• Bob Taylor

Musings - Day 23

Day 23 – 18th January 2020

Keep up the messages guys they’re great. Thank you.

Hello everybody, may well be in Vietnam tomorrow if all goes to plan. That’s enough of tomorrow, there is todays blog to get done. So you know that I have a river trip booked today, as the schedule allowed, but it did not get off to a very positive start. This happened last night when I received a telephone call in the room saying that my hotel was too small and his bus was too big. Right so what do we do then? His solution was to tell me to make my own way to the bus station by 07:40. My solution was to tell him to do one! We compromised on the bus picking me up 150 metres from the hotel entrance. He promised to give the exact location to the staff in reception. Breakfast this morning was at seven, but I couldn’t really face noodles and Pak choy this time in the morning, so I just threw down some toast because of my meeting with a delinquent bus driver. The staff had instructions, and bless her, she put her coat on and walked me to the rendezvous point. He did arrive albeit six or seven minutes late but … hey! I was the only English speaker on the bus with the exception of the tour guide who thought he could. It was on a timer as he had to get in one hundred words a minute. Punctuated with “okays.” (Just a tad annoying at this stage) Delivered his prelims, all of the passengers gathering that the coach journey would be an hour to the boat. As the bus was about half an hour in, and it was light outside, he starts with the sales pitch. So he’s after commissions this early in the day. No takers from his post breakfast spiel he then wanders down the coach to a lady and her daughter sitting opposite, and gives her the patter on perfume. The cheapest looking bottles were then sprayed in the air for her to sample. Well I think three out of the four of us held back a lazy gag. It smelt like a tarts handbag after the January sales. She said no, then he turned and asked me. A look was enough!

The mist was well out this morning with a hint of rain but no evidence of such. It set me thinking that it is now day 23 and I don’t think that I have had a drop of rain the whole journey? There was that slight snow flurry in Moscow’s Red Square, but no rain as such. That also set me remembering when I was about nine getting marked down on an essay at primary school by starting a piece with the line, “It was not a bad day because it had just started to stop raining.”

We arrive at the river boat station to see loads of buses, unloading loads of people doing just as our tour was. A briefing then the ticket purchasing, by the courier, then escorted to our boat. Sitting down was a piece of cake, after all I had learned how to do that as a kid. But sitting in the right place now that a whole different story. Mr ‘Okay’ was quick to rearrange all of us who had randomly sat down into our correct ticketed numbered places. Which we would have been able to follow had we been given our own tickets in the first place Mr ‘Okay!’

Our boat was the first out and within fifteen minutes we were hitting incredible scenery. It was just like being in a sci-fi setting where the goodies had landed on a prehistoric planet. The limestone rocks jutted out of the earth like they had been indiscriminately placed there. The river Lijiang (to give it its full name) cut a way through these monuments over the millennia but today it was barely three feet deep in places. You will see by the photos that the water was low, it seems like there has been a period of very little rain. That appeared to be odd, considering we were in the middle of their winter months. It also meant that the boats we were in must have had such small draughts, in order to negotiate the shallow water. The landscape though, was breath-taking. Because it was so murky the photos may not do it justice.

One of the corners turned saw many of the passengers run upstairs. Because the commentary was in Chinese, I didn’t know what the commotion was for. I went up on deck anyway because I recognised that it must have some significance. There were several people waving Twenty Yuan notes in the air with most having their photographs taken with them. I took a photo of the note before realising we were passing the exact spot that the notes image was taken from. See if you can make the identification from the two photos.

Next to me was a bit of an oddball. Seems like there is always one somewhere in the vicinity. Unless I have a particularly sharp scanner that picks them up on my radar a lot? This guy, I estimate was late twenties or early thirties. He was transporting an enormous paparazzi style camera, with which he hardly stopped clicking. After about five minutes into the journey he quite dramatically donned a turquoise surgeons mask. Now in the smoggy streets of the big cities, I get it. But in the magnificent countryside fresh air, what’s the story? He moved around quite a bit, until he was in a position sitting opposite me inside the boat. He was on an empty table over the aisle about ten feet away. Well I casually tried to get a picture of him using my phone. Which is all very well but the guy sitting on the opposite side of my table thought that I was trying to take a photo of him – so he smiled. Look at the picture. I had to convince him using Mr ‘Okay’ who was sitting adjacent to me, and a copious amount of Bobby talk that he looked like someone I knew at home. (Lame excuse I know, but it was the first thing I thought of.) This meant duelling mobiles were brought out. The translator apps were cranked up and away we went. I had just made a new buddy. Once he had establish where I was from he launched into Brexit via his translator app. Firstly, who would think of programming that word into the translator software? Secondly when I used the voice mechanism on his phones App it translated my reply into Chinese, “Breakfast has caused us so much pain!” He couldn’t stop laughing and I didn’t know why? When he gave me the phone back it read, “Why? What did you eat?” Now he was really shoulder wobbling with laughter on this one. I thought what is funny about that? I just didn’t get it. After a few minutes a few minutes he was able to bring the whole translated conversation up, and I shared the funny side of it.

Now the original...

One of the things that I most wanted to see was the old traditional fishermen using cormorants to do their fishing for them. I had this romantic vision of a wisened old fisherman in a traditional Chinese umbrella hat, wearing old village clothing. Not so!

But I did get to see the cormorants.

Once the boat had docked down river, the scheduled stop gave the tourists three hours free time to wander round the town of Yangzhou. Obviously grown on the back of tourism, but a welcome relief from the sounds of the boat engine.

Just to prove that I was on there... Oh! And the guy on the right is wondering, "Did I turn the iron off?"

I am back on the trains tomorrow, and for the first time I have no idea where I will be staying, because the Vietnamese rail schedules are laughable. So if I can get a train that takes me quite some distance (one or two nights sleepers) then the blogs may become temporarily sporadic. I’ll try my best.

Position: 27°57'19” N 109°35'41”E – Miles completed: 08513

Location: Guilin, China. 22:29 - 18th January 2020 - Journey 23 days 19 hours


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