11.10.2008 - 11.10.2008 62 °F
Today I woke up to the rooster crowing...seriously. There's this blind rooster (at least I think he must be visually challenged in some way) that crows sporadically starting at around 6am. It's one of the quirks of small town China.
I wolfed down more toast than I knew possible at breakfast and made plans to go to the Water Cave with Madeline and Jess. We talked to Mr. Wei, who arranged everything, got on our bikes (I got a better one than the other day--that other one had a flat tire now...my fault?) and headed out, map in hand.
The caves were about 30 minutes fairly easy ride from the hostel. Riding a bike in China is an experience, you come to appreciate the constant honking of horns as a warning that you'll be freaked out in a moment by a car or bike needlessly zooming close by your face. It's actually not as dangerous as it sounds because there are so many bikes on the road--everyone is used to sharing the space.
We arrived to find out that tickets for the Water Cave normally cost almost 170 yuan and we paid 60 (go Mr. Wei!). We were instructed to lie to everyone we met about how much we paid so of course we told them all they'd been had. We waited around for a bus (read a small van that we packed 11, yes 11, people into for the bumpiest ride I've had yet).
The caves were stunning. You often had to duck down so close to the floor, only to emerge in clearings that were metres and metres high. Often you couldn't see the ceiling. The stalactites and stalagmites (yeah, I'm SURE they are spelled wrong...come on I'm working without spell check) were unbelievable.
And then came the best part. The mud pit. It was we three girls, three British boys and a Chinese couple so over-dressed it was clear they would not be partaking in the fun. It was a bit odd. We came into the room with the mud pit to find a few changing rooms and a bank of computers with 5 men sitting around them, very over-dressed (they took photos and printed them out for you right there). Even more disconcerting was when they said, "Okay. Take off your clothes and get in the mud."
Now, this is why we all came here and we knew this part was coming. You strip to a swimsuit and have a bit of fun in the mud--supposedly very good for your skin. But it was just weird. However, all of us agreed we wanted to do it--how often in your adult life do you get the chance to jump in a giant mud puddle in your clothes and play? Awkwardness aside we all just jumped in.
To be perfectly honest it was cold and felt like you were walking in...well...poo. Or what I would imagine walking in poo would feel like. I wouldn't know. Seriously. Soon, everyone let their guard down and we had so much fun. We got in a huge mud fight, they took tons of pictures (which we had to purchase, of course, and which I did, of course) and eventually we rinsed off as best we could. I chose to wear a dark pair of underwear because I didn't want to get my swimsuit bottoms ruined. I didn't realize just how much mud had gone down my pants. But I pretty much felt like I was wearing a saggy diaper for the rest of the cave tour. And I had mud in my ears. And up my nose. And...other places. Everywhere.
After the tour, we rode down the street and spent the afternoon climbing Moon Hill. Since I don't have photos up yet (I will in a few days when I'm home) you should google this. It's a big mountain with a hole like a doughnut hole (or, I guess, a moon) in the middle. The view from the doughnut hole is amazing, but the view from the above the doughnut hole is stunning. And when we arrived near sunset...unforgettable. You're above the whole town and can see the karst peaks for miles.
But we couldn't stay long, we had to be back for 6:30pm dinner. We arrived, a little late, to find everyone already eating. No worries, they had saved about 9 plates for us and were just warming them up to serve us in the upstairs kitchen. I sat with Jess and Madeline, Finton and Liz (from England) and we chatted all about our days. Then down to the dining room after the meal to talk with the new arrivals, one of which met George Clooney when he came to tour the research facility that this man worked at in Switzerland.
Tomorrow is my last day in Yangshuo. My lofty plans are to buy some slippers (like the ones Mr. Wei lends to everyone to wear around the house) and some knock off NorthFace (VERY cheap here...like 30 dollars cheap). Then some sad goodbyes to the lovely people I've met here, the exchange of contact information so as to never be without a good travel story, and the indulgent cab ride to the airport for the indulgent flight to Guangzhou, where I'll spend an indulgent night in a nice private hostel room, before the oh-so-not-indulgent three flights and two 3 hour+ layovers to get back home to Chicago.