June 8th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0

Decided to take a boat trip this morning down to the village of Fuli.  It was very cheap, just Y5 per person, + as we’d decided against hiring a boat to go in the opposite direction to Guilin – we’d met some American girls there who hadn’t thought much of it – we thought we would take this opportunity to see something of the river.  It was unfortunate that 2 of the other 3 doing the trio today were the English couple we’d met + taken an instant dislike to, in Gunagzhou.  We were fated to be together, it seemed – they had travelled with us on the same boat from Guangzhou to Wuzhou.  My opinion of them wasn’t improved when first they turned up late bat the meeting point, then, forgetting something or other, returned to their room, twice, to fetch it.  The English-speaking guide was equally as pissed off with them, + his annoyance was increased when none of us would pay in FECs.  But by the time we boarded the boat, his good temper had returned.  There were 10 of us aboard the small, flat-bottomed launch, we 5 passengers, the guide, one woman manning the outboard motor, + 3 younger ones acting as deck-hands.  The engine was switched off frequently during the early part of the trip, + as we drifted downstream, our guide gave us a commentary on the mountains rearing up all around.  It was, however, the sort of commentary with which I have little sympathy or interest – no geology, no geography, no history, no sociology, all myth.  The mountain is the old man, beating his son, that one the dragon, that range the 8 fairies.  Achingly tedious + dull.  The Chinese seem to have a passion for allegory.  I didn’t understand any of the commentary yesterday in the caves, but I would bet a large sum of money it was largely along the same lines.

We disembarked briefly from the boat to take a short cut across Snow Lion Hill (see what I mean) + this was the only time that, unprompted, our guide referred to something of contemporary interest, when he pointed out the location used by a Hong Kong film company to shoot a recent film.  It has just occurred to me that the exclusive use of mythology, for someone in his position, has the advantage of being entirely safe, ideologically speaking.  But then, so does geology.

The boat was waiting for us on the other side of the hill – from there, we motored pretty much directly to Fuli.  Today was market day in this small town, + we spent nearly an hour wandering around.  It was about the right amount of time.  The heat of the sun pounded down, + in any case I at least was ready to leave after that time.  Asian markets are crowded affairs, + soon enough I grew claustrophobic + rather bored.  It was interesting enough, nonetheless, with the usual array of the exotic, home-grown, home-made + commonplace.  The particularly odd here was a couple of baskets full of whining puppies.  And in view of their likely fate, well might they whine.  Val was offered one for Y3, quite a bargain, if that’s what you’re looking for.

The journey back, fighting the current with an inadequate engine, was very long.  It can’t have helped that we had a couple of hitch-hikers along, old men riding along with their bamboo rafts in tow.  Not that I’m complaining – I’m just glad we brought our books along to help while away the time.  We hadn’t had any breakfast, so when we got back we ate a lunch at one of the town’s local  restaurants, then bought + wrote some postcards, before whiling away the rest of the afternoon with the Frisbee out in the huge courtyard, + we even had a local feller join us.  We were determined to eat somewhere else tonight, but once again were frustrated when the place we had in mind was closed, so, out of force of necessity, trailed once more into the Lotus.  They must have sense out disloyalty, for the meal they served up was very poor, lukewarm + greasy.  Finished off the day with the evening ritual: cold drink, back to the BBC.

Boat trips always seem attractive, and generally stargt well enough, but nearly always, by the time you get off (and on this occasion there was also the tediously long return trip) you are very very happy to do so. Still, it did make for something of a change, and gave us the opportunity to explore another small town.

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