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China: Yangshuo
April 14-16, 2006

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.


moon hill

house in rural China

Check out the “capitalist breakfast” at the Red Capitalism Cafe

Somehow I think you’d only see these motors in a communist country.

I have no idea what this was. Zac dubbed it “coal miner’s snot” but it was seriously delicious!


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