Waking at 6am I decided to, once again, explore the town early. I am really pleased I did. I got to experience something I would never have seen had I not been up early.
I had been walking from the hostel for 20 minutes when I heard drums and bugles. I was expecting to walk around the corner and see a band. There was hen a really loud noise which went on for about 10 seconds. It was lots and lots of fire crackers. Then completing the corner I saw what the commotion was about. It was a funeral like I had never seen before. I took a quick video to show you what I saw. I then stood with my hat on chest and paid my respects.
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I felt privileged to see this. I was also really impressed by the people following behind clearing up the fire crackers.
Once back at the hostel I had a really interesting conversation with an Australian guy, who is studying here, about WeChat and how they have really embraced QR codes and pretty much everyone uses it in China for communicating and paying for goods.
I chilled for the rest of the morning ready for the afternoon boat trip down Li river to Xingping. The purpose was see the view which everyone talks about when referring to Guang Xi province. This is the image which is on the back of the 20 Yaun note, I was looking forward to seeing this.
Being picked up from the hotel by a taxi at 1pm I thought I was in for a one to one tour. It did not work out that way, it was much more challenging than that. We picked up some more people, who only spoke Mandarin, then another Mandarin only speaking mother and son duo. I was the only speak English speaking person in the car. This was great practice for the rest of the afternoon when, as it turned out, nobody in this area spoke English. It is the most remote and verbally disconnected I have ever been.
Once at the marina the taxi driver dropped us off, gave us our tickets and went back to his car. All information around me was in Mandarin as to was the ticket. At this point it was clear I was reliant, at least for a little while, on the others who was in the car with me. I followed them through the turn style and down to the river bank where we was met by a mass of unorganised boats, none of which seemed to be willing to take us aboard. My four travelling companions were very conscientious and aware of my predicament. They were conversing with the boats drivers to try get us a boat. At which point we all realised each boat only sat 4 and there was 5 of us. I think the mum was trying to persuade her son to go on a boat with me which, I am guessing, he was not too keen on. Once we had found two boats I gestured for the four to board the first boat and sat on the second with a couple who had a conversation with boat driver leaving me with the distinct impression they didn’t want me on the boat. I was not getting off now. As we pull away from the river bank down a very scenic route I realise I didn’t know what we were doing after this. All I knew is that I had to get a public bus back from Xingping to YangShou. Does this boat loop round and come back to the taxi driver who takes us all to Xingping? or Does this boat take us all the way to Xingping? or was it the most difficult option of being something completely different?
It was the final option! The boat stopped and I clarified with the boat driver that we were in Xingping. He gestured no, but was no more help, as he gestured us of the boat. I approached the couple who was also on the boat pointing at the map and saying ‘Xingping?”. They replied ‘Bus’. I walked up the bank from the boat hoping that the taxi driver who dropped us off was waiting in the car park I could see ahead of me. This was not the case. As I was trying to work out which bus to get on, the four people from my taxi appeared from the river bank. I decided to once again follow my shepherds. They boarded an open sided bus and so did I.
It was at this point I realised that I had most definitely not seen the view on the 20 Yaun note any where on the boat trip. When I ask by pointing at the bank note and looking confused people point forward and said Xingping -. The bus darting down the hill towards Xingping the driver points and speaks to us. When I follow the direction of his finger I see the the image from note, but the bus just whizzes on. About mile or so later at the bottom of the hill we all get off the bus in Xingping.
I wander through some little market stalls trying to work out what to do. I then decided I was going back up to see the 20 Yaun view properly. There is no way I was walking up that steep hill in the heat. So I play a game of charades with a bike rider, who to my luck was very good at the game. We agree a price of 10 Yaun and I am off back up the hill to get my photo of the scene with the 20 note in my hand. I had communicated for the rider to wait for me while I took the photo, which he did. We then went back down the hill. I then explored Xingping – part intentionally and part by not being able to find the bus station. The hostel reception had explained there was only one bus station and I could catch the YangShuo bus from there. This turned out to be inaccurate because the first two bus stations I visited had no idea what I was talking about and look resigned to another tourist asking for YangShou again.
I eventually found the correct station and arrived back ready for shower and a rest before my rock climbing tomorrow.
What I learned:
- Being unable to communicate verbal makes an otherwise nice trip more intense, challenging but ultimately rewarding. I had to really nurture my way through part of the afternoon with positive thoughts and suggestions.
- In future get as much information about a trip as I can. This will enable me to enjoy it more, rather than have to rise to the challenge.