Leaving the smog of Xi’an I arrived the much more tropical city of Guilin. The city itself had a rewarding climate (t-shirt friendly) and a pedestrian street similar to those you find in “syden” (a Norwegian general term of places in Southern Europe where “charter” holidaymakers go), but without the tackiness. Guilin was pleasant; we (Berit, Jon Magnus, Henrik and I) enjoyed sizzling hot-pot at a place where we gave the choice of hot-pot meat to the giggling waitresses (at least 15 of them). Surprisingly we didn’t get any stomach-problems (hot-pot is raw meat you boil yourself), actually Henrik, Jon Magnus and I felt overly energized by the meal, and we went for a longer run (where we of course got lost). The Guilin experience was finished with not-very-comfortable massage for all 4 of us.
The following day, the Li-river was on hold. We boarded what was supposed to be “bamboo rafts”, but us engineers (especially those with above-normal interest in the sewage) noticed that the raft was made by sewage pipes. Amusing! But these cultural oddities weren’t the reason for our Li River cruise, the scenery was! Amazing, among the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen, and there we was, floating down the river on sewage pipes, the four good friends of us.
Later we reached Yangshou, a village situated in between this ever-amazing landscape. We had more cultural (body wise) encounters, as Tai-Chi (kind of boring), Yoga (surprisingly good, some time I’ll join a class in Trondheim), and 3 times massage (much more quality than the Guilin massage, three of us got obsessed with taking massage, when it’s 10USD for an hour with therapeutically pain you might also get obsessed ). We also did more strenuous activity like biking the Chinese countryside, I was fully equipped with my emergency rain-poncho during biking, so I melted perfectly in with the Chinese population. But kayaking the Li River was the thing to do for us, hard but still rewarding.
Yangshou was a place where we spent 6 days, so we experienced even more, my personal favorite was Comorant-fishing. An old man owns 8 birds; he knit something around the bird’s neck, and during the boat-trip he suddenly throws all the birds into the river. The birds then go “scuba-diving” for fish, but since the cannot swallow their prey, all the small fish will clogh up in their troat. Then the old man use a stick to get the birds in, and he force the bird to let go of the fish in the troat. Sounds unlikely that he will get any fish? Maybe, but actually after half an hour of “fishing” a big casket was almost full.
I also owe the Chinese people an apology for me critizing the food. The Beijing food was not that tasty, but in Guilin and Yangshao it was perfect. In Yangshao we only went to McDonalds once (or twice). I think we all got accustomed to the way of eating, typically we ordered 4 main courses (each one’s favorite) and then supplementing with something vegetabl-ish. Soon the four Norwegians also mastered the secret of Chopsticks, what we didn’t master was the whistle-men (ultra high-pitch) in the streets – luckily we didn’t throw a fake rolex after them.
Speaking of fake, everything is fake in China – except if you are sure it’s not, then it’s just a good copy. No, I’m just kidding, but there is a lot of faking. A gem of story is this one: In the streets you could buy “real” Swarovski diamonds at the size of a big dice, all wrapped-in in luxury purple and gold boxes, I‘m pretty sure the wrapping might even cost more that the item itself (2USD)
Another musing of great cultural encounters were the night-bus we were about to take Yangshao-Guangzhou-Shenzen. With proper beds! Albeit small ones – Chinese style. When the bed is elbow-wide and no more than 170cm long (with “knees to feet” inside some compartment) us three 181cm+ tall guys believed it would be but uncomfortable. But hey, it wasn’t! It was actually even more comfortable than all-time favorite NSB Oslo-Trondheim. The situation was funny – (3 norwegian vikings (and one vikingette (a word?)) cramped together in each our tiny bed among 40 “small” Chinese in their own bed plying the night down to the Pearl River Delta. Just imagine (or try it)!
The whole Yangshao experience was great! Thanks a lot to my dear friends for making the trip memorable. Hopefully some of my backpacking-virus passed over to you!