Ni Haoing Around China

Dali Travel Blog

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“Taxi Darling?” I thought it was pretty forward of the driver to call me such a cutesy name to get my attention, but soon realised that since I had just arrived at Dali Train Station, he was actually asking me “Taxi Dali?”

After getting off the Yangste Cruise at Chongqing, we flew to Guilin and then used a mixture of local transportation to get to Yangshuo and it was here that I saw the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.

Cycling around the countryside of Yangshuo provided beautiful views of the karst peaks, which jut out of the countryside and it is an area well known for rock climbing, but it was cycling around the local villages that captured my interest.

When cycling, you can get off the beaten track and imagine yourself as a local. One way to ‘go native’ is to show off how much language you have picked up along the way. However, on the three-hour ride I was practicing my pathetic amount of Mandarin on the locals with a friendly greeting of ‘Ni Hao’ and they would reply in prefect English, ‘Hello.’

Yangshuo and the surrounding areas make for a surreal place; I felt like I was speaking more Chinese than the local population!

So it was on the here on the cycle where I saw one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen walking along the rocky road in the countryside outside Yangshuo with a large bag on her back. She must have been in her late seventies, her grey shoulder length hair plaited into two pig tails and she had wrinkles that showed she had experienced a lot of life; the good times and the hardships. But, it was her smile that endeared her to me and made me fall in love with her in an instant then and there. Her grin was full and wide and when she smiled, so did her whole face. There was laughter in her eyes when I cycled past her several times calling out ‘Ni Hao!’ and each time she laughed and replied with an enthusiastic ‘Ni Hao!’

I felt a little sad to leave such a friendly and welcoming place. However, on the last night there it began to rain so hard and intensely that within five minutes of walking, we were splashing through puddles that were ankle deep of water (hopefully). I can only assume that the children and animals that had peed in the street earlier that day and the spit, which people had spat into the curbside, had already been washed away before I walked in it. However, this walk in the heavy thunderstorm might explain why I have developed a slight sniffle.

One benefit of being in a place like Yangshuo is that you do not feel like you’re an attraction in a zoo. During the earlier travels around China, there have been times where the locals are so intrigued that they will come up to you and stand centimetres away from you and just look. After a while other locals gather up the courage to do the same, so within a small amount of time you have a lot of people just standing and watching you doing, well nothing extraordinary - all you’re doing is being yourself; being western. By trying to avoid an awkward scene, you say a friendly ‘Ni Hao’, which leads to a lengthy conversation on their part with a barrage of questions. Obviously not being skilled to answer these, you stare blankly at the Chinese locals and they stare back at you expectantly. Moreover, what makes the situation more awkward is that you have shown very clearly that you speak no Mandarin at all, but still they just stand there in your personal space, just watching. I think this is what it must be like for the animals that live in the zoo or maybe for the bearded woman in the circus - people on the outside just want to watch and see how different people on the inside are to them. However, after each encounter like this I do always make an excuse to go to the bathroom to check if I need to shave my beard yet. Still no need to shave at this stage even though I have been growing it for the past 33 years.

After Yangshuo we flew to Kunming which meant taking in some sightseeing (oh if I must).

Kunming is home to Qiongzhusi, the Bamboo Temple and at 6 Yuan entrance, it is well worth the entry. The ride to the site is by taxi and takes about 45 minutes each way as it is out of the city. Normally you can agree on the price before heading out there, but the taxi man wanted to do it on the meter and after we were involved in one accident, the journey there, him waiting for one hour while we visited the site, and the ride back, it only cost 112 Yuan. A bargain!

The reason this temple is so impressive is the arhats (followers of Buddha). There are 500 of them in this complex and each of them is different from each other.

While absorbing the spiritual setting, the sound of Duffy ‘Mercy’ caught on the breeze from an iPod of a student who was there copying one of the arhats I thought the songs’ title fitted this spiritual place well.

Upon reflection maybe that is why the local people stand so close and watch, the culture is so ingrained on following, on copying, that they get so close because they want to make sure they are able to repeat our actions and our words exactly, to mimic us … so everyone repeat after me loudly in the words I learnt from my beautiful Chinese woman ….. “Ni Hao!”
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photo by: Stevie_Wes