Seeing Southern China

1 Oct

*Email to friend Julia turned into a blog…

Homemade chocolate cake and milk sounds good. Can’t remember when the last time I drank milk. Wait. Mongolia. But, it was unpasteurized heavy cream. A sip worth 2,000 calories. From now on, I’ll sacrifice bacteria for taste any day.

A view from my hotel

What am I doing? Just woke. It’s 5-something AM. And, I’m chomping on Chinese crackers slathered with peanut butter with a wiped off expiration date. Downing it with instant coffee and sugar cane.

No doubt I’m returning to the states as a coffee snob. I’ll import beans if I have to. But, I will never, ever, never drink instant sludge again.

I have NO idea what day it is.

Where am I? Yangshuo, China. Google it. I have no idea where I am map wise. I believe it’s way south. Just know I took a big plane and small bus to get to the land of warmth, humidity and zits. Hey, getting to save on lotion costs. Getting to stave off wrinkle formation. Getting to sweat again. The body is overjoyed…

As I said, it’s early…like 5:45 AM. I like watching a city wake up. Yangshuo is considered a mere town of 300,000.  All you hear are the large locusts rocking and few birds singing. I’m waiting for the roster to kicked it in a few.

My new tour posse is mainly couples — BIG change from Trans-Siberian rail young bucks crowd.

Traveling Posse below… They rock!

China Tour Posse

We’re staying at the Imperial Hotel, butting up to the market of counterfeit non-essentials. Meaning, constant noise. Constant harassment Constant. Since tour posse is comprised of couples, I super scored on the hotel room.

When traveling solo, you have a choice. Fork over additional $$ for a private room. If not, then you’re bunking with a random. Well, no other single, white, scary female showed up to the China gig, so I gained two beds, four pillows, two lamps, two towels, two rolls of toilet paper, two working electrical outlets, two tea cups, one remote control and a plethora of cold water. No hot water at the Imperial. It’s ok. We’re not in Siberia.

Speaking of beds. Are you ready for this one? At the zero, one, two and three star hotels in China, they substitute mattresses with plywood, bamboo or some other sort of “hard” material easily found in resource rich China.

Let me repeat.  No springs.  No fluff.  Just wood. I’ll be staying at the Hilton in Beijing for one night and will report out if they swap out springs for wood too. Hilton is my B-Day present to myself. Mark, my step brother, works for Hilton and, rumor on the street is, he’s going to reserve it for me. Yeeeeeeaaaaaaaaa…. If not, then it’s back to sleeping on wood NOT with Chinese wood.

It’s not been overly injurious for they use a soft blanket for a mattress pad and a sheet for the fluff factor. Plus, I have four pillows. SCORE. The traveling posse’s side sleepers are screwed for they wake with achy joints and bruises.  Many morning conversations kick off with “how did you sleep” and “which joint hurts this AM?”

Seen from my balcony

OK. Back to the hotel. My room has a balcony overlooking the 200 Chinese street vendors schlepping everything from counterfeit Nike hats

(spelled NKE), polyester scarves sold as silk to Buddha key chains and random meats and bugs vacuum packed in Zip locks baggies. Market closes around 11 pm. The Chinese women are in charge. There’s not a man in sight.

When I wrapped up my 2 hour Chinese massage last night, I kicked back on my balcony with some peanut butter, a banana and local beer.  I was perched to observe. Around 10:30 pm, I watched these women painstakingly packed up their individual wooden retail cubicle. Folded and refolded every scarf, shirt, trinket, piece of rubble and gingerly placed these items into worn boxes. I sipped on my beer and felt gad it was not me for I would have crammed, stuffed and tossed all my goods into any box as fast as possible to get home in time for Law & Order SVU. Not them.

After diligently packing, they hoisted the poundage onto their 1950’s Schwinn bikes with front AND back baskets or their 1980s mini-moped with no muffler. Then off they went. Heading into the darkness. Heading back home to their family. Hopefully, putting their feet up on the couch. I guess its not the case. They probably are going to prepare a meal for their man, their elderly parents, their children and then clean their home. I’m feel tired for them. I needed another beer..

Damn… It’s too early in the AM. I hear the luggies launching. You know, they hawking and toss their spit on the street. This luggie thing makes me want to dry heave when I hear the flem moving in their throats and being sprung loose. Men and women do this. They say it’s to rid the evil spirits. I say get the government needs to invest in cough suppressant and call it a day.

For the Olympics, the Chinese government had tourist manners training broadcasted on the radio and TV instructing the 1.3 billion, essentially, two main things. No hawking luggies in public. And, no roaming the streets in your Pjs. For the Games, you must get dressed. Makes me giggle. I did spy a PJ wearer in Shanghai. Took a picture…

Besides confused communism, the words hawking and luggie launching are going to be added to my list for China as the word sighing was my go-to Russian descriptor. Anyway, I hear the luggies launching. The women are back reassembling their goodies for another day. My heart goes out to them on one hand and the other hand, not so much. Many vie for a spot on counterfeit row. They are the lucky ones. I watch Chinese tourist buy their goods. It’s their business. Their livelihood. They are supporting their families. They are all ages — young to very old. Retirement age here is 50 for woman and 55 men. That being said, pensions are a rarity. Savings is the only way to prepare for old age. These woman don’t want my pity — but my money. This idea of communism – they way I was taught and have understood – has been shredded after visiting China. More to come on that later.

Back to the hawkers. Ok. So last night, as I was sipping my beer I observed an interesting transaction.l One Chinese market lady is prego. Let’s hope its her only child for she will be fined if not. Chinese preggers has been on her feet all day. She packing up her assortment of goodies, in particular halter, strapless dresses — like bathing suit cover ups. For me, it would be a micro-min skirt with a large elastic waist band. Anyhow, I watched a fellow prego Western woman eye a halter dress. She wanted it. Perfect for preggers. Maybe I should buy LLL one and ship back to the states in time for the baby shower. Thoughts?

You would think fellow preggers would not rip each other off — would be patient. You know, do the follow prego bond. Nope. Voices were raised. Western preggers stormed off. Chinese preggers went running and screaming after her. I sipped my beer and ate peanut butter and watched it unfold. Is Western preggers going to walk? Chinese preggers whipped out a calculator. Western preggers waved her off. Back and forth. Walk away. Screamed. Came back. It was settled. Western preggers got her halter dress. Chinese preggers ripped it from the hanger, balled it up and threw it in an old plastic bag she found under the table. Deal done. These people really need to start practicing their bonafide religion, Buddhism.

You should see the other rooms in the hotel Julia. You would HEART the one given to Canadian Dawn and Mike. (Yes, 90% of group is from our NAFTA partner to the North.) Over their plywood bed, the snazy hotel painted two young backpackers walking into the sunset — talk about getting you into the mood. The shower, bathroom and sink window takes up half the wall. It’s INSIDE the room overlooking the bed. I took a picture. So, when you’re scrubbing or going #2 your husband, lover or hook up can watch. Maybe the Chinese believe backpackers like to watch each other take dumps and shower. No clue. Things like this just make me happy.

Went down on the Yulong or Li river – forgot name of river – yesterday.

They had me hoisted on a rusted, metal chair ducked tape to six bamboo sticks. My Chinese guide was a no-teeth smiling, cig smoking, bamboo pole paddling master. He guided us over mini-rapids – without getting a smudge of water on my pristine, prescious outfit.

I do need to blow up the picture of the Marlboro packs I photographed in Mongolia. To reduce smoking, the country forced Marlboro to put pictures of cancer ridden teeth and black lungs on the cig packets. I’ve seen this throughout Poland, Jordan and Israel too. It’s good stuff.

But, bamboo pole pusher gave my first real sense of calmness since entering the country of 1.3 billion – that is if you remove cigarette smoke and his occasional cackle to other pole pushers passing by. The river. The limestone mountains. Huts littered along the water. Mini-rapids. Water buffalo. Rice fields. Peaceful. Southeast Asia must have inspired the movie Avatar’s scenery. I shared my metal chair with Jeff, who I alluded to earlier. No, I did not jump his bones or sing  “Strangers in the Night,” Julia. If I rolled   of him, suffocation would ensue.

Wait — I hear a new noise. No, not hawking. It’s sweeping. Let’s celebrate the street cleaners. What’s surprised me is China’s cleanliness. I expected litter everywhere. Like Honduras.

But, with a Central Government whose main goal is equality for all – get to that one later – it’s their goal to find jobs for everyone. So, China has a deluge of street cleaners sportin’ orange vests and rubber boots, carrying hay broomsticks and rusted trays, walking around with heads down in search of their prey – LITTER. It’s all good. They make some dinero. Govt gives a break on housing. And, streets are always clean. Keeping with the theme job security, at the airport going through security ten agents per machine. For a two hour flight on a mid-size plane from Hangzhou to Gulin, we’re talking eight flight attendants. They greeted us. Passed out water and packs of dried carrots. Picked up the trash. And, called it a day. Job security.

I need to go. Sick of peanut butter. Need to eat some rice porridge — water, rice and gelatin stuff – and dumplings for breakfast. I’m biking to Moon Hill, Moon Pie or Moon mountain today. Biking through rice paddies and giving a shout out to my fellow Orange growers. Citrus is a big business in China. Don’t worry, I promise not to hit a water buffalo. Am I really here? The capitalism convoy?

I will be sharing more about big-city Shanghai of 20 million. I popped several sedative after “doing” Shanghai… Sensory overload.

On my way to becoming a vegetarian.  Thanks China…

Cute Chinese couple…

She’s selling beer on the river.  On a bamboo raft…

Yes, those are computers on the river.  Take our picture.  Beam it back to land.  Sell the pictures to tourists..

Pictures on the water

Transporting the bamboo rafts back upstream

5 Responses to “Seeing Southern China”

  1. Allison Didier 01/10/2010 at 6:31 pm #

    Amanda – I love your blog! Your photos are incredible too – they don’t look real half the time. I also appreciate that you’re once again traveling with Canadians – gotta love em! I know your experiences have been so incredible. You are terribly missed here! Stay safe and keep entertaining us with your sashays!
    Love, Choppy

  2. Amanda Duling 01/10/2010 at 6:48 pm #

    Hey Amanda!
    I am loving reading your blog! I have been ignoring my kids & hubby because I have gotten so into reading your blog. Hubby gets a little annoyed sometimes. Oh well! I hope you are doing well! You so make me laugh state side or around the world. I admire you so much for doing this. Can’t wait to read more about your adventures!

    The other Amanda D!

  3. ktlou 01/10/2010 at 9:00 pm #

    Really Aday? How do you possibly comment on this trek in China? It is too distant too unimaginable! WOW, words cannot explain. I mean chairs duck taped to bamboo sticks and grabbing a beer on the fly floating by on your bamboo raft? PLEASE?? I want to be there. it is fascinating. i wish i had something insightful to say. Have sent you several emails and no response back. Had beers with mike kinne last night (yes you read that correctly) Love you and happy bday soon. -Lou

  4. Daphne 13/10/2010 at 12:23 pm #

    Hey Aday! Love you and your blog! Your rafting trip looks just like the ones we take in Apopka, we just have to do all the work and take our own beer. Something to be said for being pushed around on a raft with beer being served to you!! HAAA! Love the pictures – keep them coming. Love ya – Daph

  5. susan 28/10/2010 at 4:19 pm #

    ha ha like amanda says above, I am also having a and ADAY BINGE… I am behind in my blog reading but enjoy the binge right NOW.. I did not go to bed until midnight last night and now I am ignoring everyone..
    this raft trip is great- so with I could come and spend a few days with you- amazing!