So I said we might not write again until Nanjing, but unfortunately Sarah’s poor tummy has been socked with round one of a mystery Chinese punch, so I’ve had a little time this evening to collect the pictures from today and write an update.
Today (Saturday) was our second and unfortunately final “recharge” day out here in the countryside, as this quick portion of the trip comes to an end tomorrow when we fly to the little lotus’ city. We knew coming in that by choosing a remote area of China like Yangshuo, we’d not only want to relax a bit… but more importantly, see a unique part of the little lotus’ birth country. When one day she asks us “What is China like?”, we want to be able to share both the urban and the rural side of the story. Visiting only Nanjing and Guangzhou (both required) would be like only visiting Chicago and Atlanta, then describing America. Even in our two weeks here stopping at five different cities, it would be impossible to fully understand this vast land.
So as easy as it would have been to be “river bums” again today, we instead chose to venture deep into the countryside to visit nearby villages. We started the day early with another breakfast by the Yulong River. But to our surprise, our breakfast of green tea and Guilin rice noodles concluded with the first wave of hundreds of small, handmade, bamboo rafts that would float down the river, one after another, over the course of the day (check out the video below). These rafts are used by farmers for transport, and of course by (mostly Asian) tourists hoping to see the sights via native passageways. Funny enough, as we sat in our wooden chairs watching the first round of rafts pass by, many locals would wave to us and every so often one would yell a friendly “hal-lo!” over to us on the shore. They were likely surprised to hear this 6+ foot white man fire back an even friendlier “nǐhǎo!”. We had a couple of good chuckles (especially with the two or three locals who sang loudly as they rowed), and it further reaffirmed our belief that we’re all brothers and sisters in this world, regardless of place or circumstance.
After breakfast, we hopped on a couple of rickety bikes that the retreat loaned us, and after 10 minutes of trying to decipher broken English at the front desk to comprehend directions… we decided to wing it and set out peddling along the small country road. The goal was to end up at a sister hotel in Moon Hill Village for lunch, and my-oh-my what sights and sounds we encountered along the way.
If this is considered rural China, then we may be in for a frantic awakening once we reach the big cities. We continue to grapple with the conflicting emotions about the China we’ve seen so far being so rich with scenic beauty, and the people being so pragmatically pleasant at heart… but to be quite honest, it’s just plain filthy and loud everywhere you look other than the untouched nature in the distance. As we rode our bikes today to the nearby villages, we got our first taste of exhaust smog and I’m now quite sure muffler emission checks don’t exist in this neck of the woods. And, holy cow, these are some horn-happy people! Notice the street sign in the pictures below that *attempts* to keep the noise down in residential areas.