written/non-written things by me (from 2005-2008)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Build up to my Burmese Crush.

When patches of your skin are the color of port wine, but under the clothes you're pearly white, and sand grit sticks to your forehead and abrades the uneven burn under your bangs when you go to brush the stuck together strands of hair out of your nearing blood shot eyes, then that’s a day like mine, a day like the past few days. Like the past few days I woke up around 10am and made it out the door around noon wearing shorts, sandals, sunglasses and with my one light pannier. I rolled down the same narrow cobblestone road between grey walls casting one half of the street in the same color and the other in a squint-inducing brightness. Locals wearing the characteristic long layers and sun hats, carrying spades, baskets, pushing carts, kids running up the hill in the school tracksuits, they all instinctively bunched in the shadows, and I dodged and dodged until finally acknowledging my place on the sunnyside. I had a map and was going to attempt to find a road that encircled the blue lake Er Hai. Actually, I was just out to bike sloth-like on the flat road in the sun. Today I felt good, but inordinately slothy and nothing not even three ice cream (oatmeal-flavored) popsicles (spaced out over 2 hours, mind you) was lifting me out of it. I cranked my pedals like hoisting a full-pale from a deep well and losing interest. Then I made it to a bridge, where I suspected the road towards the road turned into the road I wanted, and the road it was, was it.

But the nice manicured river side soon up churned into mounds of gravel, as the road was actually being built. So there was no road to ride, but I saw an accessible “beach” of pebbles and I groggily walked my bike to its edge. There was bonfire fueled by a pile of canvas sacks filled with twigs and often it popped frighteningly and I scampered quickly down wind, as both the blaring sun and its jet-engine wavy fumes continued to burn my skin. I sat back to the more industrial face of the lake’s harbor, looking blankly at its vast blue waters and sun-scorched rounded mountains beyond its far banks. A few different men as groggily as I sauntered behind me on the mound of gravel, but unlike me they wore dusty over-sized suits, dress pants rolled up at the calf and wearing orange plastic bath sandals—it’s a typical style amongst working-class Chinese men. I looked out and fell asleep with my eyes open, sitting upright on a uncomfortable rock. I saw a few empty tour boats idling just ion the middle of the harbor and considered spending 100 kuai to hitch a lake ride the measly 6 miles up to the town of Dali, where I am currently staying. I didn’t.

The wind howled and turned my head to find a young man my age sitting on a rock farely closs to me. He was watching/washing is feet in the shallow and algae-ish bank. I found it comforting, actually to have him a little near, on this long blank beach and that he was not looking at me, like a foreign lady thing to watch while he soaked his feet. We just mutually lazed like lizards or blinking alligators not acknowledging the presence of the other.

I biked back with the gale-force winds at my back and falsely believed that, because of my speed, picked up some energy points somewhere on the beach. Actaully, I was spurred by the thought of getting back to Dali and visiting this little Burmese/Indian/Thai restaurant that I passed the other night. So, I got back and dropped in. There where some fun-loving groovy types outside playing Thai volleyball with their heads. I entered the unassuming doorway to the restaurant and entered a parlor that had cozy, worn, faded colorful, scruffy/exotique decor. Lou Reed played on the stereo system, pervaded all the somewhere’s of the bungalow-like interior. I yelled hello and that’s when HE sidled around the corner. Smiling brightly before he even rounded the corner fully to greet me. I instantly felt a flutter, and I’m not really a fluttery type as of late. He had a poofy helmet of black hair, dark brown skin (like Indian, but not quite), and a round face. He wore faded jeans, a t-shirt, and dullish skate-border shoes, but he seemed to wear them unconscious of their styule-significance. He had a pleasing round head and face, in fact every feature of his face was as round as the script of his native language, which after I asked, I found out was Burmese. I asked if I could order “take-away” and he looked a little perplexed then I said it in Chinese, “da bao” and he said “of course” and quickly exited the room. After thinking that was odd, I sat down on the couch and looked at the menu. Then he rounded the corner smiling and holding a huge Chinese beer “qing dao”. I informed him of the mistake and he apologized for his bad Chinese and English. And becoming ever more smitten with his constant smile I just waved the international gesture for “no biggie.” I ordered some sloppy Indian curry and naan, to-go and cup of Burmese milk tea for “right now” I gesticulated (while smiling). He smile-ly exited again and there-in returned with a smile still and told me to “okay, wait” , which I was already in the process of doing. Then he left and I got up to check my self in the mirror and sink which was in the hallway. I looked pretty okay, but there was a bleariness about me, sun- over exposed, hair limp from sweat and wind. Oh well, whatever and sat back down at my table. I looked across my shoulder the garden kitchen where his friend cleaned some ingredients. Then he came around the corner again and for some reason I stood up at my table. So both standing we had a little cute (smilely) bad-English conversation about our relative whereabouts. I told him that I really wanted to go to Myanmar (Burma, if you like) and he suggested that I “go in this instant,” which I re-interpreted to mean to go while I travel in this instance of traveling, rather than bolting from the restaurant and making my way to the country right then and there. We have a “Land of Gold” he said, and I knew he meant that Myanmar means “Land of Gold”. I learned this from the book about Myanmar that I am currently reading/loving. He left and I sat down and noticed that he had sly placed the Burmese tea on the table. I watched the hacky-sack game through the window. They used a large wicker ball, slightly smaller than a volley-ball, and bounced it off their heads and elbows and chests. A old Chinese man, dressed in the standard dark blue work issued pant suit with a “Mao” collar, and I delighted to watch his toothless happy expression as he watched the youths of this alien era blithely play in the street. HE came around and I stood up again, for no reason, again and while smiling (almost manically) we exchanged a few more interpretive meanings and I felt like there where wires in my mouth. And I wondered if he was smiling because he knew that I thought he was adorable and cute, and probably not. Then I diverted his attention to behind his shoulder at a shelf featuring a package of cheroots, a type of banana leaf cigar, enjoyed by the Burmese (again info trinket from my book). He said that they were good and gave me two which I have yet to smoke. Then he left while smiling at me and emerged grinning, clasping my take-out. And I paid him and he hesitated when saying the amount, as he didn’t quite feel confidant in his number ability in either chinese of English. And I said what is it in Burmese, and made some syllables whose enunciation I couldn’t exactly match, and he laughed a little and I laughed and I left and he said after I turned my back “for you to come back” and held out 2 business cards. And I took them and I left with my food and smiling home thinking that it was nice feeling to have a crush. And I got home, took a shower washing the sand and cooling sun-blister heat of my arms. I came out to my food to find that the sloppy curry and yogurt raita had but entirely soaked through the paper take-away box. And I thought wow this looks so good. And it was excellently a mess.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Get back to whole...

For the past 2 days I've been in sun-shiney blue Dali in the basin between a big snow-capped mountain range and little rounded range skirting Er Hai, a BIG BLUE- oh thank you- lake. I am healing with fresh air and sun.
I ride around the smooth roads through the fields of beans and tall edible grasses wearing shorts and sandals. I'm getting my Arizona tan back, I'm feeling happy.
I'm getting lost in the narrow cool alleys of old villages and being guided back to civilization by old wrinkly women who show me ponds with huge birds and people living on wooden house boats. I'm follwoing roads until they turn intolerably trafficked with loud trucks and tourist SUVs heading into the view points up in the mountains.
But I am finding that roads around here go a long ways before they descend into that. There is a bookstore here with a small, but good selection of English books. They actually have a book I've been wanting to read for a while "The Trouser People." Its about Burma during Empire and Burma now. It funny and wonderful. Its so nice to be reading again. Here is the colorful arrangement of things from my bag on my nightstand.
I'm not having vivid dreams or restless sleep. There is no reason for me to leave for a while, and for quite a while I've been looking for no reason to leave.

Flower Piece (sic)

It was a tad stormy inside, but outside the yellow haze from wood fires and coal pollution hung motionlessly about the crumpling shacks and stained white tiled apartment complexes. And as the color of the sky inspired nothing, the weather, though not terrible, conspired against full-on storms, which I wanted. I was stuck in limbo between what was breaking and what was seemingly incapable of breaking. I wanted the sun, in and out, the sun. And like I wanted a storm to wash away the dull and bring in the sun, I needed an antipoison to wash the toxins in my body. And they were there.
I tried to cry in those dull moments. I tried to get it out, but I was so dry inside that I couldn't cry. In my little hotel bed staring at a disgruntled Queen Latifah and bewildered Steve Martin speaking chinese, oily fumeroles from the squat toilet curling around the thin wall, I sat in what can only be described as "The Horror." Edward coined the term a few years ago: A disgust for life directed at both others, but mostly at oneself. "The Horror" in its original context reffered to the feeling one gets (that is if you are painfully self-aware) when walking into a party of 19-22 year old college hipster talking pseudo-authoritatively about Noam Chomsky and watching "Family Guy" with no sense irony about either. But my Horror, seeing as how I am currently in rural south-western China, was of an alien strain. I contracted my Horror on a 4 hour bus ride thorugh the most oddly beautiful mountainscape I had yet to see, but on this ride I endured a constant inhalation of chinese ciggarettes, poor men and women puking and hawking out the windows behind and in front of me and swallowed in s lurching tangle of humans clutching to any hook or protruberance coming from the rat-trap bus walls. I had been on worse rides in the past few weeks, but maybe I had had enough, maybe I felt like I was wasting my trip and I was unhappy, and though it was a f-cking adventure, that this (at this moment) wasn't delivering me to place I wanted to be...
I arrived in the Town of Xingyi, finally, and I had bicycle business to take care of. I had a ripped tire and needed a new one. Incredibly dizzy and nauseas, I put my bike together and pedaled slowly up the hills of the town. Immediately, I found a decent bike shop and after an hour of doing mostly nothing they replaced my tire with a new one, it was 3 dollars, the whole thing...I meandered in the direction of increasing noise as that was the direction I was pointed towards. The hotel was a bargain and old, but clean, despite the smell from the toilet (but that is standard in most chinese buildings). I settled for three days. And by settled, I mean, I capsized, dog-sick and depressed. Wanting to vomit but couldn't, and actually paralyzed to leave the hotel room for as soon as I left I was sure to encounter someone smoking a foul ciggarette. And I just couldn't take it.
I spent that night on my side, nauseas, staring at the wall next to me. The next day I made it about 1 block to the grocery store to by water and juices. While I was in the grocery store, as usual, the floorladies followed me. And being annoyed and sick, I forgot completely what I wanted. I stood in front of some packages of candy gel and squirt bottles filled with high fructose syrup, with neon packaging so inane and bright that I become enraged at its obvious stupidity. Where is the edible non-gross food! So then eventually I found the water and picked up two liter bottles and a thing of gatorade-stuff and then carrying my items like a baby, I piled a few apples on top. With all this I stood transfixed in front of the bakery while the baker twisted purple dough into a jagged crystal bun. My arms got weak wobbly and I dropped everything on the floor. The ladies standing at a distance, but in a semi-circle around me, just stared. Picking them up I noticed that the water started fizzing in the bottle. I read the label featuring a blue Polar Bear "Mentholated Water" Maahahah!!!!

When one is afflicted with the Horror, frustrating grocery store experiences can push one over the edge and as it happened my right nostril began gushing blood. Surely, I thought, I was decaying from dryness from the inside out. A well-intentioned man handed me the tiniest scrap of paper towel which was soon soaked red. I dropped my stuff and walked briskly to the back, to the dark and dank (and probably aweful smelling--if I hadn't my nose pinched) employee bathroom. I turned on a pvc-pipe faucet and washed away the blood in the concrete trough containing dirty mops... When I left the gorcery store anticipating a fresh spill of blood from my nose, I passed a filthy dark man squating on the side-walk. He was wearing a dirty turquoise jacket for little girls and a black-lace petty-coat, his gnawrled feet squeezed into a child's plastic sandals. He was clutching a bag of sauce drenched chicken feet, with discarded feet strewn about on the concrete and his face smothered in dark red sauce. He looked up at me and his eyes were clear.
Another day passed in not-agony, but agonizing immobilization. Smells and noises and everything filled me with sickness and something approximating hate. I'm sorry how it comes off, but hate for the environment I was in. Luckily, it 85 percent passed and I was able to get to Kunming (6 hours away) on a old sleeper bus, which is a whole-other story, indeed. But I can, thankfully, just tell you in pictures.
The Sleeper Bus
The sleeper bus
And like I hoped the sky cleared just as soon as I entered Yunnan province, eternal spring with no storms, but with plenty of rocks.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Song for the Waiting

On the same road about 15 miles apart I saw two distinct traffic-halting accidents that where exactly the same. The first time, decribed below, I happened to be on a bike and I pedaled past. The second time, the next day, I was in a bus, actually the only one in the bus, other than the driver and the ticket-guy, two laughy talky pals. We scooted up on the scene and my heart sunk. It was on and off rainy, I knew that the road was hard, and we were at least 60 miles from the nearest town. I couldn't hop off and bike out of this. I was stuck, with the rest of the hundreds of people on this little dinky road for 2-3 hours while waiting for the police and crane to arrive to move the huge completely busted semi off the narrow country road.DSCF8742
Like most commotion or accidents everyone got out of their respective vehicles and stood around the scene, doing nothing for nothing was to be done.
I took some pictures. I stretched out across the sooty back seat and tried to listen to the BBC Worldservice warble in and out of frequency on my short-wave radio. I fell asleep. I walked around a village on the side of the road and used their stone outhouse on a cliff. The village could have been 100 years ago. The "Villagers" were walking around with bindles of sticks and sickles, continuing their business in the fields. They seemed un-moved by the turmoil on their stretch of road. I bought gross fried cookies (its something they have in villages) from a man who set-up a little stand under an umbrella in the mud on the side of the road. I went back and leaned against my window in the empty bus and then I heard a song drift in from bus in front of me. I immediately loved it, like its the song I've been waiting to hear for the last year of my life in China. It suited every sense and feeling of the scene. I stepped out of my empty bus and crouched outside of theirs, full of people with their shoes off and legs hung up on the seats. I like to think that it matches the melancholy and exasperation in everyone's expression, while at the same time hinting at our acceptance that we just have to wait....Listen

...How my decisions are made.

, originally uploaded by gofeetgo.

Example: In Lipu, a nothing special town, it was tucked away, off the loud street, although as per usual it was across the street from this KTV. It had a desk attendant and behind the desk on the wall were 5 clocks "London, Moscow, Tokyo, Beijing, New York". Its a mystery as to why all 2-star Chinese hotels have these in their lobbies, as it is by no means an indication of their international clientele. But it is a clue as to their very 2-star status, and because I still haven't looked up the character for "binguan" (hotel), indeed its an indicator of what the establishment actually is. Funny, I typically ride down the street peering into shop-fronts, looking for these clocks.

It was 100 kuai, which is not a great deal, but it did however fall within the high ranges of my daily budget. I was at first excited by the large room, with cleanish looking carpet, as carpet meant that I could stretch on the floor instead of on the bed. Its more effective on the floor and lately I am very tight from all the cycling. The bathroom was tip-toe icky, but that is standard. Also standard, apparently, were the black scuffs of shoes on the wall, about waist level. Again standard: the tea cups come with wet used tea leaves in the bottom, and wet plastic bathroom sandals in a flimsy paper bag that read SANITIZED. Some times, but not this time, a ribbon of paper with the same SANITIZED loops around the lid of the toilet. Though I have suspecions about all of these claims.

I performed the same tasks upon geting to the hotel after a day of cycling. 1) Shower, which may or may not be enjoyable, but, in this bathroom, was. 2.) And then sit on the white bed sheets, clean wet hair in a white towel and take in about five minutes of TV before I realize that I'm not really watching anything at all, since I can't understand, but just staring exhuastedly. 3.) Then I go out and seek food.

I always look for a particular kind of garage/open air kitchen whose prominent feature is a wok with a fan affixed to it. Other kitchens without the prominant wok/fan might offer noodles, or something else other than what I prefer, plain stir-fry. In the kitchens that I prefer I can go in and point to the vegetables and meats and tofus that I want and then they (a good chef) usually suggest the tastiest arrangements, which doesn't always assume that everything be mixed together. I am thankful for this kind of kitchen access, as anywhere else I am usually at the mercy of the "way its done here" like it or leave it. And I haven't ever left it, though I have thought about it. Nothing like eating something you don't like after a whole day of biking. It's depressing, actually.

Then maybe I find an internet cafe, or maybe I just walk around taking photos, or just go back to the hotel room.

I went back to the hotel room after doing both of the above mentioned, and it was late. I got a late start on getting ready for the next day (i.e. partially packing up my panniers, which I have to completely empty out every night; and then looking at the map). I did neither, actually, and I lied in bed kind of in a "WHY WHAT" funk staring at the TV. I heard a rustling somewhere in the room and assumed that something was tumbling over. I fell in a restless sleep and then was awoken to a clang in the bathroom. I sprung up, turned on the light. And a black blur of a rat scurried from under my bed. MY BEDTHAT I WAS ON! Oh heavens, I was rattled, and I screamed once, and then froze in indecision. Leave or complain or what, what? So I got on my boots and went into the creepy ill-lit hallway (by the way also, standard) and went down to the "24 hour" attendant desk, which was, of course, was not only not-attended, but actually cloaked in absolute darkness. I didn't even step out of the elevator. I entered in my nightmare turned reality hotel room and climbed on my bed, and made a decision. Seeing as how my sleep will, undoubtedly, be so very bad. And seeing as how, as of this moment, I think I've just had enough of this road 321 and its towns that are the way they are, and blaghhh! So I scrapped my 1 week of plans and decided the next day to take a bus to the other side of this province and get into the next one, Yunnan, where I really want to be. Gosh... And so that's...

As per

"Head on the saw-horse."

I left from the north road north of the resevoir. I passed a dismal resort, if one could call it that. The pool was filled with sludge and 2byfours. But the resevoir was emerald green, and I was inches from swimming myself, but heeded the signal the smell was sending me. In the courtyard of the resort there was a broken porch swing half suspended; a large tattered rainbow umbrella lay on its side, colors dulled from coal dust and metal wires radiating dangerously. A boy wandered around the pool in an oversized white suit jacket, his uniform, he worked there, doing what? Some fat men and skinny boys were standing in soggy underwear on the edge of the resevoir.
I rode by slowly, inching up a steep hill. A truck sped by sending a puff of dust in my face. I put on my sunglasses, despite the overcast skies. I wrapped a scarf around my mouth, despite my aerobic exursion...
Lastnight I watched "Half Nelson" from an internet bar, I was really enjoying it as it was the first movie I have watched in month. But the connection was lagged, and while it buffered, a middle aged man, fumes of alcohol, whispered in my ear "Jianada de, Meigou de ma" are you canandian or american...He asked over and over and eventually I waved him away in repugnance, which maybe wasn't best.
I left before it finished and he followed me home at a sad-puppy distance. I stopped to buy a popsicle. I stopped to pat my pockets. I stopped ducked in a well-lit pharmacy. And he stopped, and stopped, and stopped. I said bad man, bad man there. But maybe he wasn't really bad, but I knew only how to say that he was. And a helpful woman in a turtle neck, lab coat and high heels walked me home to my government hotel, arms linked together elbow to elbow. And I fell asleep under a mosquito net in the glow of government programing...
A truck passes and sure enough the dust clouds again. I go up and down along a river, neighboring countryside, green things, wet shacks, for 36 self-affirming miles on a 2-lane road, under an almost thunder storm.
I wasn't there to witness it, but I could put the pieces together when I saw it: At mile twenty-eight an 18 wheeler barely nicked the sideview mirror of another 18 wheeler and time-space popped, and like chemistry experiment changed their states of being. Both of them jack-kniffed at the point of contact, leaving a human-sized gap between the two now useless machines. For miles trailers (filled with hogs), busses, and cars filed one behind another.
And I pedaled by them, the passengers, wide-eyed, but expressionless watching me like I was a animal eating another animal. As a traveller in their country, sometimes its me that has to smile first, and I find this odd. But the gap was enough for me! While straddling my bicycle I walked between the two and counted my blessings that I was not on a bus that day. I went on my way and the thunder storm broke and I later I arrived to yet another cheap hotel, wet and, today, happy.

Basie to Longlin -- March 17th

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


It kinda looks it, but its not a chinese word, it's what I do when I get into the city. Coming from me, it's not entirely bad. Since I left the village of Zhaoxing about a week ago, leaving on a day when it pelted cold rain, the cold drizzle and the sense of languish hasn't really abated. I wrassled my way out of the gritty bus horn-remarkable northern towns. And have since spent 2 days in the city of Guilin and the tourist-enclave of Yangshuo.

The well-trafficked and bleak road to Yangshuo, scenary just out of reach.

I once met a young happen'in female tour guide in Beijing who told me in her years of experience in China the city she would want to live in the most was here, Yangshuo. True that the grey rocks covered in drippy green bushes protruding like noses ringing the city are fantastic/ical. No better setting, sure. But living here? Are they, the expats, living here? The main attraction of the town is "West Street" with its perpetual souvenir hawking and bar/cafe's playing Bob Marley, and foreigner 20-somethings wheeling around on rented mountain bikes, and this whole laid-backness that is desperately perpetuated using little more than the decor alone. And there are the assumed backpackers (I've only seen a few actually).. but the backpackers! with their gersh'dern brightly colored performance outerwear and backpacks with a confusion of dangly straps and lycra loops.


I mean who am I if not exactly them (but I like to think somehow not, because I don't like it). So, there is the self-awareness that tends to distract. But really I'm mildly dissapointed=playfully bitter because I haven't really met a single one of these backpackers, and its like their just figments of the marketing immagination of the town. I'm here in the internet room at my lodge and there are 2 obnoxious backpacks (as described above) leaning against the wall, but with no packers in sight. Where are they? I want to talk to them! its dire, as I haven't talked in non-baby langauge for 3 weeks. But..There are plenty of adorable Chinese tour bus tourists, who opposite to Western tourist, dress in their best and lavish upon the kitschy boutiques and gift shops, walk in lines behind tour guides holding little flags, and take ample amounts of photos in front of monuments and landscapes. And I love them because I like to tell myself that they are transparent and "true" in their goals and methods of "seeing" and its lacks the self-awareness and tourist-guilt of a western backpacker looking for a unique story to tell and a true communion with the people (that's not evil, of course, but I'm just saying). In their guilt-free commodifcation of place, its kinda of a gas!

Meh. Its not important. The weather is grey and drizzle cold, and its getting to me. Since its not quite raining, the usually gritty towns aren't quite washed. Instead, the grit combined with drizzle is made slippery shiney and more apparent, postively grimmy! I am already nostalgic for a week and half-ago when I was in shorts riding my bicycle on sweet mountainy mountains. Oh life was simple then and I was righteous and I thought, This here place is a marvel, and my very "adventure" life is a marvel and everything hence forth (in my life) will be like so much better because of the merest coicindences that the weather happened to be good on that particularly pretty road. So, tomorrow I leave Yangshuo having spent more than the usual daily allowance on coffees and diet cokes and massages and hair cuts (4 things that are luxurious to me) and with photos of not the Moon Hill or the Li River cruise or whatnot tourist must-see's, but with the standard street shots of things I delight-in, shadows, over-stimulation, junk, peeking in and sometimes I feel I can't get enough of these things. Meandering and healthy-bit of languishing IS my essence.

(click on the Mao for more photos.)

Officially finished with my self-declared "Phase I" Tomorrow, I start Phase II: 2 weeks through less populated areas headed toward the "eternal spring" of Yunnan province. Where I am hoping that my travel life will again match more approximately the idea I have in my head of my travel life. And this happens only when I moving and sweating and meeting people on my bike, not while sitting in the hotel room, restaurant, or at the internet cafe, even.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"Heard of the Sea versus the Scenary"

Despite that it has been recorded in exhausted-laying-on-my-side-in-bed scribble in my journal, now like 20 pages, I choose to not really detail all that has happened in the last few days, in the hopes that I can pull myself out of the greyness of the last few days. Not that they have been bad. My National Geographic Traveller exxxxtreme outlook on travelling allows me to swallow every "adventure," even if it sucky adventure, with a grain of salt. I don't really know how to use that expression. Swallow with a swig of juice, or with a jello shooter. In the swiftness of putting it: I had not money to pay for things, such as lodging and food. Reason was that gritty town of Sanjiang had some problem with being advanced or civilized or nice enough to accept my Bank of Beijing bank card. Stupid town.
I survived by the skin of my witty teeth. In the ensuing adventure not on a bike-- unforntuanetly, as it was dire that I get to big city Guilin for the merest of purpose of using a ATM machine (ha!)-- I: rode a crap bus on the crappiest mud and bumpy rode in civilization, and sat behind several people who vomited out the window, vomited on the floor, live chickens in bags (yes!) and I proudly managed to pee in a bottle on a moving (actually jumping) bus, also at one point I had to sit in a wet seat (probably pee-because of cosmic karma).
Now I am in Guilin, a city that, in its glorius neon punchy uplighting essence, is a Disneyfied version of itself. In the river which runs through the city, there are circulating about 100 little ferries covered with chinese tourists taking pictures with their camera phones. Here is the location on earth of the famed Karst Limestone Pinnacles. If you don't know what any of those three words refer to, they refer to odd shaped (boob-shaped) mountains. I'm spending 2 nights here just so I can sleep-in and because the weather is cold and damp and I can't even really see the boob mountains.
Tomorrow, I thankfully ride 88km south to Yangshuo, the charming Western Enclave. The city exists to cater to all those foriegn 20-something backpacker-types that choose to not make eye-contact with each other while walking around Beijing and presumably other big Chinese cities. I hope I get some eye-contact actually because 2 weeks into it and being alone in the beautiful, yet rough and tumble hinterlands already I am talking to myself, laughing at my own jokes, and speaking in different voices. I haven't named them yet. Oh goodness.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Mar. 4 and 5th: Stuck in Liping

, originally uploaded by gofeetgo.

I ended up in this typically loud little Chinse city because there were no buses out of Zhaoxing to Sanjiang and I thought I could get a connection here. It started raining and the mountain roads around this region are majorly hilly, half of the way there I was told would be under major construction. Well its been 2 days now and I hope for a bus down south tomorrow. I can't really bike out of this city, to any reasonable city nearby. I am stuck waiting for the every-other day bus to Sanjiang. So fortunately, there is a decent internet cafe. And its not as slow as others, though it is slow. In my rainy day in waiting I have been transfering my jounral entries to my blog and I am glad to be done. Its a lot of work. If I have not emailed its because the blogs are taking up my internet energy, but please consider them just as personal as a message, because I post them with the same measure of care and desire to share this experience. Here are some pictures I took around Liping trying to kill time. I have lots of pictures and the better ones can be found at my flickr site. www.flickr.com/photos/gofeetgo, which is more frequntly updated than this blog.

Mar 3: Zhaoxing Freeday

DSCF7459, originally uploaded by gofeetgo.

Woke up late at 8:40am and slowly made my way down to the hotel's canteen where the super friendly owner was srpcuing up in his dress pants and oversixed sport jacket. He made 2 fried eggs (lots of eggs these days) and asked me if I wanted pancakes, assuming that I would, since its a quintessential backpacker's breakfast. I didn't and ordered the steamed bread. He brought me some delicious instant coffee (presenation makes all the difference) and then walked out the door with an empty saucer. I watched him by a piece of bread from the dinky bakery cross the street. Then brought it back. It was something like a microwaved croissant (rock hard-on the bottom and crumbly on the top). I liked having someone serve me what they think I would like. And I liked it!

I meandered around the M.C. Escher-like village, with stairways, bridges, and footpaths and narrow alleys. Time passed and I ate some lunch, then felt really lethargic and to heck with it crawled into bed. Woke up engergetic and a little guilty from being lazy and decided to bike the 5 miles up the mountain to the "Eco-Village" Tang'an (apparently a China-Norway colloboration in sustainable such-n-such).

In just sandals, shorts, and a short-sleeve shirt, no bags I flew through town, while feeling a little self-conscious. I know that I am showing more skin than is kosher and I turned a few heads. Little old ladies lauch and often look at my legs and try to quantify their size with their hands. I laugh and tell them that I am Big person and in China everyone is little.

The climb was steep, but no bags, and little clothing and a sunhiney blue sky, made me relish it all. It was really great and the rice terraces were millions on top of each other, the most beautiful I have seen so far.

Once I got up to Tang'An I was sweaty and my hair was crazy from the wind. I found a stream and washed up, let my hair down and combed it. My wet arms,legs,and face drying in the sun.

Played with some kids, and let a boy attempt to ride my bike. Then as I was heading up to the village with the kids clamoring around me (its so movie-like I know, but its what happened) I heard some english from a yonder window. A man appeared and invited me in his tradional home.

He is a accountant from Tianjin. Married a Dong woman and is now spending a year living in the mountains. I later asked about the Norway-China thing, and as it turned out his wife is a singer and has not only cut a live album but has travelled to Norway 3 times singing traditional Dong songs in a special colloboration and exchange to preserve the musical tradition of the village of Tang'An.

Zhang (the husband) is using some of his time in the village studying and recording his wife's music. Real anthro-field-musicology. I told him about my love for new music, espeically regionally music from little places around the world. He and his wife sung a drinking song for me as I recorded on my digital recorder (I bought especially in the offchance that I would have an encounter like this). I asked to buy a CD off of her (they weren't selling them). And he attempted to upload some of his recordings on my mp3 player (but a virus on my player stopped him). It was really super cool.
They were wired in that hut.

It was about 5pm and I had the long winding downhill before the sunset. Most wonderful long coast down a mountain ever, the road was smooth and the terraces glimmering.

Mar. 2: The high road to Zhaoxing

DSCF7394, originally uploaded by gofeetgo.

Now, finally I get a decent early start to Zhaoxing. And there of course are two roads, the high and the low. I take the high, no traffic at all, thats because its a mountain path. I rode up and up on a pebbly dirt raod for about 4 hours. Astounding views of the valleys and the abandanned rice terraces. Stopped at one point to bathe a little in some erratic water coming off the rock cliffs. The wind blew quite hard around some bends. It was hard, but I never felt distracted by its difficulty. Like a streaming endorphin flow. I didn't (and I don't) listen to my mp3 player, it doesn't even occur to me to listen to music. Indication that I am fully present in the action, I guess.But when I do remember, music makes it all the more sweeter.

When I finally reached the top I of course thought that everything would be down hill from here. I sat on the very edge of mountain and ate a soy sauced-soaked hard-boiled egg. It was 2pm. I crunched down the mountain passing a village tucked in a hanging valley.

I kept thinking that Zhaoxing (after 5 hours) was just around the corner. I was wrong. Once I down off the mountains and onto paved road, at a town called Guandong, I was just half-way there. A little disspointed but still feeling pleasant from my accomplishment of getting over the mountains, I decided to eat a little lunch (though I usually don't eat meals while I am riding, but instead snack here and there). Stopped at a women's outdoor kitchen and had her fry up some eggs and greens, with a bowl of rice. I like thisd simple eating. Some kids oogled my bike and shyly practiced their english in the next room--I guess working up the nerve to perform it for me. They never did and instead opted to yell "Hello! What's your name?" at my back while I rode away. Riding down main street, with the locals gawking at me, I turned around and yelled back "Hannah, and you!!?"

From the city on it became very hilly, and not the pleasant kind of hills, but the kind that you crawl (or walk) up and then go down so fast that you end up needing to break most of the downhill. It was frustrating, but again the scenary-- rice paddies, orange groves, and the first sight of limestone outcroppings-- made me not dwell on how exhausted I was.

Actually, this was the toughest ride (I think) I've ever done. It was 30 miles of thigh engagement and deep lung heaving. The Bike Asia crew do the ride with no bags. My bike, is hardly liftable, maybe 70 lbs or more.

Zhaoxing was the Dong oasis I was expecting. Its not as pristine and renovated as I thought, but that's good. It is a living village that invites tourism, rather than existing because of it. Its in working order, rather than all appearances.

Here in the lovely Dong Village Hotel (40Y), I met and hung out with the first foreign traveller in a week. A young, hip Japanese doctor from Osaka namd Massa. We had dinner together. His english wasn't great, he had a lisp (a cute one), but his exuberant miming made up for lost meanings. He couldn't speak Chinese and I enjoyed being a bit of a translator. I couldn't imagine travelling around a country only pointing at scibbles in a notebook, which is how he gets around. Japense characters are 3/5 understandable in Chinese (according to him). Tomorrow, no riding, except, maybe a little.

My name is Hannah Pierce-Carlson