Recently took a little trip over to China with my friend Ajan Maxwell. The goal of the trip was to head down to Yangshuo and climb as many multi-pitches as we possibly could. Arriving in early October there was an obscene amount of Chinese tourists in town for the national holidays......never seen so many people in one place before in my life. Also, Chinese people have no concept of using two wheeled transportation, no one can drive / ride in any sort of straight line or go faster than the speed of snails.
Taking the bus into Yangshuo via Guilin my pulse was high as big mounds of limestone started appearing in the distance. You know when your a little kid and its Christmas morning and all the presents are ready to be opened? Every fiber of your body is vibrating with anticipation, excitement, and nervousness........and this was no different. Stone as far as the eye can see and only a small fraction has been developed for climbing, really easy to get drunk on the scenery. Yangshuo itself is kind of like a little bohemian center in the middle of the mountains, catering to such attractions as Pocket Kingdom (an all midget show), insane light shows, loud clubs, specialty stores, coffee shops, and of course tons of adventure outfitters.
Prior to arrival we were able to book a room at the Climber's Inn right off of West Street. Lilly the owner and manager is the shit, period. This little Chinese lady spoke amazing English, had clean rooms, full stock of large beers and waters, and all the beta you could ask for. Unlike other hostels I have been to Lilly is a climber at heart, constantly trying to get time off to get on the rock. She knew all the crags and when the best time of year and day was to climb there, indispensable information. Plus tons of climbers stay there so its always easy to find a partner. Her right hand man, Steven, was also pretty cool, quiet but super helpful, he even showed us how to play Chinese cards one night......still trying to remember all the numbers...
|trying to learn Chinese cards|
|max, lilly, steven, and I before our departure|
|claypot of duck and garlic|
Culturally China is intense.......in every way imaginable. This trip also changed many of the engrained stereotypes I had of the country and its people. Living in Thailand for the last few years I have grown accustomed to being very polite, taking my shoes off at every door, and not using my scooter horn. Ha, China is much the opposite. The horns and honking abound, but rightly so, most of the scooters and some vehicles are completely electric which means they are deadly silent, so honking is imperative for self preservation. Most people we met in and around Yangshuo hadn't really interacted with foreigners before and were constantly staring, but once you said "nee hao" everyone smiled and replied back. Most of the time you hear about Chinese people being super pushy, loud, and easy to anger........and those are all mostly somewhat kind of true, BUT that is just the culture. Getting up the courage to just do simple acts like yelling "Fuu Yuan!" at the top of my lungs to get the waiters attention seemed like big milestones, but thats just the way things operate over there, no harm, no foul.
The following may just be a first world problem, and I appreciate every opportunity I get to take advantage of.
Most of my adult life I have been traveling and have been doing so pretty consistently. I remember the first time I traveled abroad I felt like a little kid having to relearn everything I took for granted over again. Over the years this sort of feeling has slowly subsided, now that may be just being used to uncomfortable and challenging situations, or just age, who knows? This trip was the first time in a long while that I had that feeling of being an ignorant excited kid again. Constant stream of visceral experiences and just learning as much as possible about another culture and its history......outstanding!
|no laws were broken in the filming of this picture|
|pole dancing on top of Moon Hill|
|checking out the Thumb Peak|
No one ever really wanted to climb with us, mainly because we were up everyday at 6:30 am sharp and climbing by 7:30 - 8:00 am........we met most climbers when we were returning for the day and they had just rallied enough motivation to start moving. That being said we climbed 44 pitches in two weeks with about 4 rest days. Our rest days consisted drinking beer by 10 am and neglecting to drink water until the next morning. Though we did manage to take a bus to Xing Ping one morning to check out the Li River scenery printed on the back of the 20 yuan bill. It was a good little side trip / hike in the early morning and helped bypass the swarm of bamboo boats and tour buses that greeted us as we headed back to Yangshuo.
|oh Alice, transport never hurt so good|
|about to hit Moon Hill|
|iconic routes at Moon Hill|
After saying our farewells to Lilly and Steven we boarded a "sleeper bus" bound for the Zhuhai / Macau border. The definition of a sleeper bus was highly misconstrued, as if you are taller than 5'8'' you cant really comfortably fit into the bunks that were reminiscent of a bad sci-fi cryogenic life sustaining tube. Luckily we had the AC blasting in our faces, infused with the nostalgic smell of stale cigarette smoke. Zhuhai was wonderful....... if your into smog and rows of factories with low income housing right next to them. After crossing into Macau we felt like a new dimension had been breached. The influence of the Portuguese colonial period meshed with Chinas economic boom made the city a bit overwhelming. Known for its numerous casinos........well yeah just the casinos, Macau is a not the place where two western dirtbag climbers feel at home. Regardless we headed straight for the Venetian to let our Hong Kong dollars ride on the cheapest slot machines we could find. We were a head for a bit but quickly lost the 400 HK dollars we went in with. Great trip with a great friend, and some of the best climbing of my life to boot.
|casino lobby....not ridiculous|
|another great smog infused shot of Macau|
|local cemetery - ashes only please|