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Beer pong and the karst limestone landscape of Yangshuo

Monkey Jane Rooftop Bar, scooter's, local food, relaxing,

semi-overcast 20 °C

Half asleep and clearly forgetting what day it was I almost fatally turned my alarm off and reset it for an hour later (what was I thinking) with Lena being the saviour shouting ‘good morning’ to us. Twenty minutes later, with things already nigh on packed, I was out the door and using a large, detailed map of town to navigate my way to the south entrance but even this became confusing and ended up by the big Crown Plaza hotel meaning a longer way but at least knew exactly where I was. Going as fast as I could in the early morning air I made it to the Mercedes minivan at 7.55am (when changed my alarm to!) and being the 8th passenger sat by the driver going instantaneously. The seat was soft and light not restrictively bright so set about watching every episode of Breaking Bad Season 1 totalling about 5.5 hours in between a short rest stop and a place where I was given a token for a provided lunch (good deal- unexpected); awesome show and now a little addicted. We halted for nearly an hour alongside trucks and some real expensive vehicles (Porsche’s, BMW’s) never knowing what the reason was except that the tailbacks either side stretched for many kilometres and could of jeopardised me making my train if had been stuck much longer. At the awful West Bus Station I was hounded by drivers of all sorts to a point where I blew up in some of their faces and went off not knowing where was going. I turned a corner and walked in the road so an actual metre cab picked me up and I was at the main Train Station a good 20 minutes away with enough time for a Dico’s (Chinese KFC) meal before showing my ticket to go down to the waiting K182 train. If numbers were in Chinese also I think I would find everything impossible in this country but they are not so went to carriage 8 and saw that seat 90 was a middle seat in a row of 3 opposite another row meaning not only was the material quite hard but I couldn’t stretch out without kicking someone. Although was only white person in sight the staring was minimal (besides when I stood up) and we departed on time at 18.30. I looked out the window then watched Passion of the Christ for the first time (oh my god what a disgusting film- how did it gross half a billion dollars?) and an episode of Pacific then took 2 Valium which worked a charm as was out like a light half an hour later with one more popped for good measure just to make sure I didn’t wake up- maybe excessive as never used before seeing as sleeping tablets have no effect on me.


I must of had a reasonable sleep as was around 6am when knew what was going on so listened to tunes and typed until a student called Wenyaping came over and asked me lots of questions prompting the young people who had been sitting by for half a day to now join in (they just need a gentle nudge). They were shocked at the amount of countries I had visitied and I felt sorry for them as their lives are planned out already- study, work, family. It was clear we were running late and didn’t get to Guilin till 1.20pm meaning was on for 19 hours! I followed three of the girls to bus 100 and they showed me the right place tog o at the station for Yangshuo so paid 25 Yuen and about 70 minutes later pulled up 2km from West Street having seen some of the limestone karst formations the area is famous for. Spending another 20 Yuen I got on a motorbike a minimal distance then was pointed to the alley way Monkey Jane’s is at. Arriving at the same time as Dutch Mieke we were put in a small dorm room and were soon admiring the view from the 5th floor rooftop with cheap 7.5 Yuen beers in hand (2 for 15 happy hour and bar tender Q let us have the deal early) checking emails and awaiting more people as currently only us- Jane herself in Thailand and place been closed a few days previously so not quite the party I anticipated. We ate large portions of pork fried rice then sat with four guys from Kentucky who were playing an unusual card game and convinced them to start playing beer pong which this place is renowned for and even has a table in place just for that use; all medical students on a month long vacation to Annapurna in Nepal and here before going off to different hospitals in the US. Mieke was my partner for the night as we won 6 games out of 9 (meaning lots of beer Tsing Tao) with the only downside being a ridiculously competitive Dane called Katrina taking things far too seriously in terms of rules- I played the original American rules I learned with my buddies years ago and she tried something else. We all had a lot of fun and I became very drunk when finally stopped playing and spoke with Aussie old boy John and fell asleep on the bar an unknown amount of time.


Not feeling like doing anything specific or too strenuous myself and Mieke walked around the centre seeing a lack of any backpackers which is in complete contrast to what had been told of prior to my arrival- TEFL centre of China it appears not to be and have no urge to consider living here. There were however plentiful souvenir shops, two McDonald’s, men with birds posing for photographs and many tour groups making it feel like a tourist trap set in a pretty area which the entire country will soon become I’m sure- disappointed at all the fakeness. I went along with the crowds and had a 3 Yuen McFlurry then went for the complete opposite by having a big bowl of ‘spicy with meat’ noodles putting my newly found chopstick skills to the test; sauce was an orange /red/green colour filled with white noodles, vegetables, pork, lettuce and bits of our choosing such as bamboo shoots, onion and chillies. I thoroughly enjoyed the taste and even emptied the juice into my mouth as no spoon available although doesn’t quite fit my eating style because time and effort are a key factor.


Back on the rooftop with no one about I used the internet, skyped and shouted at the Kentucky boys over the way as they moved hostels due to the damp and general uncleanliness- having already committed to five nights I couldn’t do it but was ok by me. I helped myself to beer as Q was running late from school (does this voluntarily to improve his English but looks miserable most of the time because I don’t think is treated all that great) then accompanied Mieke to a pizza restaurant (couldn’t afford it) before returning to Monkey Janes for a night of being oh so bad at beer pong and seeing Matt & Ryan somehow win all 13 games they played giving them an air of invincibility the further it went on; on a tie break on verge of losing Matt sunk all three in a row to beat Edward and Katrina. Having lost some pride I didn’t bother staying up too late and so went to the room the same time the yanks left.


All nice and cosy in the middle of a good dream Mieke decided to throw a pillow at me well before my alarm was due to go off as she was confused with timings- argh! We soon met the guys in the lobby (yellow waterproof bag incase rained) who led us to two Chinese, Danny and Agme, who were going to show us the best scenery. We ate 1 Yuen meat and veg dough things then located a place that had 7 rental scooters available all in the same burgundy colour, quite big, 125cc, required no deposit and with no option of a helmet (90 including fuel was good for here but more than double what would pay in Thailand); had to show Mieke discreetly how to turn the engine on and where everything was as her first time and didn’t want to publicize it.


At 10.15am our posse of 9 bikes rode out of town into the countryside breathing fresh air, seeing few vehicles or people and going past fields/crops of varying substances at a frustratingly slow rate with some of us just wanting to let rip on roads that just asked for it. With the sun now out we stopped with our mouths open to gaze down onto the limestone landscape of tall individual karsts covered in green of differing shapes and sizes with arable land in their shadow- hard to describe but with the Yipping River in the foreground making for a perfect focal point it was sensational and in my view better than Phi Phi, Ha Long Bay, Krabi and El Nido (other similar places). Putting the SLR into manual mode using both the 10-20 and 18-105mm lenses I had a French kid take a group shot of us then was at the back for a while making the most of every scene and enabling me to go full speed to catch up. We carefully made our way along a gravel road to the river itself (Mieke skidded but jumped off before any damage done) to see all the little motor bamboo/plastic boats and big ferries as well as being really close to the farmers single headedly ploughing their plots of land then half way up stopped for a ‘hot pot’ lunch.


We began with fresh bread dipped in the best chilli mix imaginable then waited for the broth filled with two entire chickens, mushrooms and greenery to be ready as us boys had to try the multiple eggs pre developed or on the verge of having a shell, liver, intestines, heart and other bits minus the head much to the girls horror; needed rice or noodles to be more substantial as not enough meat but at least washed down with beer. With Agne pointing us in the right direction I led from the front and went as fast as my machine could take me then when was held back on a mini drag race at some lights I overtook Mieke and hit some rather big potholes somehow not throwing myself off or breaking the bike; loved it. By a pretty stone bridge was where all the relaxing two person bamboo rafts were so instead of foolishly jumping off the top (could see from the poles that it was too shallow) watched the Dutch have a swim and sat on a parked one out of the sun contemplating. Trying to take a back route to Yangshuo was interesting as were forced to turn around on a rocky track no one wanted to go along then saw how the other half live as weaved in and out of tiny throughways in the villages seeing local life well away from outside influence in its purest form.


Now amongst rush hour traffic we did a u-turn, took bikes back to the shop and ate large quantities of boiled fresh water snails the Kentuckian’s had been raving about all day- not quite French Escargot. I bought a black pen (really should buy in bulk as everytime one goes dry I stress), the freshest chocolate covered donut known to man and reluctantly helped Mieke finish a plate of dumplings as they looked like Momo’s and was hard not to imagine being sick again- I overcame my fear and ironically they just didn’t taste as good as the little fuckers that hurt me so so bad. I went through photos, washed and had happy hour beer, looked at news then spoke to Mum before Mieke came to say she was feeling unwell and so would be going to bed early. That evening more beer pong was played with me losing in the semi finals of the singles tournament rather unluckily (opponent Lisa even said I deserved to win) then not doing so great in the doubles as whatever partner I pick almost never gets a ball in. The beer was of course flowing quite a bit as spoke with Swedish Henrik who makes money from music as he travels and likes time lapse photography (we both have problems advertising out respective work) then when saw not much was happening (my friends had since gone to bed because have a 6.30am bus to catch but will see them in Beijing) I played one final game, which became very vocal due to the rules yet again, and did a phantom reminiscent of Daryl back in Jersey when snuck off to my room.


In and out of consciousness till about 9.30am it another hour before we got up and went via the small market area (bits of meat in quite unsanitary conditions) for the cheap dough things then tried another place for noodles getting charge twice as much as the locals were although did find toothpaste and a toothbrush for 40p to make up for it. Knowing I had many things to catch up with I finished off photos and wrote in my journal for a long time then at 4.30pm had a ‘sub of the day’ at a privately owned Subway equivalent feeling it was a good deal for only 15 Yuen and still being able to ask for as many fillings and sauces as possible (mayo and thousand island) while watching a Chinese couple have semi professional photos done outside a sports adventure shop- so random. I got a Mango ice cup then typed up this blog as much as I could till 7.40pm (now someone else in the room!) when showered in undersized bathroom shoes (everything damp I needed to) and spoke to Fanny on the roof whilst sipping on a couple of Tsing Tao’s and stealing some of Mieke’s French fries as Q provided her with a massive portion. Speaking for over 80 minutes I was on the verge of going when saw 35 year old Lisa (filling in for Jane) and played Pong against her with Henrik and his buddy as our team mates winning one and then getting obliterated in the next. I got away with two free beers from the fridge then when saw everyone in clicky groups did actually leave and start watching Breaking Bad Season 2 till near 3am.


I was so warm in the night that I woke up soaking but still carried on a while longer when chilled on the laptop, went for noodles/McFlurry/water/cakes with Mieke in the somewhat humid day then finally finished typing up this and began my research papers for my Advanced TEFL with only 9 days left to complete them- been putting them off so badly its untrue and now the deadline is so close I am not sure if trying to do both simultaneously is a wise idea when having one under my belt first of all is better. I stayed in the room for hours managing to even go well over the five page minimum till were satisfied it was sendable by 7pm when bought a sandwich and had a beer with the Dutch on the roof. There was no one else about again until Casper and Katrina arrived meaning could play one game of doubles on the beer pong table with us winning by the skin of our teeth with both in on the final cup just as Mieke was due to go for her bus to Guangzhou. I returned to the roof and joined forces with Katrina to win a couple of games (I sunk 10 of the 12) then unbelievably two guys I recognised appeared who turned out to be Mitch and Rob from Australia who had met in Pai last year- the world is a small place! It was great to see them both again and although lost a closely thought game to them we trumped them on the return hands down. The Tsing Tao’s were flowing and I went back on the table to play with Lisa and win some more finding that although it was a Friday night backpackers must of gone elsewhere as really empty. I moved onto the spirits and stayed till the bar closed about 2.30am.


In the morning I typed up and posted Yunnan blog, packed and went out for some noodles then wrote some emails and waited till it was time for my shuttle at 3pm that picked me up by the bridge. I could of got on a later one but couldn’t risk any unexpected delays and was at Guilin Airport 5 hours prior to my departure so watched some Breaking Bad and did some things on the laptop before checking in my exact 20.0kg bag and going to the gate more or less when boarding was occurring. Although on the plane fine due to an air traffic control issue we were stationary for 50 minutes meaning could watch some interesting big budget Chinese film called The Last Tycoon which had subtitles and was about Shanghai during the 1930’s before and during the Japanese Invasion. I was half concentrating on my diary and half on the screen for the duration of the flight through no time zones as the country is all the same despite its size.


Posted by antony25 03:43 Archived in China

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