Asia | China | Guangxi | Nanning – On the BEEEEEYAAAAAAAATCH, as Chris Rea once said
Wow, it’s been an interesting coupla weeks, maifren, an interesting coupla weeks. Sitting here in another shmoky internet cafe having just heard a Chinese country music choon followed by the Gangstar numbah off the 8 Miles soundtrack, and now shmoozing to “I love Rock and Roll” by Pat FUCKING Benatar, let me start it from where I left off… But first, before I forget, a second and final batch of ridiculous Chinglish phrases from our Chinese friends:
– The on behalf sells the IC (International Calling) card with the motion sickness medicine. (leave it aaaaaaat)
– Large department store name: Wearables Silk Shoescap Store (how many fucking Esses, geezah?)
– Sign in a park: Don’t let the last drop of water on the tart become man’s own tear. (bitches an’ hose, maaaan, bitches an’ hose)
– Sign on train toilet door: No occupying while stabling. (Genius)
– Restaurant name: Shanchen Scented Peppery Crab Chafing Dish Hotpot (you chafing wid me?)
– Here taictlr foaboid Go fishing (nuff said)
– Sign in Chinese train carriage: No spitting.
– Crackpicked Technolog Co; Limited Guilin (and what do you do exactly, maifren?)
– Tratonal Chinese Mdial of Scence Mdssag (USE A FUCKING DICTIONARY FOR FUCK’S SAKE)
– Sign in cave: Waste battery recover box
– Logo of hotel in Beihai: “To you happy is our Most hope” (aaaahhhh, bless your little cotton minge…)
Guilin. A superb little (only 1.3 million, remember) city in China. Limestone karst peaks. I decided on my second (and last) day to head down to a cave 6km out of town to see what was being hailed as a ridiculously amazing cave, done up Chinese-style. So I jump a bus, it’s another beautifully sunny fucking day, the shades have come on, and I get there, and cave experiences in China are interesting. Basically, this cave was massive. 500 metres to the end of it, cruising around some of the bizarest fucking shapes, all of which has to be done with a tour guide. Who speaks Chinese. And has a loudhailer. The place is lit up all over with mad blue, green and red lights, which get turned on as you walk up to it, and turned off as you walk away. So that if you want to linger and get away from the group, you can’t. But it’s mad enough. All the rocks have names. For example, there’s “A bumper of fruit and vegetables” which is basically a set of rocks all in the shape of different fruit and veg. Very weird. Then there’s “A Lion Seeing His Guests Off” which, unsurfuckingprisingly, looks like a lion. My mind wanders for an hour as I walk around, with loads of rocks starting to resemble all sorts of weird things (there was a giant minge in there somewhere, I tell ya), and leaving there tripping a little, I bump into two Kiwi brothers and a Canadian girlfriend. We have some lunch, cruise into town and play some pool, then I hit Yangshuo, where I’ve arranged to meet the Yank (Matt) in a bar…
HEAVEN HON HEARTH, I TELL YA
65km, and one hour later, I enter paradise. Yangshuo has basically become a “legendary backpacker destination set amidst gorgeous limestone scenery” according to the Lonely Planet. At first, I’m dubious. Firstly, it’s the Lonely Planet talking, which must always be taken with a rather large mountain of salt. Secondly, legendary backpacker destination? If it’s so fucking legendary why the fucking NORA have I never heard of the place? Thirdly, after travelling in China and seeing the way tourism operates, it’s kinda hard to imagine a chilled place. I was to be proved wrong. In a big-style stylee. Like a cunt, as my old maaaaa used to say.
Anyway, I meet up with Matt, picking up a laaavly little hotel room on the way. The nicest I’ve had so far by any stretch of the willy. Wooden floors, double bed to meself, bathroom with shower, tv. The whole cunt and kaboodle. Matt’s already gathered himself together a little posse, including a couple of Chinese ladies who work in the bar (Minnie Mao’s… the bar’s called Minnie Mao’s…) who provide him with free head and shoulder massages (take one Chinese lady into the shower? not me…). He’s basically looking the fucking king within two days of arriving. We get nicely bollocksed, and arrange to rent some bikes and hit the countryside the next day.
And this is when paradise hits. I wake up the next day, and hit the bar where we’ve arranged to have breakfast. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Chinese food. I can eat the shit day and fucking night. The dumplings, the noodles in all their different guises, the chicken with peanuts, the cucumber and garlic plates, the hotpots which make you breathe fire, everything. But, breakfast? The Chinese need some fucking lessons. And that lesson involves poached eggs and toast, muesli with yoghurt and fresh fruit, fresh coffee, freshly squeezed simpson (o.j.), and a fruit plate. Lord, I’m salivating just tinking bout it… So we get breakfast, and 6/7 of us get the bikes and hit the country.
We take the road heading down towards Moon Hill, and all along the road is a load of beautifully-shaped, mad-looking limestone peaks. We hit the hill, climb up the path, and get the most awesome 360 degree view across the whole area. And we can’t leave for 2 hours it’s that stunning. We go back down and then find a side road that we cycle down for five hours, beautiful peaks, farmers paths, rice fields, little lakes, tiny villages with old men sitting outside playing cards, lots of cattle blocking our path, kids seeing us coming up and jumping up and down screming “HELLO!GOODBYE!HELLO!GOODBYE!HELLO!GOODBYE!”… absolutely awesome. Then we get lost. Four people are up ahead, and it’s starting to get a little dark, and I see a lady and ask her the way. She tells us that we were going in COMPLETELY the wrong direction to Yangshuo. So after buying some oranges, and realising that the four up ahead will not be caught, and being with two Brits, the girl of whom is starting to mince on about really wanting to be back in Yangshuo, the woman who’s now taken me into her little barn of a home with a pig snorting at me as she’s talking, tells me her son will be back from school any second and can take us back a really quick way for a small fee. I’m not keen (being a man, and wanting the adventure, and not wanting to admit defeat, and being a dick), but the girl says “Fuck it, I wanna be back, I’ll pay it”, so I succumb. The kid arrives, a 16 year-old hyperactive motherfucker, who basically agrees to taking the equivalent of one fucking dollar to take us to the main road leading to Yangshuo. It’s now getting dark, and we’re carrying our bikes up a little stone path, still going through the mud (or was it cow shit? i’m still not sure, I tell ya…), and the kid’s giving me his address to write to him, and finally, we come to a river. I look at the river. And then the kid says “Okay, let’s go.” Where? I say this to the kid. “Across the river”. But there’s a fucking river in the way, kid, can’t you fucking see it? And it’s pitch black. I decide not to say this to the kid, instead opting for “How?”. He starts to take off his shoes, and sees us all looking a little unsteady. Basically, there’s a ledge a metre under the water that he wants us to walk 75 metres across, and the ledge drops a metre down into the river proper. The ledge is about a metre wide, and the water’s rushing like a cunt. Glen (Englishman) isn’t so keen, so this kid basically takes him on a piggieback all the way across! We watch this, crying laughing, and thinking, “What the Nora…?”, while the kid takes Glen all the way across, and then comes all the way back. I all of a sudden get this flash of “Is he trying to fleece us like a pair of minges?” idea in my head, and tell the kid to take the bikes across first. So he takes a bike all the way across, and walks all the way back. Meantime, two villagers from across the river cross over, and the woman starts laying into me saying “How can you let this kid take all three of you over plus your three bikes? Give me some money, we’ll help.” I say no, and she starts laying into this kid asking how much he’s being paid, and when he tells her, she goes ballistic at him too, saying “All this for a dollar??? That’s ridiculously cheap!! What’re you doing???” Meantime, the kid takes another bike across, and me and Kate are starting to feel a little guilty. So I tell Kate, “Come on, we’re crossing, get your shoes off”. So there’s me, Kate, kid and the last bike, walking across this river. A few hairy moments, but just generally pretty fucking buzzing, actually. We finally get to the main road, hit Yangshuo, and get absolutely bollocksed. Again. One of the top 7 days of all my life without a doubt. Just awesomely beautiful…
And the next day was almost equally awesome. 10 of us took a bus down to a nearby village, and walked for 5 hours down the river towards Yangshuo. Again, just awesome scenery, mad, trip-inducing-peaked hills, little bamboo rafts to cross over various parts of the river en route, chaos. And then we got pissed and played a load of cards. Again. Til 7.30am. I think you get the fucking pattern by now… Third day involved picknicking in some fields overlooking some of the scenery. And getting pissed. Again. The fourth day I finally managed to persuade some guys to play bridge. Another awesome day. And then the fifth day happened…
We rent out some bikes. Another big group of us, maybe 8 or so, and we decide to cycle down to Dragon Bridge, a bridge built in 1412, and somewhere along one of the rivers near Yangshuo. We hit a path off the road somewhere just outside taaaaaan, and end up going along some little farmer paths, carry our bikes across a little stream and up a bank, and hit some really rocky roads. a couple of hours out of Yangshuo, we spot this little village with a tiny shop, so we stop to get some water. Luciana (Matt’s travelling compadre is this Bristolian geezah called Dave, and his missis is this little Brazilian lassie called Luciana) realises she’s lost her camera. But when I say camera, I mean digital camera with a camcorder thing going on, just the grooviest little fucking machine I’ve ever seen, and worth a wankload of argents. So Dave and Glen shoot off looking for it, but to no avail. So me and this other English lad called Paddy (more about this zany fucker later), being the two guys that can speak a little Chinese, decide to head off and ask some of the local villages if they’ve seen it, whether they can help, etc. etfuckingcetera. So we head off slowly, ask a load of people, no one’s seen it, but this one geezah who’s obsessed with all of us going back to Yangshuo and getting hammered on the local firewater, comes along with us and tries to help. All to no avail. On the way back, and about 10 minutes cycle ride from where the others are waiting, this guy in the field comes running over to us, shouting. “You’re looking for a camera?” We say yes. He says he’s got it. And he wants lotsa fucking money for it. He says he knows it’s worth 10000 yen (1300 dollars), but he’ll settle for 4000, bless his little minge. We start to haggle. Paddy’s doing well, keeping his cool, trying to reason. I’m getting a little angry, saying “But it’s not yours. We’re willing to give you 200 which you wouldn’t have had, had you NOT found something that wasn’t yours in the first place, ya cockstabber”, but nothing works. We get him down to 500, then he’s back up to 800. So I say “Okay, let me go ask the person who’s camera it is”. So Paddy stays (there’s now five of them, including a bunch of over 20 5-10 year olds who are listening to the whole of this comversation, the adults not even THINKING that maybe what they were doing wasnae quite fucking right), and I zoom over and tell them the news. There’s about 6 guys and 4 girls. And after much manly muscle-flexing let’s-go-and-kick-their-fucking-heeeeds-in style banter, Matt turns around and says “Look, we’ve been playing chess all afternoon with these guys, and they’re sound. Ask them if they can do anything.” So I explain the situation to one, who basically goes off and gets the village leader (I was waiting for a big fat guy to come out of some teepee wearing a load of feathers on his head and smoking a long pipe, and was disappointed to see a guy wearing a shirt and trousers carrying a mini-under-the-arm-briefcase and carrying a mobile like it was a weapon). Anyway, all the guys and the two Chinese guys cycle down to where Paddy is, and after much debate, one of the Chinese guys takes me aside and says “You have to pay some money”. “How much?”. “800”. I say to the fleecers, “But we agreed on 500”. Finally, we agree on 550. So me and Paddy and this Chinese guy follow one of the fleecing cunts to his home, where he runs down a little path, comes back with the camera, we check it still works, pay him, and all shake hands smiling, like we’ve just completed some fucking business transaction. And it’s all so fucking normal. Weird, man, none of the Chinese geezahs had any comprehension that what was going on was wrong. Even the two guys who were helping us knew that we had to pay money. I suppose they didn’t want any bad karma between them and a nearby village. But we now knew where these guys lived and worked, they had essentially completed a whole transaction involving bribery, but nobody seemed to realise that we could’ve got the police in and they would’ve been cunted. But one of the most hippily beautiful elements to all this was that there were 11 of us Westerners, and each one of us chipped in 50 to make up the total amount of 550. Not to be cheesy, but that was a quality moment, when EVERYONE took their cash out to pay up without even blinking… Anyway, we ended up going back and having a drink with the Chinese guys before heading back into Yangshuo. To get… again…
Yanshuo continued in much similar style. More cycle rides, a day lounging, TANNING YA BASTARDS, by a beautiful section of river, playing badminton with our music blasting, and getting rogered pretty much every night. It got to the stage where it was like “We can stay here all the way up until going to Vietnam, go to Yunnan province NOW (which is supposed to be the most beautiful in China), leave and go around this province a tiny bit more and go into Vietnam early… what shall be done?” I’d convinced Matt to come with me to Vietnam, he’d convinced Dave and Luciana, and there was this Canadian girl called Eileen that was going to Vietnam anyway that we’d convinced to stay with us, and we all figured “Let’s hang round here for a couple of days. We won’t be doing Yunnan any justice to race through in less than 10 days. And let’s enter the Naaaam herly so’s we can do some shit before the hairy Arab shitster rocks into taaaan.” And that’s pretty much what happened.
So after a ridiculously large night, we all headed down to the capital of the province, Nanning, in an attempt for people to sort their visas, and from where we can get the train out of Sino caaaaantry.
NANNING WHATSOEVER HA’NING HERE, MAAAAAAAAN
We enter Nanning in the evening, and realise pretty goddamn immediately that absolutely jack and her mother is going on in Nanning. And also that our planning has been of the immensely shite variety. Firstly, it’s Saturday. How the fuck can you get a visa on a Saturday? You can’t, is the simple farking answer, maifren. So we could’ve stayed a couple of extra days in paradise. Secondly, the visa in Nanning takes 10 days, whereas in Yunnan it takes one day, and in another place near Yangshuo it takes 3. Thirdly, you can enter Vietnam from Nanning or Yunnan, and I really wanted to go to Sapa in Vietnam (beautiful mountain scenery), but guess what? You can only get to Sapa from Yunnan. Yes, to use a Lonely Planet word, LEGENDARILY shite planning. So we do the ole pull-your-trousers-up-as-high-as-possible-and-roll-the-trouser-bottoms-up-to-your-knees technique, and hit town for some food to console ourselves. The other thing we realise is that we’ve left a place that was stunningly amazing, and now we’ve come back to the real world. No more muesli breakfasts, chilled bars, DVDs playing all over the joint, beautiful hotel rooms, amazing music blasting out everywhere, stunning scenery, coooooooool people. It really was a holiday from a holiday. And now we were back in China.
The next day I hit a park, bask in some more rays as the hot weather has now hit us well and truly like a caaaant, get in some table tennis skills, and we hit town in the evening for a hotpot. My two missions in life seem to be (a) teach everyone everywhere the legendarily amazing game of bridge, and (b) Chinese hotpot, maaaaan, Chinese hotpot. So we meet this old lady who seems to know her cuisine round Nanning and she gives us the address of a wicked hotpot place where we head off to eat a quality hotpot (note, hotpot is a large pot in the middle of a table, that contains a rather ridiculously huge amount of extremely spicy chillies, and which you order loads of food between you all that arrives raw, and which you get your chopsticks, pick the food up, put it in, it cooks damn quick, and you take it out, eat it, turn red in the face, start breathing a little fucking fire, and drink a shitload of beer to sort out the piercing, burning sensation). We start gambei-ing. this is the Chinese word for bottoms-up. And after getting rather fucking blasted and hitting a bar where I turn into DJ with my CDs and dancing around like a caaant (how else do you dance around, king?), four of us walk out and pass a group of 8 or 10 “ladies” sitting around a little outdoor noodle place eating and drinking. We stop and sit with them (there’s me, Matt, Paddy and Eileen), and they offer us a little beer, and suggest we all go for to a nearby KTV joint. Now KTV is essentially karoake, the one difference being that it takes place in a private room, where you can order food and beers and choose your own songs, in the privacy of your own group. I’d done it a few times in Taiwan, and love it. I mean, Brits all say they hate it. But come 11.30pm in any village, town or city in England, and which ridiculously pissed British geezer isn’t fucking singing some choon or tother. Anyway, we go in, the ladies are singing away, and Matt turns around to Paddy (who has developed a mammothly enormous reputation for being extremely knowledgeable about all the goings-on of Chinese prostitutes, especially of the hairdressers-message variety) and goes “Hey, Pad. You reckon these girls are hookers?” At which stage Paddy responds “Course they are”. We look around, one girl is draped all over me, a few others are slowly being taken outside (to other KTV rooms where Chinese businessmen are waiting, it turns out) by the one old, fat, Chinese lady who is EVIDENTLY the madam of the group. And Eileen has meanwhile been taken out in attempt to get her to go with one of the fat Chinese guys in another room. Shit. So we realise this, sing a few songs, have a couple of beers, and then I realise that I’ve signed all the slips for food and drink. And therefore we were about to get fleeced like kippers. So we figure we should get the Nora out of there. Fast, like. So we go outside, and the lady’s asking us for 400 yen. And we start arguing. Then this one Chinese guy with his mates comes over and tries to sort things out. He’s talking to us, going, “When you take Chinese girls out, in China the man must pay”. And “The minimum charge payable is 400”. And finally “You realise that these are all prostitutes”. Finally, Omar here gets fed up, and says to the woman at the counter in Chinese “Right, here’s 100. That’s what we owe. Goodbye”. And we all walk out. Fucking quality night!
Next day, a day where all 6 of us have SEVERE bouts of diarrhoea (I have four loose shits by midday, for fuck’s sake), Matt shoots off to get the visas from elsewhere, while we decide that it’s so hot, and we’re 3 hours from the beach. HELLO. And that’s where I is. Beihai is the name. After a couple of days walking through ghost town, laughing at the fact that we’re in a major Chinese beach resort yet we’ve seen more goddamn PIGS than fucking people, and basking a little on a 1.6km beach where we were the only people, we’re now about to head back to Nanning the neet, where we meet up with Yankhead the morrow, before bruising (bruising? surely you mean cruising, maifren) on to Naaaam early Friday morning. BRING ON THE NAAAM! BRING ON THE HAIRY SHITSTER! HO!