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  • hardie karges 2:03 pm on August 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Yangshuo   

    Yangshuo, China: Paradise Lost, Innocence Regained… 

    20180712_074435But you can’t swim in that river again…though you can try…and you should…but it won’t be there, not like you remember it, anyway. Everybody’s gone elsewhere, just like they always do, and those that stay behind are not necessarily the ones you want to see, anyway. Everything changes, all the time, by habit, and tradition, if not by design. The little things that endeared you to the place are the first things to go, being that they were so hard to define anyway, more phantoms of consciousness than features of existence, the mind easing itself into submission…

    It’s not often that I get to re-visit a place I used to go, used to know some twenty years ago, or even ten, but it’s usually interesting when I do. Sometimes things seem little changed. Other times the changes seem drastic, especially in America, which is known more for its changes than its pro-active response to them, more often than not seeming more like blind flailings than direct failings…

    20180720_212413But nothing prepared me for China. If the China of twenty years ago was defined by its bicycles, poverty and primitiveness, it’s defined now by its smartphones, traffic jams and forty-story apartment buildings, people stacked upon people endlessly vertical, an entire nation drawn in from the fields and stacked on end, cities taking on a life of their own, like monsters from a futuristic sci-fi novel, ‘rise of the machines’ or something like that, or maybe ‘evil erections’, so sci-fi porn…

    And then there’s Yangshuo, which was always a little bit different, even way back when, but not in the same way as now, then because it had class, and tradition, and a lively backpacker scene that could appreciate it, and the lovely landscape, something the average work-a-day communist Chinese hardly had time or money for, as the Chinese economy was merely nascent in 1997…

    20180718_115319But that was then, and this is now. China has a booming economy and Chinese tourists are flooding the world, but nowhere like home, threatening to make a mockery of their own culture, anything slightly different from the mainstream culture a prime target for tourist dog-and-pony shows, and if others are willing to maybe pony up more, nobody can dog it quite like the Chinese. Authenticity is not the overriding concept—just the opposite…

    So the bucolic burg where I once found sympathy and succor in the arms of a mug, a nod and a wink, and an invitation to drink, has now long since sold its soul to the highest bidder, shops once selling the most righteous crafts from the most righteous tribes this side of the Yangtze now given over to cheap carnival rides and the most hideous displays of hubris, humans acting as if they owned the universe of which they are only a small almost insignificant part…

    20180723_143021And the European and other Western backpackers who rescued the burg from oblivion long ago are but a footnote in the town’s history now, nothing but the English language a legacy of their one-time prominence and predominance, making it one of the few places where you can have a genuine English-language conversation with some very fluent locals, mostly older, vestiges of the classic period. There’s only one catch…

    If you’re a Westerner who knows Mandarin, you just might have a hard time convincing the locals of that. We’ll see, maybe a year or so from now, when I’m next there—maybe. I’ve been through this all before, and it isn’t always pretty, having to fight for the right to speak the local language, even when you understand every word they say, just because it might make them lose face, once they’ve identified themselves as English speakers. Welcome to Thailand…

    20180728_103400I know that now, what I didn’t know then, back when I was looking to ex-pat myself to Asia, and trying to decide between Thailand and Vietnam, then China, Indonesia and/or Cambodia. Follow the money, and so that’s what I did, straight to Thailand, and a few solid years of compensated efforts, mischief and misgivings, until finally finding some solace in the Buddhist forest temples, and a new lease on life that is my current status…

    It’s better this way, as I have a clean start, older but wiser, knowing now what I didn’t know then, ready to start over again in China—or not. I only know that it won’t be in Yangshuo, but somewhere open-minded to foreigners, with neither the English language nor the silence in its absence, as neither will do for me in the long run. In places unspoiled by tourism, locals just assume you speak Mandarin, so speak it to you, no English and no awkward silences, and that’s the way it should be…

    Only innocence will do, the innocence of open-mindedness and belief in progress, that one is not limited by false narratives and quick conclusions, but only by his own honest efforts and willingness to succeed. If that is a sin, then I am guilty. If not, then I am vindicated, for in the long run there is no other way. China’s frustrations and disappointments only propel me to fight another day—or not. Meanwhile, forget Yangshuo, and the other backpacker centers that Chinese party animals have turned into hedonistic playgrounds. It’s hideous, not kinky…

    • Esther Fabbricante 6:24 pm on August 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      How you come up with such descriptive writing is phenomenal!!


      • hardie karges 10:41 pm on August 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks, Esther. I’m having trouble sharing this one to FB, so wasn’t sure you’d see it…

  • hardie karges 1:08 pm on June 29, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Agoda, , , Emeishan, Google, Leshan, , Yangshuo   

    Little Trouble in Big China: still not ready for prime time… 

    20180622_094150There are so many things that can go wrong for an indie traveler in China, that I’ve been rather amazed that it’s been going so smoothly, if arduous and time-consuming, the process of booking rooms, and travel, and then actually ending up exactly as planned, with little or no language support…

    The only time I really sweated was the time I was on the bullet-train from Langzhong to Xi’an and then all of a sudden so many people got off in Guangyuan, and then the trip number changed on the overhead display, that I seriously wondered whether I was headed off the map into the wilds of Qinghai province—but no, we arrived in Xi’an on schedule, whew, still no major snafus… (More …)

    • Esther S. Fabbricante 12:16 am on July 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      It’s a really tough life! I’m glad you are about to retire, right?

    • hardie karges 12:28 am on July 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Yeah, right, haha…

    • tom de canada 10:45 pm on July 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Hey man china has changed in 20 yrs. Blew my mind! I met a few people in yangshuo staying in aptmts up a hill to the left when you hit the river in the old town. But theres a few cheap hostels near each other going
      right at river off main walking zone then right again ablock or 2 later up a small alleyway. Have great vi3ws and good views at rooftop bar. Lotsa european rock climbers were there who found it on booking.com.
      Its a very pretty an touristy rebuilt original old town. Very busy cause of pruximity to vietnam. If ya get the neew train there be sure to follow everyone else to the bus that takes you to town 10 kilometers aaway! Lol
      Take care and good luck hardie! Tom

      • hardie karges 11:02 pm on July 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        HSR train goes to Xingping, right? When I saw that I booked a couple nights there. If I like it I may stay there instead of Yangshuo, especially if it’s changed too much. We’ll see, thx for comments…

    • Norbert 10:56 am on July 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      “China is a happy place…” Sounds credible here, but try to explain that to those exotically grinning Western fans of Tibetan separatism (read “Free Tibet!”) and their favorite mascot, the Dalai Lama (also grinning), or to fans of other mascots such as the multimillionaire/entrepreneur/art professor, Ai Wei Wei….. In one word, there is not enough China-bashing in your report !!

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