China (Yangshuo): Moving to the Countryside – by Clay

Ah, the wisdom is seeping in 😉

We left our Xi’an apartment early in the morning to catch a taxi for the airport but this time I asked our helpful hosts to write out “Could you take us to the airport?” in Chinese characters the night before so I could show it to the driver. Our hosts couldn’t very well refuse since our apartment had a leaky ceiling from the apartment above and I managed to negotiate a discounted rate for our stay (bargoons! just warming up for the markets in Thailand, Laos, and Indonesia!).

We carried our gear down to the street, flagged a taxi (which was pretty quick at 7:00 a.m., before rush hour), and I managed to say “Chih-cheong” (airport) and the driver nodded in understanding. We loaded the luggage and I showed the driver my written request to which he kind of looked at me like I had two heads and had this look of “I understood you the first time, fool”. Well the rest was pretty mundane. We got to the airport, flew to Guilin, a driver from our new hostel drove us to Yangshuo and we arrived safely by mid afternoon.

Our hostel is called The Cosy Garden. It’s a typical hostel where there is a shared kitchen, you can cook your own food and clean up after yourself. We noticed there are a lot of Europeans on holiday here with a few French families and couples here and there and a German lady I said “Hi, how are you”, “I come from Canada” and “I’d like a beer please” in German to. Needless to say she hasn’t said another word to me.

The hostel is set about 2km outside of the town of Yangshuo so you have to walk or rent a bicycle to get there. We walked there the first time and found a local eatery out on the street of this trendy restaurant alley. We were told that one end was very touristy with expensive Western-style (i.e., North American) food and the other end was much cheaper and had local fare. Well we walked the row and decided on a local menu, primarily because it had pictures of the dishes they were offering and we could just point to the ones we wanted. Barb and the boys ordered steamed pork dumplings and I had the “outer covering intestine beef noodle”. I know it doesn’t sound that appealing but it tasted great – a little spicy – but great.

There was a group of families sitting at the table near us and they were having a blast watching and laughing at us. Finally, this 12-year old girl, who was cajoled by her mother, plucked up the courage to speak English to us. Apparently they have English lessons in school from kindergarten until grade 8 and the mother wanted the daughter to practice it out in public with real, live English-speakers. She said “Hello”, “Nice day, isn’t it?” (even though it was evening) and “How are you?” amidst a lot of giggling. Being a teacher I’m used to working with children so I listened patiently and answered her back very slowly and clearly, enunciating each word clearly so she could understand. Then in return I would ask “jegga jowshima?” (what is this) so I could learn some new Chinese words like spoon, fork, etc. In the end it was fun and by the time we left all her little brothers and sisters were saying all the English phrases they knew to us. One little boy even said, “I’ll be back” in his best Arnold Schwartzengger!

From the food stall we walked up to the market and picked up some fresh local mango and bananas that we could have for breakfast and headed back to the hostel. Thankfully, most of the accommodation have air con units installed in the rooms. Unfortunately, Caleb and Barb felt horrible in the night and seemed to have food poisoning. A day later Connor succumbed to it as well. We concluded that it wasn’t the local food we had but rather the shared kitchen at the hostel. One French family seemed to have two of their kids out of commission and one of the front counter girls was also ill. A day off and lots of (filtered) water later everyone was back to normal.

Other highlights include Barb and Connor renting bikes to explore the dirt trails up and around the limestone mountains and getting caught in a torrential rain storm, all of us going to the Yangshuo river and light show where they explained and demonstrated the local history and legends of the region and starting Math lessons with the boys. Yes, it’s still summer holidays officially but they’re keen to do some math so we gave in.

We moved from The Cosy Garden hostel to The Giggling Tree hostel, also outside of Yangshuo. This one is even further outside of the town and is much more scenic and peaceful. It is run by a Dutch family who have committed to a 20 year lease before they will return to the Netherlands for a bit of “regular” life. It’s a very nice place to stay but more expensive than our last place. And because it is more remote it is harder to find local food or markets to get our own food. Everything so far has come from the hostel kitchen.DSCF9094 DSCF9175

The boys are currently swimming (this place has a pool, which was a very welcome surprise for them – Barb knew it had one but wasn’t sure if it would be suitable or a breeding ground for disease). It’s 33C, feeling like 38 with humidity. We’re all healthy and continuing on as planned.

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