27 December 2008

yanghsuo, part one

travel is over and i'm back in america.

a few weeks ago, however, i was in china.  the people's republic, not hong kong, which, i learned, is a very different animal.

my trip started in shenzhen, just across the border from hong kong.  though i saw very little, it was immediately clear that shenzhen was a very different place --- darker, dirtier, colder.  not a place i wanted to stay for long.  thankfully, the sleeper bus arrived quickly.  

not that the bus was much of an upgrade.  for the next ten hours --- the rest of the night --- i laid in a cramped, uncomfortable bed.  on a bus.  careening through the south of china.  

and i do mean careening.  our driver had some very clever ideas about when to pass on the "highway" --- curves, especially, and also in the face of obviously oncoming traffic.  highway is a misnomer, as well.  more like dirt road.  dirt road under construction.  not that that stopped our driver from trying to set a time-to-distance record that evening.

though i traveled by night, i was able to catch a glimpse of the countryside.  beyond the open space, in stark contrast to hong kong, and the miles of empty buildings, i was most struck by the slave labor camps near the highway.  i imagine the workers were receiving some small amount of yuan for their work, but i say, call a spade a spade.  in the cold night, they slept only in tents made out of thin acyrilic material, no fires, surely little clothes.

we passed through a few towns, and i could only capture the feeling of the ride with pretentious, blurry photography.  while i tried to fall asleep on the bus, i tried to come up with a suitable simile for china.  china is like cellophane --- it has some of the qualities of beauty, like gloss, clarity, lightness, but the whole is much lesser than the parts.  in fact, the whole is pretty icky when you get up close and touch it.

when ryan and i arrived in yangshuo, we stumbled around in the darkness until we finally found a hostel at which to crash.  within five minutes, a gentlemen who purported to be the manager of the hostel knocked on our door to give us a few tips about the yangshuo.  a few minutes later, it became clear that the tips were a sorry attempt to net a few round-eyes into paying far too much for a guided tour of the area.  it took a lot longer to finally chase him out of our room.

welcome to china.

No comments: