Yangshuo to Yichang

Today was an exhausting day of travel. We left Yangshuo on the 23rd on a bumpy, loud bus to the train station. Every twenty meters or so the driver mashed the brakes, and the horn screeched about every eight seconds. Chinese pop music poured through the cabin speakers, accompanied by videos of dancing and singing on a TV screen. We arrived to find a fairly comfy waiting room, which was soon offset by a cramped train car for 18 hours. We arrived in Yichang on the 24th, where we waited for several hours to take another bus to board the boat. In Yichang, we stopped at a modern supermarket and I was suspicious it was an activity recommended by the Gov’t to display “the best” of China. After 18 hours on a train, it is easy to become suspicious of nearly anything. I took a walk around the surrounding area …

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Hot Air Balloon

This morning I rode a hot air balloon in Yangshuo. My alarm didn’t wake me and I was worried they would leave me, but luckily the driver came late. My shoe fell off as I climbed into the basket. We were in the sky by 6 a.m. I think, and the sun was just peaking up. A nice couple from Amsterdam was in too, but they were speaking Dutch and the whole thing was so beautiful that I didn’t have anything to say anyway. The flame was almost burning my head the whole time and seemed too close. We were up to 900 meters at one point, I think, the balloon-man navigated with a little Garmin GPS. He was communicating with someone on the radio, saying I don’t know what. After rising very high, we were brought down low above the river. The town seemed larger from the air then …

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Bikes, Rice, and Light

Today started with a bike ride, leaving from Yangshuo and into the countryside. We garnered bikes on Diecui Rd., gave them a 30 meter test ride, and prepared to go. A fellow traveler asked the bike guide, “Who has right of way? The bikes? Pedestrians, cars?” A moment elapsed and “Miguel,” the bike guide, looked confused. It seemed that right of way was a topic of discussion never before raised in Yangshuo, China. “Yes, we are riding bikes,” was the thesis of Miguel’s answer. The countryside was filled with rice paddies, deep green grass and wet earth, a hot blue sky, and limestone karsts rising hundreds of meters into the sky, their forms resembling a forest of thick trees. As we made our way down a dirt and stone path, we paused while our guide told how a bucket of one kilo of rice was worth five yuan, and it …

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Yangshuo & The Li River

The bus ride into Yangshuo was the first taste of Chinese traffic chaos that I would get, and definitely not the last. From the beginning the bus driver’s companion was trying to herd passengers in from the train station simply by leaning out of the doorway and screaming “Yangshuo! Yangshuo!” Unlike bus terminals I’ve traveled through in America, where departures are scheduled and routes are predetermined, this passage seemed to be spontaneous, as if the driver had just found a bus parked on his farm in the morning, thanks to Buddha, and decided to immediately put it to work by showing up at the train station and shouting “Yangshuo!” out the window until enough passengers climbed aboard to pay for the gas. The sales pitch didn’t stop after leaving the train station, and as we made our way out of the city the bus pulled up alongside what seemed to …

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