North into China

I’ve been having a lot of troubles with WordPress here, so please forgive my recent lack of posts. I’m having more luck than Colin, at least, who can’t even sign into his blog.

China got off to a great start! After charming the boys at the border with my Chinese (they were suspicious of my deck of cards), we climbed onto a comfortable bus with in-route entertainment. The roads were smooth and there wasn’t a single blast from the horn.

We got off for the night in Nanning, an unremarkable night besides the opening of the World Cup. After a very Chinese breakfast of buns and warm soymilk in a plastic bag, we caught a train to Guilin, then jumped on a bus to Yangshuo.

Was that a happy decision! Yangshuo is undeniably charming, hemmed in by a river and those which have become my favorite geological formations, karsts. The main tourist street is pedestrian only, and lined with dozens of restaurants selling marked-up tourist fare. We found a gem in the Dumpling Dynasty though, with great chicken and mushroom dumplings and delicious sweet-and-sour vegetables. She had the World Cup on, as did every other joint in town. We looked for a bar with a good happy hour to watch the second match of the night at, and we were engaged by a group of middle-aged Canadians there on an agriculture tour. They invited us to sit down, and we shared a lot of laughs and stories. They bought our beers; we got the vendors to leave a little faster than they would otherwise–everyone left in high spirits. At 3:30 that morning, we woke up to catch the second half of the US-England game, though unfortunately we’d already missed both goals.

We woke up to rain–unlucky. The town of Yangshuo was nice, but the idea is to rent bicycles and ride around the nearby countryside. Because of the rain, we opted to take teas down to a pagoda we’d seen by the river the night before. I read (Charlotte Bronte’s Villette, currently) and Colin studied and we helped a woman with some tricky English pronunciation. The book said we could climb to the top of some hills within walking distance, so after a rice noodle lunch, we tried that. One park asked 30 yuan (about US$4.50, or half the cost of our hotel) to climb halfway, and the other one only went halfway up as well. The walks were nice enough anyway, until the mosquitoes started hunting Colin.

This area is famous for its beer fish, and on all of the menus, beer fish is king. At many of the restaurants, you can pick your own fish out of the bucket. Our hotel recommended a place and gave us a 10 percent off card–though as it was, the dinner was still more expensive than one night at the hotel. We’re staying at a really cheap hotel though.

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