A Travellerspoint blog

Not an egg and spoon race in sight: a Chinese sports day

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Just to let anyone who enjoys reading this blog know that I have proudly finally started my own site with my own domain name. If you enjoy my travel blog about living and working in China, please have a look at (and subscribe to) www.theroadjesstravelled.com
Thats www.theroadjesstravelled.com Come on over, I'd LOVE to see you there :P

After a day where I awoke with a sparrow on my bed (sounds cute and Disney-ish but it was more horrible, screaming, bird flapping in my hair violently wrenched from sleep than that) and had had many of my lessons cancelled last minute I had one more fun thing in store. After seeing the children rehearsing all week for a big sports presentation I had often commented that it looked lovely, was a nice idea etc etc not thinking anything of my words. Until I was asked to participate, still not too bad, until I was shown the dress. The lurid primary coloured silk puff sleeved dress.

To me, the idea of sports day conjures up images of cheering (if a little bored) parents, grass stains, cold sports fields and coming in last. Not so the Chinese sports day where sports seems like a thinly veiled excuse for teachers to rent ballgowns and children to spend hour practicing elaborate dance routines.

So I found myself stood in the centre of a sports stadium in a full length red dress dancing with a multi-coloured paper flower with teachers either side of me and a thousand students behind me.

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I'm pretty sure that there can be no mistaking the fact that I looked horrendous, and in a line of petite yellow frocked teachers (because obviously I had to stand out even more) the difference was even more pronounced. The students loved it though, I was handed babies to hold and had loads of people come and take photos with me.

It was great, if a little scary and embarrassing and I got the opportunity to chat to a lot of my students in a much more informal setting than I had previously. Managed to get some serious hate eyes from one kid too, when I told on him for drinking Bacardi Breezer at the back of the stands, but seriously, if you’re going to break the rules at least have a decent drink. There are no cool points for getting caught with a Bacardi Breezer.

Posted by Jessica_l_ball 09:18 Archived in China Tagged me children china teacher sports tourist teaching wuhan tefl wuchang sportsday Comments (0)

More Yangshuo heaven

Vomiting cormorants, Mobin, cycling, mud caves, moon hill, a billion steps & baijo sunrises.

Between people taking pictures of the big group of foreigners and popping up trying to sell useless trinkets we got a lot of attention in Yangshuo, one of the only useful people we met was Mobin. Mobin, a tour guide around Yangshuo was the most 1950's stereotype of a Chinese accent I have met so far. The Chinese/English accent is distinctive but easily understandable. Mobin spoke like he was Mickey Rooney in Breakfast in Tiffanys. He was brilliant. He seemed like a really nice guy so we organised to spend a day with him on a cycle tour around the town visiting the caves and moon hill.

After meeting Mobin at 10am we rented mountain bikes and set off to the golden caves. As many of our group hadn't ridden bikes since they were children the first bit of the journey through the manic town centre was a bit hellish. If the 60 pence packs of cigarettes hadn't already done their work, the thick smoke billowing out of the near stationary coaches as we cycled between them was enough to have me coughing my lungs up. The closeness of the traffic was a bit unnerving also, especially on the couple of times that my pedal met with the nice shiny surface of a nearby car, causing me to feign stupidity and deafness and quickly zip off away from the often shouting drivers. But eventually, amazingly, we got free of all the cars onto a cycle path heading through rice & cotton fields where we could finally breathe and appreciate the beautiful rolling landscapes.

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Our first stop with Mobin (after being accosted by hunched little goblin mountain women demanding money to sit on their water buffalo) was to Golden cave and the mud baths and hot springs that were within.

Of course, as with any attraction with the promise of getting wet and muddy we, logically, stripped to swimwear. Because that is what you do when you are going to go into a wet cave to swim and wallow in mud. Apparently not. Again we found ourselves being cast confused looks and giggles by the fully dressed Chinese holiday makers as we strolled merrily through impressive caverns with overhanging rock formations in our swimwear.

The caves themselves were actually really beautiful, with rock formations with odd names like 'birthing canal' and 'enchanted forest' and I managed to enjoy the walk through the caves without having the usual internal worry that i usually do in confined spaces that if the cave filled up with water I would die a horrible watery stoney death.

Finally, we got to the mudbaths. Like pigs we squealed and splashed around in the chocolate coloured mud, posing for photos and having mud fights. I couldn't really feel any skin benefit and it took two washes to get all the filth out of my hair & swimwear but I would gladly go back to play in the mud baths.

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After the mud were the 'hot' springs', though piss warm springs might be slightly more appropriate. They were lovely anyway, a nice bath and another chance to try and get all the slimy mud off.
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So after the 'relaxation' of the caves we got back on the bikes (much to our newly sore arses distress) and weaving inbetween the numerous tour buses filling the roads, made our way to Moon hill and the restaurants at the bottom.

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Moonhill was impressive. When the area was covered in water (hard to imagine, I may have been decieved) Mobin says that the current caused erosion to moonhill which gave it its distinctive crescent moon shaped hole. All I know is that to get to the top of moonhill takes, I would guess 100,000 steps. I nearly died. I was coughing and sweating and whining like a bitch. Luckily the other guys put up with me and somehow we finally made it to the top. The most shameful bit was when we finally got to the top, pulling ourselves by the handrail all of us knackered, there was an ancient little woman selling coca cola. She had obviously climbed the entire thing carrying a crate of cokes. It was not a proud moment.

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After a slightly less worrying but much more sore return journey, a few of our number deposited our bikes and rushed off to the river to board a boat from which we were going to watch traditional cormorant fishing (something I had previous knowledge of purely from the old HSBC advert)

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From our boat we watched as the fisherman and his six cormorants took to the water. The black birds were fitted with basically a string a choke collar. A piece if string around their neck prevented them from eating all but the smallest fish. All the other fish would stay in their throat and when he judged them to have had enough, the fisherman would hold out his pole to them, get them back to him and then essentially squeeze the fish out of their throat like pushing toothpaste from a tube. I'm sure there is some kind of knack to it, but it looked pretty brutal.

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It was interesting, and being on the river at night was beautiful in itself, far different from the busy scene we had been part of in the daytime. We were the only boats on the river and the fisherman's lamp and our camera flashes the only light. It gave an amazing view of the busy lit up town behind us.

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The nightlife in yangshuo was great. Most of the hostels have their own rooftop bars which serve cheap drinks, in Monkey Janes you have an incredible view of the mountains as well as numerous happy hour deals, surprisingly nice and very cheap baijo sunrises and ongoing beer pong tournaments. We stayed in the Showbiz Inn which serves til the early hours and does a pretty wicked mojito. The town really comes alive in the evening with streets of neon lights, bars and street food.

All in all I adored Yangshuo and can't wait to go back.

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(A dog we saw at the light show, I want it. A lot.)

Posted by Jessica_l_ball 01:12 Archived in China Tagged caves hot_springs mud cycling yangshuo moon_hill mud_baths Comments (1)

Frankentoe

OK, so chronologically this entry is a little out of order, but if the people want gore what can I do?

After a lovely evening imbibing Baijo (incredibly cheap potent and nasty chinese liquor) cocktails, dancing on a roof top and visiting a couple of clubs, me and a couple of the boys I was travelling with thought that it would be a nice plan to go have a 4am swim in the Li river. I remember pushing for this pretty heavily and definitely used the "Its OK I'm a trained lifeguard" line that I tend to whip out whenever I'm tipsy and want to go swimming.

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Well it was lovely, I love to swim at night and the Li river is incredibly beautiful with its mountain backdrop. Unluckily for me, some complete penis had thrown a broken bottle at the bottom of the steps. When pulling myself out of the river, I fell back in and a piece of glass sliced into my toe. I very calmly said, "guys, I'm holding my foot together, we need to get to hospital", the baijo worked at preventing the pain and also making the situation pretty hilarious.

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(Happy smiling pre-injury Jess)

I will be eternally disappointed that I failed to get pictures of the slasher movie set that our hostel lobby became, there was blood everywhere. The sock used to bind my foot turned grey to red and the blood started to run down my elevated leg.

The wonderful Jenny & Lauren gathered my passport and cash and sorted a motorbike to take me to the nearest hospital. David wonderfully came with me, held my hand and let me prattle on about utter nonsense when I was being stitched up. The hospital was actually brilliant, apart from having to dodge pools of blood on the way in, it was incredibly clean and the doctor was lovely.

David helpfully asked whether i would like to be told what was happening, as being laid down i couldn't see, I agreed but after the statement "he's cutting bits off of your foot" I kinda thought i would just leave it a mystery. I had four injections and seven stitches.

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So thats the story of my Frankentoe, I spent the rest of the trip hobbling around and unable to hold my alcohol, I forgot to figure bloodloss and heavy painkillers into my next evenings drinking and went to bed pissed out of my face after a single Bay Breeze and Tequila Slammer.

At the end of the day, the swim was wonderful & I'd probably do it again, I got a great story, to leave about a pint of myself in the Li river like some ritualistic blood sacrifice and a scar that is essentially just a very cheap tattoo.

Posted by Jessica_l_ball 03:19 Archived in China Tagged china yan Comments (0)

Road

Drive to GuiLin station

I am trying to show my time here in a balanced light and like anywhere on earth, to present my time in China as purely positive would be false. Today I experienced my first real horror in China, though realistically it could have been anywhere in the world and the feeling of shock would have been the same.
On driving back to the train station in Gui Lin to catch a train back to Wuchang, we drove past a car accident. A bike had been knocked over and a man knocked from it. Before today I had never seen a dead person. The horror of the scene, the opened skull and matter bright on the road was enough to leave me speechless and to throw up the contents of my stomach over a squat toilet as soon as we reached the train station. The grim tableau of the accident was made the more horrifying by the sight of a little girl being pulled away from the remains of the man, eyes streaming and mouth open in a scream that I am thankful I could not hear from the bus, the sound of which I don’t think I could of coped with.

I wanted to write this down, not as a warning about China, it could of happened anywhere. And not to shock, but however wonderful my week in Yangshuo was I am sure that this gory tableau will stay with me. I'm doing this blog as much for me as for anyone else, as a diary and record of my trip. To omit from my blog this scene seems dishonest somehow and false. It's something I can't un-see and I think its something that I won't ever be able to forget.

Posted by Jessica_l_ball 04:40 Archived in China Tagged china Comments (1)

Yangshuo

Drifting, boats & Tsing Tao in the sun

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DSCF0750.jpg A brilliant reason to love the chinese: after just three weeks of teaching we were given a week long holiday for the mid autumn moon festival. thumb=http://photos.travellerspoint.com/506178/thumb_DSCF0750.jpg] So as i was desperate to get some travelling in China under my belt i went, along with 9 other english teachers, to the beautiful town of Yangshuo for a week of rafting, swimming, mud wallowing, cave exploring, bicycling, light shows, drifting, drinking, partying and visiting Chinese hospitals.

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I'll talk about the hospital part later but suffice to say my clumsiness caught up with me, I got 7 stitches and contributed a decent amount of my blood to the Li river and floor of my hostel lobby.

Yangshuo is a town near Guilin which is located is part of the Guangxi province, in the 80's Yangshuo became a major draw for backpackers and since then its stunning scenery as well as many tourist excursions and activities have made it a hotspot for domestic and international visitors.

The first thing that hit me about Yangshuo was the incredible surroundings, the area is frankly stunning. Unlike any area i have seen before Yangshuo has hundreds of mountains rising bizaarely and making the landscape incredible. I can't even get close to communicating the otherworldly beauty of the area and the breathtaking presence of the hulking great rock formations. I think any words i try and use can't manage to get across the awesomeness and end up sounding cliche and overused. All I can say is that everyone should see Yangshuo, seriously though, go buy a ticket, like now.

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We stayed in Showbiz Inn on West street, a hostel that I would very highly reccomend to anyone travelling to Yangshuo, the hostel is incredibly cheap, clean and central with really lovely and helpful staff. Vivian, Micheal and Fen were incredibly friendly and made an effort to make sure visitors to the hostel were happy and looked after. The view really speaks for itself and the rooftop bar served strong drinks on the cheap with happy hour on constantly for those staying at the hotel, hard to complain.

http://www.hostelbookers.com/hostels/china/yangshuo/49448/

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So after the hellish 14 hour train journey to Guilin and our hour and a half long bus we finally found ourselves in Yangshuo, sat on the roof of the hostel at 11am, taking in the view and supping down cold bottles of Tsing tao, perfection.

After what I would like to say was a sensible early night we were up early for our bamboo raft cruise along the Li river. While this considered a big draw when visiting Yangshuo I have to say that while the scenery was beautiful the multitude of noisy motor boats bedecked with passengers sporting fluorescent orange life jackets wasn't the calming cruise i had envisioned.

DSCF0745.jpg It was the national holiday while we were visiting though so some of the hecticness can be attrbuted to that but overall I was relatively underwhelmed by the river cruise, which at 100kwai was a also a little pricey.
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Far better in my opinion was the drifting at nine horses. For just 100kwai we were taken into the mountains, on what was actually a really scenic car ride and dropped off at a drifting centre.

For not the last time on this trip, we paraded round in swimwear while the Chinese tourists look confused and giggled at us. If being stared and talked about constantly wasn't bad enough, it happening when you aren't dressed is ten times worse. It felt like one of the dreams I used to have that i was in Meadowhall naked and no one would sell me any clothes.

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The Chinese tourists though looked a lot more ridiculous by the end of the drifting, where their leather trousers were sodden and water seeped out of the toes of their high heels, thats right heels, because it seems that wading through river water to get to a small rubber boat that will be hurtling down white water is an appropriate time for heels, i was pretty happy with my knock off flip flops.
DSCF0791.jpg Posted by Jessica_l_ball 02:08 Archived in China Tagged china guilin yangshuo li_river guangxi tefl drifting nine_horses showbiz_inn west_street bamboo_raft Comments (0)

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