June 6th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0

The day did not begin well.  I was unwell again – this is becoming boring.  And then we had problems obtaining breakfast.  The Lotus café seems to have breakfast well-organised, with a special menu with standard Western foods – toast, coffee, orange juice, etc.  But not only were they deadeningly slow, the foods they offered were only imitations of the real thing.  The orange juice was weak orange squash, the toast was sugared.  And they managed to mess up what few things they had on offer.  A couple of French guys were waiting over an hour for an egg + tomato sandwich.  Eventually, they were brought toast, with sugar inside.  When they complained, this was taken away, only to be brought back a little later with tomato inside.  And then, after further complaints, egg was added.  Egg, tomato, + sugar – a truly revolting mixture.  Our own breakfast was not quite as disastrous, but it wasn’t much better either, + took just as long.

When we finally re-emerged, we strolled around town.  It’s not very big, about the size of Welwyn village, + picturesque, in its own, severely functional, way.  We headed for the town park, dominated by a high steep hill, Xi Lang (Western Boy) with a pagoda on top, in the centre.  The park itself was cool + peaceful, with many shady paths, but severely unkempt.  We had paid 10 fen each as entrance fee, but it didn’t appear that these contributions were being used for maintenance.  But perhaps we had caught it at a bad time, a woman in curlers.  In any case, the degeneration hadn’t yet reached a stage where it made the place unattractive, even in what was officially designated “the artistic plot”, what had formerly been the formal garden, now looking all the more dishevelled in contrast.  We climbed the steps leading up to the pagoda, + were rewarded with a fine view over the town.  Another traveller had told us one could easily spend 3 hrs up there looking around, but this wasn’t for us.  Having came + seen, we felt we had conquered, + descended once again.

Pagoda in the park

Down on the riverfront, we were amazed to see 15 to 20 tour buses sitting there, all waiting to collect the tourists off the boat from Guilin, + whisk them back.  And the souvenir + craft shops had their wares out on display ready to tempt them all.  I’ll confess I succumbed, in that I bought a cold coke.   But it had been bottled in China, + wasn’t very nice.  We found Yangshuo’s Friendship Store – these are special stores for foreigners, + tho’ this one wasn’t particularly well-stocked, we did find chocolate + cold pineapple juice, + indulged in both.  The cans of American beer we left for another occasion.

Wandered back to the hotel via the market, + played Frisbee for a while in the courtyard – we got some curious stares, but nobody else joined in.  I gave Val a hair cut, not doing at all a bad job, + then we lazed around the room until the other 2 returned from their own explorations, + we all went out to dinner.  We were determined to go to a different restaurant if possible, the Lotus had depressed us too much this morning.  The first place we tried had been doing a thriving trade when Val + I had looked in on it at lunchtime, but now they were just about closed.  “Mayo, mayo,” the old lady told us.  We’re going to be hearing a lot of that phrase over the next couple of months apparently, accompanied by a vigorous wave of the hand.  It’s Chinese for “no can do”.  But it was our own fault – we’d already been warned that ordinary Chinese restaurants closed early.  We tried the restaurant in the town’s major hotel next door, but it was the same story there, so we were forced, it being the only place open in town, to go to the Lotus after all.

The evening did not turn out well.  They were very crowded – it’s a tiny place – + the atmosphere was noisy + confused.  Mike in particular was distressed by an old lady noisily + persistently beating a small child, who was, understandably, demonstrating his distaste for the procedure by bawling loudly.  At which offence, + presumably to shut him up, she beat him some more.  This was all in full view of the restaurant – she even took to carrying him up + down the narrow gangway between the tables, slapping him as she went.  Mike eventually stormed out before any food arrived, presumably before he committed violence upon the old lady.  As there was nowhere else to buy any food, this meant condemning himself to a supperless night.  Ironically, not long after he left, the place quietened down considerably, + when the food came, it was once again very good, tho’ to no one’s surprise, they made a mistake in the kitchen, + left off a dish.

Afterwards, we went to a govt run ice shop, which dispensed fresh sweet buns + ice cold sugary drinks at very reasonable prices, + seemed to be open nearly all day, early morn to late night.  Returned just in time to catch the BBC’s Sports Report + World News.  My night was disturbed.  We’d been presented with a fan in our room, but I found they made the mosquito problem worse.  The mossies were far too numerous to be driven out by the fan – all it succeeded in doing was blowing up the side of my mosquito net, giving the buggers free access.

Incidents and stories… which is all that travelling is, in the end. Plus scenery, of course. We are enjoying the small town vibes of Yangshuo far more than the bigger cities we have yet seen, allowing for a more peaceful and relaxed pace.

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