Pure Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant

a cloudy day boat ride down the li river

Wednesday, January 28:  We go through a bit of an ordeal with our guide Esther today.  She has lured us into a boat ride down the Li River for a lower price than our hotel offers. She says she has connections.  I don’t understand how she can give us a better deal than the hotel, as the boat operators on the river charge generally the same prices, so she must be getting a deal on the transportation to the boat launch in Xingping and back.  She has already told us that the ride will be upriver from Xingping to Yangdi (east to west), and I told her I wanted the ride downriver from west to east, from Yangdi to Xingping.  This is the way I did it in October.  What’s so amazing about the downriver direction is that you end up in Xingping, where the jagged mountains are clustered together in such a fantastical array that a painting of them graces the 20 yuan bill.

Esther leads us through the streets to different spots, where she stops and looks all around for some mysterious person who’s supposed to show up.  She’s on the phone the whole time.  I still don’t like that she won’t guarantee the downriver boat ride, and she’s not telling us any details about who we’re going with.  She’s not planning to come along with us, and she’s being generally evasive.  As we move from one spot on the street to the other, with her on the phone yapping in Chinese and looking all around impatiently, I start to lose it.

I say, “Esther, you’ve had since yesterday to plan this!  How much longer will it be?” She keeps pacing up and down, searching for some vehicle that never materializes, and she has no answers.  Finally, I get fed up.  “I’m sorry, Esther.  You’ve had since yesterday to arrange this and you still don’t have it arranged!  We’re going back to the hotel.”

We walk away and leave her on the street, still talking on the phone.  Nearby, we stop into a travel agent, and we arrange the boat ride for the same price Esther was offering.  It seems however, that the downriver route is not available and the only way to go is from Xingping upriver a bit, but not all the way to Yangdi, and then returning to Xingping.  I guess the Li River must be lower at this time of year.  We pay the travel agent for the trip, wait about 20 minutes in the agent’s office, and then hop on a bus for the nearly one hour drive to Xingping.

On the bus, I’m squeezed in next to a Chinese lady who speaks excellent English.  She’s here in Yangshuo for the Spring Festival holiday with her husband and daughter.  She tells me her English name is Julia.  We have a long conversation about our holidays and her life in her hometown.  When we get to the boat launch, it ends up we all five share a bamboo raft together.

At the boat launch - waiting and waiting

At the boat launch – waiting and waiting

For some unknown reason, we have to wait quite a long time at the boat launch.  There are some boats lingering about, but no one seems to be manning them. Things are so much more disorganized than when I took this boat ride in October: a raft trip down the li river: yangdi to xingping

Finally, after at least a half-hour wait, we get on the boat with the lovely Chinese family.  We agree with the Chinese family that we’ll start in the front seat, which offers the best views, but we’ll switch places with them from time to time.  Sadly, the views today are not great anyway.  It’s a dark and cloudy day, but at least so far it isn’t raining.  We find out quickly that it’s quite cold on the river, with the cold wind and the spray from the river, and we realize we haven’t dressed warmly enough.

the Li River

the Li River

the boat launch at the Li River

the boat launch at the Li River

a dark day on the Li River

a dark day on the Li River

the cloudy Li River

the cloudy Li River

a river surrounded by karst landscape

a river surrounded by karst landscape

the Li River

the Li River

mysterious mountains

mysterious mountains

trees and karsts

boats, trees and karsts

For yet another day of our holiday, I’m disappointed in the dreary charcoal skies and the fog that nearly obscures our view.

a dark day on the Li River

a dark day on the Li River

the Li River

the Li River

the Li River

the Li River

The boat driver makes a stop at a little island where people are selling handicrafts, but none of us wants to buy anything.  While we wander about, the Chinese girl spends her time throwing heavy stones into the river.  Meanwhile, the boat driver sits with his friends and eats a snack.  We take turns taking pictures of each other.

our Chinese companions

our Chinese companions

Mike and I on the Li River

Mike and I on the Li River

It’s so funny, Julia reminds me so much of my Korean friend Julie.  Even her haircut is similar: my two closest korean friends

me with the Chinese girls

me with the Chinese girls

We pass on the opportunity to ride this little pony.

a ride on a pony, anyone?

a ride on a pony, anyone?

Finally, when our boat driver finishes eating his snack and chatting with his friends, we’re on our way again.

back on the boat

back on the boat

a boat with a view

a boat with a view

Soon after we get back on the boat, it starts to spit rain.  This continues for the rest of our ride.  Argh!!!!

Me, mother & daughter, and Mike on the bamboo raft

Me, mother & daughter, and Mike on the bamboo raft

heading down the Li River

heading down the Li River

Li River

Li River

Li River

Li River

Li River

Li River

continuing down the river

continuing down the river

more picturesque views

more picturesque views

another boat on the river

another boat on the river

beach

beach

one of the larger boats for the Li River Cruise

one of the larger boats for the Li River Cruise

the Li River

the Li River

The Li River

The Li River

mother and daughter

mother and daughter

on the Li River

on the Li River

Li River views

Li River views

the Li River looking out over the end of our bamboo raft

the Li River looking out over the end of our bamboo raft

Cruising down the Li River

Cruising down the Li River

By the time we finish our ride, we’re all shivering and wet from the rain and the spray from the river.  We squeeze into the bus again and ride back to Yangshuo.  We go back to the hotel to rest and get warm and dry for a while before we head out to dinner at Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant.

The restaurant has two huge wooden sliding doors at the front.  Mike doesn’t realize they’re sliding doors and he pushes one of them inward, lifting both of them dangerously into the air.  He realizes belatedly what he’s done and he steps back, letting the doors clunk back into place.  Meanwhile the people in the restaurant run to the front to stop him from knocking down the two huge doors.  They’re so heavy that they probably would have crushed him if he had knocked them off their tracks.  He causes quite a stir!

at Pure Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant

at Pure Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant

Luckily after dinner the rain has abated so we take a short walk around the town again.  We run across some funny characters in the street.

characters on the streets of Yangshuo

characters on the streets of Yangshuo

We decide to warm up a bit in Mango by sharing a refreshing mango and ice cream dessert.  It’s really yummy, but that ice cream makes us shiver all the way back to our hotel.

Mike at Mango sharing his mango dessert

Mike at Mango sharing his mango dessert

the walls at Mango

the walls at Mango

Inside Mango

Inside Mango

We get cozy again in our hotel and read a long while.  There’s never anything on TV to watch as all the shows are in Chinese.  After our day on the river, we’re both feeling really sick, with coughs, sore throats, runny noses and general head colds and shivers.  We can see the forecast for tomorrow is for rain all day.  We decide that if it is actually raining, we will get massages in the morning and just stay in our hotel room for most of the day, trying to recover from our miserable colds.

 

 

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Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Li River, Pure Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant, Rosewood Cafe, Travel, West Street, Xi Jie, Yangdi, Yangshuo, Yangshuo River View Hotel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

a bamboo boat ride down the yulong river & home to nanning

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.

Starting off on the bamboo boats

Starting off on the bamboo boats

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.

a jumble of boats

a jumble of boats

special viewing seat

special viewing seat

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.

heading down the river

heading down the river

traffic jam

escaping the traffic jam

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.

karst backdrop to the YuLong River

karst backdrop to the YuLong River

my boatman

my boatman

another boat

another boat

cruising

cruising

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.

my boatman in his conical hat

my boatman in his conical hat

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.

there are moments of peace

there are moments of peace

pretty scenery

pretty scenery

I love the karst scenes

I love the karst scenes

floating

floating

beauty along the way

beauty along the way

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.

Little girls stand on their rafts

Little girls stand on their rafts

i see some farmers and water buffalo along the shore, framed by picturesque haystacks.

water buffalo on the shore

water buffalo on the shore

We pass another launch site that looks a little deserted.

another launching point along the river

another launching point along the river

bamboo rafts

bamboo rafts

shady passage

shady passage

the karsts are ubiquitous and ephemeral

the karsts are ubiquitous and ephemeral

YuLong River

YuLong River

Peaceful cruise

Peaceful cruise

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.”

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, where I stopped on my bicycle ride: casual "dinning"

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, where I stopped on my bicycle ride: Romantic Riverside “Dinning”

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

The water here is very shallow.  The grass rippling in the water is a little hypnotic.

flowing grasses

flowing grasses

There are some places where people are stopping to eat, but my boatman just keeps pushing us downriver.

lunch stop for others but not for me

lunch stop for others but not for me

This little bridge is a cute one.

pretty little bridge

pretty little bridge

passing under the bridge

passing under the bridge

At another stopping place, I see this young lady checking her cell phone.

checking that cell phone

checking that 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.

geese on a dam

geese on a dam

I don’t think this couple is very thrilled at being stuck on the dam.

stuck on the dam

stuck on the dam

looking back at the dam and the hotel on the shore

looking back at the dam and the hotel on the shore

We pass some more pretty hotels along the river.

pretty peak

pretty peak

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!

the bridge where we disembark

the bridge where we disembark

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.

sitting on the back deck of Pure Lotus Vegetarian

sitting on the back deck of Pure Lotus Vegetarian

When the eggplant comes, I don’t recognize it as eggplant; it looks like the mushy fringe of a damp mop.

Grilled and fringed eggplant

Grilled and fringed eggplant

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.

Pure Lotus Vegetarian

Pure Lotus Vegetarian

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. 🙂

Categories: Asia, China, Expat life, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Language barrier, Nanning Railway Station, National Holiday, Pleco app, Pure Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant, Translation, Travel, Yangshuo, Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, Yulong River | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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