Tuesday brought the world's roughest wake-up: some girl barging into the dorm, slamming both doors so loudly as to redefine "jolt to the system" (the guesthouse is an old converted farmhouse; the doors are wood and iron, and they BANG), turning on all the lights, and commencing a conversation with the other girl in the room at afternoon volumes. I'm sorry, but it's approximately 6am. It's still dark outside. I'm sure you've come a long way and I'm sure you'd like to think you're not nearly as shallow or full of yourself as you sound, but please, SHUT UP. After twenty minutes of playing opossum and lying there counting to ten I don't know how many times, I finally sat up and stormed into the bathroom. I should have kicked her.
Shortly after 7am the power went out. Out here in the villages, everything is dependent on well water. No power means no water. Not only have I been rudely awakened, I now have no power (read: no internet to self entertain) and no running water. Talk about an ideal way to start your day.
BJ and Colin and I walked into Yangshuo
together, taking the longer scenic route through the few villages along the way. We walked for close to two hours, and by the time we got to Yangshuo the only thing I could utter was "FOOD. HUNGRY. FOOD. EAT. FOOOOD. FEEEEEED ME!" So of course we dilly-dallied and stalled and took our sweet time walking up the never-ending main street, talking about whatever it is eleven year olds talk about, me the whole time going "uh huh" and interjecting something like fifty times "Are you hungry? Want to eat? Oooh wow don't those noodles look good? Oh look there's a restaurant.
" to no avail.
We walked along West Street, THE "backpacker" street in Yangshuo. I don't know why it's referred to as the backpacker street. I think tourist street is more fair. Why are the backpackers always to blame for the tacky touristy kitchy stuff? Backpackers abhor and avoid tourist kitch. It's the midrange travelers with cash to burn that eat that stuff up. Anyway. West Street is the most touristy, kitchy street I've seen in China. Did you catch that? In the whole damn country. It's closed to traffic and goes on for several blocks, lined with back to back to back souvenir shops. The hawkers start you at beyond offensive prices, so high I can't believe people give them the time of day to barter down.
If it were me I'd give them the middle finger and walk away. You want my business? Maybe you should think twice next time before assuming I'm a complete idiot, you greedy jerk. And while you're scoffing at the hawkers who are drooling on themselves they're so eager to rip you off, you're being simultaneously attacked by touts for everything under the sun. "Hello! Bamboo! Bamboo! Hello! Fan! Bamboo! Fan! Watch! Hello! Good price! Watch! Watch!" GET AWAY FROM ME!
We finally got to the end of the street, after stopping at practically EVERY souvenir stand -- me the whole time impatiently walking ahead only to constantly double back and loiter and wait and walk ahead and double back and groan some more -- and FINALLY stopped to eat.
We ate lunch at a beautiful vegetarian restaurant with a plush interior and a fantastic view and average (at best) food. From lunch we had an hour to kill, so I bid temporary farewell and hightailed it back to the main street, to barter for a decent price on oranges and snag some steamed buns and a piping hot cup of soy milk. (Yes, hot milk. Weird and not entirely appetizing, I know. But everything in China is served hot: milk, tea, water, beer. Want it chilled? Wrong country.) At the end of the hour we met again, and walked along the river to our cooking class.
I've heard cooking classes in Thailand are overpriced due to all the tourists clamoring to learn Thai cooking, and that Chinese cooking classes are a far better value in comparison.
All I have to say is either A, those Thai cooking classes are REALLY expensive, or B, we got hosed. I'll go with C and assume both. More frustrating still, I didn't learn squat. We were given a bunch of vegetables and tofu (various dead animals for BJ & Colin: baby duck, ground pork, chicken breast), instructed how to slice them (gee, I've never sliced an eggplant before), told to douse our woks with WAY too much salt and oil for every course (which I of course refused to do, to the supreme frustration and incomprehension of the instructor), and proceeded to stir fry a whole manner of different things. As for the sauces and such, everything was pre-made processed crap out of jars. It's like, I can do this at home. Chop vegetables, grease the pan, throw in some oyster sauce and chili paste.
And I'm paying you for what again? "Instruction" on how to cook mediocre food with crappy condiments? At least in Thailand the food is good. Left a bad taste in my mouth, to say the least. (No pun intended.) And that was supposed to be one of the highlights of my stay here.
I suppose my time in Yangshuo wouldn't be authentically Chinese if it didn't include hassling, frustration, and disappointment. SOP for our dear People's Republic.