cocktail hour in the laundry room (or maybe we’ll sit inside where it’s cool!) :-)

Sunday evening, wine o’clock: If you dropped by for cocktails this evening, I’d be so pleased to see you that I’d usher you right past my laundry room and into my icy air-conditioned living room.  It’s so hot, humid and miserable outdoors that your clothes and body would probably be drenched in sweat, so you’d breathe a sigh of relief that I’m not making you swelter in my laundry room.  Then I’d offer you either a cold Budweiser, as that’s all I have this week, or a glass of Chile Cabernet Sauvignon – Valle Central 2013.  I forgot to chill it though, as I can never get used to chilled red wine, so it might be a little warm.  We can always add an ice-cube or two, but I don’t know if you’d feel safe with it as we don’t drink water from the faucet in China.  You might get sick, and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for that.

lush lotus

lush lotus

Have a seat in my comfortable chair and tell me about your week.  It’s June, so summer is upon us. Hooray!  Do you have any travel plans over the summer?  Are you starting to visit farmer’s markets and getting some fresh produce?  Have you been to any outdoor concerts?  Do you have some time off from work?  How about family visits?  Do you have grandchildren or parents or children or friends coming to visit?  Will you go to the beach or a pool for a swim any time soon?  Will you be having a barbecue?  If so, what will you make?  Will you invite me? 🙂  I sure would like some grilled corn on the cob (hint-hint!).

perky lotus

perky lotus

I took a short walk around one of our lotus ponds on the campus this afternoon.  It’s nice to have fresh flowers for a cocktail hour, don’t you think?  I couldn’t stay out long because sweat kept dripping into my eyes, I was getting eaten alive by mosquitos, and my camera lens kept fogging over. I think I’m late in the game in photographing the flowers. I should have done it earlier when they were at their peak.  Now they seem to be fading a bit.  I guess their late stage goes hand in hand with my final days here in China.

Lotus pond at Guangxi University

Lotus pond at Guangxi University

I’ve had a busy couple of weeks, so I’m sorry I’ve missed hosting a few cocktail hours.  Don’t worry; I didn’t have one and not invite you.  You’d always be invited, and very welcome.

Two weekends ago, I went with my friend Erica to Yangshuo.  She has never traveled anywhere during her year in Nanning, although she’s been in China for seven years and has traveled prior to this year. We had to squeeze in a lot during a short time, so it felt a little rushed, but we still managed to do shortened versions of three of the four things I did in Yangshuo during the 4-day National holiday in October.  It was a lot of fun, although we got rained on a few times.

Lotus flower

Lotus flower

It’s unbelievably damp in Nanning.  I’m so tired of feeling hot and wet all the time.  I know, that doesn’t sound good, but that’s how I feel.  I get all showered and blow-dry my hair and put on clean clothes in the morning, only to walk out my door and immediately become drenched in either sweat or rain.  I really hate this weather in the south of China; it’s one of the biggest reasons I look forward to my escape on July 15. I wish for once I could work abroad in a nice climate, such as somewhere in Europe on the Mediterranean. Or even a northern country, where I’d have to stay bundled up all the time.

Umbrellas in the hallway of the 9th floor of the Experimental Building - this is Nanning :-)

Umbrellas in the hallway of the 9th floor of the Experimental Building – this is Nanning 🙂

Escape is in the cards. It’s visible on the horizon.  I bought a ticket for July 15 from Nanning directly to Seoul on Korean Air and then on to L.A. where I will visit my sister in Reseda for about a week on my way home.  A week after I bought that ticket, Korean Air canceled that flight, so I had to search for a new flight. Now I will fly to Beijing, then to Vancouver, then to L.A.  The scary part is that I only have a 1 1/2 hour layover in Vancouver, and I already know I will probably miss the connection.  Planes are notoriously late taking off from airports in China, so I’m preparing myself already.  At least it will be Air Canada’s problem if I miss the connection, because both flights, from Beijing and from Vancouver, are with Air Canada.

Lotus blossoms

Lotus blossoms

Yes, my time in China is winding down.  Because my departure is imminent, I dropped out of my Chinese class.  This was long overdue.  Our teacher, Miss Hao, kept telling me I was very clever, because I was able to figure out sentences and vocabulary meanings in class.  The problem was that when I left the class, I never studied.  I could be a clever person if I actually applied myself. 🙂  Also, the other two people remaining in the class, Gavin and Reed, are very advanced, and frankly, I was holding them up.  So I made a quiet and uneventful departure.  However, Miss Hao was keen on inviting our class to her house for dinner, so we went on Wednesday night, June 3.

Miss Hao lives on the 18th floor of a new building on the university campus; during many of our Chinese classes, she was busy on her phone talking to contractors and decorators about fixing up her house.  It’s a lovely sprawling apartment with great views over the university campus.  However, she doesn’t have air conditioning.  It wasn’t that she hadn’t turned it on; she decided not to have it built into the house at all.  I can’t imagine no air-conditioning in Nanning’s heat and humidity, but I did have the (ahem) pleasure of enjoying (i.e. suffering through) the heat for this one evening.

She had originally promised us we would get to help her make dumplings, which none of us were thrilled about because we’re all pathetic at making them and don’t enjoy the process at all.  But we prepared ourselves, only to find, voila (!), she’d already made them when we arrived.  The lack of air-conditioning was something I was prepared for however, simply because I know the Chinese mentality.  I predicted she wouldn’t have it and I was right.

Left to right: Reed, Gavin, unknown Chinese friend of Miss Hao, Miss Hao

Left to right: Reed, Gavin, unknown Chinese friend of Miss Hao, Miss Hao

We did have a lovely evening there nonetheless, and I loved the dumplings.  Dumplings are one of my favorite things to eat in China, and these were especially good. Gavin and I brought our own beer, and I’m glad we did because Miss Hao didn’t have any.  She did bring out a refrigerated bottle of red wine partway through the dinner, however, so we could make toasts to each other.

Clockwise from bottom left: spicy cucumbers, watermelon, dumplings

Clockwise from bottom left: spicy cucumbers, watermelon, dumplings

Besides that little outing, I met fellow-novelist Paul for dinner one night to exchange our novels. He’s given me the next 50 pages of his, which I’ll read this week, and he’s said he’ll finish mine.  He’s leaving in a week and a half, so we’ll see if we get through them.

lotus leaves

lotus leaves

I had a couple of lunches with Gavin, but now he’s mad at me because I didn’t leap at the chance to help him make the listening final exam over the weekend.  He knows my strong feelings about preserving my weekends for myself, and so the fact that he didn’t plan ahead enough so I could help him before this weekend showed a bit of disregard for my beliefs.  As a teacher, it’s all too easy to let your planning and marking, which must be done outside the classroom, spill over into your personal time. I like to have a clean line between work and pleasure, so I keep the line very rigid.  Only in an emergency will I let work encroach on my personal life.

Oh well, if he doesn’t get over it, I’ll be leaving soon anyway.

dropping petals

dropping petals

Last weekend, I went to Beihai, the only coastal city in Guangxi province, to visit Mari.  Mari is a Finnish lady who lives and works in Beihai for a Finnish company, Stora Enso, known for publication and fine paper, packaging board and wood products.  She’s in charge of supply chain management for container board used in milk cartons.  I met her when we went on a tour of the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi’an.  She kindly invited me to visit her in Beihai, sending her personal driver to Nanning on Friday afternoon to pick me up and drive me the three hours to Beihai.  He then drove 3 hours each way Sunday night to return me home. Besides that, she invited me to stay in her apartment, which was beautifully decked out IKEA style.  She was the perfect hostess; and we had a great time and lots of laughs.

lotus flowers in the pond

lotus flowers in the pond

In addition to those two weekends away, my students turned in 73 outlines and brainstorms/clusters that I had to grade in the first of three staggered deadlines.  They’re writing their final research papers for my class and there are three stages in the process.  I thought I’d be able to go through them quickly, but it was very time-consuming mostly because they were a total mess and many of them were off topic.  Oh dear.  If we get through this process it will be a miracle.

lotus pond on the university campus

lotus pond on the university campus

Since our last cocktail hour on May 25, I’ve mailed one big box home by ground; I sure hope it makes it back to Virginia.  I should mail another this week.  I went out for a “drink” with one of my students, which turned out in fact to be a “mango mountain.”

I finished watching the first season of Madam Secretary, Skyped several times with Mike, Skyped with Sarah, and finished watching Season 5 of Grey’s Anatomy. I also watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, one of the few DVDs I brought here with me, for about the 20th time.  I continued to plod away on the depressing Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian; it’s a hard-to-take book but I’m learning something about the Armenian genocide prior to WWI. It’s always good to learn something new about the horrible things we as humans are capable of.

lotus

lotus

I also had an interview with Teaching House in Washington, D.C. because I applied to take an intensive CELTA (Cambridge Certificate for English Language Teaching of Adults) course in September. I passed the interview and committed to the class.  So now I know what I’ll be doing this fall: taking the course and enjoying the holidays with my family.  I’d like to stay home for a while, but who knows how long it’ll be before I get itchy feet again.  Going back to work at NOVA is not something I can get excited about.

lotus blossoms under cover

lotus blossoms under cover

I’d love to hear all about your last couple of weeks, so feel free to stay awhile, and tell me what’s on your mind.  There’s no rush.  I have nothing to do tonight because I don’t work on weekends. 🙂

fern and leaf

fern and leaf

I do want to apologize for not visiting many of you as often as I’d like.  My internet is very slow here, and often I open the pages to your blog and wait and wait and wait for them to open.  By then I’ve gone on to something else, or I’ve gone to bed.  I hope to be better once I return home to the US of A, where the internet works smoothly and quickly and without issue. 🙂

Categories: Asia, California, China, Chinese language, Chinese language class, conversation, D.C., ESL Teacher, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Language barrier, laundry room cocktail hour, Los Angeles, Nanning, Nanning Wuxu International Airport, Reseda, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Teaching English as a Second Language, United States of America, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 28 Comments

weizhou island: multicolored beach, catholic cathedral, and return to nanning

Sunday, June 7:  After talking with Sam, the English-speaking Chinese guy from the ferry, my driver begrudgingly takes me to the east side of the island to see Multicolored/Colorful Beach (五彩滩景区;WǔCàiTānJǐngQū), a volcanic stone beach.

map of Weizhou Island

map of Weizhou Island

I have to walk down a long paved path lined with food and souvenir vendors, but I finally reach the stone beach. Luckily it isn’t very crowded.

Multicolored/Colorful Beach on Weizhou Island

Multicolored/Colorful Beach on Weizhou Island

Cliffs at Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Cliffs at Multicolored/Colorful Beach

seaweed at the lava beach

seaweed at the lava beach

looking east at Multicolored Beach

looking east at Multicolored Beach

The view is not that interesting until I look to the north, where the beach opens before me like a multi-textured moss-covered carpet of lava.

lava beach

lava beach

I find a young family sitting on the stones under an umbrella.

a day on the lava beach

a day on the lava beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

I love all the moss and lichens, and the shapes and textures of the lava beach.

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

It’s very peaceful here, and I wish now I had known about this place from the beginning. I could have spent a lot more time exploring.  As it is, my time is running out, and I can’t stay too long.

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

lava beach on Weizhou Island

lava beach on Weizhou Island

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

This is by far my favorite place on Weizhou Island, and I can thank Sam for that.  Finally, I’ve discovered a hauntingly surreal landscape that is unexpectedly delightful.

moss & lava

moss & lava

moss & lava

moss & lava

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

This is the kind of place I could explore for hours.

lava flow

lava flow

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

The minutes are speeding by, so I head back up the long paved path to rejoin my driver.  Sam had earlier told me that the driver wanted to take me to the Catholic Cathedral in Shèngtáng.  We head off through the banana plantations to the village, also on the east side of the island.  The Cathedral is in the center of the village, surrounded by a bustling food and souvenir market. When I get out of the motor tricycle, I head around to the back of the Cathedral, where I run into this beautiful couple having their photos taken by a professional photographer.  They don’t mind me taking a couple of pictures of them.

Chinese bride and groom at the Catholic Cathedral

Chinese bride and groom at the Catholic Cathedral

The Catholic Cathedral was built over a decade in 1853 by French missionaries. It is a neo-Gothic style and is made of coral sedimentary rocks from the sea bottom (Wikitravel: Weizhou).  I’m happy to find the grounds are well-maintained.

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Inside, more brides and grooms are having their photos taken. I can’t help but wonder how many, if any of them, are actually Catholic.

Inside Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Inside Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Bride and groom at Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Bride and groom at Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

altar at Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

altar at Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Finally, I go out into the street and take some pictures of the facade of the Cathedral.  I’m looking all around for my driver, and I find him at a corner restaurant slurping down some noodles.  I guess the poor guy had to eat some lunch since I never wanted to stop for lunch.  I grab myself a small snack of some chips and a drink and we sit and watch the busy life in the village.

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

At last, we’re on our way back to the ferry, where I bid adieu to the driver and immediately board.  The skies are darkening and the wind is picking up, which could delay or even cancel the ferry’s departure.

heading back to the ferry

heading back to the ferry

boats at bay

boats at bay

the ferry under ominous skies

the ferry under ominous skies

The ferry

The ferry

For some reason, our departure is delayed.  I am fretting as the skies are so ominous.  After about 15 minutes of waiting without being able to understand the announcements, I text Sam: “Hi Sam, do you know what is the delay with the ferry?”  He texts back, “The ferry will go after the storm stopped.”  I write back: “Oh no!”  He says: “Maybe in 20 mins.”  Sure enough, in 20 minutes, the ferry blows its horn and we chug out into the sea. Sam writes, “Here we go now!  We will arrive at Beihai around 16:30.”  Strangely enough, the sea is not as rough as it was this morning, and no one seems to be getting sick. I wonder if it’s because I’m now on the bottom level of the ferry, which may be more stable than the top-level, where I sat on the voyage to the island.

Meanwhile, I’ve texted Mari’s driver and let him know of our delay.  Luckily, when I arrive at the ferry terminal in Beihai at around 4:30, he’s waiting for me.  I hop in his car, and he drives me back to Nanning.  It takes us four hours to get back because of heavy traffic in various spots, so it’s after 8:30 pm when I arrive back at my apartment. I feel bad for the poor driver, who now has to drive back to Beihai at this late hour.  After he drops me, I text him, “Thank you for all your hard work driving!  I’m sorry you have to drive back to Beihai tonight!” I know he can read some version of my message because he has a translation app on his phone.  He writes back: “Don’t mention it should be.” Even though we had very little communication between us, I deeply appreciated this kind and dependable man. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Beihai, Catholic Cathedral, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Mulitcolored/Colorful Beach, Shèngtáng, Travel, Weizhou Island | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

weizhou island: a wild boat ride past crocodile hill, a visit to sanpo temple, and a stop at the sad shiluokou beach

Sunday, June 7:  After we leave the Saint Maria Church, my motor tricycle driver takes me to Nanwan (South Bay), a natural bay formed after a major volcanic eruption.  It opens to the south with cliffs on the sides.   The driver wants me to take a boat ride out into the bay and around Crocodile Hill.  He deposits me at a table under a covered awning beside a derelict abandoned bus.  I think people are living in the bus, or possibly using it as an office, as they are coming in and out of the bus as I’m waiting.

an abandoned bus, used for who knows what

an abandoned bus, used for who knows what

A man wearing an Asian conical hat, called dǒulì (斗笠), literally meaning a “one-dǒu bamboo hat,” is sitting at the table as I wait.  I don’t know exactly what we’re waiting for, possibly for more people to arrive to fill up the boat.  (Wikipedia: Asian Conical Hat)

my boat captain

my boat captain

However, after waiting about 10 minutes, the man, who turns out to be my boat captain, motions for me to follow him out to the beach, where I get into his boat.  There are no other people, it’s just the captain and me.

the disheveled beach

the disheveled beach

the beach near Crocodile Hill

the beach near Crocodile Hill

walking down to the boat

walking down to the boat

following the captain

following the captain

One of the captain’s friends gives us a shove off into the bay.

pushing off

pushing off

As we head into the bay, we pass all sorts of fishing boats anchored in the waters.  To the west, I can see Crocodile Hill and its lighthouse.

first view of Crocodile Hill

first view of Crocodile Hill

boats in the bay

boats in the bay

We pass by a cultured pearl farm in the bay.  China has a long and rich history in pearls coming from saltwater oysters and freshwater mussels. Hepu and Behai regions had active marine pearl fisheries as early as the Han dynasty in the 3rd century AD, according to United Nations University | Our World| China’s Pearl Industry: An Indicator of Ecological Stress.

the Beihai pearl farm

Weizhou pearl farm

home of Beihai pearls

home of Beihai’s famous pearls

After passing the sprawling pearl farm, the driver takes the boat close to where rough waves are pounding against the volcanic lava cliffs of Crocodile Hill (鳄鱼山景区; ÈYúShānJǐngQū).  We can see Chinese people are walking along the edges of Crocodile Hill, which be reached either by walking or by taking a shuttle bus leaving from the Volcanic Geological Museum (¥20/trip).  At first, I’m under the impression that the boat captain is going to drop me off at Crocodile Hill to follow the circular walk,  which is partially on wooden steps and planks and starts and ends at Crocodile Pharos.  However, I soon find I’m mistaken as there is no way to access the rough lava cliffs from the sea that is smashing relentlessly against the rocks.

Apparently the walkway “passes by the Seaview Pavilion, the Statue of Tang Xianzu, a volcanic vent, the Marine Pit, Canggui Cave, the Pirate Cave (Zeilao Cave), the sea arch, the Moon Bay, the Fall-In-Love-On-Weizhou-Island spot, coral sedimentary rocks, the Lover Bridge, the Moon Plaza, and the Sea Pier as well as craters and tree fossils” (WikiTravel: Weizhou).

The only thing I can see is a lighthouse and the walkway on the fringes of the hill, along with some of the lava caves along the shore.

lighthouse at Crocodile Hill

lighthouse at Crocodile Hill

lava cliffs at Crocodile Hill

lava cliffs at Crocodile Hill

While we are bobbing around in the sea near the cliffs, the captain is yelling over the noise of the wind and waves and making arm motions that look like a volcano erupting.  To indicate that I get the general gist of what he’s saying, I nod and smile and mimic a volcanic eruption right back at him!

After being tossed about by the waves for some time, I holler to the captain that I want to go back to the shore.  He can hardly hear me over the sound of the wind and the waves crashing against the rocks.  He keeps doing the volcanic eruption motions.  At this point, I’ve had enough.  I really want to go back to shore, so I point dramatically back toward the beach.  We must look hilarious to passers-by, with him doing his volcanic eruptions and me motioning  frantically toward the shore.

heading back to shore

heading back to shore

Finally, we’re heading back.  We pass by the cultured pearl farm, passenger boats motoring out into the bay, and some pearl divers.

the pearl buoys again

the pearl buoys again

a boat full of hardy souls

a boat full of hardy souls

divers

pearl divers

Now that I know we’re heading back, I can relax a bit.  I jump back and forth on the boat taking pictures from either side.

The captain deposits me on the shore and I walk up to meet my driver.  After hopping into the motor tricycle, the driver takes me to what is obviously a diving center.  I see it costs nearly 400 yuan to go diving.  I don’t want to do this as I don’t have enough time, and even if I did, I wouldn’t want to spend that much money!  I shake my head that no, I don’t want to go diving, and the driver grudgingly continues on his way.  Next, he takes me to the nearby fishing village and tries to drop me at a nice restaurant.  I shake my head, no!  I don’t have time to eat a big lunch at a fancy restaurant.  My time on Weizhou is limited and I’d just like to stop and grab a quick bite somewhere. Obviously, the driver would get some kind of kick-back if I went diving or ate a fancy and expensive lunch, but he’s not going to get it today with me as a passenger!

The driver shakes his head and takes me next to Sanpo Temple.

Sanpo Temple is also known as Tianhou Temple. “After it collapsed due to landslides, it was rebuilt a few years ago. The former temple was built in 1732 to chase away the evil and bring peace to the island. Local fisherman still come to the temple to pray for good luck, a good catch and a safe homecoming from the sea” (WikiTravel: Weizhou).

entrance to Sanpo Temple

entrance to Sanpo Temple

I like the dragons on the pillars and the colorful banners inside the temple.

dragon pillars

dragon pillars

inside Sanpo Temple

inside Sanpo Temple

colorful banners on the ceiling in Sanpo Temple

colorful banners on the ceiling in Sanpo Temple

colorful banners laid out on a table

colorful banners laid out on a table

lantern

lantern

Outside, I find a tree of wishes, or tree of good luck.  People are busily putting their wishes, complete with yin and yang symbols, on the tree.  According to Wikipedia, yin and yang in Chinese philosophy “describes how apparently opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, connected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many tangible dualities (such as light and dark, fire and water, expanding and contracting) are thought of as physical manifestations of the duality symbolized by yin and yang.”

a tangle of wishes

a tangle of wishes

the good luck tree

the good luck tree

Inside the temple are a lot of wise characters lining the walls.

I meet the driver outside the temple and we’re on our way again.  We stop at a marker for Weizhou Island.

Weizhou Island marker

Weizhou Island marker

After a quick stop at the marker, we take off through the banana plantations, which are found beside roads all over the island. Besides seafood, bananas are the most important goods produced on Weizhou.

Our next stop is at Shiluokou (石螺口景区; ShīLuòKǒuJǐngQū) on the western coast of the island. According to WikiTravel: Weizhou, the beach’s “long sand beach, clear water and its coral reefs make it the most famous beach on Weizhou.  On its managed beach are deck chairs, cold beverages, seafood BBQ and water sports available.”  The beach might be nice on a sunny day, but it seems very sad today.

a sad little beach - looking north

a sad little beach – looking north

looking south at the beach

looking south at the beach

boats and jet skis

boats and jet skis

umbrellas for sunny days

umbrellas for sunny days

I don’t see that there is much to do on this beach, as it’s pretty deserted and the weather isn’t nice.  I feel like I’m missing the highlights of Weizhou, as some of my colleagues told me there were some wonderful beaches here.  I can’t say I’ve seen any truly beautiful beaches.  I don’t know how to communicate what I want to see to my driver, and I feel he has an ulterior motive to take me places where he can get a kickback.  Then I remember the nice Chinese guy from the ferry who helped me so much and whose phone number I have.  I give him a call and try to describe to him that I want to see some of the beautiful beaches here.  He suggests that I might want to see the lava beach, called Multicolored/Colorful Beach, on the east coast of the island.  He tells me many tourists enjoy this beach.  I ask him to explain to my driver that I’d like to go to this beach and that I must be back at the ferry at 2:00 to catch the 3:00 ferry back to Beihai.  He explains all of this to my driver, and then we’re off through the banana plantations to the east side of the island. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Beihai, China, Crocodile Hill, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanwan, Sanpo Temple, Shiluokou, Travel, Weizhou Island | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

a foggy morning on beibu gulf, a ferry ride to weizhou island & a visit to saint maria church

Sunday, June 7:  I wake up early to a dreary morning and I worry that the ferry to Weizhou Island will be canceled.  The island is located 21 nautical miles south of Beihai City in the Gulf of Tonkin, an arm of the South China Sea.  The ferry was canceled yesterday because of inclement weather, so I expect it may be the same today.  That would be a disappointment, as I don’t have much time left in China and this is my last opportunity to see it.

Yesterday, Mari and her driver and I dropped by the ferry terminal to check on today’s ferry.  There was a helpful guy working in the terminal who could speak excellent English.  He gave me his phone number, so this morning I call him to check on the status.  He tells me the ferry is still planning to go to the island and he gives me instructions on how to get the ticket he’s reserved for me.

I pack up all my stuff and, after having breakfast at Mari’s apartment, I leave, locking the door behind me.  I head to the garage where her driver is waiting for me, right on time.  I load my stuff into the trunk of his car, as he’ll drive me directly back to Nanning when he picks me up at the ferry terminal later this afternoon.

The driver takes me to the ferry terminal, where I get the ticket the nice guy reserved for me, and line up to board the ferry.  I’m a little worried because I wanted round trip tickets; however, he was unable to get my return ticket from the Beihai end.  I’m told I have to get the return ticket on Weizhou.  This stresses me out as there are so many people going to the island, I’m afraid I won’t be able to get a return ticket.  I have to work tomorrow and Mari’s driver will be waiting for me, so I don’t want to get stuck on the island.

According to China Travel.com: Weizhou Island has an area of 36 square kilometers. It extends for 6.5 kilometers from south to north and is 6 kilometers wide. The circling-island road, which connects scenic spots, villages, and ports is 15.6 kilometers long.  According to WikiTravel: Weizhou is China’s biggest and youngest volcanic island. Formed by volcanic eruptions about 7,000 years ago, it has a unique geological and geomorphological landscape. The sea around Weizhou is rich in corals and other aquatic animals.

The seas are quite rough this morning and the ferry ride is longer than the promised hour.  On this uncomfortable ride, people are vomiting into bags all around me.  Thank goodness I don’t get sick myself.

Once I’m on the island, I climb off the ferry with the hundreds of other passengers and go down a long walkway to look for someone to transport me around the island.  Before I do, I stop at the ticket booth and buy my return ticket to Beihai for 3:00.  They tell me I need to be at the dock by 2:00 to catch the ferry.  That doesn’t give me much time, as it’s nearly 11:00 a.m. now.

the dock at Weizhou Island

the dock at Weizhou Island

Weizhou Island

Weizhou Island

Weizhou Island

Weizhou Island

the view from Weizhou Island

the view from Weizhou Island

At the end of the walkway, there are scores of people on motor tricycles and taxis trying to drum up business.  One woman follows me all the way from the walkway to the parking lot, gabbing in Chinese the whole time.  I end up taking a ride from another guy just because she is so annoying.  His charge is quite high, 100 yuan for the day (11:00 am-3:00 pm).  I’ve already spent a lot of money, as it costs 180 yuan EACH way for the ferry, plus an entrance fee to get onto the island of 100 yuan. Even though I’ve been lucky enough to stay at Mari’s house for the weekend, and I’ve had her driver readily available, I still am spending a lot on food, pearls ( 🙂 ), and this trip to Weizhou.

Our first stop is Saint Maria Church, a small Gothic-style Catholic Church in Chengzai village. It is less famous than the Catholic Cathedral in the middle of Shengtang Village, but still opens its doors for Sunday Mass.

Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

the grounds at Saint Maria Church

the grounds at Saint Maria Church

inside Saint Maria Church

inside Saint Maria Church

Interior of Saint Maria Church

Interior of Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church interior

Saint Maria Church interior

An auxiliary building at Saint Maria

An auxiliary building at Saint Maria

Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

I enjoy walking around the grounds and through the church, and chatting with the friendly fruit vendors.  I find it refreshing to find this church in China, only the second I’ve seen since the one I saw in Beihai’s Old City.  I have seen Buddhist temples throughout China, but I’ve never seen churches outside of this part of Guangxi province.

Fruit vendors at Saint Maria Church

Fruit vendors at Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church from the road

Saint Maria Church from the road

looking in through the gate to Saint Maria Church

looking in through the gate to Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

close up from the road of the church

close up from the road of the church

After walking around the church and the grounds, I return to the small parking lot and hop into my motor tricycle, wondering where my driver will take me next. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Beibu Gulf, Beihai, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Saint Maria Church, Travel, Weizhou Island | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

beihai’s silver beach & sunset on beibu gulf

Saturday, June 6:  On our last stop of the day, Mari is excited to take me to Beihai’s famous Silver Beach.  She tells me to prepare myself as it will be a beach unlike any I’ve seen before. According to Travel China Guide, Silver Beach “is reputed to be the best beach in China for its advantages of even length, fine and white sand, clean and warm water and gentle waves, as well as being safe and free from sharks in swimming area. When the sun shines on the river, the water is just like silver glistening on the surface which creates a dreamlike view.”

The first thing we see at the entrance is several ladies wearing facekinis.  According to Wikipedia a facekini is a mask designed for swimmers and beachgoers which covers the head and reveals only the eyes, nose, and mouth. People mostly use it to protect themselves from UV rays while in direct sunlight and from jellyfish while at the beach.  The mask is made of stretchy fabric commonly used in bathing suits and it comes in different colors and patterns.  It’s often worn with an accompanying long-sleeved body suit.

In the facekinis worn by these ladies, their noses and mouths are covered, so maybe it’s a knock-off version of the original facekini invented by Zhang Shifan, a former accountant from the coastal Chinese city of Qingdao. Facekinis are under mass production in China and are available in local swim stores near beaches.

ladies wearing the Facekini on Beihai's Silver Beach

ladies wearing the Facekini on Beihai’s Silver Beach

We head through the entrance and walk down a long walkway to reach the beach.

Entrance to Silver Beach

Entrance to Silver Beach

the walkway to the beach

the walkway to the beach

Near the walkway is a bathing suit shop.  I’m surprised by the number of people we encounter who are not at all prepared for a day at the beach; they don’t seem to mind at all that they don’t have bathing suits. 🙂

bathing suits for sale, in case you forgot yours. :-)

bathing suits for sale, in case you forgot yours. 🙂

In typical Chinese fashion, the beach is swarming with people.

on the beach

on the beach

I love how some of the girls wear their fancy dresses and shoes to the beach.

umbrella magic

umbrella magic

crowds at Silver Beach

crowds at Silver Beach

inner tube heaven

inner tube heaven

hanging under the umbrella

hanging under the umbrella

Of course there are those wearing wedges and hats who are messing about with their electronic devices.

picture taking with the iPad

picture-taking with the iPad

Some people even come in their business attire.

business attire

business attire

I pause for a moment to get a picture of my bare feet with the beach sandals.

beach shoes and bare feet

beach shoes and bare feet

And Mari poses in the midst of the bathers.

Mari with the beachgoers at Silver Beach

Mari with the beachgoers at Silver Beach

Some people seem more attired for an important meeting than a day at the beach.

More business attire at the beach

More business attire at the beach

But luckily there are many who also know how to play in the sand and swim in inner tubes.

Hanging out

Hanging out

Enjoying the season

Enjoying the season

Chinese beachgoers

Chinese beachgoers

I’ve never seen a lifeguard stand like this one before.

taking a stroll

taking a stroll

phone addiction under the lifeguard stand

phone addiction under the lifeguard stand

The lady below didn’t seem to notice the bathing suit shop at the entrance and just decided to take a dip in her fancy dress.

life buoys

life buoys

shoes set aside

shoes set aside

And as we leave the beach, we see some stride-bys in front of the Silver Beach Tourists Novelty Shop.

Silver Beach Tourists Novelty Shop

Silver Beach Tourists Novelty Shop

Mari has to catch a flight to Shanghai tonight, but she has kindly offered to let me stay in her apartment without her.  We stop at a fancy hotel for an early dinner and then she packs up her stuff and has her driver take her to the airport.  I know the code to get in and out of her apartment, but frankly, I’m tired from our busy day and I just decide to settle in and read my book, The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.  I also take a number of pictures of the beautiful sunset over Beibu Gulf from Mari’s balcony.

Sunset at Beibu Gulf

Sunset at Beibu Gulf

sunset in Beihai

sunset in Beihai

sunset at Beibu Gulf

sunset at Beibu Gulf

sunset on the gulf

sunset on the gulf

sunset

sunset

sunset

sunset

boats in the gulf

boats in the gulf

boats at rest

boats at rest

day at rest

day at rest

boat crowds

boat crowds

abandoned dock

abandoned dock

cotton candy clouds

cotton candy clouds

pink clouds over the dock

pink clouds over the dock

cloud mania

cloud mania

day is done

day is done

Finally, I drift off to sleep.  I’m to get up early tomorrow morning to take the ferry to Weizhou Island.  Mari has arranged for her driver to take me to the harbor and drop me off.  He will then meet me around 3:00 or 4:00, whenever I return, and drive me back to Nanning.  What a wonderful hostess Mari has been for someone she just met in one short weekend in Xi’an. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Beibu Gulf, Beihai, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Silver Beach, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

the beihai golden bay mangrove ecotourist region

Saturday, June 6:  After Mari and I visit Beibuwan Square, we head to the Beihai Golden Bay Mangrove Ecotourist Region.  I don’t know what to expect, as I don’t even know what mangroves are.

Later, I find on Wikipedia: Mangrove that mangroves are types of trees up to medium height and shrubs that grow in saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and subtropics —mainly between latitudes 25° N and 25° S.

We hop in the open air banana-yellow tram shown below, and drive down a long road by the bay, where we’re deposited at a boardwalk that meanders through the mangroves.

our mode of transportation at the mangrove bay

our mode of transportation at the mangrove bay

Entrance to the beihai golden bay mangrove ecotourist region

Entrance to the beihai golden bay mangrove ecotourist region

walkway through the beihai golden bay mangrove ecotourist region

walkway through the beihai golden bay mangrove ecotourist region

Mangroves are salt tolerant trees (halophytes) adapted to live in harsh coastal conditions. They contain a complex salt filtration system and complex root system to cope with salt water immersion and wave action. They are adapted to the low oxygen (anoxic) conditions of waterlogged mud (Wikipedia: Mangrove).

They are often referred to as “forests in the sea.”  The mangrove tree’s seeds remain hanging on the mother tree until saplings appear. Some then fall into the mud and take root, while others are carried to other areas by seawater. The mangrove tree has speedy reproduction and growth. Eventually the tree roots and branches mix up, creating a kind of natural beauty (Roam China: Mangrove Forest).

mangroves

mangroves

From the boardwalk, we can see mudskippers and fiddler crabs skittering around in the muddy swamp.  We can see a pavilion and the sea and acres and acres of the dusty mangroves.

walkway through the mangroves

walkway through the mangroves

mangrove bay

mangrove bay

gnarly mangroves

gnarly mangroves

We continue our stroll, and I for one am looking forward to following the boardwalk out to the pavilion near the sea.

pavilion in the mangroves

pavilion in the mangroves

However, we soon find there is no longer a pathway as it has fallen into disrepair.

remnants of a walkway to the pavilion

remnants of a walkway to the pavilion

a sign along the way

a sign along the way

following the walkway

following the walkway

meandering

meandering

looking out to the bay

looking out to the bay

tidepools

tide pools

As we look out to sea, we can spot a fisherman slowly making his way back to the road.

more tidepools

more tide pools

a man of the sea

a man of the sea

fisherman

fisherman

heading home

heading home

At the end of the mangrove area, we hop on the tram again.  It drops us at the end of the park, which we think will have something else interesting to see.  In fact, it is just a disheveled children’s playground and picnic area, so commonly seen in China.  We do encounter some fashionably dressed ladies on motorbikes.

motorbike lady

motorbike lady

high fashion

high fashion

We find this old boat on the shore and pause to take some photos.

a fancy boat

a fancy boat

Mari and the boat

Mari and the boat

boats on the bay

boats on the bay

boats at bay

boats at bay

rompers on the beach

rompers on the beach

Finally, we get back on the tram to return to the park entrance.  Mari wants to take me to Beihai’s famous Silver Beach, a surprisingly strange place!

Categories: Asia, Beihai, beihai golden bay mangrove ecotourist region, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

saturday morning in beihai: a fancy brunch, a pearl & fish market and beibuwan square

Saturday, June 6:  This morning, I wake up in Mari’s apartment to the steady drizzle of rain and a foggy view of Beibu Gulf.  Mari has a busy day planned for us, and the forecast actually doesn’t call for much rain, so I’m hoping it will clear before we get underway.

the view from Mari's balcony on Saturday morning

the view from Mari’s balcony on Saturday morning

We head out of her apartment building to go to the fancy hotel next door (the name of which I’ve now forgotten) for brunch.  Just as we step out, we are caught in a deluge and we find ourselves wading through water over our ankles.  We walk for a bit, but then we decide we should return to the apartment and wait until the rain eases a bit.  We do that and, after having a cup of coffee, we head out again to brave the elements.

The hotel is lovely and the brunch spread is fabulous.  As her company has a special deal arranged with the hotel, we get quite a discount on the brunch.  We even run into a couple of her colleagues in the restaurant.

the hotel where we have brunch

the hotel where we have brunch

clouds in the lobby

clouds in the lobby

After breakfast, her driver takes us to the pearl and dried fish market.  The two markets are in one building, the pearls on the top floor and the fish on the bottom.

Beihai City is famous for pearls, especially southern pearls, and it has a nickname, Zhuxiang (the hometown of pearls). Southern pearls, likewise, have many varieties, among which Lian pearls produced in Hepu County are considered to be superb (China Highlights: Beihai Travel Guide).

According to China Travel Guide: Beihai Shopping, the genuine pearls from Beihai are called ‘Nanzhu’ (southern pearl): They are famous for their characteristics of dignity and burliness, roundness and smoothness, and a dazzling crystal luster. It is a must-have regional souvenir in Beihai, and it is often said that ‘the eastern pearl is not as good as the western pearl, and the western pearl is not as good as the southern pearl’.

I end up buying a lot of pearl earrings and a necklace, and Mari buys several pairs of earrings; we have fun trying to talk down the vendors, without much success.  That doesn’t stop us from buying, however. 🙂

After our pearl buying, we walk downstairs to the dried fish market, where we wander around and chat with some of the vendors.

dried fish market

dried fish market

schools of dried fish

schools of dried fish

Mari and the dried fish vendor

Mari and the dried fish vendor

me with the fish vendor

me with the fish vendor

relaxing on the job

relaxing on the job

dried sea corals?

dried sea corals?

close up of the coral

close up of the coral

dried fish for sale

dried fish for sale

fish vendors

fish vendors

After we leave the markets, the driver takes us to Beibuwan Square.  It’s an ordinary square, but it’s know for being quite active. Mari tells me that usually people are here dancing, singing, and relaxing, but today it’s quiet, possibly because it’s been raining off and on all morning. We do stop at Beihai’s only McDonald’s for a drink and an ice cream. 🙂

benches at Beibuwan Square

benches at Beibuwan Square

The fountain in the square is quite interesting, with statues of mermaids and a sea god, possibly Neptune, in the pool.

fountain at Beibuwan Square

fountain at Beibuwan Square

There are also some nice bonsai trees around the perimeter.

Bonsai at Beibuwan Square

Bonsai at Beibuwan Square

Beibuwan Square

Beibuwan Square

Neptune at Beibuwan Square

Neptune at Beibuwan Square

Me with Neptune

Me with Neptune

Mari and Neptune

Mari and Neptune

Beibuwan Square

Beibuwan Square

Globe building at Beibuwan Square

Globe building at Beibuwan Square

Once we leave Beibuwan Square, we head next to the Beihai Golden Bay Mangrove Ecotourism Region.

Categories: Asia, Beibu Gulf, Beibuwan Square, Beihai, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

a trip to beihai and a stroll down beihai’s old street

Friday, June 5:  When I was on a tour of the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi’an, I met a fun-loving Finnish lady named Mari, who lives and works in Beihai, a city in the south of Guangxi (the tang dynasty music & dance show in xi’an).  When we were in Xi’an, I mentioned to her that I live in Nanning, and she said, “You have to come to Beihai!” She offered to send her driver (yes, she has a full-time driver provided to her by her company!) to Nanning, about 206 km and a 3-hour drive, to pick me up and take me to Beihai.  I thought that sounded wonderful and was enthusiastically waiting for this to be arranged!

Soon after my classes end at noon on this June Friday, I go to the main gate of the university to meet Mari’s driver.  It is pouring rain, and I’m standing in the chaotic intersection with an umbrella and my suitcase, searching for a black sedan with a certain license plate number.  There are scores of black sedans, and I’m having trouble finding the one I need. Meanwhile, I’m getting drenched, in spite of my umbrella.  I have the driver’s mobile number, but he doesn’t speak English.  What to do?

Luckily, I finally hear from him by text message; he has translated his Chinese into English in two texts: First, “I am at the gate of the city is convenient hotel.” I know there is a hotel around the corner from the main gate, so I walk to that hotel, but I see no sign of him.  Then, “I in the school parking lot.” I write back, “Oh no! I have no idea where that is.  I’m at the main gate.” There are no parking lots that I know of around the main gate.  I wonder if by chance he’s gone to one of the other gates.  I keep walking around, looking carefully at every black sedan that goes past for the correct license number.  Finally, I see him coming out of the university gate and I flag him down.  He kindly hops out, puts my bag in the trunk and we’re on our way.

There isn’t any conversation because we can’t speak the same language, so I promptly fall asleep until he wakes me for a bathroom stop along the way.  When we arrive at Mari’s house, it’s about 5:00.   Mari is at work and won’t get home until after 6:00, so she texts me with code to her front door and I let myself in.  I relax and enjoy the views of Beibu Gulf from her balcony window.

View of Beibu Gulf from Mari's apartment balcony

View of Beibu Gulf from Mari’s apartment balcony

The name Beihai means “north of the sea” in Chinese, signifying the city’s status as a seaport on the north shore of the Gulf of Tonkin.  It is historically important as a port of international trade for Guangxi, Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan.  The city has about 1.4 million inhabitants. Beihai has a monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate with very humid conditions year-round  (Wikitravel: Beihai).

It is quite humid this evening as I stand on Mari’s balcony looking over the busy Gulf with its fleets of ships and fishing boats.

View of Beibu Gulf from Mari's apartment balcony

View of Beibu Gulf from Mari’s apartment balcony

Looking to the right, I see an abandoned dock.  Mari later tells me there are plans to turn this dock into a restaurant, but nothing has been done so far.

View of Beibu Gulf from Mari's apartment balcony

View of Beibu Gulf from Mari’s apartment balcony

Mari works at Stora Enso, a leading provider of renewable solutions in packaging, biomaterials, wood and paper on global markets.  She’s a supply chain manager for the manufacture of container board paper, used in certain kinds of milk cartons.  Apparently Beihai has eucalyptus trees that are harvested for this.

Mari’s apartment is gorgeous and she has a lot of company perks. I think I’d have enjoyed my time in China a lot more if I’d had a beautiful apartment with a view of the sea, a driver, and a great salary!

Looking to the left and inland, I can see the city’s high-rises along the shore of Beibu Gulf.

Looking back to the city

Looking back to the city

Beibu Gulf

Beibu Gulf

a busy gulf

a busy gulf

abandoned dock

abandoned dock

ships and boats galore

ships and boats galore

There are even a group of swimmers off the beach below Mari’s condo; it’s actually so warm and humid, I’m tempted to go down and join them!

swimmers

swimmers

sunset over the gulf

sunset over the gulf

a strip of golden sunlight

a strip of golden sunlight

Mari returns home from work and we have a chat about her plans for tonight and tomorrow.  She told me before I came that she had to go to Shanghai for work on Saturday night, but I was welcome to stay in her apartment.  She tells me now that her driver will take me to the harbor on Sunday morning, where I can take the ferry to Weizhou Island.  He’ll pick me up upon my return and drive me back to Nanning.  It’s so kind of her to have arranged all of this, especially considering that she won’t even be here the whole time!

After enjoying a glass of wine at Mari’s apartment, her driver takes us to the Beihai Old Street. The street is famous for its old colonial buildings, which have the faded patina of old Portuguese cities.

After the 1876 Sino-British Treaty of Yantai, eight Western nations (the UK, US, Germany, Austria-Hungary, France, Italy, Portugal, and Belgium) set up consulates, hospitals, churches, schools, and maritime customs. Today, 15 of these colonial buildings remain in Beihai, forming the center of the Old Street (Wikitravel: Beihai).

We walk down the street and I’m surprised to see what looks like a Chinese version of an old Portuguese town.

The Old City of Beihai

The Old City of Beihai

There are a number of life-size bronze sculptures on the street, depicting the history of Old Beihai.

bronze statues

bronze statues

I’m surprised to see a church on the Old Street, Beihai Christ Church.  This is the first and only church I’ve seen in China.

Beihai Christ Church

Beihai Christ Church

Stained glass windows

Stained glass windows

The street is quite lively, with food vendors, souvenir shops, restaurants and bars. The area is now known for its busy nightlife.

food stalls in the Old City

food stalls in the Old City

Streets of Beihai Old City

Streets of Beihai Old City

another bronze sculpture

another bronze sculpture

In the sculpture below, the figures are playing Chinese chess and one of the spectators is holding an unfurled hand fan.

another historical depiction of life in Beihai

another historical depiction of life in Beihai

We stop at one vendor and have a snack of some clams.

snack time!

snack time!

Mari and the food vendor

Mari and the food vendor

After we walk down the street a bit more, Mari takes me to a wonderful and atmospheric Thai restaurant, where we enjoy a fabulous meal and a lot of laughs.

Thai dinner

Thai dinner

After dinner, we walk back down the Old Street, passing several other characters along the way.

having a drink :-)

having a drink 🙂

Mari’s driver is waiting to take us back to her apartment, where I sink into the comfortable guest room bed and dream of the sea. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Beibu Gulf, Beihai, Beihai Old City, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

a dark & misty bamboo raft ride down the yulong river

Sunday, May 31:  This morning, Erica and I awake to a steady downpour of rain, but as we walk to the Cosy Garden’s sister restaurant for breakfast, the rain magically tapers off.  The mist doesn’t disappear though, not even remotely; even though no rain is falling, it is still exceedingly damp.  After nearly a year of living in Guangxi province, I’m finally coming to the conclusion that the province is ALWAYS damp.  That’s why you always see pictures of the karst landscape in Guilin and Yangshuo with misty clouds draped protectively over the fantastical mountains.

After breakfast, we check out of the hotel and wait for our ride to the Yulong River, which we arranged yesterday.  When we arrive at the boat launch, an altercation with our driver ensues.  We had asked when we arranged the ride if we could leave our bags in the vehicle while we took the raft ride down the Yulong River.  We are heading directly to Guilin after our boat ride, so we didn’t want to have to return to the hotel, which is quite out-of-the-way.

The driver has apparently not been apprised of this arrangement and keeps arguing with violent gestures (he doesn’t speak English) that we cannot leave our bags in the van.  It gets quite ugly, but we insist on leaving the bags. I have a smaller bag in which I carry my camera, money and passport, so I carry that with me on the raft, but Erica has only one bag, a big one, in which she has everything, including all her valuables.  She wants the driver to lock the car, but he refuses.  We end up leaving the bags there anyway, as he marches us angrily to the boat launch.

We situate ourselves on the rafts and before long, we’re underway.  It’s a dark and dreary day, not ideal for pictures, but… it is what it is.  This is Yangshuo and this is more the norm than not.

bamboo raft central on the yulong river

bamboo raft central on the yulong river

pulling away from the jumble of rafts

pulling away from the jumble of rafts

Our raft on the Yulong River

Our raft on the Yulong River

Every time we come to a drop in the river, shown below, we have to ride over and splash into the lower level of the river.  It doesn’t look very steep, but we can really feel it when we go over.  It’s quite exciting!

the first drop

the first drop

misty morning

misty morning

Erica can speak a little more Chinese than I can, so somehow she gleans from the captain of our boat that his home is right along the river.  He points out his homestead as we go past.

our bamboo boat captain

our bamboo boat captain

It’s fun to watch the mostly Chinese tourists who are floating along with us downriver.  They repeatedly want to take pictures of us, while we in return take pictures of them.

karst landscape on the Yulong River

karst landscape on the Yulong River

bamboo boat jam

bamboo boat jam

The boat captain in the picture below ends up dropping his pole in the river, and as we go on, we wonder what will become of him and his passengers.

fellow travelers

fellow travelers

the bamboo boats

the bamboo boats & Chinese girls

It is a very cloudy day, but it’s still lovely.  The pictures don’t turn out so well though, sadly.

mist-covered mountains

mist-covered mountains

the boat captain's house

the boat captain’s house

At some points on the river we encounter a few pile ups.

traffic jam on the river

traffic jam on the river

And of course there are always the ubiquitous Chinese girls taking selfies.

picture-taking time

picture-taking time

green mountain majesty

green mountain majesty

reflections

reflections

bamboo rafts

bamboo rafts

the Yulong River

the Yulong River

more views from the river

more views from the river

magnificent karst landscape

magnificent karst landscape

karst heaven

karst heaven

rafting down the Yulong

rafting down the Yulong

bushes and karsts

bushes and karsts

We pass by the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat on our way down the river.

Yangshuo River View Hotel

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

wonderful rafting

wonderful rafting

Yulong River scenes

Yulong River scenes

When our raft ride is over, we have to wait nearly an hour for our driver to appear to take us to the bus station.  Because our bags are in his van, this causes us some consternation.  Luckily we have the phone number for the woman who sold us the bamboo boat ride, and she is able to contact him and hurry him along.

In the end, we make it to the bus station with enough time to grab some lunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant.  Then, we’re on the bus to Guilin and from there, on the train back to Nanning.  It’s great to have had a little adventure with Erica, as I’ve traveled alone on all my adventures this year.  I’m glad I got to share what little I know of Yangshuo with such an enthusiastic friend and colleague. 🙂

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Travel, Yangshuo, Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, Yulong River | Tags: , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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

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