" for lack of a better term. I suppose donuts would be more accurate, but these are much, much denser and not always sweet. We don't know really what we're eating most of the time, but if there aren't obvious signs of moving insects, we'll try it, and more often than not we're pleasantly surprised. We check out of the hotel a few minutes before our bus is to pick us up to go to the river, so that the hotel staff can do a quick inventory of the condoms and sodas and confirm that we didn't run off with any. We got a full refund of our room key deposit of CNY100. Deposits are standard at non-Western hotels, and all make copies of your passport when you check-in.

We got our final view of Guilin 's rainy season from a small bus with large windows which, of course, had been arranged by Jerry on the previous day. Forty minutes later and we were boarding one of a dozen tourist boats bound for Yangshuo. I don't know why we thought there might be only one ship. I assume the constant bombardment of "buy your cruise tickets now, to get good seats" or "before they are sold out" had succeeded in providing that sense of urgency needed to close the sale. We quickly darted up the stairs for the top floor of the boat so that the three of us had the front, right (in our opinion, best) spots to spend the next couple of hours standing in the intermittent mist.

Alex and I took a few www. A few hundred. At least. The scenery was breathtaking, although none of the photos will have enough contrast to show the incredible beauty of this area. I found it difficult, however, to imagine the horrors experienced many years ago by those poor souls who found themselves fighting a war in jungle conditions. I don't know if the people of this area harbor any ill will toward Americans, but some of the looks I feel I get from some of the older locals could be explained by a latent animosity.

I'd tell more about the boat trip, the surprisingly decent lunch and Portuguese, Mexican, and German lunch guests, but I know I've been writing too much as it is. We pulled into Yangshuo a bit early, so we had to walk the most impressive gauntletwe had yet encountered of vendors of every sort. To make matters worse, we had nobody to greet us, so we started wandering a maze of village streets and alleys without a map or the aid of any street signs. I set down my backpack in order to retrieve what little paperwork I did have on the "Rosewood Inn" and was visited by a two-foot tall dwarf asking for money. Although we now had an address, we still didn't know what street or town we were in. Fortunately, we navigated by remembering the small river which we'd seen emptying into the Li at the docks, and we wandered back towards it to be greeted by a rather encouraging sign entitled Rosewood Bar. A nice young lady walked us along the river until we came to our final destination at the Rosewood Inn. And we are quite pleased.

The hotel staff introduced themselves, so I introduced each of us. After meeting the petite Sophie, who apologized profusely that she hadn't been there forty-five minutes early to greet us at the boat, we met Annabel and other staff members. The owner, Sam Wong, called and I spoke with him on the phone as he also apologized that he was in Guilin and couldn't be there for our arrival, but that if we needed ANYTHING, to ask his staff and they would get the message to him and he would see that our needs were met. Before committing to four nights, we asked to see the room (which turned out to be quite lovely). We could have been comfortable in this room for a long time (with the exception of the millions of mosquitoes in this area)---three beds (unlike most beds in China, these were actually soft), a sitting area, balcony on the little river, tv, fridge, computer, tasteful decor, and oversized bathroom. As soon as we checked in, Sophie visited us with a gift of a plate of local fruits and we have a pleasant conversation as she shyly giggles and smiles. "It is my duty" seems to be a prevalent theme everywhere in this country when somebody does her job well. Obviously, there have to be some slackers, but most of what I've seen are lots of guards at attention, waiters and staff standing alert ready to assist, even baggage handlers at the airport standing in a line waiting for a plane to finish taxiing so that they could get the bags as quickly and efficiently as possible. Anyhow, we're comfortably resting in our little room at the Rosewood Inn.

Alex has planned the next few days (I can tell you in hindsight that she really did her homework). Karen's with Nora, and I'm writing lots of lots of stuff in case anybody has time to hear about our time in China.

Of course, we've been thinking about all of the things our kids back home have been doing. It's so disorienting trying to make the 13 hour adjustment in time (and culture). This has been quite an experience for us, so I just had to write about it. We've been thinking of Amanda finishing up teaching at Holland Hall last week, and Jamie finishing up seventh grade this week. Make sure, Jamie, to tell all your good teachers how much you've enjoyed them. Ignore the one dolt. You'll remember many of them the rest of your life. I do.

I reminded the girls to keep in touch with us via e-mail, now that we have regular access to a computer again. At six cents a minute, I told them to feel free to call long distance (Sophie would be happy to come get us). We'll be here for the next four days. We are mosquito food. And we're off (we hope) to get our first martini since leaving the US.

Yangshuo is quaint

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