First of all, I'd like to warn any of the weak of heart away from this entry as it contains mature content. And by that I mean talking general scatalogical disucssions.
You've been warned.
So, I've been out of contact for a while because I've been in Yangshuo. It's near Guilin. Yes, THAT Guilin. Impressed, no? Once again, I will try to spare you the boring point-by-point itenerary.
Yangshuo and Guilin are famed for their scenery, and I have to admit that it didn't disappoint. You know the traditional Chinese landscape paintings? It actually looks like that in Yangshuo. They have many natural parks filled with pristine walking paths under the wonderful peaks, and the whole thing is quite serene. What wasn't so serene were gastro-intestinal escapades in the park's public toilet under the wonderful peaks. There's a reason they don't show that part in the traditional Chinese landscape paintings, as it does tend to spoil the mood.
Now, just for a brief explanation of Chinese toilets. For those of you uninitiated, Chinese conceptions of toilets are quite different from ours. From my travels, I've seen pretty much every type, and all of them fall under the category of "squat pots". Others are more like troughs, with a stream of water flowing through. The last variety are the simple holes in the ground. Needless to say, they all tend to run in varying degrees of unpleasantness. Chinese people will often try to argue that Chinese toilets are more sanitary as your posterior never actually touches porcelain. I dispute the "more sanitary" claim by pointing out that people can, and frequently do, miss. This makes bathroom experiences significantly more unpleasant than normal.
This toilet side-note basically exists to frame the hotel where I stayed in Yangshuo. It was only 25 yuan a night (about $3) and it was worth every penny. Everything from no air-conditioning to bug infestations plagued my nights there, but the real kicker was the shower. There was a public bathroom (just two stalls with squat-pots), but we couldn't find the shower. What we had, instead, was a bucket. If we wanted bodily cleansing, then we should fill the bucket with water, stand in the stall, poor it over ourselves, lather, and rinse again from the bucket. Normally this wasn't actually too bad, but we did have to stand in the stalls....and like I said before sometimes people miss.
The less said on this subject, the better.
So, I'm trying to think of non-restroom highlights of the trip. I went into a cave. That was fun, except that being 6' 5" and relatively inflexible don't really put me in the group of people best suited for moving through cramped spaces. I was also the only laowai in the group, and if you're the only laowai in a group of Chinese people you get to be part of a fun game called "Stupid Foreigner". It involves everyone closely observing everything you do, laughing when anything happens, and occasionally throwing in some middle school English.
Another annoying thing about Yangshuo was that no matter where you went, people would try to sell you something. I hiked up a mountain, and a lady with a cooler strapped to her back hiked right up with me, trying to sell me water, cola, beer, or post cards all the way up.
The other interesting thing about the tourist shops were the shirts they sold. Obviously they had people who could make custom t-shirts, so you could get Michael Jordan, Yao Ming, Tony Blair, pretty much anyone on a t-shirt. I spotted, and this is by no means a definitive list: Saddam Hussein (pre and post capture), Osama Bin Laden, and Wen Jiabao (China's Premier) all together. What kind of message are they trying to send? The wierdest shirt I saw consisted of a very simple drawing of a cartoonish, buck-toothed coolie straight out of a 19th Century political cartoon. This was being sold in the heart of China.
I'm going to wrap this up for now, but I'll finish talking about it later. The next installment involves wacky adventures at a youth hostel as well as incidents with police boats. Be sure to tune in!