08.04.2012 25 °C
As I am asked to write about my China experiences from time to time, and describe the Chinese as such, I realize more and more how we are sperated from the Chinese by a barrier of language and culture. Before I went to China I thought I would be able to experience China to its roots, and get to know its culture very well. The reality is however different. As we are a group of six foreigners here in Changsha, and have 80 other foreign friends all over the country, it is difficult to mingle with the Chinese. I became aware of this "we and them" relationship when I sat in the park today, after going for a run. While I was listening to music, I looked at the people passing by, and with a curious look they stared back. First then I saw the distance existing between us. I am like a little soap bubble in a ocean. I realized that we remain foreigners in this country. A real China experience? Well, I would rather call it a real foreign - China experience. It is not good, it is not bad, it is just different (quote YFU).
As our plan was made on the day of departure, we hit the road unprepared. We caught the train late at night, and the following morning we were again surrounded by buildings. This time the buildings of Guilin city. The heat welcomed us, and the south once again surprised us with its beauty. Our destination for this trip was Yangshuo, a small town an hour outside of Guilin, and after we'd visited the monkeys, discovered a cave and climbed a mountain, we took the buss to Yangshuo. Outside, the sky had turned black, and the only thing you could see was nothing. An hour passed by, and slowly we came closer to our destination. One more turn and we could spot impressive mountains bathing in floodlights. Another turn and you could already feel the vibration of the city. This vibration and energy affected me as well, and the four of us jumped out of the bus, loaded with luggage, in eager to explore the town. We found the hostel soon after, checked in, and went out for a beer. The streets were filled with people from all over the world, and I'm not kidding when I say that there were more foreigners than Chinese. Small cozy streets winded down the hill, and were filled with bars, painted in all colours of the rainbow. Music filled the streets with its reggae beats and hip hop rhythms. In another street you could spot shops with a thousand of different Tibetan and Indian items, and the equal amount of people were trying to get a good bargain, admiring the perfect strokes on the canvas or counting the stings one the embroidery. All this crowd, the music and the buildings, made my heart leap faster, and I fell in love with this town.
The following day we got up early, and decided to go for a bicycle trip to the dragon bridge. But first it was breakfast time. We went up to the roof terrace of our hostel, and enjoyed the amazing view while sipping on a cup of coffee. Green mountain peaks where everywhere around us. The warmth moved the air, and created a magical atmosphere.
The sun stood high in the sky, when we finally cycled down the road. The road led us along rice fields, rivers and mountains, which reflected themselves in the still water. I don't have difficulties understanding why yin yang was discovered in China. The way the mountains reflected themselves in the water created a perfect balance between masculine and feminine, between heaven and earth, between the two element soil and water, and between yin (feminine) and yang (masculine). In ancient times, Chinese artist used this concept in their paintings. In the middle of their painting you can often see a white line. This line is said to represent human beings. Above, high diagonal mountains where painted , and represents heaven, masculine, and steady (permanent). Beneath the white line, a horizontal river/water was painted. The water represent movement (development/change), earth and feminine. The white line, which represents humans, connect heaven and earth together. This picture can be found in the landscape of Yangshuo.
We spend the entire day between mountains and waters. We took a lift on a bamboo fleet, swam in the river, crossed bridges, and took photo's. In the late afternoon we met up with people placed in other cities in China. All together we were 15 people, which was totally amazing. We decided to go and eat at the Indian. The minute I smelled makhni daal, and took a bite of the garlic naan I just realized how much I miss my true motherland, India. And not even an hour after having thought that thought I got a surprising phone call. A number starting with +91?! That must be India! At the other end I could hear my entire host family greeting me. My host mum held an exhibition in Ludhiana, and as I had promised her to be at her exhibition , she called me to tell about the exciting happenings. It was great to talk with them!
While China remains a foreign country to me, India doesn't. My friends tell me often "you are more Indian, than Norwegian or Dutch..."
While we were gathered around a shisha and a couple of drinks, we met an Indian guy from Deradun (a place we crossed when going to Mussoorie), and of course I couldn't resist telling him that I had been there. I clumsily told him some phrases in Hindi I remembered, and told him about my favourite Indian food. As he runs a restaurant in town, he invited us to go there the next day for supper, and promised to make rajhmasala. We happily welcomed the offer. The amazing thing about Indian food is that they activates every sense in your body; nose, eyes, ears and mouth: the smell is amazing, the sight is good, and you can hear all the joyful voices of people eating it. In addition is the taste totally outrages!
But before the Indian, we went on a three hour long kayaking tour on the Yong Lu river. Our arms peddled from one side to the other, the kayaks glided silently through the water. We could hear the birds sing, and happy shouts of children playing at the shore. One moment we were surrounded by threatening mountain walls, and the next we had the view over green peaks and fertile soil. Water buffaloes went around, with their never ending chewing muzzle, farmers worked on their land, and fishers placed their nets in the water. The river was blue and clear, and is said to be the cleanest river in whole of China. The sky slowly turned from a thick grey mass into light overcast. Later, a light rain wetted our cloths. It didn't matter, because our cloths were soaking wet from the splashing of the water of the river.
A three hour kayaking tour makes your muscles stiff and your stomach rumble. We were looking forward food.
Another night with happy hour and shisha was waiting. This time we decided to go to KTV, to make our tourist experience a little bit Chinese as well. It was great fun to sing along with Spice girls and Robbie Williams, and at the end of the night our voices were hoarse and ears blocked. But fun it was for sure!
A few hours of sleep, and before we were able to close our eyes, a new day was waiting. This time the road led us to the Golden Cave, with mud bath and hot springs. It was amazing, all those stalactites and stalagmites. Our guide had a great sense of humour, and told us about the different formations which, according to her just looked like Buddha or cauliflowers. A little bit of fantasy was necessary to see the Buddha’s and cauliflowers.
After half an hour in the cave, a mud bath appeared, and splash splash, there we went. Totally covered with a sticky brown mud, we took some pictures and floated on the surface of the water. The mud bath was just like the red sea: you float - whether you want or not.
Just around the corner, natural hot springs were waiting, and for at least half an hour hot water surrounded us. The cave was dark and smelled muddy, and created peaceful atmosphere. My ears and eyes and hair and everything was still covered with mud. The mud made my skin smooth again. After being in polluted China, my skin has turned from soft to rough... Now I know for sure that the Norwegian air is magical!
The very same day we had to head back to Changsha. Our train was leaving at 6 pm, and arrived 12 hours later in a rainy city.