Baba Mama in Yangshuo
Trip Start Aug 29, 2012
25Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Bamboo House Inn
When traveling to Yangshuo, getting there is usually 75% of the fun! We flew from Beijing to Guilin, planning to take a bamboo boat ride down the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo. The two times I'd booked the boat ride before, the hostel had set us up with a private car to take us to the dock.
Much to my surprise (horror), my parents and I were guided onto a tour bus. The world's most obnoxious creature turned on the crackling microphone and said, "Hello. I am Allen, your English-speaking tour guide! Yes. My name is Allen. I am your tour guide, your English-speaking tour guide!"
For the entire duration of the hour and a half ride to the dock, Allen, our English-speaking tour guide, delighted us with beguiling tales of how amazing our day's journey could have been...if only we'd signed up for the afternoon tour. Not to worry though! We still had time to add the tour to our package and go with him, our favorite person, Allen, our English-speaking tour guide!
After a tranquil, gorgeous, and blissfully Allen-less bamboo boat ride, we waited by the Greyhound to deliver the heartbreaking news. Allen, our English-speaking tour guide, we will not be joining you for the afternoon tour.
Allen, our former English-speaking tour guide, left us in the capable hands of an enraged bus lady, presumably as part of our punishment for skipping the afternoon tour. China's countryside seems to be full of enraged bus ladies, grabbing your luggage, throwing it in their bus' storage, and yelling at other bus ladies who try to take it out and put it under their own buses.
Two rival bus ladies fought it out for another group of laowai (foreigners) who, unfortunately, could not speak Chinese and therefore had no clue what was going on. Once we were all settled into our cramped bus seats with standing passengers leaning over us, we had a magical moment. Somehow simultaneously, as if there were a laowai magnet, we all looked over at a grungy laowai college student on the other bus. With the enraged bus ladies screaming in the background, he glanced over at us and started chuckling. Pretty soon, all the laowai on both buses were doubled over laughing, much to the confusion of the many Chinese passengers on board.
Shopping, shopping, shopping!
Yangshuo is a small Li River valley town nestled in the middle of towering karst peaks. In the 90s, it became popular with foreign backpackers and has since become a haven for energetic travelers in the middle of the Chinese countryside. West Street, the cobblestone pedestrian street at the center of Yangshuo, is lined with hostels, acoustic cafes and bars, and, best of all, shops peddling local handicrafts.
Normally, there is no activity I loathe more than shopping. However, with our stealthy team of three on a crafty mission, it became a psychological exercise, a game of trickery, temptation, and treasure hunting.
I entered the store nonchalantly, doing my best to look detached and uninterested. Sly as a couple of hunting foxes, mom and dad trailed in behind me. Only when the storekeeper turned away did our eyes meet. Dad pointed at a wooden happy family ball, similar to the jade one my brothers and I gave them that broke. As he strolled away, I moved in. I pointed at a large figurine near the ball. "How much is this?" I got the price on the happy family ball down and was ready to bundle. Mom slid by, on her way out of the store, and pointed at a figurine that would make a perfect present for one of our relatives. “That price is way too high!” I said. “I mean, that would be an okay price for BOTH of these things…”
The Saran-wrapped masses
Mom and dad insisted that I do something that I hadn’t done before in each place we visited. Heeding their request, I insisted we go see Impression Liu San Jie. Zhang Yimou, a famous Chinese director who directed the 2008 Beijing Olympics, created a large-scale performance against the natural backdrop of Yangshuo’s karst peaks and Li River. As you may have guessed, this requires the performance to take place outdoors.
Especially in a country with more than a billion people, large-scale performances draw large-scale audiences. The organizers weren’t about to lose a large profit because of a little rain! As we crowded in through the ticket gates, clutching our umbrellas, we were handed brand new ponchos made of Saran-wrap-thin plastic.
The ushers directed us to close our umbrellas and follow them to the stage. A thousand people, wearing identical ponchos, followed the ushers down to the seats. The swishing sound of a thousand ponchos created a beautiful harmony that sounded just like, well, rain.
Sad to leave the world’s best view from a hostel balcony, we packed our bags and prepared for warmer climates. We were headed to Yunnan the next day!
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