Yangshou China

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June 23rd 2010
Published: October 15th 2010
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23/6/10: Even though the beds were comfortable I just couldn't sleep. The last time I checked my watch was 2:00am in the morning and it seemed like we still hadn’t even left Shenzhen, the city just went on and on. At 5:30 am the driver called out “Yangshuo!” Jacinta called out to me and we scurried off the bus. I took one look at Jacinta and realised that she hadn’t slept either. We were immediately approached by a tout wanting us to look at his hotel. He sweet talked us until we finally gave in to the free ride to the hotel. We negotiated a room for 90CYN per night with free breakfast and a beer. The rooms were way above the standards of what we were used to so we reluctantly accepted hopping we weren’t getting ripped off on the room price. We met down stairs for breakfast and immediately put the hard sell on us for a package tour for three days. He started at 1200CYN but after countless times of telling him we weren’t interested and we couldn't afford it he eventually dropped the price to 600CYN each. We left it at that, but only 5min later came up to the room offering us a better deal. He ended leaving 15min later with a price of 300Yuan, once again we told him we not interested in the tour as we were on a tight budget. We wanted to hire bicycles for the day and go for a ride but when we mentioned this he started to make up stories of people losing their bikes to thieves and that it was unsafe. We then mentioned about hiring a motorbike but he said that the police ask too many question and that foreigners are not allowed to ride motorbikes. We later found all this to be a lie just to except his tour package. He tried everything in his book of tricks to get money out of us and we were sick of him in the end. The harder he tried the more stubborn we got. We found another hotel whilst we were having lunch for 40CYN/night. This was half the price but without breakfast and the beer. We were adamant that we weren’t going to put up with a lying hotel tout; we made the decision to leave the following morning. Our walk around Yangshuo revealed that it was an incredibly touristy town that mostly caters for Chinese tourist. Hardly anyone spoke English so it was a great opportunity to dive into the phrase book. It turned out to be not as hard as I first thought, just time consuming. Time to buy some train tickets, we were lucky we found a girl that could speak a little English, we booked our train tickets to Kunming a whopping 20+hrs away by train. It was the cheapest thing we could find for 310CYN; this included a hard sleeper bed. Walking into the markets was so nice compared to India. Everything was so clean, the fresh smells of fruit and vegetables hung in the air. The only thing that I hadn’t seen before was the butchered dog carcasses hanging from meat hooks. There were other dogs in the small cages yelping and barking. Jacinta realised what was going on before she even got close and walked the other way. Just knowing about what was happening was bad enough; she didn't need to see it. I asked to take a photo but they wanted 4CYN for the privilege. I chose not to pay as there would be plenty of free opportunities elsewhere.
That night we took the opportunity to check out, the hotel tout that originally lied to us came around the corner. He asked what we were doing.
“We are checking out tomorrow.”
Jacinta chose to take the easy way out saying we were leaving town just to save any confrontation. He picked up we were lying straight away, and he said with a smart arse attitude;
“You’re not leaving town, you found a cheaper hotel!” waving his finger from side to side while he shook his head.
“We still want to check out tomorrow” I said.
“You just want to go to a cheaper hotel, you’re not leaving town.”
There was no use lying any further. “Yes we have found a cheaper hotel and we would like to just pay for the first night on the first agreed price.”
He laughed and spoke like a old Shaolin kungfu master with long white whiskers sprouting from his chin and whispy moustache “hahahaha you paid cheaper price for four night, one night cost you 180Yuan hahaha” he pointed to the brass plaque on the wall that had Chinese writing with the numbers 180, 366 and 1000, For all we knew that could have been the price for day tour.
“The original price was 100Yuan not 180Yuan, we are not paying you that!”I started to feel the tension come on like the Hulk.
“No,no no you have to pay or no deposit back, you just want cheaper room, I know you I know you you just want cheaper”
I detected his stubbornness; I started to get pissed off, it was too late for me, my shirt started to rip and my muscles started to swell, my skin turned from a shade of pale yellow to light green then olive green, there was no turning back, I was now green and pumped, now was my chance to let it out.
“The reason we want to leave is because you are a liar and a thief! You tried to rip us off from the start telling us a price off 1200Yuan each for a 3 day tour only to finish at 300yuan 1hour later when we told you we couldn't afford it. Then you lied to use about people stealing bikes and said that we couldn't hire a motorbike because the police would arrest us. That is why we want to leave, you lied, you're a liar and a cheat, and we don't want to do the tours they are too expensive and they don't interest us!”
“You lied too, you said you leave town, you lie” he pointed at me. “Is there something wrong with the room, is it not good?”
“The reason why we lied is so we didn't have to go through this, the room is fine, there is nothing wrong with the room, we are sick of being hassled every time you see us, we don't want to go on a tour we want to do our own thing, that's it!”
“If you want to leave it cost you more money, I won’t ask you anymore if you stay, you want to be by yourself ooook, if you stay I get you beers and you better.”
I looked at Jacinta, she slightly tilted her head to one side and raised her shoulder somewhat. It was a pain in the arse to pack our bags but I knew it would be a pain to try and get the rest of the deposit back.
“You won’t ask us anymore!” I turned back sharply and pointed right at his face.”
“I promise… you want beer?”
“OK OK” I said with a defeated look.
“That means two beers every night, just like you said.” Jacinta said, just to confirm.
“Yes yes of course” as he walk out the door and across the street to get the beers.
Jacinta and I both shook our heads at each other and sighed at the same time. We expect this shit in India not here. He came back with a big grin on his face and two beers
“Here is your beer, you enjoy in your good room” He passed both of us the beer and nodded his head as if everything was somehow better with beer.
“You go to your room, enjoy your honey moon, beer make you like tiger” He loved saying that.
We went back to the nice room and enjoyed our beers but I never got a chance to be like a tiger.

24/6/10: It was raining; we slept in longer than usual. Our free breakfast was usually a pain in the arse, this was when our tout tried to abduct us into doing a tour or day trip, but today was different, today our tout promised he wouldn't annoy us anymore; he sent his Nephew to do it instead. It was yet another conversation of saying “no no no no, we don't want to, we are not interested” I even had to make up a story saying Jacinta was scared of boats because she could not swim. Hoping this would at least shut him up, it only led him onto something else, and everything was a good price for us because we stayed in their hotel; yeah right? It was another ten aggravating minutes before I could leave back to our room with our crappy breakfast rolls; this happened every morning; I hated getting breakfast, it was hardly worth it. The exact same thing happened at night but the beers were worth it.
It had been flooding only some 200km away. A lot of people lost their homes and more than 200 people have died. The rain gave us a chance to do nothing. We managed to walk around the town buying some fruit testing out our Mandarin at the same time. We did really well; we bought some corn, peaches, tomatoes, lychees and grapes all from different vendors. Although we almost got ripped off on the grapes, when she weighed them on the old type balancing stick scale, she hide the marks thinking we would except only 800grams of grapes, we were quick to correct her. I made a gesture tapping on my temple as if to say we are smarter than that. Again, we would expect that from India but not here. The rest of the day was spent on the internet. I had to work on my share trading and organise finances.
25/6/10: Again it rained forcing us to take shelter in our hotel. We were so close to hiring a motorbike it wasn't funny. We decided to have breakfast first but as soon as we sat down it rained and didn't stop the whole day. With only one English TV channel, it was just as well we had the internet to keep us occupied.
26/6/10: Finally a break in the weather, we ate noodles for breakfast, a freshly made noodle with egg, greens and tomatoes thrown in. It cost us only 6Yuan around $1 AUS, it was so nice we had breakfast there every day. We hired a scooter for 90CYN which included a tank of fuel. This was the most expensive price we have paid for a motorbike yet but we had no choice, it was better than paying for a bicycle at 20CYN and only covering 20% of what we needed to cover. The bike felt hideous when I first got on, I later got used to it. Our first tourist destination was Moon Hill, they usually charge tourist 9Yuan each to take photos from a view point but we opted to take a side road putting us in full view of Moon Hill and for free. After this it was time to go trail riding, we took a small side track that leads to the farmlands and villages. The trail started off with concrete but soon turned into mud from the recent rains. The dirt trail led to a small village manned by two old Chinese men in a makeshift outpost. The ancient village was the only way through and they wanted 20Yuan for an entrance fee. Too lazy to whip out the phrase book we paid the 20CYN hoping there would be some nice photos to take of the village. We parked the bike and walked around, it was only 2min of walking did we realise we just wasted 20yuan. It was hard to take any decent photos without a tangle of power lines running right through the shot. This was more common than what we imagined, even with the backdrop of the beautiful limestone mountains and tendered rice fields in the foreground it was almost impossible to find a spot without power lines of some sort running through the fields. It was quiet humid and becoming worse. We passed some kids jumping of a bridge into the flooded river below, carried on past camel hill which actual does look like a camel and rode through fields and fields of orchards, rice and vegetables before coming across a flooded causeway we somehow had to cross on a scooter. It was too far to turn around and go back, I rolled up my pants, made Jacinta walk and crossed the flooded causeway hopping it wouldn't get to deep. It wasn't as bad as first thought but when we rode 5min up the dirt path we came across another causeway that was impassable. It forced us to turn around and cross the same causeway we just crossed. We took a detour through the village and hoped we could get on the highway from there. The highway appeared but there was no way we could get on, the railing had no entry point and we were force to carry on up the dirt road. It proved futile trying to ask the locals which way the Dragon Bridge and Shangri-la was, none of them spoke English and had no clue where they were. They all sent us on a wild goose chase that ultimately onto lead us back to the same spot. Our only solution was to keep travelling up the dirt road that followed parallel to the main highway hoping we would find a way on. 5km later and we found the Dragon Bridge, it was the curse of the tourist map that map us realise that we were in the wrong spot the whole time and that's the reason we were lost. The map didn't even show the main highway instead showed a smaller highway travelling in the same direction some 3km away. No wonder why always thought we were on the wrong side of the highway? When we finally found the on ramp the highway it didn't allow motorbikes anyway. The Dragon Bridge was a disappointment; it wasn’t very photogenic and looked terribly uninteresting as with most of the things we had visited so far. With a good idea of where we were we headed to Shangri-la. We rode another 10km trying to find what I thought was a picturesque little village, it turned out to be a man made tourist trap with a 100Yuan entry fee. We were so disappointed with all the tourist attractions in Yangshuo, they were all so phony and it was a real turn off for us. We were used to seeing attractions that still had character. Even the caves that we decided against seeing were besieged with multi coloured lights to make the stalagmites look more attractive. Once again we I saw a side road behind Shangri-la, we were able to get some idea of what sort of boat trip Shangri-la had to offer. We followed the road along the river and through a village; we then turn onto a dirt track that ended on the banks of the river. Even though we were surrounded by huge beautiful limestone mountain the boat trip itself was an absolute waste of money and we were glad we chose not to enter. The fuel tank was empty and we were only 9km from Yangshuo, it was getting late and we had to drop the bike back by 6:00. We met up with the owner of the bike; she was shocked when she saw how little fuel was left in the bike. She would have been more shocked if she saw me crossing the causeway. It was time for dinner at our favorite family owned restaurant, we had noodles and dumplings.
27/6/10: We woke up to the sound of pouring rain once again. I thought about those poor people that had lost their homes and family members due to the flooding; it was all over the news. Feeling a little guilty that we actually had not seen much of Yangshuo we decided to take a floating bamboo raft down the Li River; it later turned out to be PVC plumbing pipe but as long as it floated it was fine. The river was swollen and running fast, the rain didn't stop the whole time we were on the boat. The mountains we misted out from the rain so taking great photos was impossible. All in all, the entire boat trip lasted two hours and cost us 100Yuan, it was good to see the river and the scenic limestone mountains. The river had a high tide mark 2meters into the tree line from the floods a few weeks earlier; there was some much rubbish in the trees that it have would have put the best decorated Christmas tree to shame. We came back to the comforts of our hotel before coming back down for our last complementary beer. The only guy that spoke English was the annoying tout that we always tried desperately to avoid. He couldn't be reached by phone so we unsuccessfully tried to explain our free beers to the uninterested staff at reception. There was simply nothing in the phrase book that says “can we have our free beers please?” 15min of trying to make up the words our tout turned up and knew exactly what we wanted; the exchange was short and sweet.

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