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April 26, 2005

Photoset: Yangshuo, China

Here's a set of 35 photos that accompany the previous post. We biked outside of Yangshuo, and took a bamboo raft ride down the river, then biked through river-side villages and fields back to town.

April 26, 2005 at 10:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Yangshuo, China

Yangshuo, China
Originally uploaded by natekoechley.
We're in Yangshuo right now, about 70 km south of Guilin. The whole area around here is full of this amazingly shaped mountains. There are supposedly 70,000 peaks around here, jutting up about 200m from an otherwise flat terrain. It's great, because you're right in the mountains, but it's basically totally flat for biking and walking around.

Yesterday, we rented bicycles and rode outside of town, and along the Yu Long river. The town was quickly behind us, and we were in another words: rice patties, water buffalo, irrigation ditches, chickens and ducks, bamboo groves and all the while in the shadows of these totally amazing mountains towering overhead.
We rode north for maybe 10k, then stopped at this tiny room for lunch and a beer. Total language barrier. They took me into the kitchen, and I pointed at the veggies that i wanted mixed and fried with rice... Tomatos, chillies, garlic, ginger, and kale or some unknown green. The deal with food is that if it's fried or boiled sufficiently, you're all good. Still, it was a little unnerving when the woman carried the greens down to the river to wash them right in front of us.

Still, it was the best meal i've had in the mainland. Things were fresh, and because i watched her cook it, the standard unease and sketchyness were more or less absent. Ate it all. With two beers.

The whole while, everybody we passed yelled "knee-how, bamboo". Ni'hou is hello, and bamboo was a solicitation to take a long-pole pushed bamboo raft ride down the lazy river. We said no about 100 times, finally negotiated an arrangement to be taken a few km south after lunch. It was peaceful once we made arrangements, as there was nothing else for them to sell us.

After lunch, we loaded our bikes on the back of this bamboo rafe, and sat under an umbrella while a strong teenaged boy pushed us down the river.

The ride lasted about 2.5 hours, punctuated every 20 or 30 minutes by a fairly exciting plunge over dams in the river. The raft was long enough that it just sort of extended, sloped and dropped over the dams. We had to hold our backpacks high in our laps (because they're filled with electonics), and lift our feet up because the front of the raft sank maybe a foot into the water before leveling back out.

Even on the river you're continually accousted to purchase things. On the river, locals would float on their bamboo rafts with coolers of beer and coke and water, ciggs, and eggs and other food. At the first one, we bought our push-driver two hardboiled eggs and a coke (his selection), and after that he steered clear of the other vendors.

We finally made it to our destination. We unloaded, and started to bike home. We biked upstread along the river, dodging water buffalo and kids and motorcycles. It was exceptionally beautiful, and fun and eye-opening. Everybody we passed waved and yelled "hello" and "nihow". It seems that most enjoy an opportunity to yell the english they know, "hello", "have a nice day", "see you", which is waaay more than i know in chinese so far.

We biked and said hello and waved and smiled for an hour or so, snaking back up the river. It was all new to me: one-room houses, free-roaming chickens, mud roofs, true farmers, buffalo-pulled plows (though there were many motor-driven rototillers too). Small orange trees, fields of lettuce and other greens.


The trip has finally begun.

April 26, 2005 at 09:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 25, 2005

First Day in Mainland China

The trip has finally started. We've been in Hong Kong for the past week, but HK was for work, familiar, on an expense account, and mentally separate from the bulk of the trip.

Last night we caught an hour flight at 8pm on China Southern Airlines into Guilin, China. Passed through immigration and customs successfully. Withdrew Yuan currency successfully. Survived my scariest cab ride to date to get to the hotel from the airpost. Realized along the way that lane markers are a suggestion at best. Checked into the hotel, even though they'd lost or never had our Expedia recommendation. We fended off the advances of many tour operators. Figured out how to work all the chinese appliances.

Woke up and wandered the streets to find breakfast. Aimee had someone write on a card "i am a vegetarian. i only eat things like bok choy and tofu. NO meat." armed with this, we ordered vegetarian steamed buns from a stand on the street, and later discovered that they were filled pork. (The pork had bits of celery in it, so I guess that counts for vegatarian.)

"in american, the computer corrects our spelling" - overheard in an Aussie bar just now, quote attributed to an American.

also just now, "here's how you do the 'middle finger'", taught by an australian guy along with "fuck" and other swear works, to a three-some of leaning-in very eager local teen-age girls.

My first traumatic chinese experiences - #1 seeing a bike with a cage in the front packed with dogs :(  #2 hearing a squealing pig (like a "bloddy murder" type that i have never heard before) that was about to be loaded onto truck - i'm guessing to be slaughtered b/c animals know this shit, but i don't even know that there was a truck involved. i didn't look but this is what nate said. for all i know they could have been slaughtering it right there next to me. he's been blocking me from these things on the trip.

right now we're in yangshuo. it's a pretty region that has these crazy limestone mountains. one guide book described it as a "dr suess" landscape, which i would have to agree with. it was rainging today, but still enough beauty to see. tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and we are renting bikes to ride into the countryside and take a bamboo raft down one of the side rivers. should be cool. i love getting lost in asia on a bike. the town itself is very touristy and western, but once we get out of town it should be nice. we came for the mountains and they haven't let us down yet. and while i can, i'll take advantage of places that understand "vegetarian" and have pizzas on the menu (although i can't wait to get to the sichuan area to have some spicy goodness).

Anyways, we're finishing up our meal and second beers, taking advantage of free wireless in this aussie bar/restaurant. (this just in: according to the american guy who said that computers correct our spelling a while ago, "girls like bon jovi", said because 'livin' on a prayer' is playing for at least the second time since we've sat down!!)

we'll write more (and better) later, but just wanted to get something out while we're here, and get a first real post on the blog so that we can send out the official invitations to start reading!

We're in country now, and and have our next week or so of adventures planned. Can't wait to wake up tomorrow and have a full day of exploring to begin, instead of more moving around. I'm looking forward to my body and mind switching gears and getting into the groove.

See you down the road....

April 25, 2005 at 07:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 21, 2005

First Post

This is the first post to our Asia 90 blog, which Aimee and I will be using to document our epic three-month adventure across Asia. I'm writing this from our hotel in Hong Kong, where we've been for the past 5 days will I've been presenting and leading training at the local Yahoo office.

Must more to come, this post is just intended to test and verify the blog system.

Please use any of the three links on the right to subscribe or syndicate this site.

Thanks, Nate

April 21, 2005 at 07:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack