We spent the last three days of our
China trip in Yangshuo, which has great scenery and is the "sister city"
of Zac's Grandpa's city of Morehead Kentucky. It was through this
connection that we ended up having lunch with Mayor Zhou in a restaurant
right by the Li River with the karst hills in the background, a few
cattle grazing, and some cormorant fishermen cruising downstream on
their bamboo boats. We couldn't actually see any of this during the
lunch of course, because Chinese custom dictates that guests of honor
sit facing the door (so you can see if someone is coming to kill you as
opposed to those poor suckers with their backs to the door). But what
was truly enjoyable was that the Mayor took time out from his busy
schedule to have lunch with two inconsequential backpackers simply
because he had had dinner at Zac's grandpa's house two years ago. This
is the Chinese system of "guanxi" (connections) at it's best. We'll
truly miss the wonderful hospitality of the Chinese people.
Also while in Yangshuo, we managed
to get lost in the rice paddies. We'd rented bikes and were in search of
an intriguing "dragon bridge" that our map claimed existed but which we
couldn't find. The road kept getting narrower and narrower and pretty
soon we were on the footpath between rice fields and some little kids
started following us. I eventually realized they were saying "ni qu na
li?" (Where are you going?) So we stopped, showed them the map, an old
man came over and pointed at the map with his sickle, there was a lot of
talking and gesturing and the old man told us to go to the "da lu" big
road. We turned around, soon discovered that no such big road existed,
but kept going anyway. We turned around again, found another road, but
no bridge back to the other side of the river. Eventually we followed a
man through the rice fields to the river where he took us across in his
bamboo boat for a nominal fee. Really, I think sometimes getting lost
is the most enjoyable part of traveling.
We got back to our hostel in time
for an evening tour of the cormorant fishing that this area is famous
for. Basically, we went out in a boat and watched a man use cormorants
to fish. The birds dive and catch fish but they have a piece of grass
tied around their necks so they can't actually swallow the big fish.
When the fisherman sees one of his cormorants gagging on a fish, he
sweeps up the bird with his bamboo pole, grabs the bird and shakes out
the fish into his basket. He made it look easy, but the whole time is
standing up on a narrow bamboo raft, paddling and catching birds. We'd
definitely end up swimming if we tried it.