These nice ladies may seem innocent enough, but they are the reason I'm hobbled right now with a fat ankle. They are the women of the Yao minority in Southwest China and they patrol the eastern bank of the Long Ji rice terraces commonly known as "The Dragon's Backbone." Few are able to escape their grasp without buying something or witnessing a long hair showing with photo (only 5 Chinese Yuan=80 cents).
I was trying to walk to my favorite lake in Long Ji for a swim when I was accosted by an especially agressive woman who followed me for nearly a kilometer with a basket full of trinkets. I said no in every possible way I could think of-- "Bu", "Bu ke Qi" meaning "no, no thank you" and finally "wo bu yao kan chang fa" which means "please keep your long hair on your head, I don't need a photo!" She wouldn't give up and she left me with only three options. 1. Buy some crap, or watch a hair show. 2. Push her off the cliff. 3. Run!
I decided to run, she came running after me. My legs are long, but she knew the cliffside stone pathways much better and was able to keep up, so I broke out into a full sprint. I managed to lose her, but I also lost my footing and rolled my ankle. The right ankle, that gets hurt every 6 months or so. So now I'm grounded in the ridiculously picturesque city of Yangshou.
Pretty isn't it? The finest Karst Towers I've seen so far. This photo was taken just outside of Yangshou on the edge of a mountain. Now it's been over a week since I've written, here's how I got into China.
I met some Chinese dudes on the bus from Hanoi to China. We had a fantastic conversation about freedom and Chinese politics and Tibet and the Olympics, but then I thought "I better shut up before we hit the border, if I piss someone on this bus off, then could turn me in at the border." The land crossing into had me extremely nervous. They searched me and riffled through my stuff, even read some of my journal. When I reached the 4th level of security clearance the border guard stopped me, she looked at me a dozen times, then back at my passport. I just kept smiling. She called her superior, he looked the Visa over, looked at me and then whispered the two syllables that filled me with joy and relief. "OK" he said!
I was in! The scenery was spectacular and the roads were fantastic! After Vietnam it was like crossing from Mexico to America. China is much more modern than I expected. Not only that, but now I had Chinese friends! Look at those guys, they look like fun right? They took me all over the city of Guilin, doing China the way the Chinese do. Nasty! I ate some really disgusting food including this superb dish known as Duck Blood Vinegar Kidney Soup.
It came with a side of pork spleen! I acted like it was fine, I'm adventurous right? But it was was slimy, spongey, bone crunchy, bloody, and largely devoid of any distinctive taste. All texture, no flavor. Still I was extremely grateful for my Chinese friends especially Tsai, who really showed me around Guilin. The drinking was much more fun than the eating, and the drinking games destroyed my will to live. Please Tsai, tell me you were kidding when you said that skewer was made of pig's penis.
After Guilin I headed south to Yangshou.
Check out the wild mountain goats! I spent the night in an old converted farm house, and the next morning I went on a bike ride with a nice British young woman named Charlotte, she and I biked across these fields and hiked up the side of a mountain and met these nice goats, who didn't trust us one bit. Later that day I headed into town and opened my wallet for a piece of water theatre directed by the brilliant Zhang Yimou (Hero, Raise the Red Lantern, House of Flying Daggers)The show was called Impression Liu Sanjie and it was by far the most impressive spectacle I've ever seen. I have no idea what the show was about or if there was a plot at all, but who the hell cares. Zhang Yimou knows how to blow your eyeballs out with color, I can't wait to see what what he does with the Opening Ceremonies. The whole show was done, ON THE RIVER, with over 600 performers and a boat load of boats. It was like Cirque Du Soliel without all the bullshit. My camera is not very good at night, trust me though, it was incredible, they even lit up the surrounding mountains!
After indulging in the rich beauty of Yangshou, I headed to the Rice Terraces of Long Ji, I met this Phillipino dude named J.P. He had perfect English (I'm so jealous of these multiligual bastards) with a New York accent. Cool guy, we expored the terraces and he headed back to Yanghou.
Then I met some British Trinidadians and we headed to the next village which was 4 hours away. No restaurants, no tourists, and no whiteys. A nice woman from the village offered to cook us dinner.
That's Lauren, Coral, and Holly above. The dinner was amazing, I didn't want the nice Yao villager to chop up that hanging piece of pork (I hope it was pork!) but she did and it was delicious. The Brits thought I was really funny. I broke out my A-Game material. "What's the difference between the Yao and Zhuang Minority? The Yao are all like 'Excuse me sir, would you like to see me take down my hair?' and the Zhuang are all like "Yo, Whitey! Hold up homes. Wanna check my hair or what?" Ah, ethnic/racist humor in China, gets em every time.
To top off the day, I found a basketball court on the side of the rice terraces.
Notice that I am a full foot taller than these guys. I had a dozen blocks and scored at will. It was really satisfying, and I don't care if half of them were barefoot. It was time to school some fools.
The Olympics are almost here and I'm headed to Beijing, next time I write I'll be in the care of the illustrious Erika Kuever.