Monday, October 6: The Yangshuo River View Hotel must truly be a family affair, because today Vivian’s husband drives me in his van to the launch spot for the bamboo boat ride down the YuLong River. It’s supposed to be a two-hour drift down the river to a bridge near town. Sadly I don’t remember either the launch site name or the bridge.
When we arrive at the bustling spot, the boats are all jumbled together waiting for customers. It’s nearly 11:00 a.m. I need to leave Yangshuo this afternoon around 3:30 or 4:00 to head to Guilin for my 6:10 p.m. train. I’m not ready at all to leave this place, but my holiday ends tomorrow and it’s back to work on Wednesday.
I’m guided to my own private boat by a young man who will be my boatman. I have to climb unsteadily over a bunch of bobbing boats to get to mine.
I guess the river must be really shallow because the boatmen use long poles to push the boats down the river using the river bed for leverage.
We finally break free of the other boats and drift down the river. The views again are stupendous, with the karsts around us in every direction. Everyone is cocooned in bright orange life vests and shaded by rainbow-colored umbrellas.
My boatman has to work hard with his pole. He doesn’t speak any English and of course I know no Chinese. There is no need for words, so we drift silently.
The boat passengers and boatmen on the other boats are pretty friendly, saying greetings of “Hello!” or “Nǐ Hǎo!” I enjoy taking photos of the Chinese on the boats around me, and they equally enjoy taking pictures of me, the only foreigner in their midst.
Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide-show.
I enjoy watching these little girls standing at the end of their rafts in pretty dresses.
i see some farmers and water buffalo along the shore, framed by picturesque haystacks.
We pass another launch site that looks a little deserted.
We pass by the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat. Audrey and I stopped here on our bike ride and saw the boaters going down the river. Now I’m one of the boaters.
I like their sign for “Romantic Riverside Dinning.”
The water here is very shallow. The grass rippling in the water is a little hypnotic.
There are some places where people are stopping to eat, but my boatman just keeps pushing us downriver.
This little bridge is a cute one.
At another stopping place, I see this young lady checking her cell phone.
On the way downriver, we cross a lot of dams, going down chutes and landing hard at the bottom, with water washing up over our bow. It adds a little thrill to the ride.
I don’t think this couple is very thrilled at being stuck on the dam.
We pass some more pretty hotels along the river.
Finally we come to this bridge. I look at my watch and see we’ve only been on the river for one hour. I figure my boatman is taking a break or letting me out to buy souvenirs, but then I realize he’s telling me this is the end. I was told this is a two-hour ride, so I don’t want to get off the boat, but the boatman keeps gesturing for me to get off. I’m not very happy about this as I paid for two-hour trip, so I call the hotel to talk to Matthew, the English-speaking manager. He talks to the boatman and then explains the situation to me. Apparently, the two-hour boat ride is for people who make stops along the way, like for photos or for meals. My boatman never offered me any stops, probably because he couldn’t speak English, but also partly because he could finish early and go upriver again to pick up another customer. I’m not very happy about being misled. I really did expect a full two hours of a BOAT RIDE, whether I made any stops along the way or not!
I call Vivian to have her husband pick me up, and he comes shortly and takes me back to town. My Rough Guide to China had recommended the Pure Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant. I had tried to eat here another evening, but something was wrong with their cooking facility when I stopped by. Now I ask Vivian’s husband to drop me off here. I sit on the lovely patio and order some grilled eggplant.
When the eggplant comes, I don’t recognize it as eggplant; it looks like the mushy fringe of a damp mop.
The eggplant tastes good, but it’s cooked in a lot of oil, and immediately I can feel my stomach churning. Again I’ve made the mistake of assuming that if I’m eating vegetables in China, my stomach will be okay. I’m going to have to face the fact that if the food, meat or vegetables, is cooked in oil, I’m possibly going to get sick. I don’t know why sometimes the oily food makes me sick and sometimes not.
Feeling sick from this meal makes for a long trip back to Nanning. I don’t feel like taking a bus this time to Guilin, so I hire a taxi for 260 yuan (~ $42). I get to the train station way too early, and the whole time I’m sitting there, my stomach is churning. On the 2 hour 40 minute train ride home, my stomach continues to churn.
When I finally arrive back at the Nanning Railway Station, the crowds getting off the train are unbelievable. We move like cattle off the train platform and are chuted into two stairwells. We are so packed that I feel claustrophobic. I have a lot of anxiety; television shows I’ve seen about stampeding crowds flash before my eyes. I imagine getting crushed in a tired and irritable crowd of people anxious to get home. Finally, after what seems like an interminable time, we are released outdoors. It doesn’t end here. At the bus stops, the crowds are pushing onto the buses that come up to the train station. I don’t want to be packed on a bus with all those people, so I look in vain for a taxi. There are none to be found; every one seems to be taken. I’m tired and I just want to get home.
Finally, an older guy on a motorbike asks me where I’m going. I tell him Guangxi Daxue (university). I must not be saying it right because he doesn’t seem to understand me. In desperation, I pull out the Pleco app on my phone and show him the word. He repeats what I thought I said, and then he sticks my suitcase between his legs on the motorbike and tells me to hop on. In some countries this might be dangerous, but I don’t think it is in China. I’m so happy to be back on a motorbike again and on my way home. It’s quite cool tonight and the breeze feels incredibly refreshing on my skin. I love the sense of freedom that riding on a motorbike brings.
We ride directly to the university gate, where I hop off and pay him 20 yuan (~ $3.26) and walk back to my room. There, I collapse on my bed after a long day.
What a fabulous holiday. I’d say my first solo trip in China was a great success. 🙂