Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 6 – Yangshuo: The one that got us all, almost

Rosabelle slept for the whole night, and woke up only in the morning for a feed – woohoo! I had of course woken up earlier, thanks to the sounds of children in the back alley, traffic, and some damned bird caged up by some owner…
I let Rosabelle sit in a chair and eat her cake and drink her yogurt, leaving her with one wet wipe to clean up after herself as I packed for the day. She was most cooperative, and even pooed before we left the room, heh!
That is how she normally greets Simon in the mornings…
And that is her pretending to ask for Gu Gu (my brother) and Uncle Boa…
Brother said we would need to take an early lunch since there would not be decent food available on the raft ride and Xingping, where we were headed later, so off to Pure Lotus vegetarian food again, haha… My father was recuperating in his room the whole day (started having a case of the runs even), so he did not join us. Here, Simon is guiltily telling Rosabelle to not stick her hand into the fish pool after he had blatantly done so…
As we waited for food, we played a game where nobody can speak, and here, my brother was trying to make Simon laugh by staring at him with funny faces… Meanwhile, I was calling Air China to try and change my air ticket – I was supposed to fly off at 11:40am on Monday, but as my family’s flight times had changed to the afternoon, it did not make sense for me to head to Guilin airport alone and pay RMB250 for the transfer when we could all get one ride together. Instead, I paid the RMB250 for changing the flight ticket (makes sense, right?), and got us on a 4:00pm flight home to Beijing instead. Yippee!
After the brunch, we took a hired van and headed to the pier to take a river raft ride. Rosabelle is pretending to sleep on Simon’s lap…
That’s us at the beginning of our ride, not knowing the cold that lay in store for us…
The kids, mum and I took one raft, whilst I think Boa and my brother appreciated the alone time away from pesky Simon on their own raft, though we tailed each other quite closely, and at one time, had to tell the boatmen that they did not have to literally tie the boats together (duh, what’s the point of paying for the two boats then when we could have all just squeezed into one…). The scenery was all very nice, though the motor engines were really noisy, and we basically covered the same route as that on the Li River cruise, albeit at a much slower and leisurely pace.
However, with only a rain canvas cover on top, it was really cold with the winds coming against us from all directions. Thank goodness I brought an extra jacket for Rosabelle, and Mum had to don my down jacket (but could not zip it up), whilst I wore her thick jacket. Poor Simon was really brave and strong – he just wore one L/S shirt, a vest, and a sweater hood (told my mum he’s dressed for Singapore cinemas/Vivo City, not winter!), and I saw him turning all silent and muttering to himself at times, so not like him, but he said he was not cold when I asked him. Maybe he was just missing Boa and my brother, heh!
The boatmen stopped us at some islets along to way to look at local produce and souvenirs, and we had to tell them we were not interested in such things (maybe they needed the break more than us – they stopped to grab lunch once!). The kids were maybe quite hungry as well, and thank goodness my mum had some snacks like biscuits and chips in her bag – Rosabelle kept gorging on them and asked my mum to take a look into the packet when my mum bluffed her that it was all finished. However, no matter how much she loved her food, I was really amazed at her self-discipline when she took one chip, then returned it to my mum, asking to wipe her hands with a wet wipe first before she continued eating. Clap, clap!
We had actually booked the rafts to go to Yangdi, but apparently, there was some recent legislation that did not allow boats from Yangshuo to go to Yangdi and head back – tourists must get down and board another boat from Yangdi and pay for that one-way trip. This was because boats from Yangdi are cheaper, and they wanted to regulate the pricing and control the industry, so at one point, my brother was quite confused and irritated that the boatmen did not want to carry on the journey to Yangdi even though we had specified and were going to pay for that. In the end, we did head close to Yangdi, but of course did not get down, before we started to head back to Yangshuo.

I think we were all quite relieved, as it was really getting cold after close to 2 hours on the raft, and our girl even fell asleep! Now, my mum and I were really keen on going to the toilet (Rosabelle could just pee into the rivers, and the men could basically do it anywhere), and it wasn’t funny that I had to carry our girl as she slept and pressed against my already full bladder. Of course, the sounds of gushing waters against the boat wasn't at all conducive in keeping our waters in... I was very tempted to just whip out my mum’s umbrella and get her to cover me as I went on the boat, haha! At one point, my mum and I were chatting about her buying extra thick panty liners to use on this trip, so I joked that she should try out their absorbency by peeing there and then. It almost cost us both as we laughed and tried to control our bursting bladders at the same time!

As Rosabelle slept on, I handed her to my brother as the boatman found a toilet – two make-shift cubicles situated about 100 metres away from the shore, where we had to walk on cobbly stones and hold in our urines at the same time – what torture! I quickly used the toilet, as my poor mother had to continue holding hers in as Simon needed the toilet first and she had to hold the door close. When I came out to take over for her, she was indeed most relieved and grateful, haha!
Our girl woke up after about an hour of sleep, and it was just as well as we had finished our boat ride and went on to the town of Xingping in our van. I felt her body was slightly hot but I put it down to the fact that I was cold. Xingping has a history that spans several hundreds longer than Yangshuo.
We paid a visit to the Wu Sheng Temple that now houses the Treasures Museum. As we were crossing a small drain, the temple guide offered to help Rosabelle across as she held her hand. After Rosabelle got on the other side, she gestured to the lady and said, ‘阿姨, hold Popo 吧!' as my mum was still trying to make her way across. The guide was amazed by her filial piety at this young age, as our girl touched my mum’s legs ever so slightly as she came over, as if trying her best to also help my mum. She knows that my mum is considered an elderly person and needs help, not even asking for any assistance for somebody like me (yes, I am young and able in my girl's eyes!) – so cute and sweet!
The village was really small and has retained much of its old world, ancient ambiance with its streets of Ming and Qing dynasty architecture.
Our girl was content to wander around on her own, peering into people’s houses as we saw tattered sofas, rickety, broken tables/chairs, or sometimes even nothing at all as they probably could not afford any furniture… it’s like the world has gone by since the 1930’s and forgotten about this village…
With the stone streets and crumbly brick buildings, it does look like a ghost town, if not for the occasional face we saw in the houses or in the shops selling knick-knacks.
By this time, it was starting to drizzle slightly and Mum waited for us as she held an umbrella out as Simon went on ahead with Boa and my brother. When we caught up with them, I saw my brother furious with Simon, complaining to my mum about how impossible the boy was, as Boa shielded the latter. Apparently, Simon kept stepping on Boa’s shoes even though he was asked to stop, and my brother had smacked him (not sure where), making him cry. My mum was also quite angry and started stepping on Simon’s shoes as a punishment (erm, I thought that was really childish of her, but I kept all comments to myself...). Boa was maybe not pleased that my brother was so harsh on Simon, saying he could handle it himself. That’s my girl looking on at the commotion, as my brother carried Simon up and threatened to leave him in Xingping.
After that, it was time for us to head back to our hotel in the van.

Addendum added 23 December 2010: I forgot to blog about the fact that on our way back to Yangshuo, there was a major jam as a van had steered dangerously off the road and had to be carted aside as it had turned turtle, so it was a gridlock for both ways as the police came. Not sure if anybody was hurt, but the slopes were quite scary, and the roads very dark. Thank goodness we did not have to rush to any shows or dinners…

As Rosabelle felt slightly warm, I decided not to bathe her and instead wiped her up and washed her down at the sink area with mum’s help. My brother was also feeling feverish, maybe from the cold in the rafts, and decided to stay in that night, so only my mum and I brought the kids out for dinner. (He took some medicine and concked out for 12 hours in the room!) Since it was just us ladies and the young, we decided to travel light, stuffing our money and whatever wet wipes etc into our jackets and a small, unassuming-looking paper bag my mum brought along.

It was still raining as we headed out, so we went to Le Votre, a French restaurant down the road, for dinner. It’s a restored clan/association, and retained much of the olden-looking interior, complete with artifacts in glass cases. Thankfully our girl’s slight temperature did not affect her mood nor appetite as she had quite a hearty meal of spaghetti and rice/chicken/potatos. I was feeling carnivorous after two meals of vegetarian – I needed to sin and thus ordered a steak, haha!
I also ordered dessert of ice cream, crepes (French restaurant – crepes have to be good, right? Apparently not…), and chocolate cake (yums!). The kids of course enjoyed the dessert most… thank goodness we went in slightly ‘early’ (even though we ate only like at 8:30pm), as there was a 16-person troop coming in after us and we saw the wait staff quickly get the table ready. I can’t imagine our orders coming in after theirs… we probably would have to wait ages!

As we were eating, mum and I bluffed Simon that as he was badly-behaved today and had made Boa and Gu Gu angry, they have decided not to join us for dinner. The next day, my brother admitted he should not have smacked Simon, and that was when I went into my spiel about how I never beat Rosabelle, no matter how furious I am. You should instead remove them from the situation, i.e. carry Simon away from Boa, as it’s really a matter of face for them both. My brother, the adult, screaming at him to stop, whilst he, an increasingly defiant child, daring my brother to do something/anything to make him stop. I can only imagine how terrifying it must have been for Simon to have been threatened to be abandoned in Xingping… but I can also imagine how angry my brother was at him…

Anyway, after dinner, the rain had stopped, but as the grounds were wet, I carried Rosabelle as we walked to get bread from a bakery some distance away. My mother had wanted to get some fresh persimmons she saw selling on the first day we passed by there, but they only had the dried versions. Boa had wanted to try some and when we wanted to buy some for him, turns out they only sell from 1kg onwards – sheesh! So we just got some yogurt and milk from the stores, and slowly walked back to our hotel. Rosabelle actually recognized one shop as the one she was playing with the sales assistant in the other day – she really has very excellent memory… I was cursing my brother for not coming out with us as I almost fainted, and my arm almost broke, from having to carry Rosabelle all the way even though she was insisting on coming down (the floors were wet, and there were alot fo people as folks from other towns have come in for the weekend).

That night, we had a relatively ‘early’ night as we got to bed at 11:15pm…

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