Roasted bamboo rat

March 23, 2007 - Guilin, China

We spent 2 nights in the small town of Yangshuo. Although Yangshuo it is geared for tourists, the majority of tourists are Chinese and the town was nothing like the little touristy town of Hoi An in Vietnam. The town itself doesn’t have much other than shops, restaurants, and bars, but there are many events and cultural activities available. We had a number of choices including a cultural light show, comemorant fishing, bamboo rafting, caving, rock climbing, and even a Mahjong lesson. We decided to skip any night activities and just veg a bit. Terry and I walked around the town the first night. For dinner we ate beer fish, a fish from the Li river fried in beer, and Sichuan dumplings. Sichuan-style food is very spicy and is named after the region known for that style food. That night while eating dinner we met a PADI staff instructor Paul who was teaching English. He suggested that we may want to do our dive instruction in a place that we want to actually work. I am not sure that Terry or I will actually ever instruct, it is a backup plan for me. But all the same we are looking into Fiji as a possible place to train instead of Thailand.

The dice game:
We ran into our leader Sharon and joined her for a drink at Mickeys, the hotel bar. She taught us a dice game. Each player has 5 six-sided dice. All players roll their dice in secret and make bids on the total count of a give number. For example, five 4s. The next player can outbid or call “show”. If outbidding, he must out bid the count of the number. For example, six 4s, or five 5s. Once a player calls “show” all players reveal their dice and the actual count is calculated. The number 1 is wild unless the explicidly use in the bid. If a player bid five 4s, was called and there are fewer than five 4s then he looses. If there were five or more 4s, the player that called “show” looses. Next round of play starts with the loser.

The next morning we had a bicycle tour through the country side. We stopped at a small village to eat lunch. The widow of the house has no children. She is now nearly 80 years old and has no one to help with the farming. So our local guide arranged years ago to bring tour groups to her house for lunch. She supplies the ingredients and he cooks all the food for the group. And she is able to make some money to support herself. We have seen this support system throughout the Asian countries we have visited. We also stopped for a hike up Moon Hill. Of course there were vendors with a new trick. They hiked the 30 min hike up to the top with cold drinks. We had water, but I felt bad that she hiked to the top just for the possibility of a sale, so I bought a beer. I also bought some postcards from another vender just because I wanted her photo.

After the bike trip, we returned and went to Dr. Lily Li’s for our appointments. The Dr. started with Terry’s “hot cupping”. This involves heating up the air in bamboo cups and placing them on the patient's body. The hot air forms a suction which draws the toxins from the body. The procedure is used as preventative medicine. See the photos and video, it was pretty cool. Next was my acupuncture. I figured if I am going to try it now was the time. It was interesting. She stuck needles in my arms, hands, legs, feet, and stomach. I laid there for 45 minutes and she came in a few times to twist the needles which was a strange sensation. I felt a little pain a couple of times when my muscles twitched. Other than that, I cannot really describe the sensation. I didn’t really feel any after effects or benefits, but it was fun to try. We returned to Mickeys. We went upstairs to eat dinner and have a pot of ginger tea. This tea is awesome and Terry’s favorite now. Huge chunks of ginger float in the slightly thick tea. Really good. While eating dinner we watched “The Illusionist” DVD on their TV and DVD player while we ate. We had tried to buy it from shop on the China border, but they didn’t have it. The movie is pretty good, but we liked “The Prestige” better.

The next morning I was up early for my Tai Chi lesson with Tai Chi master Henry at the banks of the Li River. I felt a little silly at first but rather liked it after a while. It is like a slow motion Aikido with meditation. I learned one form and practiced it for an hour. I returned to the hotel to meet Terry and we left for our Chinese cooking class. The teacher took us through the market first where we saw our first smoked dog. There were a lot of live dogs in cages really to be sold and butchered. This is simply part of the culture here where chickens, duck, fish, rabbit, rat, and dog are ALL food. Eating a dog may be no different from eating a chicken. The cooking class was a lot of fun. We each had our own cooking station and did all the prep and all the cooking ourselves. And we got to do all the eating of our dishes too!

After class we returned and the group boarded another night train. Terry and I have gotten the top bunks again. We don’t mind because the top is a little more private. I actually look forward to the night trains because it gives me time to read and relax with no guilt. Off the train there is always something we will miss out on if we decide to take a night or afternoon off. The train bathrooms are pretty nasty. They are squat toilets of course, but that doesn’t bother me so much. The floor in and around the bathroom are always wet with something. I really want to sand blast the bottom of my shoes. I keep a small toothpaste as well as the normal-sized one in my toiletries. I was using the small one to brush my teeth and dropped the cap on the floor. Of course the cap fell inside down like a cat lands on its feet, or a slice of buttered toast lands butter-side down. I had to 86 the whole damn thing. The toilets on the train are locked 10 min before, during, and 10 min after the train makes a stop. This is because everything that is flushed down the toilet is dropped right onto the train tracks. So to avoid a mess near the stations the toilets are locked. With 6 bunks per cabin, 3 levels high, there is not much room to move around so Terry and I spend most of our time in the dinning car. Last time we stayed up late but this time we were all kicked out at 10 pm. The weird thing is that the dinning car staff are police. The dinning car is non-smoking which is great. Except that someone was smoking! We wanted to say something when we realized it was the cook and the staff/police! At one point it seemed we were the only ones not smoking.


Stir fried dog
Mark eats street snack
Vendor pours a snack
Yangshuo at night
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