Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Yangshuo: Day One

So we got our first big holiday break for National Day. I'm not really sure what National Day's all about, but you get a whole week off for it! Andy and I decided to go to Yangshuo, because one of our coordinators organized a trip there, which was awfully helpful. I guess Yangshuo is like Guilin, another beautiful city with karst formations, but supposedly less touristy.
So Yangshuo is totally gorgeous, all these breathtaking views of unbelievable mountain formations, but the first thing Andy wanted a picture of was this awesome guy demolishing this wall. To me, it seems a little frightening to slowly chop away at the thing you're standing on, but this guy had it all under control.
I think that the area must be famous for these lovely red dragonflies, in addition to the beautiful scenery. A few shops were called "Red Dragonfly." They're certainly something to be proud of. Have we mentioned that dragonflies travel around in huge swarms here? Pretty often you see a big swirling mass of bugs, and I always think they're nasty insects like huge gnats or mosquitoes, but they're always dragonflies!
This is a picturesque cormorant fisher. I mainly say he's "picturesque" because he isn't really cormorant fishing, he's just floating around charging people for pictures. He started yelling at Andy for five kuai (one word for Chinese currency) right after Andy took this picture. I'm not sure, but cormorant fishing looks pretty neat. I think the idea is that you put a ring around the bird's neck so it can't swallow anything, then make it go catch fish for you, then grab the fish out of its mouth because it can't eat them. It's a little cruel, but pretty ingenious. Here's me and two friends on the lake where the "fisherman" is floating:

We rented bikes and headed out into the countryside. It was a pretty difficult journey, since we were biking on all kinds of rocky country trails, and a lot of our group members had gotten these 1-speed road bikes because we had no idea how hard it would be to ride around. Anyway, the scenery was certainly worth it:

Since I'm from Illinois, it's so hard to imagine these people just growing up in this area and being totally used to it. They just wake up every day, see the huge, oddly shaped karsts, and set about their business. Here's a few local sights:

A woman we followed for a while:
We took a break from the trail sometimes, and we found a pretty neat, big cave. Here I am with some friends in the mouth of the cave:

And Andy clambered up to some weird, high place to take this picture:
Now for some local fauna! Andy terrorized this hilarious flock of ducks for a while. They were just chilling in a field, munching on whatever the hell ducks eat, until Godzilla came roaring out at them:

I also took a video of this incident, if anyone feels they need to see more. Just to even things out, Andy saved another duck! It was all flopping around in the dust, unable to get up, and Andy righted it like the Good Samaritan he is. In this picture, the duck on the right is telling his friend about his brush with death, or at least discomfort:
Here's a cow, in case you couldn't tell:
And a wet and content water buffalo. I never really saw these supposed "beasts of burden" doing anything but relaxing in streams and rivers. Must be a pretty good life.

We biked along the river for a long time. There were a ton of tourists getting bamboo raft rides down the river. They were drinking beer and squirting water guns (really more like water sticks) at each other.
Andy went for a swim downriver and got a shot of the rest of us on the bridge.
And now, since you've been so patient and read this entire blog entry, here's a little treat - Chinese directions for using a Western toilet.
Unfortunately for the sake of comedy, there were no footprints on the toilet seat.

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