Sunday, July 19, 2009

Day Six - Yangshao

We board a rickety boat for a four hour cruise down the Li River. During the trip we pass through incredible lush green areas, with amazing rock formations that are printed on Chinese paper money. The scenery is spectacular, even if the humid weather makes it difficult to move. We are served a motley assortment of food, most of which is bland and deep fried. Vendors on bamboo rafts launch from the docks and latch on to the boat in order to hawk their wares. We pass several small fishing villages, with laundry hung outside and see water buffaloes and other wildlife. A man on the boat is carrying around a bottle of alcohol full of snakes, many of us have a small sip and it's better tasting than a lot of the other liquors we had on the trip!

We have a short walk to the bus after we arrive in Yangshao and I am in love. The small town is part European town and part traditional China, a very unique blend of cultures. After checking in at the beautiful hotel we take a golf cart out to the countryside with our tour guide, Joe. We drive out into the middle of nowhere and are let off in a remote section of rice paddies, one of the most beautiful areas I have ever seen. Even in this remote area, there are people trying to sell us postcards, fans and trinkets. Many of the vendors chased our carts as we slowed down, and they followed us throughout or walk. One woman even had a motorcycle that she used to follow us from stop to stop.

We had a short demonstration of how the farmers use the water buffalo to prep the fields and Joe tells about the planting and harvesting process. A toothless old lady latches on to me, trying to sell me a fan – she is perhaps one of the cutest things I have ever seen but she will not take no for an answer! She just keeps poking me with the fan and saying “okay, okay, okay.' When I giggle, she giggles. The locals will also pose for photos for a small fee. I pay several Yuan to take photos of two ladies with babies in baskets, and a man standing on a water buffalo. I manage to capture a photo of a farmer from the back, overlooking her field.

We hop back in the carts and head into the local village, a small collection of ramshackle houses. We are allowed to visit one of the local homes, and the owner offers us oranges and peanuts – it was a nice treat. The house was simple but functional, with a separate kitchen, a flush toilet but no shower, and a pen with cuddling pigs. The woman is very proud of her grandson’s art, which is posted all over the walls. She also has photos of other visitors including a movie crew, as this is the way she makes money – inviting people in to her home for a tour.

Behind the house a man was butchering a dog for dinner. It was a startling site for an American, and several in the group were pretty upset by it. Although I don't like the idea of butchering a domesticated animal, I understand that meat is meat and there is little difference between killing a pig, a chicken, a cow or a dog when you are hungry and poor.

On the way back into town, we stop at a roadside stand to take a photo and there is a man with a monkey wearing a yellow polyester suit. I felt bad for the monkey, as it was at least 90 degree out, but it was kind of an interesting site to see a man with a trained monkey on the side of the road. After the tour, a few of us took a dip in the pool, which was such a nice break after the constant go of the last few weeks. We went into town after dinner to do some shopping and drank some rice wine while we walked in the rain. We ended up having a snack at McDonald's a little after midnight, before heading back to the hotel on our golf cart.

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