Bicycle tour

an afternoon bike ride in the yangshuo countryside

Saturday, May 30:  After we finish the Li River cruise, Erica and I drop into town for a quick pizza lunch at the Rosewood Cafe and then head out immediately for a bike ride.  As we only have a short weekend, I’m trying to compress what I did in four days into less than two days.  We take off into the countryside in a steady drizzle, hoping that it will let up before long.  By the time we get into the heart of the countryside, it has stopped raining, but we are fairly damp.  The moisture in the air is thick, making for some hazy views.

Yangshuo countryside

Yangshuo countryside

I’m trying to lead Erica by memory into the countryside, following the route that Audrey led me on in October.  I’m surprised that I am able to recognize landmarks and find my way, despite only having been once on this route.  Sometimes I have no sense of direction, and other times I have an uncanny internal compass that enables me to figure out the lay of the land.

the farmland of Yangshuo

the farmland of Yangshuo

We come to a spot along the Yulong River where some girls are standing under the trees trying to keep dry, as it has started raining again.  We get off our bikes and join the girls under the trees, as there’s quite a deluge.  While waiting, we’re lucky enough to have a farmer cross the river with his cows.

The Yulong River

The Yulong River

A farmer and his cow

A farmer and his cow

I love it how the farmer rolls up his pants and wades confidently into the river, and his cows follow obediently behind.

the farmer crosses the Yulong River with his cows

the farmer crosses the Yulong River with his cows

farmer crossing

farmer crossing

wading across the Yulong River

wading across the Yulong River

I am thrilled to experience this little slice of life in the Yangshuo countryside!

disappearing act

disappearing act

bicycles Chinese style

bicycles Chinese style

When the rain lets up, Erica and I get back on our bikes to continue on our journey.

Erica and her bicycle

Erica and her bicycle

Before we leave, two young men come by on a motorbike.  I can’t believe it, but they try to cross the river on the bike.  One of the men gets off and walks alongside.  Of course the bike stalls, but they get it started again and make their way gingerly across.

crossing the Yulong River on a motorbike

crossing the Yulong River on a motorbike

There’s all kind of activity on this rainy day in Yangshuo.  We encounter another farmer leading his cow along the path.

another farmer and his cow

another farmer and his cow

His cow goes off into the bushes to scrounge around, but the farmer doesn’t seem to mind.  After all, cows will be cows.

and the cow goes scrounging in the bushes

and the cow goes scrounging in the bushes

Chinese countryside

Chinese countryside

more farmland

more farmland

We pass more farmland in the midst of the karsts, and we glimpse farmers and water buffalos in the fields.

a farmer in the field

a farmer in the field

water buffalo in the field

water buffalo in the field

Erica and her bicycle

Erica and her bicycle

I have to take a convoluted path to get us to Dragon Bridge. There are no English signs to point out the way, but I use my 6th sense, just letting my body lead us in the right direction.  We go through a parking lot and then emerge on the other side to find the trail continuing along the Yulong River.  Once again, I’m surprised and pleased that I’m able to remember the way to go.

Erica hasn’t seen the bamboo rafts at Yulong Bridge, and she is delighted by the sight, as am I.

the view upriver from Dragon Bridge

the view upriver from Dragon Bridge

Looking downriver from Dragon Bridge

Looking downriver from Dragon Bridge

bamboo rafts on the Yulong River

bamboo rafts on the Yulong River

the Yulong River from Dragon Bridge

the Yulong River from Dragon Bridge

The rafts go downriver, and as the boatmen go by, they toss these ID tags up on to the bridge, where someone collects them.  I’m not sure exactly how this system works and what the point is.

boat ID tags

boat ID tags

As we’re leaving, we catch this character shooting the breeze with a companion.

Do you like my hat?

Do you like my hat?

We pass by a cute little bridge beside a coffee shop in the countryside.

A little bridge in the countryside

A little bridge in the countryside

coffee shop in Yangshuo

coffee shop in Yangshuo

view from the little bridge

view from the little bridge

We stop at the Giggling Tree, a hotel that always seems to be booked whenever I’ve come to Yangshuo.  This hotel is popular among Westerners.  We stop in the courtyard and have some mango drinks.

the courtyard at the Giggling Tree

the courtyard at the Giggling Tree

I was hoping we’d end up back at the Passion Fruit Leisure Farm, where Audrey and I ate lunch in October, but Erica is tired from our long day and wants to make our way back to town.  So we ride back into Yangshuo, where we stroll around the town.  Here, I finally buy a couple of cool lanterns, after dreaming about them during my whole time in China.

Lately, the lens on my Olympus Pen has been acting up, and I’m disappointed to find that many of my pictures are not quite focused.  I’m not sure if they’re like this because of the dense mist in the air in Yangshuo, or because of the lens not focusing properly.  I think it’s going to be time for a new camera soon. 🙂

a little Chinese girl poses at a shop in Yangshuo

a little Chinese girl poses at a shop in Yangshuo

the town and canals in Yangshuo

the town and canals in Yangshuo

After dinner, we hop on our bikes to head back toward the Cosy Garden.  While we’re riding over the bumpy cobblestones under the long pavilion, Erica says she’d like to stop at Demo Tikki Bar, which Audrey took me to in October; it has now moved from the middle of Yangshuo to this somewhat deserted stretch under the pavilion along the Li River.

Audrey had introduced me to the German manager, Peter, and when we stop in, I ask Peter if he remembers me from when I came in with Audrey. He does because he added me on WeChat at that time, so he’s seen all my posts.  I’ve seen his as well, so everything finally comes together: all his posts about Demo Bar’s move to the new location now make perfect sense. We sit at a table and have some beer and cheese plates and Peter joins us when time allows. When he sits with us, he shares his excitement about the restaurant/bar’s new location and all his plans for this and another new restaurant in town.

Erica over beers at the new Demo Bar by the Li River

Erica over beers at the new Demo Bar by the Li River

After dinner, Erica and I hop back on our bicycles to ride through the drizzling dark to the Cosy Garden.  The staff at Cosy Garden gave Erica a miniature headlamp, like what a coal miner wears, when we left the hotel this morning.  At the far end of the long pavilion, we both take turns struggling to turn it on and put it on our heads; finally it’s me that wins out.  We cycle forth into the darkness, a beam of light shining from my luminous head onto the road ahead.

Earlier today, I asked Erica if she’d rather take the bamboo raft down the Yulong River tomorrow, or if she’d rather take a motorbike tour up to the Seven Star tea plantation and Xianggong Hill.  There is only enough time for one or the other.  She was so charmed by the Yulong River rafts that she’s decided she’d like to do that tomorrow; we arranged it in town when we returned from our bike rides earlier.

We settle in quite late at the Cosy Inn, preparing for another raft trip and for our long journey back to Nanning tomorrow.

Categories: Asia, Bicycle tour, China, Cosy Garden, Demo Tiki Bar, Dragon Bridge, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Rosewood Cafe, The Giggling Tree, Travel, West Street, Xi Jie, Yangshuo, Yulong River | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

mike’s reflections on china

In late January, my husband Mike traveled from Virginia to visit me here in China.  We went to Hunan province, where we visited Fenghuang and Zhangjiajie, and to Guangxi, where we visited Guilin and Yangshuo.  I was disappointed for him because we had horrible weather for nearly the whole time he was here.  His one and only experience of China was a rainy, fog-enshrouded, cold and gloomy one.  In his reflections below, you can see that despite our hardships, he managed to see the experience as a positive one.  This was more than I could say for myself, but then I’ve seen better days in China.

Mike eats dumplings at the Red Sign

Mike eats dumplings at the Red Sign

Here are Mike’s reflections, along with some of the photos he took.

——————————————————–

After Cathy decided to go to China to teach this year she suggested that I should plan on visiting and traveling with her on one of her breaks. My initial reaction was less than enthusiastic. My first inclination is to plan relaxing, stress-free, outdoorsy vacations away from crowds and the fast-paced life I deal with in the DC suburbs. After giving the idea some thought and talking more with Cathy, I committed, leaving the planning to her, providing feedback on trip options when asked. I am an avid reader, like Cathy, and have an interest in cultural anthropology and world history, which I get from a fictional and non-fictional perspective. In addition to having the opportunity to spend some time with my nomad wife, I would see firsthand how one in five people on our planet live.

a wedding in the streets of Fenghuang

a wedding in the streets of Fenghuang

I knew from the outset that this trip would be a challenge, starting and ending with the long time-zone crossing flights halfway around the globe. From Cathy’s early travel experiences in China I knew that our in-country travels would not be easy. Neither of us are much on tour groups, preferring the freedom to move about at our own pace, surrounded by local folks, being forced to figure things out on our own. That‘s half the adventure. The apprehension we felt every time we ventured out to our next destination was rewarded with a sense of accomplishment and relief upon arrival. I came with no expectations other than to relish the uniqueness of China. Cathy put a lot of time and energy into our itinerary, hoping to show me the picturesque and historic side of Guangxi and Hunan provinces. You seasoned travelers understand the tenuous balance between trying to visit as many places as possible within a tight time window and allowing oneself the time to soak in the essence of each layover, and recharge, before diving in to the next adventure. I felt like we achieved that balance.

Fenghuang

Fenghuang

Cathy was very honest on her blog in describing her disappointment with the cool damp weather during my visit. Besides yielding a series of fog shrouded photos for her blog, she was sad for me. I am sure that many travel bloggers portray only the positive aspects of their trips, which is not reality. You have to accept and learn to deal with weather and other circumstances that don’t go your way. I like how Cathy freely shares her personal frustrations in her blogs.

Yes, I would have enjoyed some clear sunny days, but I was so alert to the sights, sounds, smells and the way of life wherever we went that the weather had much less of an impact on me than Cathy. The mist encased quartz-sandstone pillars of Zhangjiajie and the limestone karsts of Yangshuo looked whimsical and mysterious. The one rainy day where we didn’t go trekking was spent lounging in bed reading and treating ourselves to a muscle relaxing massage. That was just what we needed, some down time to recover.

Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie

I was constantly fascinated by assorted modes of transportation, the unified flow of scooters, bikes and buses on the crowded streets and dusty rural roads, the lack of heat throughout, the family way of life in the shops, service bays, and eateries, the variety of critters and body parts offered on the menus, the placid acceptance of a quality of life that few westerners could imagine, the third world toilets, the often derelict trains and train stations, the rural communal hamlets we cycled through, the villagers laboring in the never-ending fields, and the general friendliness of the people we encountered.

I wanted to see where Cathy lived, where she worked, the students she taught, where she shopped and ate, how she traveled, the soul and spirit of the bustling cities, the steady march of the rural farms, so I could get a sense for the environment she moved about in during her life in Guangxi. Thankfully those impressions will now be with me for the rest of her stay in Nanning, sensory impressions catalogued and brought to mind as she shares with me her weekly recap on Skype. Instead of her face and the stories she tells in words, I will see much more.

The Yangshuo countryside during a rainy bike ride

The Yangshuo countryside during a rainy bike ride

There are so many memories and images that come to mind from our two-week excursion, all fascinating to me, many of which Cathy has already shared in her blog. Some of these memories can’t be captured by pictures and words. They were moments of interaction, on some level, with others, in a land where one feels so isolated, despite being surrounded by 1.3 billion people. The thirteen hour plane ride seated next to a mother and her young son from Mongolia on their return trip from studying at the international school in Miami, Florida, the respectful sharing of a small train compartment for twelve hours with two young strangers, the prideful smile on the face of our dumpling lady in Fenghuang who was thrilled to see us show up for breakfast three mornings in a row, the conversation with a young woman, employed in international sales, on our boat ride on Baofang Lake, the engaging conversation with Duco, the young Dutch backpacker, on our bus ride to Yangshuo, the family we traveled with on our Li river bamboo raft, and the many challenging interactions arising from the language barrier at every twist and turn.

the town of Yangshuo

the town of Yangshuo

In one of Cathy’s blogs about Alex’s time in China she mentions a tension-filled afternoon. This is to be expected, in less than ideal travel situations and close quarters, as individual expectations collide with circumstances and each other. I suppose the key to traveling with someone else, successfully, is to recognize that this will happen and what to do when it does happen. I think in Alex and Cathy’s case, space and time was all they needed, and by the evening they were fine. It was surprising to me given all of the traveling we did and the inclement weather we encountered that we didn’t really encounter any moments of tension. Perhaps I’ll chalk that up to my laid back nature; HA! Just joking Cathy, I know it takes two to make this happen.

In looking back on my two weeks in China, followed by Alex’s two weeks, followed by Cathy’s trip to Myanmar, I am amazed at Cathy’s stamina, especially in light of the cough she came down with on our trip. Both Alex and I were exhausted after our short journeys. I can’t even begin to imagine doing that for six weeks. Cathy is like the Energizer Bunny, she keeps going and going and going!!!

the Yangshuo countryside on the way back to Guilin

the Yangshuo countryside on the way back to Guilin

As I left China I realized that this was truly a once-in-a-life experience. It is an experience that for myself, and for Alex, will resurface in years to come as we put global events into perspective, as a result of having the opportunity to glimpse a way of life so different from our own. I am thankful for that opportunity.

Categories: Airplane, Asia, Baofeng Lake Scenic Spot, Bicycle tour, Bus, Changsha, China, Fenghuang, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Holidays, Hunan, Jishou, Li River, Nanning, Nanning Wuxu International Airport, Seven Star Tea Plantation, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Spring Festival, Train, Transportation, Travel, West Street, Wulingyuan Scenic Reserve, Xi Jie, Xianggong Hill, Yangshuo, Yangshuo River View Hotel, Zhangjiajie, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

a rainy day bicycle ride in yangshuo

Tuesday, January 27:  Though the bus ride from Guilin to Yangshuo is only supposed to be 1 1/2 hours, today it seems like it is longer.  It also seems to go through much uglier scenery than I remember from my October trip.  Maybe it’s the dreary weather, but there is also much ugliness in the human habitats and commercial establishments along the way.  Most of the buildings are of shabby concrete construction, of no architectural character at all, and junk seems to be scattered about willy-nilly.  It’s too bad the amazing natural landscape is so ruined by people.

We arrive and check in to the Yangshuo River View Hotel, the same hotel in which I stayed in October.  It seems shabbier now at off-season, and Mike is pretty disappointed after some of the nice hotels we’ve had.  Oh well, we get settled in and immediately go out for lunch.

On the street outside of our hotel, we run into an older lady who introduces herself as Esther.  She offers to take us on a bicycle ride through the countryside for a good price and she pulls out a book in which many foreigners have written glowing things about her in English.  She’s apparently wonderful, the most kind person in the world, energetic and hard-working.  We tell her we are interested in a bicycle ride this afternoon, as the rain seems to be holding off.  But we want to eat some lunch first, so if she’ll wait, we’ll go with her.

I would take the lead myself, but I’ve only been on one bicycle ride here in Yangshuo and I’m afraid we might get lost.  It’s late in the day to get lost, so I figure it will be nice to have someone along who knows the territory.

We stop at a pizza place and share a medium pizza because we only want a small snack.  It’s another cold and cloudy day in a what is becoming a long line of dreary days on our holiday.

Me at lunch in Yangshuo (Photo by Mike)

Me at lunch in Yangshuo (Photo by Mike)

Even the cute town of Yangshuo looks a little empty and desolate.

Street in Yangshuo (Photo by Mike)

Street in Yangshuo (Photo by Mike)

We look for Esther after lunch but she seems to have vanished.  I go to the room to put on some warmer clothes, and Mike goes off in search of her.  He finds her (I’m not sure where), comes to collect me from the hotel, and we meet her at a bicycle rental place.  After finding some bikes that fit, we’re off.

We ride quite a long way until we’re able to make a stop at this lovely spot.  I am always in awe of Yangshuo’s karst landscape, with its mystical oddly shaped mountains jutting up from flat farmland.  Granted, it’s a dark and hazy day, so it’s not as beautiful as it could be.  But it still reminds me of ancient Chinese paintings and suggests romantic and poetic ancient times.

Farmland and karsts outside of Yangshuo

Farmland and karsts outside of Yangshuo

Esther is lively, cheery and energetic and luckily we all ride about the same pace.

Our guide Edith

Our guide Esther

When we stop for photos, Esther makes a phone call so we mill about taking a lot of shots while she’s talking.

Me and our bicycles (Photo by Mike)

Me and our bicycles (Photo by Mike)

Farmland and karsts

Farmland and karsts

the road ahead

the road ahead

landscape around Yangshuo

landscape around Yangshuo

Farmland and karst landscape

Farmland and karst landscape

stopping along the way

stopping along the way

fields and pointed mountains

fields and pointed mountains

Me at a stop along our bike ride (Photo by Mike)

Me at a stop along our bike ride (Photo by Mike)

the road into the village (Photo by Mike)

the road into the village (Photo by Mike)

We continue on our ride through farmland and old villages.  We pass some of the countryside hotels I’ve heard of, most notably the Giggling Tree, a place I want to try one day.

reaching to the horizon

reaching to the horizon

On our bicycle ride (Photo by Mike)

On our bicycle ride (Photo by Mike)

the beautiful karst landscape of Yangshuo

the beautiful karst landscape of Yangshuo

trees, grasses and karsts

trees, grasses and karsts

leaning towers

leaning towers

It seems to be getting colder and darker as we ride.

Karst landscape seen on our bikeride (Photo by Mike)

Karst landscape seen on our bike ride (Photo by Mike)

along our bike ride (Photo by Mike)

along our bike ride (Photo by Mike)

a waterway in Yangshuo (Photo by Mike)

a waterway in Yangshuo (Photo by Mike)

Karsts and reflections

Karsts and reflections

After going back to one of the main roads, Esther wants us to stop at her friend’s restaurant so we can eat something.  We’re not hungry because we just ate lunch several hours earlier, and we plan to eat at Rock-n-Grill tonight.  Her friend’s restaurant is in the shadow of Moon Hill, so we can see a glimpse of it from below without climbing up to it.

Moon Hill

Moon Hill

On the way back down the main road, I am looking for the Passion Fruit Leisure Farm where Audrey and I had a lovely lunch on our bike ride in October: a bicycle ride through the yangshuo countryside

At this time of year, which is off-season, there is no lunch being served.  However, the proprietor is serving up some passion fruit juice.  We each order one and take our time enjoying it, much to Esther’s chagrin.  I think she’s impatient to be on her way.

Passion Fruit Leisure Farm (Photo by Mike)

Passion Fruit Leisure Farm (Photo by Mike)

Me sipping on a passion fruit drink (Photo by Mike)

Me sipping on a passion fruit drink (Photo by Mike)

Mike and his passion fruit juice

Mike and his passion fruit juice

After we finish our passion fruit juice and leave the farm, I know from my bike ride with Audrey in October that we are almost back to town.  However, Esther has other ideas.  She veers off on another backroad to take us through more villages.  Once we get off onto the backroads, it starts to rain.  At first it’s spitting, but then it turns into a steady drizzle.  It seems like we’re riding forever, with Esther pedaling furiously onward.  I am now miserable and wet and just want to go back to our hotel.  Finally, Mike tells Esther that we want to go back to Yangshuo.  It’s a very long ride back into town.  Meanwhile I’m getting drenched and starting to shiver.  I’m getting the chills and I can feel a cold coming on.

Finally, we get back to town, pay Esther her money, and go to the hotel.  The room is quite cold, even with the heat on.  Mike and I decide to grab a bite at Rock-n-Grill, just to get out of the hotel.  At Rock-n-Grill, the restaurant is toasty warm.  We order wine and delicious Thai food and thoroughly enjoy our meal.  After dinner we take a walk through the town.  It has stopped raining by now but I am feeling quite miserable.  I have been not feeling great ever since the day in Zhangjiajie when my feet got wet, but now, I can feel a sore throat and a bad head cold coming on.  After I walk, I put on multiple layers of pajamas and cuddle up in bed, wondering how on earth I will survive not only the rest of my trip with Mike, but the next month of travel I’ve planned after Mike leaves.

 

Categories: Asia, Bicycle tour, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Rock-n-Grill, Travel, Yangshuo, Yangshuo River View Hotel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

a pensive walk around the agricultural college of guangxi university

Sunday, October 19:  I spend this entire weekend not talking to a soul.  So, I feel pretty depressed and lonely as I go out for a bicycle ride and a walk around the East Campus this Sunday morning.  I want to walk around the grounds of the Agricultural College because there’s a lot of farmland on this part of the campus.  The residences look different as well, and several somewhat scenic ponds dot the area.  I already made a long trek yesterday to the Guangxi Medicinal Plant Garden, so today I want to stay close to home while having a little change of scenery.

farmland around the Agricultural College

farmland around the Agricultural College

Luckily I did speak by Skype to Mike, plus I had some nice back and forth “comment” banter with fellow blogger Dai of An Englishman’s life in Kathmandu and Jo of Restless Jo.  I also shared some Facebook comments with people.  That’s kind of sad when your only communication is through a computer screen.

a house overtaken by nature

a house overtaken by nature

I’ve found it hard to connect with anyone here in China, other than on a superficial level, for several reasons.  The other teachers certainly seem friendly enough.  That’s not it.  It’s more just an inability to find people with the same interests and energy level as me.

wall & foliage

wall & foliage

farmland

farmland

It seems that the younger teachers gravitate toward their cohorts; I can’t say I blame them for that.  I did the same when I was their age.

more farmland

more farmland

a farmer wearing a reflective conical hat

a farmer wearing a reflective conical hat

All of the other teachers, bar none, have been in China for years; I am the ONLY teacher here who has just arrived in the country.  Those expats have traveled extensively and seem to be content to just hang around close to home on weekends.

greenhouses

greenhouses

a glimpse of a pond

a glimpse of a pond

reflections

reflections

A lot of people work part-time jobs outside of the university, doing online teaching or teaching kindergarten or private students.  Other people are involved in work that doesn’t involve teaching English.  Many of the older men here have Chinese wives and the younger men have Chinese girlfriends, so they’re occupied with their partners.

storage sheds behind apartment buildings

storage sheds behind apartment buildings

a murky pond

a murky pond

Sometimes I ask my colleagues what they did on the weekend, and they say they worked all weekend or they “did nothing.”  Or they are trying to complete a graduate degree and had a paper due. Some people have told me they’re here to make money and don’t want to make any friends or go out spending money.

more brick storage units

more brick storage units

If someone is trying to make money, I honestly can’t figure out why on earth they came to China.  I make less than half of what i made in Oman. Even Korea and Japan pay better than China, if the Middle East is not someone’s cup of tea.

apartment buildings

apartment buildings

laundry peeking from behind shrubbery

laundry peeks from behind shrubbery

Because of this lack of connection with anyone, I’m becoming increasingly frustrated.  I feel isolated and disconnected.  It doesn’t help that we have offices at the university that no one uses.  Sure, I can go use mine, but no one else will be there.  We go to class and then we sometimes go have lunch after class, and then everyone disappears into their own worlds.

apartment building on the East Campus

apartment building on the East Campus

another apartment building

another apartment building

It’s a paradox that I’m happy to NOT have to keep office hours, yet I’m disappointed that I’m missing the socializing that often occurs in the office.  At this college, much like at Northern Virginia Community College, no office hours are required.  We do our preparation and marking at home, show up for class, and go back home.  In Oman, I had to come into the office every day from 8-4.  Though I hated having to keep office hours, especially when I didn’t have enough work to fill my time, I did like the opportunity to socialize.  I made my closest friends in the university office:  Mario, Kathy, Anna, Tahira, Mona Lisa.  We became friends by hanging out and chatting in the office.

isolated house along the pond

isolated house along the pond

peeking from foliage

peeking from foliage

In Oman, it took five months before Mario and I became friends.  And it took even longer to become best of friends; of course every friendship needs time to develop.  I keep reminding myself it took that long.  I don’t even really hope to find a friend like Mario; friends like him in life are very rare indeed.  But I do keep hoping to find a partner in crime, someone who is not desperate to save money, someone who likes to go out and explore, someone who enjoys photography, someone who guards their free time and doesn’t let work encroach on it.  Someone laid back, yet with a sense of adventure.  It hasn’t happened yet.

a lonely road

a lonely road

I don’t understand people who say they don’t want to have friends while here.  That makes for a lonely existence.  Sure, it’s great to be here to save money, but what about a life?  I’ve always been a person who likes to balance work and pleasure.  Just like everyone else, I have a lot of preparation and marking to do, but I’m determined not to work on weekends.  I’m certainly not interested in taking on extra work.

I could be happy here, despite missing my husband and family.  My job is actually one of the better jobs I’ve ever had.  The students are sweet and hardworking, and I like the way the teaching schedule is set up.  I don’t have much of a commute.  I’m finished at noon three days a week, and one day I don’t go in until 2:40 and finish at 5:00.  I only have to prepare four 80-minute classes a week, because I repeat the same classes for different students.

The only negatives really are the isolation, the hot and sticky weather, and the oily food that sometimes makes me sick.  Oh, and the fact that sometimes the air conditioners don’t work in our classrooms; this makes me very grumpy.  🙂

cheery flowers

cheery flowers

This weekend, even though I had work I could have done, and I had plenty of free time on my hands, I didn’t do any work.  I went on two outings, I took and edited a lot of photos, I wrote 3 blog posts, I watched Mad Men, which I’m now addicted to, and I spent hours researching places I could explore in Guangxi province over the coming weekends.  I don’t have a long break until February, but at least twice a month, I could go on a weekend trip.  If I have to go it alone, then so be it.  I’m no stranger to traveling alone.

keeping shop

keeping shop

Tonight, I am feeling pretty melancholy, and it doesn’t help that I had a big glass of wine and watched one of my all-time favorite movies, Cairo Time, which tends to make me cry.  I have no idea how many times I’ve watched this movie.  I love it because it reminds me of my time in Cairo during the month of July in 2007.  That was the first time I’d ever been to such an exotic place alone, and I never felt so alive, so aware of every moment.  In all of my travels since Cairo, 16 countries in 5 years, I’ve always hoped to recapture that feeling of overwhelming awe that I had in Cairo.  I’ve never experienced anything to match it since.

wispy flowers

wispy flowers

pretty pond

pretty pond

I just have to keep in mind my goals of travel, and forge ahead alone if necessary.  I have plenty to blog about and plenty of pictures to take.  I can watch TV series like Mad Men, watch movies, and read.  I have a lot of books on my Kindle.  And I can keep going out for walks and bicycle rides.  I’m also due to start a free Basic Chinese class this Wednesday evening.  That will be a fun challenge.

And of course I’ll look forward to having Mike come to visit in February, when we can travel around together.  Though he’ll only be here for two weeks, I really hope someone else will come to visit, like my sons, or any of my friends.  Anyone is welcome to visit while I’m here in China.  I would love to have visitors!

I doubt I’ll never find a partner in crime like Mario, but at least I hope there’s someone here in China who I can connect with on a deeper level.  Otherwise my time in China will be an awfully lonely time.

Categories: Agricultural College of Guangxi University, Asia, Bicycle tour, China, Chinese language, Chinese language class, East Campus, Expat life, Friendship, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning, Teaching English as a Second Language, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

a bicycle ride through the yangshuo countryside

Saturday, October 4:  My day starts with a message from Audrey on WeChat saying that she hasn’t got the strength to get out of bed yet, but if I am up, she’ll pull it together.  After our late night last night, I’m still in bed, unusual for me at 9 a.m.  I respond, Maybe I’ll go down and have some breakfast, and then take a quick shower.  How about if we aim for 10:30 or so?  She, obviously feeling more energetic than I do, says, No shower! let’s go get dim sum!  She asks if I packed a bathing suit, which I didn’t.  She says she’ll be over to my hotel shortly.

I throw on some clothes and head down to the lobby, where she shows up momentarily and we head down Yangshuo’s main street.  Sadly we find that the dim sum restaurant she knows of is no longer serving dim sum.  Instead we head to another restaurant for a Western breakfast.

We return to my hotel where I rent a bicycle for the day for 20 yuan ($3.24), and we head out of town.  We ride through traffic for a while.  After all, there’s no way to escape the crowds unless we get away from Yangshuo.

Finally, the traffic starts to thin out and we stop for a second to enjoy the view of the beautiful karst scenery beside a coffee shop.  A cute little lady approaches and tries to sell us wreaths of flowers that girls buy to wear on their heads like a crown.  I don’t want the wreath but I do ask if I can take a picture.  I give her a yuan for her time. She’s adorable. 🙂

Chinese lady selling flower wreaths

Chinese lady selling flower wreaths

I take some more pictures of my great hostess and guide, Audrey, as well as a little canal and bridge, the farmland and the karsts.

Audrey and her bicycle

Audrey and her bicycle

Me and bicycles

Me and my bicycle

bridge and canal

bridge and canal

We continue on our bicycles and come upon this charming scene at Dragon Bridge, which crosses the Yulong River.  A flotilla of bamboo boats with rainbow-colored umbrellas is floating down the river.

a flotilla of colorful boats scurrying down the river

a flotilla of colorful boats cruising down the river

There’s a bustle of activity as a group of men load the boats on a truck.  I stand on Dragon Bridge and Audrey takes a picture of me.  I wave to some rafters who pass under the bridge.

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.

We continue past the bridge into the heart of the farmland.  Audrey points out the rice fields and other crops, about which she’s been learning during her time in China.  I love the yellow grains of rice framing the jagged peaks.

Rice fields and karsts

Rice fields and karsts

Rice fields outside of Yangshuo

Rice fields outside of Yangshuo

farmland

farmland

yellow grains of rice

yellow grains of rice

We get off the paved road onto a dirt trail that meanders prettily through the fields, where hay is stacked into cute little bundles resembling the karst landscape.

haystacks and karsts

haystacks and karsts

haystacks mirror the karst landscape

haystacks mirror the karst landscape

We catch some glimpses of people drifting peacefully down the Yulong River.

a glimpse of some private rafters

a glimpse of some solitary rafters

We come to the edge of the Yulong River, where some people and their bamboo boat are stuck on a dam.  Audrey trots off to help them move it after taking a brief phone call.

Audrey wades along the dam to help the bamboo boat in distress

Audrey wades along the dam to help the bamboo boat in distress

While she’s helping the boaters, I enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The Yulong River away from the crowds

The Yulong River away from the crowds

a less-touristy part of the Yulong River

a less-touristy part of the Yulong River

Audrey has gotten her shoes wet by wading out into the river.  I say my tennis shoes are the only ones I’ve brought on my holiday, so I don’t want to get them wet.  As we continue our ride, Audrey tells me how she’s learned to live with very few possessions here in China.  She says she only owns two pairs of shoes.  We agree that people in America have too many possessions and that actually we can live comfortably with very little.

We see a rural Chinese house with the top floor unfinished and Audrey tells me that many people don’t finish the top floors of their houses because once the top floor is finished, the house is taxed.  A lot of people never finish their top floors and can avoid taxation indefinitely.

Rural Chinese houses

Rural Chinese houses

fields of hay

fields of hay

haystacks and mountainstacks

haystacks and mountainstacks

farmland

farmland

hay mountains and karst mountains

hay mountains and karst mountains

We take off on another dirt trail.  This time, I stop to take a picture of more haystacks, and Audrey zips by me. She says, “I’m going ahead.  Just keep going till the trail ends!” She disappears.

the bicycle trail through the fields

the bicycle trail through the fields

a motorbike in its element

a motorbike in its element

More haystacks

More haystacks

Finally I come to some ruins.  Beside them is Audrey’s bike, but there is no sign of Audrey.  I follow a bend in the trail to find her stuff lying in the grass, and she’s floating out in the middle of the Yulong River.  “Come on in!” she says.

ruins near the Yulong River where we stop for a swim

ruins near the Yulong River where we stop for a swim

Of course I don’t have a bathing suit, but there isn’t a soul in sight and Audrey says, “Just swim in your underwear!”  I’m so hot and that water looks so refreshing that I don’t hesitate.  I pull off my clothes and dive in.  We float for quite a while and no one at all comes down the river or to the river’s edge.  We honestly have this little spot in China all to ourselves!  There is some hope in this country of over a billion people of finding a little solitude.  From the middle of the river, the view downriver is magnificent, but of course I don’t dare carry my camera into the water to take a picture. 🙂

When we finally get out, I put my clothes back on over my soaking wet underwear.  In minutes even my clothes become drenched.  Oh well, it’s warm enough that they’ll dry in no time.  We continue on our bike ride, at which time we pass a Western guy wandering down to the river with a towel in his hand.  A few minutes more and he would have found us there, and I would have been embarrassed to get out!

We come upon a pretty scene of a new hotel that Audrey says reminds her of an English cottage in the countryside.

a little English cottage in China

a little English cottage in China

We ride through a small town where we see taro drying on a roof and an old mud brick home.

taro drying on a roof

taro drying on a roof

old mud brick house

old mud brick house

We pass by some cute little towns nestled up against the karsts.

a little town nestled into the karts

a little town nestled into the karts

town sheltered by karst

town sheltered by karst

a cute little bridge through the town

a cute little bridge through the town

We also pass some cute hotels in the countryside: The Tea Cozy, the Outside Inn, and The Giggling Tree.  We drop into The Giggling Tree to see what it’s like.   Now that I’ve stayed in town and have somewhat figured out the lay of the land, I think I might like to stay at one of these countryside hotels next time I’m in Yangshuo.

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.

Continuing further down the paved road, we come to the beautiful Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, where we can see the bamboo boats floating down the river.  I’ll end up taking this route in a bamboo boat myself on Monday morning before I return to Nanning that evening.

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

Audrey tells me this hotel has hot tubs on the balconies.  Sounds perfectly lovely, but I wonder what the prices are.

the Yulong River in front of the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

the Yulong River in front of the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

Yulong River boats

Yulong River boats

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

We head down another winding road where the traffic is picking up.  We stop to take a picture of this cozy little valley.  You wouldn’t know it from this picture, but this is a busy place where little yellow tour buses are buzzing through at breakneck speed.

cozy little valley

cozy little valley

Finally we head back to town.  Along the way, we cross over a bridge from which we can see bamboo rafts on the Yulong River coming in to drop off passengers.

View of the Yulong River from another bridge downriver from Dragon Bridge

View of the Yulong River from another bridge downriver from Dragon Bridge

Audrey has promised to take me to the Passionfruit Leisure Farm for lunch. By the time we finally reach here, we’re famished.  We start with an ice-cold passion fruit drink, and then Audrey proceeds to order a delicious meal, which includes egg and tomato and green beans, and honestly I can’t remember what else because we gobble it down so quickly!  I don’t even remember to stop to take a picture of the food.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the arbor under which we eat lunch at Passion Fruit Leisure Farm

the arbor under which we eat lunch at Passion Fruit Leisure Farm

an ice cold Passion Fruit drink

an ice-cold Passion Fruit drink

During lunch my nose starts to bleed and it just won’t stop.  I feel perfectly fine, but I use up a bunch of tissues, making for a pretty unappetizing scene.  I don’t know what is wrong with me.  I do tend to get nosebleeds from time to time, but they usually don’t last this long.

Finally, after leaving the Passion Fruit Farm, we cross over another bridge with a view of the river.

on the way back to Yangshuo

on the way back to Yangshuo

It’s a pretty harried ride back into town because cars, motorbikes, carts, bicycles and pedestrians are clogging up the roads and making it hard to move anywhere.  We do make it back eventually.  Audrey heads home and I return to my hotel where I take a nice hot shower and take a little nap.  It’s around 4:00 by the time we return to town.

What a delightful day!  I don’t know which day is my favorite, the day of the Li River Raft trip or this one!  They’re both so much fun in different ways.  I’m so thankful to Audrey for taking me on this bike trip, because I would have never had this much fun alone, or with a tour group.

Later, around twilight, I take a walk around town and take a lot of pictures as the lights come on and the sun goes down.

If you want to know about bike routes around Yangshuo, here are a few websites that have some good ideas:

Travel China Guide: Yangshuo Bicycle Route

Plan to China: Yangshuo Bicycle Routes

Categories: Asia, Bicycle tour, China, Dragon Bridge, Expat life, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, National Holiday, The Giggling Tree, Travel, Yangshuo, Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, Yulong River | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Japan Wonders

Exploring Japan's popular tourist spots and off-the-beaten path

A lot from Lydia

You can learn a lot from Lydia...(It's a song, not a promise.)

Ink Arts by Carol

My site for offering my alcohol ink arts

I see Beauty everyday

Blessed be the ones that see beauty where others see nothing

BOOKING IT

Debra's Excellent Adventures in Reading and Travel

Marsha Ingrao

Traveling & Blogging Near and Far

PIRAN CAFÉ

Notebooks from a trampfest. Travel tips, tales and images, online since 2006.

Word Wabbit

Wrestless Word Wrestler

Cardinal Guzman

Encyclopedia Miscellaneous - 'quality' blogging since August 2011

A Faraway Home

Stories and tips from home and far away

Pit's Fritztown News

A German Expat's Life in Fredericksburg/Texas

Under a Cornish Sky

inspired by the colours of the land, sea and sky of Cornwall

sloveniangirlabroad.wordpress.com/

A blog about expat life and travel adventures written by an Slovenian girl living in Switzerland

Let Me Bite That

Can I have a bite?

Running Stories by Jerry Lewis

Personal blog about running adventures

Finding NYC

exploring New York City one adventure at a time

The World according to Dina

Notes on Seeing, Reading & Writing, Living & Loving in The North

snippetsandsnaps

Potato Point and beyond

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

The Eye of a Thieving Magpie

My view of this wonderful and crazy life - as I travel and explore.

renateflynn.wordpress.com/

A (Mostly) Solo Female Exploring the World

NYLON DAZE

From London to New York, living in an expat daze

Blue Hour Photo Workshops

Photography is a constant travel to new places

Travel Much?

Never cease to explore and tell!

%d bloggers like this: