Tag Archives: Yangshou

Food Market. Bus Ride. Angels in Yangshuo, China

28 Oct

Dry heave. Gag. Vomit. I mean, this could be it. Saying goodbye to meat forever. Katie Lou, I’m putting it on paper. Vegetarianism is knocking at my door. Today was a good and bad day. Love the adjectives. My brain is fried. Keeping it simple. On a train bound for another large city in China. Six bunk beds to one train compartment. I’m in the middle bunk. No head room. Starting to rethink no-class rail travel…

The day was good in that I was taught how to prepare a traditional Chinese meal by a legit, working chef. Bad, because I went to the Yangshou outdoor food market and confronted caged dogs waiting to be slaughtered. One look at the dogs and the shirtless teen wielding a machete and my stomach curled and legs shot out from under me.

Why did I look? I knew the dogs were in there. The Chinese chef-lady told us as such – “dog is in corner…you look… no look.. no care..” Why do I do these things. I mean I had issues with seeing guinea pigs in cages in Peru. And, hello, dogs take it this to a whole different level. I blame the little devil. Need to blame someone, so he’s the best bet. Little angel was whispering on side side, “no look…” And, little devil was a tad bit more convincing, “just one quick look…won’t kill ya…” Now, I’m contemplating vegetarianism. Tell you one thing, I’m reducing my meat intake.

Ok, so the food market was bad. Just down right icky. The ducks made me sad. Chickens made me hurl. The only live creature having little impact on my nervous system were the fish.

Someone told me way back when, the Chinese thought Westerners were heathens not because of our rudeness and need to rule the world but because of our meaty aroma. It’s called BO – Body Odor. It’s said vegetarians emit more fragrant smells, unlike our fellow carcass consumers.

Not sure if that is true, but it sounds really good right about now. Just another reason to stop eating meat. Save $ on antiperspirant. I have found in Thailand antiperspirant is a mere novelty. Went to TESCO and they only had 2 types among the rows and rows of soaps, shampoos, anti-hair falling creams and skin whitening gels. Bhutan, I did not see any. Maybe some truth to this.

So, besides the animals, the actual market was beautiful. Ripe with fresh veggies, fruits and random roots I’ve never heard of before. No matter. I took a zillion pictures to help me remember. So, when I walk into Publix, I will show the teeny-bopper a picture and say, “find me this, now…” Right. My goal is to cook more. So, I may have no home and no kitchen when I return, but I will have a wok. I’ll come to your house and cook for free. Any takers?

After the market, little chef-lady led us back to her restaurant where she handed us – you guessed it – a wok, gas fire burner, large knife, noodles, meats, veggies, spices and said “let’s go baby..” It was a riot. We’re outside cooking, overlooking McDonald’s and KFC. There is something wrong with that image. We rolled dumplings. Fired up bamboo steamers. Spiced the food with digestible spices. Yea…this is going to be a good blog for the cooks out there for I can’t spell or pronounce 98% of the foods. All I can tell you is they gave us the recipes in English. And, I have pictures.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it was some of the best Chinese food yet. It may be because it’s cooked by Chef Amanda — in that I knew how much oil, spices and veggies are going in. It felt healthier. So, it tasted better.

After the cooking school, we all sauntered back to the Imperial Hotel with full tummies of food and beer. Our next stop was a train station with the rest of the 1.3 billion vacationing Chinese to go to another large city to board a boat to the Three Gorges Damn.

pics from cooking:

One problem. Since Yangshou is overcrowded with Chinese tourists, Olive said we will have to walk to our micro-mini bus – “it’s just up the road.” Yea. Heard that one before. Try Siberia. Moscow. And, all of Russia. I broke my backpack/luggage after MASH – my fearless Russian tour guide – uttered those words. Remember, got lost in the Moscow metro? Thank GOD for the creator of Duck Tape.

Just as I thought. Two miles later. Still carrying a 44 pound bag as I navigate down cobble stone streets and around thousands upon thousands of tiny tourists walking, driving, smoking and cycling. Sweat dripped from my brows and pits. Yep, been eating meat for I’m starting emit a rank odor. Think positive. I’ll smell just as bad as everyone else on the overnight train.

We finally got to the bus. Olive said the bus driver got lost. Could not get through the crowds… Or, something along those lines. The American “customer-service and this unacceptable” voice entered the brain. I quickly sniffled it once I sat my sweaty creases on the cotton/polyester bus seat. Trying the Buddhism “let’s be present and in the moment” gig. And, starting to reconsider because being “present” means I’m “fu—” hot and annoyed. Being in the “future” means being clean, cool and comfortable. “Being present” is not a preferred option.

The bus ride to the train station was heart-stirring. Our group has been talking and joking about seeing the “REAL” China for days now. We’re getting the China the government wants us to see. But, not the “REAL” China. Sad thing is I’m not sure if we want to see the “REAL” China. And, what are we to do with this “REAL” China information. Tallgirl is over analyzing again.

We got a small taste of REAL China in route to the train station. Blinding poverty. Poverty does not discriminate. Change the Chinese signs to Spanish, Romanian, English, Arabic, Russian, or Thai…and she’s equally indistinguishable. Heaps of plastic bottles casually tossed. Trash burning in metal containers. Laundry hanging from trees. Moms harvesting rice with one hand and holding their child with the other. Young and old men sitting and staring.

And, then you look past the scanty conditions and your eyes are filled with rich nourishment. And, rich work. Miles and miles and miles of green rice fields, banana fields, orange fields – nourishing over1.3 billion people. Stark contrasts. Yes. Did some thinking on the bus ride. Even sprang a few tears.

Here I am, staring out the window wearing just a bra and flimsy camisole to cool off. Tears are running from my eyes. My face is blowing up like a red balloon. Fumbling for the pocket toilet paper to absorb the tears and wipe the nose. Taking all of this in from distance. More tears. Now, full fledged crying. Never can say the Day girls aren’t emotional. It’s in our DNA. Ask Dad.

Yes. I cried. I cried for these farmers. For injustice. For little choice. I cried out of gratitude and wonderment for my rich blessings for I do not deserve this abundance. I cried for the honor of living in the US and being an American. For the freedom to say no. And, for having the option to say yes. For God gracing me with a loving, supportive family and crazy, interesting, lively, chaotic friends.

I cried because I’m not doing enough to make a positive difference in this world – with the gifts God gave me. Cried because I’m working off of a God inspired plan and, quite frankly, I’m scared shitless. I cried because I was feeling a little misunderstood, unrecognizable and lost in a land of 1.3 billion – maybe like these farmers.

At the end, I cried for the recent loss of my great Uncle who had passed a few days prior. All of these thoughts. All of these emotions blasted me like a never-ending wave. Oh, I’m going to miss Uncle Tom. End to a great era. He served in WWII. The “man that knew everything.” He tended to his garden in Searsucker pants and Buddy Holiday glasses to the very end. Best green beans and Brunswick stew, EVER…

Then my sobs turned to giggles. I could hear Uncle Tom’s voice talking to me in his Southern drawl as I was calculating and debating “Chinese Equality.” I could her him in heaven getting on with my Grandmother, Cousin Ann (recently passed), Aunt Duckie, his brother (my Grandfather) and the rest of the Skinner family. I can hear them rejoicing and laughing – laughing at me and my somber mood. Laughing at me trying to simplify what “this journey means” into a digestible sound bite. I could hear all of their voices.

Grandmother was talking first. She told me to go ahead and put on that red lipstick in China. She would find way to pay for the soiled hotel linens for I “never know who I’m going to meet.” They told me that my journey was God inspired and I have nothing to fear – they are all with me – my traveling angels. And, they started to tell me about the other angels that surrounded me on my journey. Granny – my Dad’s mom who was an avid traveler – comforted me too. She told me over and over again that she is by my side every second. She never leaves me for she’s a seasoned traveler and is helping me navigate this crazy world. She reminded me about my Archangel and he’s taking care of the details. Not to worry. Uncle Tom came back and elaborated in more detail about the turbulent history between the China and Japan. Cousin Ann was there telling me about her favorite books and how I must get to India next time. I could hear them all laughing.

Southern China passed me by as I listened and conversed with my family of angels. I asked them to forgive me for I do forgot they are with me. I seem to reach out when I’m distressed and I need to work on being more aware. I thanked them over and over again for their help for I could never do this trip by myself. I can hear all them say, “Damn straight, honeychild…”

People ask all the time, “so how did you plan this?” My response. “I didn’t. Much larger than me. This trip – organization – came about in 3 or 4 weeks time…” Once I knew my house was going to sell, it was balls to the wall in planning. All of it has been divine. I could not have done this all alone. My word, I did not even have Lonely Planet guide book – the bible of all travelers. Reactions are interesting, depending on the person’s belief system.

I truly miss Uncle Tom. I miss my grandmother and granny. I miss them all. But, am comforted they are with me. Guiding me. My traveling angels. And, Grandmother, I promise to work on putting some color on my lips. You are right. I never know who I might meet and that “washed out look” is not becoming of a woman of my height and paleness. Thank you for reminding me you are there – watching over me.

Back to the bus. I cooled off. Sweat stopped. Put on my shirt. None of the marrieds even noticed I was sitting in my bra and camisole. I wiped the tears from my eyes. No make-up means no mascara running. Another reason to ward off make-up. I feel much better. Ready to conquer another sleepless night on a train and few sleepless nights on a boat to a dam. Let’s do it baby…

Cycling through China’s Countryside

28 Oct

Once again. No clue what day it is. I look at days now in terms of weather. Is it a full body SPF day? Just a SPF for the face, neck and hands? Is it the purple, PTA-style rain jacket? Break out the over 65+ floppy hat? Or, is it the entire ensemble?

That’s right. Sure to hook up with a hottie sportin a purple rain jacket, white zinc-oxide and floppy hat while riding a bike with baskets and a bell. Gosh, can’t WAIT to infuse some style into my life when I get back home. I’m having burn the clothes party. All are invited. By the way, the nub bangs are finally growing. Girls will get this. But, it’s emotionally exhausting to be this ugly and unkempt all the time. I look in the mirror and say, “Really?” Can’t wear the lipstick, apply zit cover up or eye liner for fear of buying a whole new set of hotel linens. Get me to South Africa or Australia NOW. They must have bleach there. And, no import tax on luxury goods like Hanky Pankies, J Crew or Naturalizers.

One thing that is for certain when it comes to wardrobe….is EVERYDAY is a long sleeves

Seen this before? Long sleeves..Long pants.

and long pants day, regardless if it’s raining, snowing, or polluting. My skin turns a hot shade of hot pink when exposed to rays. Yes, I even get fried when driving in a car or bus with tinted windows. Right Kate? Kate refused to believe this tale until my visit to California. I pull up. Get out of the car. Kate says, “Amanda, your skin is pink…are you burned…is it a rash?” My reply, “Yes, it’s called sun burn, sun poison, sun rash and soon to be sun cancer. Served to me via a car window.”

In pictures, you’ll always see me covered up. The positive is the Chinese, Thai, Bhutanese all cover up too. They even waltz around carrying parasols. In a past life, I was probably an Asian, certainly not a Scottish Viking naked and freezing wearing a plaid kilt. Yes. I was certainly Asian…Love rice.

Focus. So, getting ready for the cycling trip. What will it be today. It’s misty. NOT raining. And, its NOT pollution, according to Chinese propaganda. Whatever. Heavy doses of dirt, dust and diesel in air equates to pollution. No matter, I’m lathering on SPF 50+ to cycle Southern China’s countryside.

The travel posse gathered early AM to get first dibs on the Chinese bikes. As they jockeyed for bikes, I was in my own “la la” world – observing the morning rituals of this little town of 300,000. It’s 8 am. Calmness – Chinese style – was in the air. Just breathing it in.

Because of my Zen-”I need to be present” mentality and meandering through the streets stopping, watching, taking pictures…. I was burned on getting a good bike. That’s what I get for being “in the moment” and not “planning for the future.”

When I arrived at the bike-depot, only two bikes remained. Option 1: No brakes. Option 2: Girl bike, front breaks only, no cushion, seat only goes up a good three good inches. Basket is in back. Bell barely rings. Looks like the sequoia will be traversing the countryside Fred Flintstones style – using my feet for breaking and voice as the “get out of the way” bell.

Olive, chipper Chinese tour guide, gives us the 411 on “how to ride a bike in China.”

The only thing I heard was avoid being hit. One thing we must remember was all bikes, mopeds, motorcycles, motorcycles posing as cars, small cars, large cars, tour buses, public buses, oxes, kids, babies, dogs – you name it – they all believe THEY own the street and THEY have the right away. Bike depot did give us helmets – the only tourons I saw with them on – for protection. Good.

The group of sixteen, many of whom have not ridden a bike in years, were off and running. Let’s just say, even the mangy dogs avoided us when they saw us coming. I think the helmets scared them. It took about 20 minutes to get out of the metropolis into the countryside. What we encountered was purely breathtaking. The imposing mountains jutting out of nowhere. Awe-inspiring rice patties being harvested by hand as far as the eye can see. A stunning river flowing with determined force and purpose. Mud clay roads jumbled with random potholes, overflowing with murky water.

We weaved. We braked. We crashed. Such joy. I finally scooped out my MOSTEST favoritEST food in the whole wide world – RICE. Love the stuff. Give me some beans, and call it a day. The Southern Chinese rice is days away from being harvested by hand. Wish I could see that. I would join them in hacking it…Abutting up to my favorite food though was a dirty, little stream being used to wash clothes by the locals. I wanted to scream, “you can’t contaminate my rice! Call the rice Po-lice now!”

Rice fields.

Other wonderful foods I saw were oranges, bananas and fruits I can’t pronounce, but seem to eat at every meal. I’m in heaven. Let’s see… Ducks and water buffalo littered the fields. Never encountered any horses. Hope they are NOT eating them too. Biking gives you a good sense of rural China. The labor. The hard work. The need to cultivate food to feed the 1.3 billion. Damn, starting to rethink “I was Asian” past life. Not so sure if I can spend hours, days, years cutting rice with a butter knife for survival. Barely got chop sticks down.

Whenever we stopped to take pictures, old women looking around 110 but probably more like 60, would appear out of nowhere. It was like they were beamed to us from the Starship Enterprise. They just appeared to sell us flowers or rocks. Anything.

I wonder how much they rely on our $ to make it through the month. What has STRUCK me and where I’ve had to add “confused” in front of the word Communism, is the fact China does not have a social safety – medicaid, social security, food stamps, homeless shelters… Nothing. That’s right. You heard me. ZERO. The government, built on the premise of “everyone is equal,” does not have a welfare system as we know it or what I expected from a country like the indomitable China. I had no idea. I must have missed the 411 on communism according to Chairman Mao in college. I think I will dedicate a whole blog exploring my capitalism communism confusion. OK. Leave it for later. Let’s just say – The Chinese are taxed on income. Pay for all medical. Pay for high school and University. Pay tolls to drive on roads. Good news is there’s no sales tax on food/items. Phew….off the hook there.

Back to a happy place. Biking. For lunch, we stopped at Moon Hill or, was it Moon Pie, cafe. Either way, it’s in the valley of Moon mountain. Olive, our chipper Chinese tour guide, did what she does best – got us seated and got us fed and is getting us FAT. She ordered food. We nod. Open our mouths. And, inhale. Oh, need to take a moment to worship ME. This is MY blog. Guess what? I can almost use CHOP STICKS. It’s called survival if I want to eat, right? I’ve never used chop sticks b/c I’ve always opted for using a fork to shovel food in as fast as possible. Two little sticks to pick up a peanut or three rice grains does not pass muster in the world of consuming everything as fast as possible because we have something to do now. But, I’m trying.

After inhaling, we hiked up Moon mountain. Felt good to get the glands sweating again. Little old ladies walked with us carrying coolers and postcards, trying to sell us water and to remind us that their photos were much better than our shitty cameras. Can I be mean and say, HOW annoying? Don’t have patience. Is it selfish? Probably. I’m talking to my new BFFer, Sandra from Switzerland about my major crush on tennis player Roger Feder, and little Chinese lady weighing about 65 pounds is right behind us screaming her ten or twelve words in English at us. “Hello…Slow Down… Water… Coke…Aloe…Postcard…Good deal…Rest…Picture..” We ignored her and told us we have our water. She did not stop. Finally, she got pissed. Yelled. And, hawked a luggie at us. After tossing spit on us, all guilt flew out the door.

At the top, we took pictures. My other BFFers, Libby and Julian from Australia had a ghast of a time taking pictures. They crack me up. Poor things. I will be stalking them forever and ever and ever… They just don’t know it yet. Going to stay with them in Australia… Poor things.

Anyway, at the top of Moon Hill, there was this cute, young Chinese couple who asked Julian to take their photo. Julian is hysterical. He says in his Aussie accent… “Ok..get closer you two… now, Kissy…Kissy…Give me a kiss…” Well, the Chinese girl expression went from all smiles to mortification. The Chinese are normally sooooo shy. And, this may be a first or second or hundredth date, but this little lady does NOT want “kissy kissy” on a camera camera. The Chinese dude was all for it. He reached over and gave her a big kiss. Julian captured it. The Chinese dude ran to Julian..and in broken English asked, “did you get the kissy kissy?” Oh my…. Never a dull moment. Some things are the same, regardless of country. Chinese girl, not so happy.

We biked back. Stopping off to talk to more water buffalo and admire the orange trees. No one was killed or maimed, which is always a good nice. It was a nice ride.

Next stop – tomorrow, whatever day that is – we’re taking an overnight train to Wuhan where we will board a boat and head up to the Three Gorges. Again, no clue on the day or location. Just focus on the weather. The overnight train will be like the Moscow train. Six to a compartment. No door. No air condition. No sleep. They call these trains a “hard sleeper.” I wonder what they call my hotel bed made of plywood? Comfy, cushy and cozy….If that is the case, Moscow train was marvelous in comparison to what we are in for… Stay tuned…

The Yangshuo Massage

28 Oct

In Yangshuo, China – small town of 300,000. Only been here for a few hours. Jonesing for a massage. Got some Chinese Yuan to spend. Found a two hour Chinese massage for US $35. Life is good… Yes, it may be pricey for China. But, let me tell you something – this ain’t your “mama’s” cheap China anymore. Dollar is weak. Yuan is in limbo. Prices are climbing to the sky. Besides that, I had a STRONG urge to upgrade to an unsoiled, sanitary Chinese massage mill.  The $35 for 2 hours is a “good deal.”

TANGENT: OK… Where am I? What am I doing? 411 on your surroundings please. Well, tallgirl is propped up by two polyester-infused pillows, perfumed with a hint of mold. The bum is feeling heavy after sitting for an hour on a packed plywood mattress. Jaw aches from chomping on at least six pieces of Chinese sugar-filled, tasteless gum. The balcony door is open. Market chatter infuses the room. Same flute tune playing over and over and over again. Bugs doing a happy dance around the only two, 40-watt lamps. Let’s see. If you kick the flute and plywood bed, I’m channeling Florida Keys. Smell and all..

Moments ago, I just walked through the lobby with my CLEAN laundry shoved into a mini- plastic bag used for carrying prunes and raisins. Splurged on laundry for I’m trying to put a stop to the continuous sink-scrubbing of undergarments. In the lobby, I spied recent arrivals – German tourons (tourists + morons) checking-in at the Imperial Inn. They appear older. Well dressed. Nice bags. Polished shoes. Belts. Accessories. Recently showered. I see they arrived in an upscale bus with leg room. Not your Gap Adventures type of travelers…. Tick tock… I’m thinking Imperial Inn is their “plan B” for they all seemed confused. I don’t speak German, but I do speak “what the fuuuuu….”

What will be their reaction when they push their hotel room door ajar. Will theyVendors lined up outside my window be delighted by the the commanding view, smells and sounds of the 200+ vendors just a few feet away? Shocked by the loud “thump” when they place their designer bags on the impenetrable, plywood bed? Jubilant to be able to scope out their mate or BFFer showering, squatting or brushing through the over-sized bathroom window with no shades? This will be goooood…

Oh, forgot. What about the fact there’s no warm water or water pressure. Turbulent times for the Imperial Inn. In a way, the Chinese should rejoice for they’re dealing with Germans and not customer-service, demanding, this is unacceptable Americans. We would sue on the grounds of Human Rights violations for no blinds in the bathroom. We can’t even discuss the plywood mattress issue. That’s another law suit on the grounds of Environmental Protection of plywood.

Tangent over… Back to massage. I’ve been dreaming about Chinese massage and herbal medicines since I landed in the land of 1.3 billion. Don’t know why I need herbal medicines, but I like the sound of it. Acupuncture as well. Fearful of shots. But, if small needles can cure what ails this tall body, you’ve got my Yuan. My former roomie from the Young Bucks Trans-Siberian trail said she was going to find a good acupuncturist in Beijing. She’s a nurse for the Saudi Royal family. Beijing is a week away. Can’t wait. Must have a massage, now. I went to Olive, our chipper Chinese tour guide, for the 411 on massage mills in Yangshou.

Olive delivered. She led me to a store front with the word “Dr.” and “massage” in lights. Hmmm. Olive said, “this is good… no?” It took less than 2 seconds for me to decide to subjugate my body for the word “Dr” spoke to me… I scheduled an appointment for 7:30 pm. By the way, kudos on the marketing front folks…

I wondered back to the restaurant to find the China travel posse of couples. They were craving rice, noodles and meat.

I hate food. Only a few hours prior, our group inhaled ten plates of Chinese food – super sized dumplings, white rice, fried rice, random meats, tofu, random veggies, noodles, tofu, more meat and extra rice. Oh, yea..soup. Just say “NO” to food. Who goes to China and gains weight. Me. Tonight, I opted for liquids and firm hands to transform Chinese food intake into lean muscle mass.

So, I threw back a large “pint” and less than 30 mins later, there I was laying flat down, semi-naked on a plastic massage table along side eight other plastic tables. Starting to relax when I opened my eyes through the open hole of the massage table and peered at my dirty hiking boots, smelly socks and passport. Couldn’t they place a flower, odor eaters or a Glade stick there instead.  These sock fumes reminded me to buy more detergent. Forgot to get these washed earlier… By in large, the “dr” massage mill is meeting my Chinese expectation.

Little Sin Sin, Jin Jin or Tin Tin – can’t pronounce her name – worked my back over for the next hour. The girls weighs about 80 pounds and is 4 foot 10 inches on a good day. I’m G-I Giant next to her. Poor little thing. She will be working hard for her tip.

Little Tin Tin’s English words were few. But, when it came to my shocking-white, transparent skin, she found the superlatives to describe her state of surprise. “Oh, you so very, very white… Oh, you work on being white, no… you use white products… where buy white products…you tell me secret…”

Not really sure how to respond when you are laying naked on a plastic table smelling dirty socks being reminded you are a super, pasty freak. No really relaxing. My response, “skin is real. No bleach. No lotions. Just DNA. I’m a recessive gene in a family with melanin. Think of me as a mutant…Like in X-Men.. Know mutants? I’m transparent, shocking-white mutant…” Yea, like Little Jin Jin got all of that. Wrong. This is what I really said… “Your skin is better. Your skin –no cancer. My skin – yes cancer.” She understood the word cancer but not in context with no-color skin. She kept talking about whitening her skin with some Chinese herb.

Get back the massage. For the most part, the “Dr.” place was the Ritz on steroids in comparison to the Turkish bath/massage in Petra, Jordan where they throw a bucket of water on you and a lady in a Burka scrubs you with rocks. This is my second massage while traveling – so I’m only going to compare it to that. I mean, if I really looked, I’m sure I could have freaked out over bugs, dust mites, bed bugs – or whatever the bacteria rage is in the US.

Here goes another tangent…My Mom would say, “honey, if it’s that nasty then why don’t they get some sense and shock the shit out of everything with some bleach?” I’ve had this conversation in my head a zillion times and did my own investigating as to why all hotel linens, towels and robes in a zero, one, two and three star hotels give off a putty, mayonnaise hue. White, crisp linens are an obsession of mine, thanks to my Father.

Of course my explanation has to get political. Can’t talk about linens without going into the cesspool of greed and self-interest. In China, foreign imports are excessively expensive. Another way for the government to force Chinese to buy Chinese products. Let’s take a bottle of Clorox. The Chinese government adds a tax of 200% to 300% to the price of imports. This deters demand for this luxury good, even if it is a bottle of damn bleach. There’s no Chinese brand substitute, at least none that I’ve found in the general stores. Let’s take it a step further. Imagine getting red lipstick, eyeshadow or hair dye on a hotel towel in China. No amount of scrubbing or soaking with Woolite in your backyard river is going to remove the the stain. Hotel’s solution? You soil. You buy. Just one more reason NOT to wear lipstick or get your hair died in China.

So, yes, the towels and pillow cases in “Dr” massage mill exuded a lovely pantone color of grays and yellows. I assume this exposed body is relaxing along side friendly, flesh-eating parasites and bacteria bombs since no one is able to “shock the shit” out of this place. For whatever reason, I’m not phased. I rode across Russia in a train built for the dirty, grungy and deranged. Skin is becoming immune to local parasites, mites and creepy-crawlers.

Tin Tin did her magic. Her little hands found the pain parts. It hurt. My lower back and the “no pedicure since July” feet squealed in pain. I closed my eyes and forced myself to a happy place hoping her pinching, kneading and squeezing provoked memory and metabolism pressure points and not the digestion and bladder zones you see in the foot reflexology charts. Not sure if I felt relaxed or relieved when she finished. But, the beer tasted good.

I was happy to see no visitors in the massage room of eight tables. I asked Sin Sin – after we were finished – if this was a girl only room. Her expression said it all. “No…No…for everyone…” God is good for if some furry man flopped beside me there’s no telling what I would have done.

I gave Little Sin Sin a tip personally. She thanked me over and over again. I had a strong feeling her boss kept all tips. That was confirmed at the end when I paid. “So, you tip Tin Tin?” I fibbed. “Oh, let me tip her now. I handed over a few dollars – much less than what I gave Tin Tin – to play the game. Something inside of me led me to give Tin Tin some extra change. As I was leaving, Tin Tin raced by me down the street. She waved and waved and waved…And, squealed something in Chinese. I waved back and sauntered lazily through the have of the Yangshou market. Maybe she’s off to pay rent? A phone bill? Buy food for her family? I’m praying the extra Yuan went for something good…