Thursday, December 30, 2010

Guilin Diary Day 17 Yangshuo Biking Around the Village Part 2

A BIG hello and welcome to the last post on our China trip for 2010! I am thrilled to continue with our bike ride in Yangshuo, it was off to a great start but there is lots more to share.

As we rode through the village, oh the view of the country that greeted us. The background of fading mountains a lovely compliment to the patches of cultivated green.
An equally pretty scenery, below one of numerous farmlands along the bike route, but there was something in the field that caught our attention.
On closer look, a group of workers were toiling away under the mid afternoon sun. The man in the centre was feeding bunches of grain into a very noisy machine while the others were gathering the stalks.
A few meters away, the bundles of harvested stalks in perfect rows stood tall while the descending sun disappeared behind the hills.
Bunches of dried stalks on the move, an elderly man balanced a stick with 2 heavy loads on his shoulders. His free hand ushered his granddaughter along, a happy child, she hopped and sang as she traveled on.
Further into the village, more stalks on the go. These were heaped onto a wooden cart pulled by a single middle aged woman. A man walked ahead of her, his jacket on one arm while the other held a single pomelo, shouldn't he be helping her?
Fields of grains were not the only tilled lands, there were vegetables too! We were delighted to see different ones in varying heights with different leaf shapes. Just like the grains, they appeared to be very well cared for.
Nearby a farmer was seen wading in a pond, he bent over until the 2 gigantic watering cans was filled with water. Slowly he stood up and walked towards the pasture, we stayed a while and watched him go back and forth several times until all the plants were watered.
It was no wonder the vegetables looked so fresh and healthy, fed by the organic minerals in the soil and water, they grew strong under the sun.
We rode on and noticed the groups of buildings nearby, they were taller and bigger than the ones in this post. Like the others they were made of bricks, but these were neater in appearance and newer.
A Y-intersection pictured below, do we proceed to the left or right? We stopped to look at the map which cost 6 RMB (about $1 Canadian), it was nicely illustrated but lacked so much detail it did not resemble the neighborhood, we stayed on the main road. At this resting point I made a new discovery, the tallest structure in the middle was covered in cement, one of the few grey houses we saw.
An interesting angle in the shot below, a variety of different exterior colors and textures that distinguished their age and differentiate their material.
The whole village was going through a phase of reconstruction, building supplies were piled by the road on several residential properties.
Items were also being delivered, this small truck with planks of wood honked as he passed us...
... followed by another vehicle with bags of cement and loose gravel. The exposed engine was especially loud and spewed out thick clouds of exhaust, it was hard to breathe.
Below an unfinished home, mounds of construction materials occupied its front yard, the workers sang a tune as they plugged away.
Another incomplete house but from the looks of it the owners had already moved in. Duilian on red paper decorated its front door while tofu skins hung out to dry on the roof.
The current stage of Yangshuo, the whole street in organized chaos. Join us next week as we continue with the China trip!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Card Wreath

We don't get a lot of Christmas cards, but the few that was received over the years became quite a pile. I decided to use the colorful ones to make a wreath. Paper templates in different circle sizes were penciled onto various parts of Christmas cards. This soon led to a lot of cutting with a pair of scissors, too much my thumb was numb! The rounds were then patiently arranged onto a piece of cardboard and glued on. The entire piece was then carefully cut out with a box knife, the finishing touch a tri-colored stripe ribbon.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Guilin Postcard Day 17 Yangshuo Bike Trip Part 1

Hello Thursday! I can't believe Christmas is just around the corner, the year is coming to an end but there is still time to... escape to China!

In last week's episode we had no luck finding the Mini Mao Cafe and headed back to Guilin. But stories of awesome Yangshuo bike trips haunted us so we decided to return the very next day and experience it! After a 25 minute walk from our hotel, we arrived at the Chief Bus Station on No. 427 Zhongshan Road, click here for more bus info, scroll down after the bus schedules. Tickets for express route cost 14 RMB each ($2 Canadian), the journey took about 70 minutes.

Arriving in Yangshuo, we found a bike shop just outside of the downtown area. Each rental bike cost 15 RMB plus 200 RMB refundable deposit, it came with a basket for storage and a lock, which the staff recommended using should we stop to explore areas of interest. The neighborhood is safe but some bikes were reported missing as locals stole them for scrap metal. In general there are pedlars and the occasional flat tire which customers repair at their own cost, 4 to 5 RMB per tire at one of the roadside mending shops. They suggested Moon Hill where lots of tourists frequent but we preferred a quieter passage so they directed us towards the farm lands.

Off we rode through the car traffic and turned into a smaller but quieter road pictured below. The distant view of newly developed low-rises, they all seemed to be 7 stories high, is this what is to come for Yangshuo?
A closer view of the construction scaffolding for one of the buildings, no workers were in sight, perhaps they were all on lunch break.
Our first sight of a farm house. It was located at the foot of the towering cliff, a lonely bike parked at the front, there did not seem to be any windows nor did it appear to be occupied.
Across the street a small wood and brick hut that looked like an outhouse, through the trees a peek at some of the cultivated land with the distant hills.
Further down the road, vegetables grew in neat rows while 2 brown watering buckets sat in the dirt. The water pond reflected the beautiful surroundings of fading mountains, what a sight! Can you imagine living and working here?
Just steps away, a group of ducks descended into a shallow pond and swam in a line, I don't recall ever seeing them paddle like this before.
Nearby a tiny cabin made with bricks of 2 different shades, its roof an uneven structure. By the door on the left a lonely hen clucked away as she picked at something on the ground.
The cabin is part of a group of dwellings, from this view we can see the various size building stones. Check out the one on the left, regular blocks and natural rocks on the same wall, it's amazing! I love the texture and the shades of earth tones.
We turned around and caught sight of this shack, its roof was covered with a piece of rubber membrane weighed down by planks of wood and some grass. It seemed too unstable to explore inside, judging by the hay on the ground it must be for the animals.
Just outside a pile of roof tiles placed neatly in a circular compact, I counted 6 layers, could these be its new replacement?
Pictured below a small home also made of bricks, by now we realized it is a common building material around here. The blocks were laid in different directions creating a fascinating pattern for the walls, a nice contrast to the neighboring shed. Laundry sun dried in a line outside the window, a bike stood awaiting its passenger, 2 hens explored the pile of grey dirt by the door.
Under the lazy afternoon sun, a dog sat napping by a well, it was equipped with a man powered water pump. Only a few meters into the bike route we had spotted all kinds of fascinating settings, it was a delightful start!
We continued on slowly, the path that was paved now led to a smaller dirt road. The houses in the distance drew us near.
What peaked our curiosity was this pair of buffalos, the farmer said they were mother and child, aged 4 and 1 year old. I was very excited, this was the closest I have ever been to a water buffalo!
Following 2 gossiping ladies, the farmer took the pair down the path, they seemed pretty tame persuaded only with a light tapping from a small stick.
He turned a corner and guided the buffalos onto a field with green grass, their leash was tied into a stake which he then drove into the ground. The farmer told us he has been on this farm for over 60 years and offered to show us around, we declined and left to explore on our own.
As we passed by more meadows, other peasants were also leading their buffalos to graze. Close by stacks of grain stalks arranged in round heaps, they reminded me of little African huts.
Onwards we ride down the path into the village homes, join us next week as we reveal what we find!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hello Warm Chair

The wooden chair which stayed nice and cool in the summer was far too cold in the winter. To add some warmth, I decided to make a chair cover using only the yarn in my stash, the result was this Raindrops and Clouds design. For extra thickness and durability a thick cotton fabric was sewn onto the back, velcro was attached to hold the cover in place on the chair. I now say goodbye to freezing butts and hello to warm chair.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Guilin Journal Day 16 Yangshuo Around Town Part 2 of 2

Welcome to this week's episode of our China trip! We continue our search for the Mini Mao Cafe in Yangshuo but stumbled upon this side street instead. Amongst the healthy growth of banana plants and mature trees, a small alley too narrow for cars was accessible by people, bicycles and scooters. It instantly reminded me of my visit to a small village in Indonesia.Back on the main road, a glimpse of local activity that prompted another memory of Indonesia. A man balanced a pole with bamboo baskets on his shoulder, one of them was empty while the other held a lonely hen, I guess someone is having chicken tonight.
More delivery of food in baskets steadied on poles, this lady is selling mandarin oranges. We did not witness any transaction, I wonder if they would conduct business on route or only at the market?
Another lady whose merchandise was local vegetables, one arm held the pole in place while the other carried a scale. The weighing instrument is typical of the ones used in Singapore markets.
A family of four moving two carts ever so slowly but steadily on the street grabbed our attention, brother and sister were riding the bikes while father and mother were pushing behind. One was stacked with foldable chairs and tables, the other with cooking equipment and dinner ingredients, a portable restaurant. They were headed in the same direction as all other vendors, I bet the food would be very tasty and the prices very reasonable.
Just steps away, a group of laborers rested on their bikes at the end of the day, they were chatting idly away and joking amongst themselves until they saw us. When I pointed the camera at them, the man on the right sat up and exclaimed loudly, as if surprised a foreigner like me would find this setting picture worthy.

One of the reasons why we visited China is to see how the people lived. It was delightful to record so many daily activities, scenes considered mundane to the locals are rare in our Western culture, they are cherished and are very picture worthy indeed.
Back on the street, a big and red fire truck with sliding doors to access and store fire fighting equipment. We were surprised to find the ones here looked just like the ones back home!
A different kind of red truck, a couple rode slowly amongst the traffic with their stash of scrap paper, flattened cardboard and bags of sorted packing material. I'm certain they are in the recycling business.
The traffic quietened down, the sun was setting fast and the light getting dark. We had ventured too far out of town with no sight of Mini Mao Cafe. Too tired to walk we wondered how to head back. Just then I spotted a bus stop, just like in Beijing it showed all the stops, after a couple of minutes, the bus came.
At its last stop, the driver kindly directed us to the bus terminal where we will catch another bus to Guilin. On the way we came across this yellow vehicle pictured below, the same kind we rode on just seconds ago! Small and compact in a happy color, it comfortably seats 15 passengers. Ours was filled with grandparents picking up their grandkids from school to daily commuters. At only 1 RMB (15 cents Canadian), it ran quietly and frequently.
As we continued to the bus terminal, we saw some 3 wheelers hard at work, packed very efficiently with various tourists' luggage it also offered a ride for its handlers.
Following the luggage bike gang, a lady was transporting a tub filled with neatly folded clean laundry, they looked like bed sheets. Was she part of the staff heading to the same hotel?
A construction site, the peak through the open gate revealed the early beginnings of the project.
On the surrounding wall, an artist's rendition of the finished buildings, they did not look too tall or enormous. I was relieved to see they were a practical height, Yangshuo is far too pretty to be covered up with ugly high-rise.
We passed by a thick grove of trees, an opening gave way to the view pictured below. Simple homes by a quiet and calm pond amongst the beautiful mountains, this will be my lasting image of Yangshuo.
Below the sight as we neared the bus terminal, someone pointed out it was just past the distant buildings.
On closer look, the buildings looked interesting, the ones on the left has an interesting roof structure that's very Chinese.
Even the ones here nearby were fascinating too, especially the ones on the right.
We finally found our bus, one way fare to Guilin on the non-stop route is 14 RMB per person ($2 Canadian). Below one last shot from our seats, a bicycle hard at work with the biggest load of luggage we ever saw! The bus filled up in about 10 minutes and off we went to Guilin. Dinner was at a restaurant we found on our walk back to the hotel, sweet sour Li River fish, local vegetables and all you can eat rice for 82 RMB ($12 Canadian). Back at the hotel, as we got ready for bed we planned for a whole new day in Guilin, check back next week to find out!