Day 17 (Or is it? My body can’t tell!)

Jet lag is a bitch! I’ve never really experienced it before. Up until now I’ve flown to Hawaii on one side which is 3 hours earlier, and Dominican Republic on the other side about 5 hours behind, and that’s been the most. Throw in Toronto and Calgary a few times and that about rounds it off. I can’t recall anything like this – my body has no idea when it’s bedtime or when to eat. I seem fine one morning, then by noon it’s a struggle to make it through the afternoon, then I’m wide awake until 3:00am. ¬†If I nap in the afternoon it’s a full on sleep, no cat nap, and I wake up two hours later groggy as all Hell.
[Side note: Know where the term “groggy” comes from? It’s a term going back to the days of sailing ships and the rum “grog” sailors drank. When a guy had too many the night before he was called “groggy” in the morning. ūüôā]

I had a big workload to catch up on as I’m sure everyone else did as well, and one day after working well into the evening to deliver statements to a client the next day I came home for lunch about 2:00, had two bites of a raw carrot, and made the mistake of laying down. I woke up two hours later – completely confused! I couldn’t figure out where I was or how I got separated from the group, and was concerned about Kendra not being there, I was almost in a panic. Slowly I started to realize I was home but still wasn’t sure how I got there and still wondered where Kendra was?

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Then I realized that, okay, I’m home and Kendra’s back in Alberta, but what day is it and what’s the time? I’m dressed in work clothes so it’s unlikely it’s the weekend. Did I get really drunk last night and come home and pass out in my clothes? Sh*t; where’s Frankie? – did I leave him outside overnight?!?!? It honestly took me a few minutes to recall it was a workday and I still need to get back to the office (where Frankie was with my employees). Truly a bizarre feeling.

The jet lag kicked around for over a week too. On the following weekend I went back to Kelowna to get Frankie from mom’s and on the Saturday night I went up to my friends the Ross’s. A few beers in the garage I woke up on the chair I was sitting at with a blanket around me – I fell asleep mid-conversation apparently and Teressa put a blanket on me. It wasn’t until the next Monday 8 days later that I felt normal again.

Frankie survived the bad coffee scene for those who’ve read from the start, and had a good stay in K-town. ¬†A week in and he owned the place as far as the (much bigger) cat was concerned who would run away when Frankie came by. He even got dressed up as Robin for Halloween!image

I like to think he missed me ūüėČ. He’s back now and everyone in the building is happy to see the little fella. He’s still oddly selective over who he gives the time of day to, and he still gives me the stink eye from his doghouse in the office when it gets passed 7:30 and he figures it’s time to go home.

Some thoughts on the China trip:

First the glitter

China and its people. The parts of China we saw were fascinating. Kendra and I were laughing about how when arriving the Beijing airport and driving to our hotel in the city we all said “other than China flags and licence plates, and the odd car passing us on the shoulder, so far China doesn’t seem much different from home”. In many ways it doesn’t, but in so many other ways it is entirely different. I had expected the people we met to be very somber, the men to dressed in dull grey baggy clothing, and the women to be dressed the same or in grey or black dresses that went to the floor, and all watching every move we make with a suspicious eye. Too many 80’s movies! Most of the people we met were very friendly, curious, and anxious to chat with us and have picture with us or just of us. I think there was a law passed in China that at least one member of ever family must have a selfie stick. We were asked multiple times a day in the major cities for our photos, and young blonde Katie was a bonafide superstar. China is a fascinating country from what we saw, and as much ground as we saw we missed a whole lot more.
One thing that I expected was huge crowds everywhere and zero personal space. There were definitely some huge crowds in the metro and places like Tienanmen square. Dark Mark offered up an acronym for these crowds that a few of us adopted: a “FLOC” – a F#ck Load of Chinks! (Feel bad here for finding that funny). On the whole however, despite being in huge cites like 20 million in Beijing and 10 million in Xi’an, for the most part I can’t say I found the crowds any worse than Vancouver gets.

History and historical achievements. It is an incredible experience to walk on stones that have been in place for thousands of years, and hiking the Great Wall and hiking up to places like the Shaolin Temple is awe-inspiring as to how these immense structures were built… then think about the fact that there was no electricity, internal combustion engines, or telephones for when a problem occurred. The terrain is treacherous! Those two parts alone are worth the trip, never mind the Terracotta warriors or Longmen Grottoes or any of the many other fascinating things we did and saw.

Traffic. The traffic in mainland China is perhaps the most fascinating of all of it to me. It is utter chaos at first glance but it is as highly organized as chaos can get. All the drivers seem to be on the same page and everyone seems to know their place and what to do. The right of way appears to be given to whoever needs it the most without someone needing to be first or deciding “screw that guy, this is my lane”. Splitting lanes is quite acceptable as is driving in on-coming lanes; vehicles coming at you simply move over without yelling or F-you honking. Oh but the horns do honk – early and often – but just as a tell that someone is coming. Pedestrians and cyclists seem to know the drill too and the rule is pick your line and don’t stop. Cars, tuk-tuks, and scooters have it timed out to the second when the walker will pass and they are a foot behind that; if you stop to give the right of way you’ll likely get run over. Not to say no one gets in accidents, we watched the news of clip after clip of people GETTING clipped, but the traffic system works far better than you would ever imagine, especially seeing it for the first time.

Travel companions. The group we traveled with was can be summed up in one word: wonderful. It was a pleasure to meet every one of you and I humbly thank you for putting up with Jen … err, I mean with me! Other than Kendra I hadn’t met any of the group, and none of team Canada knew who we would be paired up and had no idea it would be people as fabulous as the members of team GB! I look forward to seeing you all again in my travels, and to (in no particular order because it’s not a race other than team Canada is purposely taking the silver here) Robert, Sue, (Dark) Mark, (Bald) Mark, Katie, Hannah, Rachel, Rufus, Lynn, Bob, Jennifer, Trudy, Tom, and last but not least Debbie, Kendra and I wholeheartedly thank you all for everything, wish you all the best, and can’t say enough positive things about each of you.

Now a little less shine

Dirty. Most of what we saw was dirty, including cars, sidewalks, hotel rooms, and especially washrooms or toilets. No surprise but especially in the big cities like Beijing. I don’t know if it is a water issue or if as westerners we really need to adjust our standards but there was a layer of dirt atop everything and every window really really needed someone with a bowl of warm water and a Shamwow (I have a thing with windows). The bicycles really struck me as odd too; every bike I saw was covered in crud and the drivetrain was a dark dirt-greasy mess. I was also taken aback with the cavalier attitude the Chinese took with trash. The Great Wall had heaps of trash along the bottom from people tossing empty bottles and wrappers over, and along the Shoalin Temple path which was dangerous enough to walk along, they would drop empty bottles and wrappers as they finished them, steep steps and all with no concern that it could cause someone to step on and twist an ankle or possibly cause them to plummet to their death hundreds of feet below. I even watched a park ranger cleaning the trash off the trails by putting the rubbish into a plastic bag then toss it far over the cliff. Not to say that littering isn’t a problem at home, or that it was a constant disgust in China, for some reason I was just expecting things to be cleaner.

Smog. This ties in with dirty since it’s essentially dirty air, and probably a big part of why everything is covered in dirt as it falls out of the sky all the time. Beijing was by far the worst; on our last day in Beijing it was so smoggy you could barely see the building across the street. And forget seeing the mountains, visibility couldn’t have been more than 3 kilometres from our 14th story hotel window on the best day we had. It made throats sore and eyes burn a few times, and with my contacts in it was immediate relief to take the out at the end of the day. It does make for pretty sunsets, but I really hope China and the rest of the world can figure something out that will drastically reduce or even eliminate the pollution.

Bathrooms. If you think you’ve seen messy smelly bathrooms in Vancouver or London, and I’m sure you have, they don’t hold a candle to toilets in China. Not that I suggest you hold a lit candle in a Chinese bathroom – that would be explosively foolish! The public toilets make me glad I’m an outie and can discretely use a shrub or back alley, it saved my nostrils and psyche from potentially irreparable damage. Again, what’s the reasoning behind (see what I did there) a squat toilet? An outhouse I’d understand but this squat business still uses the same amount of water but with the risk of slipping and landing on a surface you clearly don’t want to land on and/or going #1 all over your pants without proper positioning. For all the achievements China has made over the centuries they clearly are at the bottom of the bowl when it comes to toilets! Speaking of toilets and bathrooms, who’s the brainiac behind “the showilet”? For those that don’t know, in most of the washrooms we had the shower simply was a shower head off the wall with no tub or enclosure, it drained thorough a drain on the floor, and usually the room was small so that the toilet was just out of the main shower, but with not too much effort you easily could use both at the same time. On the face of it it seems ingenious! However, if you aren’t the one showering, or simply need to go in the bathroom after a shower and get to stand in standing water or just on a still wet floor, the flaw in the ingenuity becomes immediately evident.

Spitting. Gross, unabashed, and plentiful. The Chinese hoark is everywhere in mainland China. Without a second thought Chinese men young and old hawk up a juicy luggy and offer it to the floor for your immediate inspection no matter where they are. For the most part it’s kept outside, but sidewalks, train platforms, covered waiting areas, they’re all fair game. Hong Kong doesn’t allow it but mainland China has no reservations about it at all. I don’t understand it, although to each his own, just do your best to avoid me with the spray please. And in trade, keep it in China, spit in Canada all you need, but keep it discrete and off the walkways please.

And something Humorous:¬†“Chinglish”

You know how you do your best to speak Spanish after one too many margaritas at the swim-up pool bar in Mazatlan, kinda-sorta get by with the bartender, and a few tequilas and many cervezas later you find yourself sitting at the bar chatting it up with some actual Mexicans from Durango all night long until Kendra drags you back to the room at midnight? That’s “Spanglish”, and not to brag but I was pretty fluent in it that night. China has its own version of this called “Chinglish”. There weren’t any poolside bars were we were but the Chinglish is alive and thriving, and unlike us trying to talk to them, in China it is them trying to communicate with us. Let’s be honest before we poke fun – many more of them know a second language than we do, and as funny as it comes out the point trying to be conveyed can usually be figured out. That said, we had a lot of fun reading signs! Most times deciphering the meaning was immediate, such as “Cherish fruit of labour” meaning “Stay the f#ck off our rice fields please”. Some take a bit of reading between the lines to figure out what is being asked or said – see the photo of the sign (compliments of Bald Mark and Katie) of how you are much appreciated for certain acts of behaviour in the washroom and pool at the gym. However, other Chinglish still has us wondering: One cop car had “… to enslave” on the back doors that we think was a bad translation of “to serve and protect; and one lady had a full length robe with “guilty parties f*ck my life” emblazoned across the back; any guesses on that one?!?. So many signs, so little time to sit and ponder the true meaning …. Rufus promises a calendar to be released for 2016!

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Good “Chinglish” Sign.

Would I go back? I’ve asked myself this a few times now. Short answer is “yes, if there’s a reason too”. With so many other places on the globe to see why go see the same thing again, and as the saying goes the fist time is always the best. I’d hate to go see the Great Wall again and have the feeling that I’ve already seen this and the magic being lost. The trip we took was go go go, and I loved all of it, but it wasn’t a relaxation trip, no beach or pool with a swim up bar. It might be nice to go back one day and see some things we didn’t see the first time, or get to explore a city like Beijing on my own without a schedule to stick to. And then I think about Central and South America, and Europe, and Chicago and Newfoundland for that matter. If you’re buying, I’m in for another China trip. If not, I’m keeping all the great memories of the wonderful trip it was and I’m movin’ on!

Day 16 Hong Kong to Home

Morning came earlier then expected today, probably because it was our last day of what has been a fabulous trip. We have until 2:00 to explore and there is one last thing on the list which is the huge Tian Tan Buddha. We had made plans with Hannah, Rachel, & Lynn to visit the Buddha and the adjoining monastery for first opening to avoid the crowds (the Buddha is a popular attraction and the brochure said to expect long line ups – and this was a Sunday), so we had made a plan! ¬†I however messed up the plans!! ¬†I could have sworn we agreed that because their new hotel was well on the way to the Buddha, we would meet at the parking lot of the Buddha at 9:00am to be ready for the 9:30 ¬†opening and in a rare lapse of judgement Kendra abandoned her belief that we were to meet the Brit girls at the subway station by our hotel at 8:00am, and (quietly mind you) went along with my idea. ¬†Turns out she was right….. as usual – she knows better than to listen to me!…. the Brits had waited at the metro station, and then went to our hotel to check on only to find we had long ago left. ¬†Luckily however they had made it out in good time and we all rode up the gondola on one of the first cars up.

The Tian Tan (Chinese for Heavenly Temple) Buddha is fairly new, especially considering that we had visited so many century and even millennia old sites over the last 16 days.  Construction on this  112 foot tall 250 metric ton statue completed in 1993, and is unique as the only large Buddha (of significance anyway) to face North instead of South, as it is meant to honour and face the Tian Tan (Temple of Heaven) in Beijing.

The ride up to the Buddha was perhaps my favourite part – the Ngnong Ping 360 gondola ride from the base up to the monastery is a 5.7 km ride that snakes its way above the mountain and has at least two almost 90 degree turns along the way. Our view from the cars was of the South sea, the city district below and a bird’s eye view of the airport since it was such a hazy morning, but I would imagine on a clear day the view would be spectacular. ¬†(I’m not sure if the haze was mostly ocean fog or good ol’ China smog but it was definitely hazy.) ¬†The ride up shows the mountains below the lift and follows the old pathway up; if we had had more time it looks like it would have been a nice hike; the mountains in the area appear to be the main outdoor playground for HK residents, there was a gaggle of mountain bikers at the Starbucks metro station we got off at that looked ready to attack some hills.

View of the Hong Kong airport from the cable car.
View of the Hong Kong airport from the cable car.
View of Macao from the cable car. They are building a bridge from Hong Kong.
View of Macao from the cable car. They are building a bridge from Hong Kong.
5.7km Cable Car
5.7km Cable Car

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Lynn and Hannah
Lynn and Hannah

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Once to the top the gondola we were reminded we’re still in China – shops everywhere selling you all sorts of things you don’t need – and a HK twist – another Starbucks. ¬†We took the Starbucks and of course browsed a little both to and back from the Buddha. [Side note: who know there was such a market for fancy chopsticks? ¬†There was store selling only chopsticks and fancy chopstick holders that ranged from $20 to $5,000 or more (our dollars, not HK dollars). ¬†These folks really need to embrace the fork and knife if you ask my opinion.]

The path to the Buddha from here was 268 steps up, small work after all the steps we’d taken for every other attraction we saw in China and wasn’t even worthy of a race today (read: Bald Mark wasn’t there and Hannah was in relax mode).

The Chinese love their 3D photos.
The Chinese love their 3D photos.
First view of the Tian Tan Buddha
First view of the Tian Tan Buddha
Entrance to the Po Lin Monastery
Entrance to the Po Lin Monastery

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The Buddha is impressive and well worth the visit if you’re out that way. ¬†It wasn’t nearly as high on my list of things to see as Kendra’s and I’m glad we went didn’t miss out on quite as site. ¬†Walking up the last set of steps the Buddha is ominously huge and peaceful despite the throngs of people. ¬†And if you do go do yourself a favour and be one of the first up to have some space – the line ups we saw when we returned were HUGE and it was still only 11:00 or so. ¬†Having to battle for space and listen to the drone of thousands of voices would certainly take away from the tranquility of the Buddha and the beautiful surroundings.

This time the girls make it to the top first!
This time the girls make it to the top first!

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The eyes, lips, incline of the head and right hand, which is raised to deliver a blessing to all, combine to bring a humbling depth of character and dignity to the massive Buddha.
The eyes, lips, incline of the head and right hand, which is raised to deliver a blessing to all, combine to bring a humbling depth of character and dignity to the massive Buddha.

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Back down to the metro for the ride back to hotel we bid our farewells to the last of the Brits. ¬†All of them had been fantastic travel companions and we can’t wait to catch up again (Lynn – we have our sights on Japan, and all of you are expected in Canada. ¬†Just sayin’…)

Back to the hotel metro stop and planning for trip home we realized we had somehow both lost our headphones so we went to where our map said was the best place to buy electronics. ¬†After poking in and out of several shops we once again discovered Hong Kong ain’t cheap. ¬†If anyone ever tells you Hong Kong is the place to buy stuff they either a) know something we didn’t find; b) work in Hong Kong and just want your money; or c) hate you/are just plain lying. ¬†We bought headphones but on the Air Canada in-flight service menu we found an equal quality pair WITH a splitter for less than one of the sets we bought. ¬†If you’re ever in China do all your shopping in the Mainland; cheaper and they almost insist on bartering which is kinda fun once you get the hang of it.

Back at the hotel it was me, Kendra, Jen, Tom, and Debbie for the ride home.  Bob and Trudy had left earlier this morning for the next leg of there extended holiday to Thailand.  Another G-Adventure trip; I hope they enjoy all of it as much as we enjoyed China!

Our last pull of luggage through busy streets to find some cabs seemed a bit surreal. ¬†We had all had our fill of hauling our bags everywhere during the trip but this time felt much different. ¬†The trip was ending….

The cabs in Hong Kong are all identical, all of them are mid 80’s Toyota Camry Deluxes, and something I should have taken a picture off. ¬†I’ve never been to New York and from what I’ve seen on TV NYC has way more cabs on the road at any given time but HK definitely had it’s share. ¬†Plus they’re all right-hand drive which even after two days was a novelty to see. ¬†As much as I tried our driver wouldn’t let me drive it.

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Jennifer and Kendra at the Hong Kong airport.
Jennifer and Kendra at the Hong Kong airport.

Hong Kong airport is possibly the biggest airport I’ve ever been in. ¬†The gate numbers ran into the hundreds and the subway system to get between terminals had two levels to it. ¬†We arrived to the airport in plenty of time, so early in fact that the Air Canada check-in for our flight wasn’t even open yet. ¬†We did the only thing we could do: had drinks. ¬†No such thing as a Caesar in Hong Kong, which everyone knows is a Sunday drink, but I managed to get this peppery Bloody Mary that compared quite nicely, Jen and Kendra finally had a decent glass of wine, Tom had nice German beer, and Debbie had her Club soda. ¬†Once we checked in and got through security we looked for another bar but this is where the HK airport differs from back home; no Chilli’s or TGIF, or kiosk bars of some type at all. Odd. We packed into a restaurant though and killed another hour and made plans to drink the jet dry on the way home.

Leaving HK Sunday at 7:40pm, the plane ride home, for me at least, felt claustrophobic compared to the ride over. ¬†I’m pretty sure Kendra and Jen felt the same as we all sat next to each other. ¬†Tom and Debbie were somewhere behind us. ¬†Our plans to drink the plane dry ended at two glasses of wine, and then the struggle to sleep/stay awake to watch a movie/sleep/try to write the blog/sleep began. ¬†I quickly gave up on trying to write and spent the next 11 hours trying to watch the 90 minute long Amy Winehouse documentary that I never did see all of it from dozing in and out. ¬†And my thoughts that unlike the sub-par noodle dishes they had served on the flight over would be replaced with standard western dishes were dashed with every offering that came by – we barely bothered with any of it.

Finally back to Vancouver 11+ hours later it was only 4:30pm Sunday – we had flown back in time and gained 3 hours on our day!! Kendra and Jen had another flight to Calgary to catch in less than an hour so things were tight for them; the plane was actually held back for them a few minutes as they cleared Canadian Customs. ¬†We all said “See ya later” to each other at baggage claim and I hit the skytrain back to North Van. ¬†As promised, my first stop back on the Shore was¬†Sharky’s Chophouse at the Quay for a Roast Beef dinner :-). ¬†Simply Delightful!

It took hours to unpack and wash the China out of the luggage but by about 8:30 it was time to get reacquainted with my couch and watch some TV where I could understand what was being said, and drift off to sleep. ¬†Problem was, my body thought it was 10:30 in morning… foreshadowing for the week to come.

Stay tuned for the wrap up.

Day 15 – Kowloon and Hong Kong

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Our last full day in the orient was spent traversing Hong Kong. HK is a fascinating city, well worth the journey. Ruled by the British for over a hundred years until it was handed back over to China in 1997 (you never did collect the drink I lost over that one Hannah, I’ll square up when we make it over to London Town ūüėä) the British influence stands out in a number of ways including they drive on the opposite side of the road – some would say “the wrong side”, especially when you step into traffic thinking the coast is clear because you looked left instead of the normal “right” way.

The day started with Hannah and me going for one last run. Taking the hotel doorman’s advice we went behind the hotel up a hill to a greens pace, but that being a bit too small we ventured onto the roads and got fairly lost. Luckily English is widely spoken and a few people pointed us in the right direction. It’s amazing how sweaty you can get at 7:00am in October when it’s 30 degrees and humid as all Hell.

Back in time for breakfast we discovered the same problem as the night before – it’s hard to find a place to eat in Kowloon when you don’t know where to look. On our lost trek home last night Kendra and I passed a little cafe so I scoped it out and that became the breakfast spot: a coffee shop with a few pastries. From there the group split up as the Brit girls where off to their fancy-smancy new hotel digs for the next two nights. The rest of team GB shipped out at midnight tonight and had skipped breakfast to pack in as much of HK as they could in 8 hours.

[An “owed” to Shannon, Shirely and Jo (:-D -see what I did there?)] Kendra tells me you’re collectively gonna kick my ass if I don’t get the blog done. Here’s an abbreviated run down of the day: I promise I’ll come back and edit for more detail this weekend, but my back to work workload has caught me for the moment)

First after breakfast was a trip to the jade market. ¬†They don’t barter as much here as mainland but we still managed to barter down for our goods we don’t really need but bought anyway. I finally got mom the jade piece she asked for and Kendra manages to pick up a few things she was tasked to find. Back to the hotel to regroup with others and to drop off my laundry across the street at the laundry mart that was open well passed midnight the night before.

Jade Market
Jade Market

we all wanted to ride the Starr Ferry across Victoria Harbour, and we all wanted to ride the tram up Victoria peak, so we headed out to do that. When we got off the ferry we ran into a “Big Bus” booth and all got on a hop-on hop-off bus for a tour that included the tram and a bunch more plus a open double decker bus with voice recorded stories of HK as it went along. A great way to see any town, I highly recommend it for your travels.

Starr Ferry
Starr Ferry

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On the Starr Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong
On the Starr Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong

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Bob and Tom enjoying the bus tour.
Bob and Tom enjoying the bus tour.

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Jennifer enjoying the sun.
Jennifer enjoying the sun.

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Fancy architecture.
Fancy architecture.

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Hong Kong harbour - look at all of the loading cranes.
Hong Kong harbour – look at all of the loading cranes.

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In this area you can go to a
In this area you can go to a “Curse” lady and pay to have curses placed on people.
The streets of Hong Kong are busy.
The streets of Hong Kong are busy.
So happy to be together.
So happy to be together.

Victoria peak has stunning views as it’s perched high atop the city ¬†in the priciest neighbourhood HK offers. Along the street to catch the tram up to the Peak are your typical car lots: Lamborghini, Maserati, Rolls Royce, all the standard fare…. A glimpse into the ¬†From up top the peak you can see all the tall buildings which are architecturally magnificent. HK boosts the 4th and 8th tallest buildings in the world.

Up top of Victoria Peak
Up top of Victoria Peak

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Lloyd overlooking Hong Kong at Victoria Peak
Lloyd overlooking Hong Kong at Victoria Peak
Hong Kong skyline from the top of Victoria Peak.
Hong Kong skyline from the top of Victoria Peak.
Finger atop the 4th tallest building in the world
Finger atop the 4th tallest building in the world

Next was a tour of the backside of HK, another ritzy area and quite beautiful, a far cry from the hustle-bustle of the rest of HK. This part took much longer than we anticipated as none of us new how big HK really was.  Truth be told I was having a great nap up there only awoken every so often when a branch from the trees lining the streets slapped me in the face when we passed too close. We were worried that we would miss a Samsam boat ride through Recluse Bay harbour, another item from the Big Bus as it said last sailing 5:30.  We rolled in just at 5:30 just managed to pull it off. We had to forego Stanley Market, a famous market in HK but we had spend a pisspot already on this trip and missing one more chance to buy more stuff made in China suited us just fine.

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Repulse Bay – Aberdeen
Sampan ride in Repluse Bay. Jennifer, Bob, Trudy.
Sampan ride in Repluse Bay. Jennifer, Bob, Trudy.
Sapan (Chinese Junket)
Sapan (Chinese Junket)
Ceiling of the Sampan
Ceiling of the Sampan
Row upon row of multimillion dollar yachts
Row upon row of multimillion dollar yachts
Floating restaurant
Floating restaurant
Floating restaurant in the harbour
Floating restaurant in the harbour
And the other side of the harbour has many junkets with people living on them.
And the other side of the harbour has many junkets with people living on them.

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Later that night we checked out the light show. HK has the Guinness book of records for longest running light show. ¬†all the tall buildings put on a 15 minute light show that’s sensational. ¬†Before the light show we finally found somewhere to eat! We hadn’t been able to find anything but higher end restaurants up at the peak which we skipped figuring we’d get some noodles or something elsewhere but we never found any anywhere and we were starving! ¬†There was a (still slightly expense) buffet by the harbour, and now dwindled down to just Kendra, Jen and me we dove in. A few points in the meal made us remember we where still in China; like lifting the staffing plate lid on the poached chicken and seeing the chicken head beak and all staring back at me and watching the way the locals picked at the steamed fish with the head tail and all the bones still there – and watching folks purposely take the head ūüėź… none for me just yet thanks.

Harbour overlooking Hong Kong from Kowloon
Harbour overlooking Hong Kong from Kowloon

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Symphony of lights
Symphony of lights

The light show was fabulous and well worth watching (and it’s free). It is a symphony of lights done to a symphony soundtrack much like Vancouver’s summer fireworks competition. ¬†After the show we figured out the subway system and made it back to the hotel. It was still relatively early so we decided to go for a drink, but 20 minutes later the idea of first finding a bar and then actually going there seemed like far too tall an order so we did the only sensible thing – a trip to the corner store for a bottle of wine for me & Kendra and a beer for Jen, some Pringles, and some small chocolate bars and we invaded Trudy & Jen’s room for a nightcap

Day 14 Guilin to Kowloon Hong Kong

Train station in Guilin
Train station in Guilin

Today was an early start for what promised to be a long day. 6:00am alarm for a 6:30 hike out of Ping’an village for the hike down to the top parking lot to the bus for the trip to Hong Kong.

This little village had been a treat, I really enjoyed the tranquil setting and the ramshackle buildings and the pathways throughout that connect the village. I wish I’d had another half-day to wander around.

Our driver down the hill was another inspiring Indy driver although the downhill trip seemed to bit less frantic paced than the uphill race, not to mention that none of us had been caffeinated yet and despite the 30 minute walk folks were a still a bit tired. This no morning coffee thing with China still strikes me as odd – I don’t just like my morning coffee, I NEED my morning coffee.

Down at the bottom we picked up the luggage we had left the day before. (With the hike up the the village being such a long uphill trek we got to leave whatever we didn’t want to pack for two days at a shop down below for 10 Yuan a bag (roughly $2.00 Cdn). The little shop was on the ground floor of a three story hotel/housing unit, and faced outward towards the square that we were all standing on as the luggage was being hauled out. It was at this point that Jennifer’s lack of sleep + cold + certain disdain for the “Chinese hoark” became evident: piercing the morning silence was Jennifer’s yell “Oh no!! If you do that I’ll come up there and kick you ass!!”. Turning to look we could see a humourless Jen pointing upwards to a window above. I’d thought at first it one of the group messing around with something until I saw the middle-aged Chinese man with a look of “WTF????” on his face who then quickly understood the immediate threat to his well-being and decided otherwise on using the window to hurl his spit out of. Gotta say – well palyed Jen! The accepted spitting of Chinese men almost anywhere is rather perplexing to us Westerners….

We switched buses for the bus to take us on the 3 hour ride to the bullet train station. This trip started out bad… and then the bus turned out to be a bit rough around the edges: dirty, squeaky, broken seats; and then it started stalling out. The driver was down to first gear And going real slow up the first few hills and the thing started popping and hissing a bit which started to get a few comments …. and then it stalled. On a hill. From what we’d seen driving around on this trip stalling on a hill wasn’t a good place to be. Looked like the driver had this problem a few times before; he popped the engine bay and did something down there and in less than a minute we were rolling along fine. The rest of the drive went fine. We stopped once for a break in what looked like a recently built city, perhaps one of the first ghost cities that wasn’t built to the size we saw in Xi’an and was actually completed. The gas station we pulled into hadn’t even had the entire lot paved and the store was only half full with lots of goods still in boxes.

We rolled into the bullet train station about an hour and half before the train rolled so it was here we finally got something to eat. We even found a coffee shop that had decent coffee. Most of the little shops were Chinese fair so no one had any big meals knowing that Hong Kong was just around the bend. This was also the last stop we could use our Chinese Yuans as Hong Kong has its own currency the Hong Kong dollar so everyone was buying snacks. Bald Mark was on a penchant to buy as many weird Chinese candies and snacks as he could to force feed his work mates.

[And lemme tell ya, China has some weirdass snack food: boiled chicken feet anyone? Dried fish? Splayed and dehydrated lizards, bats and rodents on a stick, battered spiders on a stick, plastic wrapped mystery sausage, mushrooms sitting in pots of water ready to grab…. on the candy side of things they have a number of stuff we have like snickers bars, and a lot of similar looking stuff but branded in Chinese, and perhaps the biggest snack available was noodles to go like cup-o-noodles. Every rest station or train station we saw even in parks had a hot water spigot and they sell ichiban and cup-o-noodles in individual and family size everywhere. Another big snack item although I don’t if it’s for Chinese or just for tourists is icecream snacks. Hagen Das was the only brand I recognized but there were many Chinese brands of varying flavours from good ol’ chocolate to red bean. Ice cream comparisons and debates among choices became obligatory in the group.]

The train station was in the Shezen province and the terrain began to drastically change from the mountainous regions to a flat wide low valley that the train tracks rolled through. Hilly terrain a little similar to Calgary foothills meets Arizona.

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Top speed on the bullet train.
Top speed on the bullet train.

The bullet train was something cool, reaching top speeds of 307km/h. As we whizzed by the villages and farm land you could sense that the closer we got to Hong Kong to more the settlements along the way must have more western influence and civil structure. For instance the lay out of the settlements began to look structured with city blocks and cars and pedestrians seemed to move a bit more orderly. A few of the outlying settlements really reminded me of old western towns except that instead of being built out of wood all the buildings were built out of clay brick.

Hong Kong itself is an island and the boarder with mainland China is a river. From the mainland China boarder to Hong Kong on the other side was a real long bridge and an almost as long process on both sides of visa declaration, passports, customs, and security checks by very stern faced Chinese with little interest in trying to speak English (even though Hong Kong largely speak English). No hassles mind you, just rigmarole and everything went smooth.

Swat gear in the train station - entrance to Hong Kong.
Swat gear in the train station – entrance to Hong Kong.

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Once in Hong Kong we traded in our remaining 120 Yuan for staggering 133 HK dollars and we were set! From the boarder it was another hour and half on the subway metro line. Hong Kong has a very large and what appears to be very efficient metro line that spans all of Hong Kong other than the ultra rich back side of the island.
Finally off the metro we stepped out in the thick of the Kowloon district – complete culture shock from the last 4 days! People here live very much vertically with high rise buildings everywhere and laundry hanging off the balconies. Busy streets and sidewalks with everyone on the move. It was my first time experiencing vehicles being driven on the other side of the road, strange having to look the opposite way (luckily didn’t step out on the road). Unlike the rest of China there wasn’t a constant parade of scooters and tuktuks that could care less which way they were headed or if there was a crosswalk or traffic light.

Finally at the hotel and checked in and it was time to bid Little Hitler “farewell!” Her last hurrah was she showed us a one page info sheet of a few attractions and said she had no copies so we should take pictures with our phone if we wanted to. Lastly she mentioned Hong Kong’s famed light show was nothing to bother with. The tour itinerary said the was a walking tour of the town the next morning but Ella made it clear that we were done with each other and this was the last we’ll see her. Good enough; I’d had enough of her since Beijing. The debate over tipping her became a real debate. A few in the group started a collection and suggested they put in $50 each. Most everyone had scattered quickly and I wish we had as well as I had zero intention of giving her a nickel but I begrudgingly ponied up about $50 combined for the two of us. [G Adventures by all accounts has fabulous guides and tours, and how Ella slipped through their screening I don’t know. For those reading this don’t let our experience with her away you; the trip was fabulous, and in a weird way her incompetence helped bond our group which was a great group to travel with!)

The hotel room was nice enough, extravagant compared to all our other digs so far, what with a real shower and mattress and all, what we would call a typical hotel room back home.

Local corner shop
Local corner shop
Salted lizard anyone?
Salted lizard anyone?
Local corner veggie shop
Local corner veggie shop

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Jennifer and Lloyd checking out the treats at a local corner store.
Jennifer and Lloyd checking out the treats at a local corner store.
$9.50 HKD...you've got to be kidding me!!! (that's about $1.60 CND)
$9.50 HKD…you’ve got to be kidding me!!! (that’s about $1.60 CND)
Bamboo scaffolding.
Bamboo scaffolding.
Market stalls
Market stalls
Streets of Hong Kong
Streets of Hong Kong
Market in Hong Kong
Market in Hong Kong

We met up after everyone had time to clean up to go find dinner. This turned out to be a bit of a difficulty with the size of the group and trying to find a place we could agree on, and even harder yet trying to find a place. We soon discovered in Hong Kong, at least near our hotel, all the restaurants are up, hardly any are on the ground floor. You need to keep your eyes peeled for signage indicating a restaurant and what floor its on. The Brit girls ditched us for shiny lights and champagne while the remainder of us found The Spaghetti House. Decent food – Hing Kong prices aren’t cheap like mainland China, the meal cost a bit more than the average Vancouver restaurant. After that we split up into groups once again. Kendra and I went to find the famed Temple Street Market and the Jade Market. We wandered for several blocks through the market with the opinion it was just a huge open air dollar store full of mostly junk and mainland China’s street markets had far better quality and prices. (The next morning Trudy and Jen reported we didn’t go deep enough and a few more blocks yielded the good stuff). We found the Jade Market but it closed at 9:00 and had to wait until morning. Off to bed for a good nights sleep; I had a 7:00am run with Hannah and after that we all had plans for the attack of Hong Kong!

Day 13 – Longi Rice Terrace Trek (The Dragon’s Backbone)

6:00am rolled around fast this morning and it felt a bit like someone was tapping my temples with a ball peen hammer … last night’s invoice I guess; everything has a price. I had a client call I needed to make, first phone call from China. I spent half an hour trying to dial out and even had to wake up poor Kendra to help me. I finally got through when they called me back about an hour later.

Village of Ping'an
Village of Ping’an
Local ladies selling veggies outside our hotel.
Local ladies selling veggies outside our hotel.
Ping'an Village street
Ping’an Village street
Cooking bamboo rice
Cooking bamboo rice

Cooking bamboo rice

The headache didn’t last past 9:10 as the hike through the terraced rice fields started at 9:00 and it was more uphill on stone steps. The Ping’An village is in a recessed valley of a mountainous region and on all the slopes are terraces of rice fields. Each terrace is staggered out; some as narrow as three or four feet depending on how steep the slope is. The first leg of the hike was to a viewing platform called Nine Dragons that offered a spectacular view of the terraced landscape of the area called the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces.

(Dark) Mark
(Dark) Mark

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Longi rice terraces.
Longi rice terraces.
Dragon's backbone during harvest seaon.
Dragon’s backbone during harvest seaon.
Terraces of Longi
Terraces of Longi
Village of Ping'an in the Longman Rice Terraces
Village of Ping’an in the Longman Rice Terraces

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From here the group split into two; half went the shorter hike of about 3 hours led by Ella and the other half choosing the extended hike across to the next village led by a local guide named Lisa who was wonderful. Ella offered that the extended tour was of a similar looking but smaller area and seemed to elude that it wasn’t worth the effort. When she said she was leading the short hike it was a turning point on a few to take the longer hike. The extended hike was worth every aching 28,000 steps (over 26 kms per Rachel’s Fitbit). It was all up and down meandering through rice fields and stone trails and through the smaller villages of D√†zhai and Ti√†nt√≤uzh√†i both of which are perched atop a different mountain peak. Adding to the panoramic views was the fact it was harvest time. We got to watch the locals cutting and gathering the rice stocks to beat the sheaths off the stocks and burn the stocks afterwards. All the farmers along the way seemed very friendly and delighted to see us trodding along the paths. It is an amazing place to see, and it gave a real appreciation of the backbreaking work the farmers put in to growing and harvesting the rice. ¬†Some of the women here don’t farm and instead act as Sherpas for a living. They carry big baskets on their backs and haul tourists luggage or goods for the villagers for cash. They also traditionally don’t cut there hair and have locks longer than they are tall of thick shiny hair. Dark Mark along with Kendra and Thenladies were jealous of it – especially since there wasn’t a grey hair to be seen in even the older ladies. ¬†Tom was so taken with the then he proposed to three of them at once!

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Dragon's backbone
Dragon’s backbone

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Longi rice terraces.
Longi rice terraces.
Freshly cut rice - now it needs to dry.
Freshly cut rice – now it needs to dry.
Harvested rice terraces.
Harvested rice terraces.
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Tom and his wives to be!

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Along the way we were all curious about the rice stocks and how the rice is pulled out. I hadn’t realized until I saw one that rice grains are inside a sheath.

The hike ended up at the valley bottom and that meant another bus ride to the top by an inspiring formula one driver trapped driving a Chinese tour bus. These drivers are insane.

At the beginning of the hike a decision to climb back up to view point for sunset and when we got off the bus we split the small group for the hike up. It had been a long day and not everyone was up for another 2kms straight up again. 5 of us raced up the hill to try and beat the sun before it ducked behind the mountain but at half way we realized we wouldn’t make the top and we snapped pictures from where we were. We were then in a dilemma as to the shortest way back to the village: climb all the way to the peak and take the path we knew from the morning; climb down to the parking lot and take the path we knew up; or try and stay as level as possible and figure out our way through the maze of pathways. To my pleasure we agreed to figure it out ūüėä. Poor Rachel was getting nervous with the dropping daylight but I was really enjoying the trek. How hard could it be anyway? The place wasn’t that big. It was up and down and multi-layered with no actual roads or signs – not that we could have read them anyway. We found the hotel just as Kendra and few others were finishing their well earned beers.

Ping'an
After some well earned showers we all met for dinner, and it was a birthday dinner to boot. We celebrated Tom’s 4cubed -1 birthday and in his honour we let me pick the dinner menu. Turned out Ella was right and the chicken dishes WERE too hot for us to eat. Three packaged Twinkies and candles on Bob’s iPhone to blow out were set out,and a shirt with “I’m a horny bastard” which Tom thought was “I’m a handsome devil” at first was the present. Only a few beers tonight – 6:00am wake up call for the trip to Hong Kong tomorrow.

Day 12 – Yangshuo to Longsheng

Today was 8:00am Tai Chi lessons. Tai Chi for those that may not be aware is a form of martial arts that you often see large groups of usually older Chinese people doing in the mornings, it’s a slow movement exercise where the arms and legs shift gracefully from pose to pose. We were taught by an instructor who has been practicing martial arts for over 40 years. It was enjoyable to learn the meaning behind Tai Chi and how it came about. It’s a peaceful form of meditation designed to harness energy (ying) and promote balance (yang). Warriors we trained in Tai Chi originally by holding a 40lb stone ball (a ball represents many things in China that are cherished and need to be protected such as money health and family) and most of the basic movements involve defending the ball. All the movements are designed to end in a position of defending oneself using balance while at the same time off-balancing your opponent if in a confrontation, however Tai Che’s objective is spiritual and meant to energize the body and soul. We were taught the basic 10 movements that are building blocks of the over 240 movements involved. I hope to continue with it, I enjoyed it. Our lessons were on the river bank as well which really added to the experience.

Tai Chi lessons with Master Yang
Tai Chi lessons with Master Yang

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Lloyd and Master Yang
Lloyd and Master Yang
(Bald) Mark and Master Yang
(Bald) Mark and Master Yang
Kendra and Master Yang
Kendra and Master Yang
Jen and Master Yang
Jen and Master Yang
Bob and Master Yang
Bob and Master Yang

Next was a Chinese calligraphy lesson. Those that know me well know I have a minimum amount of English calligraphy under my belt and it was enjoyable to learn some of the Chinese writing. We learned 1 to 10 and a few other words, and the final test was spelling our names. Of all the names in the class who would have thunk it but “Bob” was the most complex of all the names.

Calligraphy lessons - Lloyd, (Bald) Mark, Bob and Jen
Calligraphy lessons – Lloyd, (Bald) Mark, Bob and Jen
Studios Lloyd
Studios Lloyd
Studios (Bald) Mark
Studios (Bald) Mark

After classes we finally found a bank machine, and a post office to mail the postcards. Mission accomplished.

View of the Yangshuo River
View of the Yangshuo River
Imperial City hotel in Yangshuo - what a dump!!!
Imperial City hotel in Yangshuo – what a dump!!!

We shipped out today at 2:00 so the last few hours was some leisure time. Kendra went for lunch with some others and I hung out by the river to catch up on some emails and the blog. It’s been a busy trip and I haven’t had much time to write everything down so the break was welcomed. Until the Tai Chi lesson this morning i hadn’t even realized the river was accessible like it was or that there was a walkway down there and our hotel was just in front of it. Also, it was only the last hour that we discovered a brilliant rooftop deck and patio bar on the hotel we were staying at (snapped a panoramic shot from here I’ll post as soon as the Internet allows). Little Hitler failed to mention this one; our guess is “no kick back – no mention!”

Checking out of the hotel became an issue: Trudy had stained one of the towels wringing out her bathing suit after the mud bath and some of the colour bled onto the towel. The hotel had told us yesterday that their towels were not to be used for the mud baths and any towel damage would be charged back, and they wanted 100 Yuan ($20 cad) from her. Things got a bit heated and I’m not sure where it landed but I think 40 Yuan finally settled things.

Little Hitler then took us on another 30 minute death march with all our bags down the Main Street in and out of the traffic to the bus waiting in a traffic circle with cars honking and whipping by.

The traffic in this country is crazy – I mentioned that right? We spent the next 4 hours on the bus driving to Longsheng. Longsheng is in a mountainous area which means driving mountain passes with Many sharp turns. Drivers here seemingly don’t care about safety. The bus overtakes on blind buffs, passes uphill on double yellows, and driving way faster than I’d drive which is usually faster than my passengers care for. The roads have a foot wide concrete drainage ditch running along the mountainside that is flush to the road service that would be perfect to catch a wheel if you swerved into it and vehicles here swerve all the time to get out of the way of a vehicle splitting lanes to pass on. We saw two pretty big accidents along the way, no idea if anyone was hurt or not but cars were flipped over and one bus was in a clearing well off the road.

We then switched buses and took another bus up to the mountain villages of Longsheng. The road up was about the width of a typical residential neighbourhood road back home, and there were switchbacks and blind corners the whole way up and the bus driver seemed to think he was in a race car on a closed course. No idea where the fire was; these are obviously company trucks! The road wound through a few clusters of buildings that were built right to the road; amazing the buses aren’t all banged up. We made it to the top parking lot no worse for wear and from there it was on foot to the 600 year old Ping’An village about 2kms straight up and in the dark by this time. No shortage of stone steps in China. Lodging for the next two nights is the Country Guesthouse Hotel which was a very pleasant place. The rooms were all wood and reminiscent of a back home country lodge; by my call it was the best room of the trip and even the bed was comfortable.

A quick rest and clean up and it was down to dinner and drinks with the whole group. After the table was cleared off on came Karaoke. I did my best Johnny Cash and Steve Earle but the Brits owned it, especially Bald Mark who has some moves and a damn decent set of vocal chops. (My guess is this wasn’t his first rodeo). After a little more Peejou (Chinese for beer spelled phonetically) and cocktails to lubricate the vocal chords everyone was into it. Kendra led arousing rendition of Sweet Caroline which was Canada’s strongest showing.

The sister duet (Hannah and Rachel)
The sister duet (Hannah and Rachel)
Karaoke night!
Karaoke night!
Robert, Kendra, Lloyd, Jen and (Bald) Mark - let's just say it was BAD!!!
Robert, Kendra, Lloyd, Jen and (Bald) Mark – let’s just say it was BAD!!!

The madness finally stopped about 11:30, the looming 7 hour hike through the terraces tomorrow am was beckoning.

Day 11 – Yangshuo (Biking, Rafting, Exploring Caves and a Mud Bath!)

View of the Yangshuo River
Yongshuo River
Yongshuo River

Market street in Yangshuo

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Lloyd and his new truck.
Lloyd and his new truck.

 

Today was pretty epic. A full day of hiking biking rafting and exploring. And a mud bath!

Started with a nice breakfast back at the Modern Cafe. If you ever show up in Longshou and are looking for some western food this is a great spot, and the orange juice is Mandarin Orange juice which is fantastic.

Lloyd (he bought a foldable rice patty hat from a little old chinese lady...he has a soft spot for them)
Lloyd (he bought a foldable rice patty hat from a little old chinese lady…he has a soft spot for them)
The bike ride through Yangshuo begins.
The bike ride through Yangshuo begins.
Princesses (Dark) Mark and Bob.
Princesses (Dark) Mark and Bob.
Lloyd bought Kendra a flower crown and then proceeded to buy everyone else on the trip one too!
Lloyd bought Kendra a flower crown and then proceeded to buy everyone else on the trip one too!
Lloyd and (Bald) Mark - these little laddies sold out their entire day's stock to all of us. Very happy.
Lloyd and (Bald) Mark – these little laddies sold out their entire day’s stock to all of us. Very happy.

From there we hopped on bicycles. Bike riding through Chinese roads takes a bit of getting used to; for instance you kind of weave in and out of vehicle traffic while scooter riders zip by on either side of you, and at the same time there are an equal number of scooters, cyclists, pedestrians, and the odd vehicle coming at you on the wrong side of the road from you. And then there’s crossing intersections and getting through traffic circles which is another element. I’m very comfortable on a bike but I was getting nervous watching most of the others negotiate through the roads. Once we got outside the city the village roads were fun to explore and and see homes and farm buildings. Along the way we passed these two sweet little old Chinese ladies selling flower tiaras and I had to stop and buy some. We bought them out I think and I don’t remember the last time I saw someone smile that big. They skipped off still smiling like madmen; all over about $10 Cdn. Next we saw a rice field which was a first for me. I’d never given much thought to how rice grew so it was neat to see. Bald Mark and I saw another old lady hauling rice husk bundles from the fields and thought we might be able to elicit another big smile and hauled bales for her – it didn’t garner the desired results, she seemed pissed at us. But, in the end her helper was smiling and Mark said that as we left she gave him a “Che-Che” (Chinese for Thanks).

Countryside outside Yangshuo - Karsts
Countryside outside Yangshuo – Karsts
Hauling rice bundles.
Hauling rice bundles.

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(Bald) Mark and Lloyd helping the Chinese lady haul harvested rice.
(Bald) Mark and Lloyd helping the Chinese lady haul harvested rice.
Rice fields in Yangshuo area.
Rice fields in Yangshuo area.
Biking through rice fields. (Trudy, Jen, Debbie, Hannah)
Biking through rice fields. (Trudy, Jen, Debbie, Hannah)
Rice
Rice
Biking through rice fields.
Biking through rice fields.
Kendra and Trudy
Kendra and Trudy

From there we rode the bikes to a put in spot for bamboo rafts that took us down the Yulong river. This was great fun! One thing in china and it explains a lot about all the old corner stores back home is there are vendors trying to sell you something everywhere you go; very much like Mexico in that regard and it took us both for surprise. The river was no different and there was a lady on a float selling beer among other things. I bought two,;one for me and one for the oarsman and bribed him with more if he Rams any of the others that get in front of us and to take the steepest drops possible along the routeūüėČ (there were a bunch of 3 to 5 foot drops in the river that ranged from a gentle slope with almost no splash to drops of about 45 degrees that plunged the front of the raft a few feet deep and made a big splash). We created a monster! He was eager to please and continued to ram everyone we could catch and steered the boat in the opposite direction all the others took every drop and then clink beers in cheers at a job well done!

Kendra, Hannah, Lynn, Trudy, Debbie, Jennifer, (Dark) Mark in the back.
Kendra, Hannah, Lynn, Trudy, Debbie, Jennifer, (Dark) Mark in the back.
Boarding the rafts.
Boarding the rafts.
Taking a break from biking to relax and enjoy a raft ride.
Taking a break from biking to relax and enjoy a raft ride.
Lynn and Rachel
Lynn and Rachel
Li River.
Li River.

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Li River, Yangshuo, Guilin
Li River, Yangshuo, Guilin
Sue and Rob
Sue and Rob
They even sell their wares on the Li River. Pijui anyone? Don't mind if I do.
They even sell their wares on the Li River. Pijui anyone? Don’t mind if I do.
Pijiu
Pijiu
Lloyd plying our oarsman with pijout.
Lloyd plying our oarsman with pijiu.

At one point after their raft was rammed repeatedly Jen flipped us the bird and the oarsmen loves this! For the next five minutes they were all nonstop laughing and fingering each other.

As the take out for the rafts came into view it instantly became a race between Canadians and Brits with us right beside Bald Mark and Katie. With 20 Yuans offered to the winning oarsmen they powered in and Mark and I kept trying to hold and push back each other’s raft right to the shore – Canada wins by a foot!!

This truck hauled our bikes to the "out" spot on the river and then loaded all the rafts to haul back.
This truck hauled our bikes to the “out” spot on the river and then loaded all the rafts to haul back.

Our bikes had been trucked down for us, and the next stop was a hike up Moon Hill. Moon Hill is a tall peak mountain with a large naturally formed hole in it at the peak probably 70 feet in diameter. From the top it was a nice Vista of the valley below and many more of these crazy mountains that jut straight up. Like everything else it became a race. That damn Brit Mark handily took this one I’m afraid to say.

At the base of Moon Hill waiting for the others to come back down we were swarmed by little Chinese ladies trying to sell us water coke and postcards. And by little I mean shorter than Jo little! I’ve developed a reputation for being an easy mark (read “sucker”) for these little old ladies and seem to drop 10 yuan on postcards or something else I don’t need and this was no exception … postcards are coming mom.

Moon Mountain
Moon Mountain
View from the top of Moon Mountain
View from the top of Moon Mountain
View of the village from Moon Mountain
View of the village from Moon Mountain
Lloyd, Hannah and Mark - first to the top of Moon Mountain
Lloyd, Hannah and Mark – first to the top of Moon Mountain
Kendra and (Dark) Mark making the climb to Moon Mountain.
Kendra and (Dark) Mark making the climb to Moon Mountain.

A quick Chinese lunch after the climb at what almost seemed like someone’s house, and back on the bikes to the caves. Another race on bikes this time broke out down the long road to the caves – happy to report Canada handily won gold here! We took a tour through this massive cave which was quite something to see with stalagmites and stalactites everywhere, and we went deep into the mountain. In the depth of the cave we all jumped in a big mud bath which was a great messy bunch of fun, then a shower of and directly into a natural hot springs pool. No one was in any rush to get out of the hot springs, it felt great, but eventually they moved us along.

Yangshuo caves
Yangshuo caves

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Lloyd is amazed!
Lloyd is amazed!
Lord Lloyd - King of the Caves
Lord Lloyd – King of the Caves
Lloyd and Jennifer
Lloyd and Jennifer

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Muddy Mark
Muddy Mark
Yangshou mud bath
Yangshuo mud bath

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We cleaned up and changed out of the wet muddy clothes (mud bath and springs were packed for) it was back on the bikes to ride back to the village. The ride back took quite some time as we had covered a lot of distance with all the trekking and rafting, more than I’d realized. Kendra and I took off forward at a faster clip but after a few miles we would stop and even turned back a few times thinking we must have missed a turn somewhere, but we hadn’t it was just a long ride. Pretty countryside to ride through here too; really wish we had our own bikes to ride as the rentals we had were pretty beat up and my seat was way out of adjustment.

Found a nice restaurant just off the busy lanes for a nice meal of noodles and fried rice and western food options- this town certainly has more good food options than any other places we’ve discovered so far.

After dinner I tried to find a bank machine and ended up just walking around for an hour. The only bank machine that works for us is the Bank of China, and found several others but not ours. China seems to have a lot of different banks. The late night walk around the resort town was interesting all by itself – turns out China still has the old fashion kind of prostitutes that stand on the corners, both girls and guys ūüė≥ No luck with the bank machine anyway so went home alone ‚ėļÔłŹ

Off to bed – Tai Che class in the morning!