Monday, March 13, 2006

Day 5: YANGSUO

Theoretically at least, it was a good idea to take a boat up the Li River to Yangsuo, passing through a place acknowledged as one most scenic areas in the world. So we woke up before 7am to get a bus that would strand us at the dock of tourist trap souvenir stands for an hour before the 10:30-ish departure. Then men paddled flat tube skiffs out to the tourist boats and tried to sell souvenirs through the windows. One of these guys told me he made RMB300-500 a month and had to do this idiotic scam because he didn't have a drivers' license, i.e. a ticket to a better job. Then in Yangsuo we saw the amazingly scenic cliffs, rode bicycles, and paid the locals 2RMB to take photos of their cows - actually they tried to charge 2RMB per cow, and at one juncture succeded in scheming 11RMB out of us for a couple shutter snaps. It was a land of scam merchants.

And decent restaurants. And bargain goods. Stefan bought 4 probably fake North Face jackets, and that's about all I have to say for Yangsuo....We left it on a bus, then in Guilin caught the train for Kunming, with MaD promising us we would get hard sleepers even though all anyone had bought was platform tickets.

The good thing about MaD and Hunter was that they rolled mad cheap. Rarely was it more than RMB40 a night for a room, and often less. For the train from Wuhan to Changsha, they had a friend meet us at the platform with extra platform passes, meaning several had ridden for free - actually RMB2, if you count the price of two platform tickets, and that's basically nothing. The Swedes were paying their way, and they had nairn cash. I think Jonas asked Hunter for a couple RMB for a bus somewhere, at which point he said, "Man, I'm down to my last 20." 20RMB is about USD2.50 - and this was the 5th day of the tour!!! MaD was also talking about moving to a cheaper apartment as he couldn't afford RMB300 a month anymore. It's hard to not call that punk rock.

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