Teaching in Yanshuo part 3

Yangshuo Travel Blog

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What a day. Again meeting our two guides and watching them have a typically animated (some would say violently aggressive) discussion as to what to do with us we climbed into what would have been a tuc tuc in a previous life and went bouncing off towards the promising sounding 'Silver Caves'. A wonderfully Chinese attempt at a welcoming complex included a 'Very important mans' hotel, a military base complete with angry little guards, a restaurant with dead skinned things dangling tantalisingly around the door and a tiny and obviously packed little room behind the toilets where the apparently peripheral detail of tickets and guides were organised.

The cave is incredible in two ways. Firstly it is a 10 kilometre deep natural wonder above and beyond anything Europe has to offer, with 100 foot high rippling curtains of ice white and sparkling calcium stalactites, grand halls of silver and blood red rock reflected in mighty and echoing carp filled subterranean lagoons and loads of other cool stuff. Secondly the Chinese attempt at displaying it and complimenting it's beauty falls somewhere between an Indian Christmas and sacrilege. Bright green, blue, red and purple lights glow and flash from so many wire sprouting nooks and crannies that the caves are actually around 10 degrees hotter than outside. The guide will point out a rock that looks like a bird and then press a button that not only sets off 20 disco balls that throw a thousand multi-coloured bird shapes spinning around the cave but crackle a huge stereo system into life that sounds like the soundtrack to Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds'. As if that was not enough the guide will then burst into song when you least expect it and do a little dance at you.

Catching a crowded minibus back into town we were given an hour off in which I took Chris to see Sherry eating with a knife and fork, and then loaded into a golf cart to be taken to what we were told was a minorities show. In China anyone who is not Han Chinese (originating from around the Beijing to Xian area) is called a minority and often suffer severe prejudice despite numbering over 400 million and often being of mixed blood. The show was nothing short of spectacular.

In the dark of the Guanxi night we were shown over a 500 year old bridge by lantern, through a tree and temple filled island to our seats in the middle of a wide and shallow arc looking over an expanse of inky black water. For 20 minutes we sat staring at what appeared to be nothing of any interest until a loud, wailing and hypnotic voice cut through the chilled air, growing in wonder and volume, and as it soared to higher and higher beauty hundreds of golden floodlights slowly wheeled their beams up and across the water revealing 100 fishing rafts gliding through the misty water in perfect unison, they then wheeled higher still to reveal the most stunning yet close of mountain backdrops. Glowing gold against the pitch night this enormous naturally enclosed aquatic stage suddenly erupted with fire as around three thousand torch holders lit up at the same time all the way around the lake's circumference and they all burst into chorus. The performance actually went uphill from there and included thousand strong dance shows, electric light body suits, courtship rituals and a naked chick doing summersaults on a huge electric banana boat.

Full of wonder and excitement we joined hundreds of school-kids dancing and spinning with joy around an enormous bonfire on the way back. We felt at that point that we had gone past travelling though, gone past being visitors and gone past words to explain how much love we now had for this perfect little corner of a foreign world. We had a few beers back in town and signed up to work in an English school for the next week.
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photo by: sylviandavid