Tuesday 8 April 2014

Yangshuo, and back to Wada.

To say I dislike Yangshuo would be quite the understatement. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Accompanied by the Canadian and New Zealander from the night before, we headed out into the market to have a look around, where I managed to buy my first thing I've since regretted buying. Some sort of painting on a scroll, which is pretty enough, but way too big and I know will never actually get unwrapped again if I send it home. I think I'll probably abandon it in the hotel, and write it off as a moment of madness, rather than have it contribute to the shipping fees.

The mountain next to Xingping is entered through a small archway on the main street, and be warned if you attempt to climb it that it is not an easy climb. Humidity hovered at 94%, the stairs were slippery and steep, and the firecrackers made us jump whenever we were on a particularly tricky section. Despite this, the top of the mountain offers some spectacular views, and I think I have a new Facebook profile picture.

With the girls heading off to Guilin, I found myself once again alone in Xingping. I looked at my watch and upon realising it was only 3 o'clock, suddenly found the idea of sitting alone in the common room for the evening highly unappetising. So, I checked out a day early, slung my bag over my back and walked to the bus station to board the first one to Yangshuo.

I do love bus journies like this, standing as we putter through the countryside, pushing more and more people into the bus. The Chinese are shameless in their staring. More so when I put my sunglasses on though, and they don't realise I can see them, and I was the source of a very excitable conversation among a group of schoolgirls at the back of the bus. I hope they were saying nice things, but for all I know, my fly was down.

Finally, in Yangshuo, I was able to just show up and find a room. I was looking for a common room, with a friendly atmosphere and good location. After a few stops, I dropped down a side alley and found a decent enough place, though lacking any sense of homely welcome that I had enjoyed at Wada.

Yangshuo has a permanent population of 310,000, yet 10 million (yes, million) tourists visit it per year. How can any town survive that? Everything about it has become another thing for the tourist. I'm enjoying not being the majority (most tourists are Chinese, a lot of the touts don't even speak English), but it's still sad to see another town taken over so utterly. I found myself drained, the people singing on the streets, the trashy English bar that advertised brightly, the endless streets of shops selling identical wares; it all sucked the soul out or me.

In despair, I walked to the edge of the town, desperate for a temple to offer a prayer to any God that would listen to not allow Xingping to become this, but I couldn't even find one. Just a McDonald's next to the river. If that's not sad, I'm not sure what is.

Along the way, I stumbled across a couple of German gentlemen and their wives I had met on the plane to Guilin, and briefly stopped by to ask them what they thought of the place. They hated it. I could understand why they were in the German bar, but the fact that it existed in southern China just made me a little sad. I didn't stay to chat, partly because I spoke not a word of German, but also because they were in their sixties, and their Thai wives looked my age. I don't think I'll ever reach a point in life where that's not really weird for me.

In a heartbeat I made a decision, walked back to my hotel and called Wada, asking if they had any rooms free. I would like the record to show that I nominate this place for best hostel in the world, ever. The staff make it so, and I could spend a month here happily. They welcomed me back as if I was an old friend.

When I first arrived, I had joked with them (as I usually do with hostel staff) and expected the normal blank, vacant stare from the girl behind the counter, and was pleasantly surprised to find them not just laughing, but giving as good as they got. After a joke about me signing the receipt meaning I was giving them my first born son, without missing a beat, she told me that no, it was a marriage contract, and sure enough since then I've been referred to as Monica's husband, by basically the entire hostel. This is a place to visit.

I was done with the small towns. Done with the lack of sights. Ready for some action and some hectic life. I'm heading back to the city, it's time to go to Hong Kong.

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