Agnes and myself are off to asia via St. Petersburg, Moscow before catching the transmongolian and arriving in Beijing on August 27th 2006. That's as far as the exact planning is at right now. Afterwards it'll be travel in China for a few weeks, down to South Korea and then back to China and hopefully reach Tibet. From there cross into Nepal, then India and then Southeast Asia, after that ..... ?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Lhasa post # 2 - Yangshou

Yangshou was a small village on the Li River, which has become a backpackers enclave over the years since the early 90s when the first western style cafes popped up. Now there are dozens of chill-out cafes, western style bars, mexican restaurants and pizzerias in this "village" of 300,000 people. The main pedestrian street is called foreigner street and ironically enough this has been taken over by bars for chinese tourists who want to experience western nightlife. The resulting scene is one of lots of neon and flashing lights with very loud chinese bands and often karaoke. A lot of foreigners come here for the rock-climbing which is said to be the best in China. I met an Irish fella who was into it and he siad the price per day of about 40 euro was the price per hour that you would pay back home! All of this may sound horrifying for people who want to see the real China, but a lot of travellers like ourselves were glad of the relaxing break with western breakfasts and happy hours in the bars and some of the cheapest accommodation yet - 55 yuan for a double with bathroom and DVD player, in Monkey Janes guesthouse, with a great rooftop bar!

I fell sick here and had flu-like aching of bones and muscles, so that curbed our plans to go biking, hiking and rock-climbing. On the third day I was beginning to suspect something more serious than a virus and I headed to the local hospital to see a doctor. No-one really spoke english and there was a lot of amusement and tittering from the young nurses as the tried to shuffle me around to get a diagnosis. I explained my symptoms over the phone to an english speaker and then a small man in a surgical mask came into the very basic hospital ward (with mosquito nets) to examine me. He had me do a lot of aahhhing and he had to go on his tippy toes to look down my throat with a big silver flashlight (even though I was sitting on the bed). Then it was his turn to aaahhh for a bit, after which he promptly returned with an english-chinese medical dictionary nearly bigger than himself and with obvious frustration tryed to pronounce his diagnosis. He ended up pointing to "Sir, I wish to inform you that you have tonsillitis ..." and he went on to indicate that he wanted me to stay in the hospital on a penicillin drip for 7 days or else .... operation. I didn't fancy any of that and besides my chinese 30 day visa was almost up, so after I made it clear that I had to get to Hong Kong in 2 days he prescribed me some anti-biotics and I was right as rain the next day! Later, when I talked to an ex-pat in the town, he wasn't surprised by the doctors request to keep me, as I must have been like a walking cheque that could fund that small hospital....

Fully recovered, we tryed to squash lots of activities into our last day in Yangshou. We rented mountainbikes to ride through the rice fields to visit moonhill mountain - at last the open countryside, although that too proved to have an abundance of people wandering around, This was just as well as we got totally lost a few times and had to show the locals a picture of moonhill to point us in the right direction; some of them wanted hard cash for this information, ah the capitalist chinese ...

Then it was a cookery class in a farmhouse outside Yangshou. This was great craic, with about 12 of us chopping, cooking and eating our own wok creations. First of all, Agnes and I accompanied the cook to the local market to buy a few bits and pieces. A very colourful place with everything and anything on sale. Most people probably won't appreciate the photo of mans best friend hung up like a pig and with bits missing off him, but that's what the locals eat. Actually, we tried it ourselves in one of the restaurants and it turned out to be strong tasting, chewy and greasy - not really a favourite. That's it there with the onions. You can also see the poor exhausted egg-seller with the head down for forty winks. We saw this all over China - bone tired workers all over the place catching a nap in stores, restaurants and bars. They get up really early - breakfast is at 6ish - and work until quite late, 10 or 11 p.m., so it's not really surprising. Also, it's not that clear if everyone gets a weekend break, as everything seems to be in full swing on Saturday and Sunday. It seems that office workers might get these days free, but farming peasants work a 7 day week.

We left Yangshou fully relaxed, to return to Guilin and catch a sleeper nightbus to Hong Kong. This was the worst journey that we took in China and if you are over 5 feet 10 then I wouldn't recommend this type of transport at all. My feet were wedged into a shoe box type container at the end of the "bed" which was the guy in fronts pillow. The beds are made for little chinese not big overfed westerners and I didn't sleep a wink on the whole 20 hour bumpy ride - shite really!


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