16 June 2008
Rain Rain Go Away...
It has not rained in weeks in Shanghai and it hardly every rains in Yangshuo. Alas, we were delayed by a massive thunderstorm in Shanghai and it appears the rain followed us down South in what the papers are calling “the worst rain Southern China has ever seen.” Undaunted by said horror stories, we board our mini bus from Guilin to Yangshuo, bound and determined to have a nice holiday, rain or no rain.
Arrival and navigating this charming backpacker haven couldn’t have been easier. We located our hostel of choice (Thank you Let’s Go) dropped our bags, had a delicious western sandwich on West Street (this plays loves the foreigners) and planned our next few days. We would start – in the rain – with a cruise from Xingping to Yiyang on the Li River. This stretch is supposed to be the most beautiful and therefore, it will be so. It’s still pouring and I have this bright idea that ponchos will be better than umbrellas. “But I think,” Lianne starts. “No no, we’ll be more mobile this way,” I say. Mobile and soaking wet, that is. Just as we leave the restaurant the rain really starts in. Our guide to the bus has no umbrella or poncho and is all but running a 100-yard dash to the bus. I’m struggling to keep up and Lianne is falling behind in her flip-flops. This is slowly becoming the longest, most miserable walk of my life thanks to this brilliant poncho plan. Mine now has a gaping whole in the cap and the left side of my head is soaked. Lianne’s front buttons have popped open and her entire front side is sopping wet. Water is running into our eyes and to top it all off, we’re sweating buckets because ponchos – shockingly - don’t breathe at all.
We finally get to our bus to find that there are no seats. “No problem,” the ticket lady says to me in Chinese. “Right here. Right here. Right here,” pointing to the wood casing over the engine. Perfect. We pay our 50 cents each for the 1-hour ride and plop down. There is an older Icelandic couple (I’m not certain they were from Iceland but they just had this whole Iceland thing about them) sitting next to us and we exchange that “look” you exchange with other foreigners when you both find yourselves in situations you would never have even considered in your home country. This looks says, “yeah, woo, sitting on an engine. Lets hope it doesn’t blow up.” [awkward] laugh and [awkward] smile.
It’s a bumpy ride full of a lot of horn honking and pot holes. Thankfully, the A/C is on and we’re drying out. Soon enough we’re exiting into a sea of tour guides who are doing their best to shuffle all the foreigners together in one corner. From there it’s onto the back of a took took which takes us only as far as bridge. Then it’s a 15-minute walk through a tiny little village, down a collection of rocks that I would loosely refer to as stairs and onto a boat that is lined with house-like windows and floating just inches above the surface of the water. And it’s still pouring rain. Oh god.
Fortunately, the clouds gave the entire cruise a sort-of “ah-ah-ah-ah-ah” mysterious feeling to the point where I think sunshine may have ruined it (at least, that’s what Lianne and I are telling ourselves). Massive peaks plunging out of the water, ox fording their way across, farmers working their rice fields with pushcarts and hand-made tools. It was like stepping back in time 100 years.
The cruise ended the way it began – up some rocks, walk for a while, took took to the bus station, bus to Yangshuo, walk in the rain to hostel. That was followed by a delicious Chinese food dinner, some night market shopping and an ice cream. What. A. Day.