Thursday June 5, 2008 (backdated entry) – Yangshuo, China

Our best day so far! Woke up a bit late. On recommendation from Mei Ling and Will, we arranged for a trip to the Lotus Cave in Xingping, through our hotel. Our pre-arranged moto-cart driver met us at the bus station, and it was a mostly pleasant ride through the countryside – though bumpy occasionally, especially when had to traverse a stream!

Bumpy ride

I was a bit underwhelmed by the caves at first, though we got some cool shots during the last part with the 108 stones formed like Lotus flowers. It was pretty touristy though, with the multicoloured lights and all.

Wandered around Xingping in search of a temple that was listed in my guidebook. Until some touts told us that it was only accessible by bamboo raft! Figured we’d go for it, though 100 RMB was a bit steep. We had no change anyway.

Comorant fisherman by our bamboo raft

Didn’t regret it. Amazing temple carved into the side of a sheer cliff / cave. A bit dilapilated, but it added to the charm, especially since we were the only ones there, in addition to our raft guide, an old woman selling incense, a man working at the front gate (caretaker?), and a nun. Our raft guide showed us how to burn incense and hell money. Our raft guide and the resident caretaker tried to explain a bunch of things to us in Mandarin, but of course we didn’t understand a single word. It was awesome! 🙂 The caretaker dude opened this old barred door on the side of the cave, which seemed to open into an eerie abyss… Huge gusts of dust and seemingly infinite amounts of cold air rushed out as us. He motioned for us to go in, but I couldn’t tell if he was joking, so I declined. I was a bit scared since I couldn’t see anything in there at all!

The mysterious door to the cold, dark abyss

I asked our guide about Yu Cun, which I thought the temple was in, but apparently it was across the river and downstream. I thought it’d be included in what we already paid, but lesson learnt… Always bargain beforehand. It left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth later that he gouged us for another 100 RMB when we disembarked at the end of the trip. But no matter! Besides, we’re talking about $15, not much money, and he was pretty good overall and added a lot to the experience.

Anyway, in Yu Cun, we didn’t stay very long, as it was getting pretty late in the day and we needed to get back to XingPing before sunset. Our guide took us to some person’s house, who had photos of Bill Clinton up, and a bunch of chtotches for sale there. We ran into another group of backpackers – and one of them, upon seeing me, immediately said “Ni hao?”. Nolan chatted with them and apparently they were “duped” by their boat guide into going there. The woman who lived at the house showed them a piece of cardboard, with some English written on it, and then taped with duct tape (lamination of sorts). It said, for 1 Y (about $0.15 Canadian), you can go to our roof. The backpackers declined and left. I was wondering why our guide brought us there, so I pointed to the phrase book “What is it?” and motioned around. He then pulled out his digicam which had a photo of him on the roof. Aha! Finally clicked, this was a house Bill Clinton had visited back in 1999(?). So we got some nice photos on the roof after gladly paying the 1 RMB fee.

Rooftop of a house in Yu Cun, a 400 year old fishing village


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