Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Li River

My friend Laura and I decided to take our last day together and travel to a small town and take a boat ride down the famous Li River. Our plan was to take a boat to another town and from there Laura would take a bus back to Guilin and I would take a bus to Yangshuo.

On the way to the first small town we met a family that was planning to take a boat to the same town so they asked if we wanted to share a boat. We agreed and then they helped us find a boat. The boat we ended up taking was this little bamboo raft that had bamboo lawn chairs on it to sit, a small covering, and then a small prop engine on the back.

It was a beautiful boat ride because we saw all the tall mountains that have been in so many Chinese paintings. I was in heaven because it was the first mountains I had seen in China aside from the Great Wall. Even the fog was beautiful. (It wasn't great for photos though.)

Laura and I knew that sometimes the boat men would drop people off early than normal in order to avoid having to pay the toll at the destination town so we weren't surprised when we were dropped off in what seemed like the middle of no where. What did surprise us is that twenty minutes of walking went by and we still saw no sign of a town. It was wet and the road was muddy the whole way. I enjoyed the walk in the countryside, we just hoped we were actually headed in the right direction even. In the process we saw two guys on a motorcycle slip in the mud, falling over into the muddy road. After a significant amount of time we finally ran into the REAL drop off spot and got a little rickshaw the rest of the way with a group of people.

We then got to town and ate some lunch and went our separate ways. Laura was off to Hong Kong and I was off to continue my travels the day after by heading to a friend of our's home. I went to Yangshuo by myself and stayed the night in hostel. Yangshuo was by far my favorite town that I visited because it was as if the western world had never touched it even though it is one of the most well known tourist spots. The buildings were built in a more ancient fashion in the middle a mountain area.

A Step into the Past

While we were in Xi'an we stepped outside the city gates only to find that we had stepped back into Ancient China. We found him just sitting on the side of the road looking just like that.... well, kinda. What actually happened was that we ran into him and several other normally dressed Chinese people walking across the street. They had a video camera with them. They walked past us, paused, then came back and asked if we would help them. The "director" told us to ask him questions. So we did, and he gave us a look of "uh, I don't understand anything you've said, and I'm in shock that you're standing in front of me." It was hilarious. They of course recorded it, and we of course drew a crowd of curious onlookers wanting to know what was up with the Americans and the man dressed up as an ancient soldier.

McDonalds! Wait, what?

McDonald's delivers! This picture was taken in Shanghai, China while traveling with Dani and Alana. I expected to see pizza delivery or even random Chinese restaurants do takeout, but to see McDonald's do take out was very unexpected! So as a result this poor unsuspecting hard worker became the victim of tourist curiosity, and will forever be immortalized as the McDonald's bicycle delivery man. Can you imagine wearing that uniform to work?!

Our time spent in Shanghai was brief, but fun. My aunt and uncle had put me in touch with a lady that they had hosted while living in California. She wanted to meet us and take us out to dinner so we did. She was very kind and took us to a nice restaurant near downtown Shanghai. It was great to get to know her especially since she had history with my family.

This trip to Shanghai was especially significant, i think, to Dani and I because both of us had been there once before. In high school we each went our senior years for two weeks to visit a sister school of our high school. We both had a great experience. My experience in particular was what made me fall in love with China. So this time in Shanghai was a mix of new exciting experiences and old memories.

It is crazy how different Shanghai is from other cities. Even the language is different. While at a restaurant here a lady corrected my Chinese saying, "We don't call it that here." Also the street hawkers sell different things. People must like watches and purses around here because everyone came up to us trying to sell watches and purses. Once we tried to say we only spoke Spanish because we wanted the guy to leave us alone. We picked the wrong guy though because he was super persistent anyways.

A Picture and a Story

I've decided that I am going to forget all my China stories if I don't write them down so I am going to start writing a story that goes with the pictures that I have.

Where are we? Well, we are on the Silk Road of course! Dani, Alana, and I found the spot on our Xi'an map and got so excited about seeing a dirt road that headed out to the west that we hopped on a couple buses and walked for a couple miles just to see this dirt road. Unfortunately, we were all stuck in the past and this statue of camels is about as glamorous as it got. I think we were at least expecting it to be a tourist spot, but this statue and little mini park were pretty much in the middle of nowhere, as far as we were concerned. We did have some fun climbing on it though.

My favorite part of the story though was the walk there. It took us FOREVER to get to this place. We definitely had misjudged how far away it was, and we of course felt adventurous so we walked most of the way. On the way though we passed a Home Depot, which made me so excited because it was a piece of home, and I had no idea that those stores existed in China. We decided to take the bus back to center of the city where our hostel was instead of walking, a wise choice on our part. Fortunately Xi'an has a huge city wall that has bus stops at the gates in the wall, otherwise I would have had no clue where I was taking us because I only knew where the bus stops that said gate in them would be!