6.19.2013

More photos from our last trip


The sleeper bus by day
trekking to our hostel
Enjoying a short break between on hike and another
PHOTOBOMB-ed
a not-too-shabby view
Our humble vacation home
This place is alright 
Taking it in
awe-some
taking a rest
Zig-zagging down the path of the terrace town
Our first encounter with the Sleepy Teepee - a note from Zilin
Get it?
Our b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l room
A delicious dumpling dinner with Zilin, before she became our 'foster mother' 
I just wanted a little bit of privacy, but the darn doors were stuck, and glass
Riverside picnic for two
Right after Prestons lovely dive into the mud
the adventurers 
Mr. Smith fried the tops of his poor hands from all of our biking riding
Lucky the dog!
Casually enjoying the scenery 
Handsome hubs awaiting his meal
Sweet self portrait of Prest on his run our last morning 
Proof that we have Chinese names!
There is only one way to eat a Yangshuo donut!


6.15.2013

Oh Yangshuo bless your soul.


We were able to re-visit the always lovely Yangshuo this week. It is one of my favorite places in the world, and this trip has only added to the extensive pros list I have going for this place.



Hello, my name is Wang Xi Shan (wong shee shawn), and this is my wife Wang Li Jiang (wong lee jee-aw-ng). And that is my introduction to our spectacular stay in Yangshuo. 

We have been to this beautiful town once already and decided to come back for round two (round three for Amanda). It is an awesome little town in the country with lots to do. We arrived Tuesday morning and walked to our beautiful secluded hostel outside of town called the "Sleepy Teepee". 
The Sleepy Teepee
After waiting in the tea house for a half hour or so, we finally pulled out our phone and called the number on the sign. "Wei? Hello, hello! You are American?! Oh, you are at my home? Ok, ok, I be there in one moment!" 
The owner and hostess, Zilin ran into the tea house, so excited to meet us and in jumbled English explained she didn't realize we would be there so soon, so we would need to 'take a rest' while our room was being cleaned. A rest was needed since the Sleepy Teepee was perched on top of a steep little hill overlooking the valley. While we waited, we enjoyed a bowl of fresh picked Chinese Strawberries from Zilins garden.

After getting settled in our beautiful room, we decided to test Zilins claim that her cook made the best dumplings in China, rather than going into town for dinner as originally planned. It was a good choice, they were indeed the best we have had!

After dumplings we rented bikes and headed into town. We decided to go ride on a trail we have ridden before. It was an excellent choice because it came with an amazing sunset. 
We then got some ice cream and strolled around west street checking out the shops and eating local food samples.
The beautiful Yangshuo sunset.
The Peddler
We rode our bikes on every trail could find! I wouldn't say we ever found what we were looking for, because we weren't looking for much. At one point we found ourselves out in the middle of fields on a muddy single track and when I went to put my foot down, it sank into a foot of mud and down I went. All the way down! It was very exfoliating?
Downer
We often had to stop and take it all in
The next morning I woke up early and went for a little jog. When I arrived back at the Sleepy Teepee, Zilin caught me and began taking photos of my sweaty self in front of her fig tree (it became a tradition to take photos with her garden plants whenever you enter her presence). She then announced breakfast would be done shortly for "no money, no money" (free) which I am always a fan of! 
After our great breakfast of meat cakes and soup (that looked like it had coco puffs in it) Amanda and I headed into town. We got an early start and decided to explore the path along the Yulong River.
Coco puffs 
Just a quick stop on our amazing ride.

After our long ride and a picnic of pb&js for lunch, we headed back up to our hostel 'to take a rest'. When we arrived,  Zilin ran outside to welcome us, like she always does, and invited us to join them  for dinner later (for "no money") to celebrate the Dragon Boat festival with her, her friend and the cook! How could we resist sweet Zilin, and free food? We accepted!
Ten minutes later she was knocking at our bedroom door with a plate of fruit and the Dragon Boat festival food called Zongzi to try. "No money! Eat, then take a rest". She was way to good to us.


Our fruit (which had the consistency of a pear, but tasted like a cantaloupe!) and Zongzi
Zongzi are like big rice dumplings, stuffed with pork and peanuts, and wrapped up in a big bamboo leaf. It was interesting, but good in our biker bellies. As far as we know (slash as far as we wiki'd) Dragon Boat festival means getting together with family and eating this Zongzi - oh, there is some legend about warriors or something but hey, food is the best/important part of most every holiday.

Then dinner time rolled around. We wandered down to the tea house and ate family style with Zilin; her friend and coworker Di Home, and the cook Michael Smith (his English name - Michael is an old Yangshuo native - Zilin either refers to him as 'the cook' or the 'worker', he is a sweet, weathered old man). Neither Di Home or Michael spoke any English, so Zilin was the tie between the conversations through the night. 
It was going great, they laughed at how we ate and picked at the bones and things we didn't quite recognized, so we laughed as well because it was awesomely awkward. 
To properly celebrate the festival, and after refusing as politely as possible, Zilin tried with all her might to get us to drink! She first offered us wine, but after declining she poured us tall glasses of beer and kept 'cheersing' us. We tried in so many ways to communicate why we couldn't/didn't drink - but seeing as her English was rough, the point was definitely not getting across, and she would respond jollily but persistently with "It's OK, it is festival!", "Don't worry, no money, no money" & the guilt-trip - "don't waste, no waste"! We would avoid & avoid, and then try and try to explain - but she was not getting it! We were dying. We in no way wanted to offend our kind hostess, but could not seem to get across the language/cultural barrier!
Finally (and thankfully), in a mixed translation, Zilin got the impression that the reason for our refusal to drink was because Amanda was pregnant.. sooo I just went with it! That resolved the issue almost immediately as she exclaimed excitingly, "Oh, oooh, I understand, I understand!" and from there on - (after excitingly explaining to the other two) they all began dishing us up foods to eat that were "so healthy for baby"("wild herbs - eat. Healthy for baby"), our secret/accidental plan worked! 

Dinner was then filled with more and more delicious food, broken English conversations, rough translations, and lots of laughs. At one point, we asked Zilin if she had any children, she told us no and began to explain how she never had children and was too old now (50). To lighten the subject, Amanda told her her beautiful German Shepherd, 'Lucky the dog', could be her baby.
Good ol' Lucky the dog (he's just eating a rock in this photo, we caught him off guard)
After a good laugh and translation of this comment to Di Home and Michael Smith, which resulted in another good laugh, Zilin began typing on the translator app on her phone (which was a life saver, as she would often use it to show us words she wasn't quite sure how to say in English). She then showed us a picture of the word 'foster son', and started pointing at me. We told her we understood what she meant (though, it would have made more sense if we could explain the word 'adopted' son), so she then pointed at Amanda and exclaimed "Foster daughter!". She then took on the tremendous responsibility of becoming our 'foster mother', and we her 'foster children'! And that stuck quick! She called us her children the rest of the time.  
After our main course we feasted on desert - delicious peaches, bananas and watermelon. While that was going on Zilin and Di Home took the responsibility of giving us our first Chinese names. They searched and searched and finally found the perfect names for us. So there you have it! That's how we got Chinese names! 

We love how plans change, we had planned on going back out to West Street later that night, but staying in with "family" proved to be quite the enriching experience!
Our wonderful Foster mother, Zilin
The next morning, our last morning in Yangshuo, sweet Zilin called up "Wang Xi Shan, Wang Li Jiang, breakfast time!" of course again, for no money ("Mother must feed her children!"). She is a fine lady. 
Delicious breakfast noodles with a poached egg
After all the bike riding, great food, made-up babies and Chinese names, it was time for Amanda and I to head back to Zhongshan for our last week of teaching.

We spent the last few hours in town just wandering around and getting treats which proved to be a blessing and a curse. 
Our mode of transportation was a sleeper bus which is a novel concept with only a few minor flaws. The busses are very unique. Instead of seats, they have bunk bed type shelves with narrow walkways in-between. They are not to shabby to travel in except on special occasions such as the one I was lucky enough to partake of. About an hour before boarding our bus my stomach started rumbling and gurgling, I was a little bit worried because the one flaw in a sleeper bus is they don't have bathrooms... So as we boarded our bus I was as focused as a freaking monk on not pooping my pants on our 12 hour ride. 
In traditional chinese fashion they packed too many of us onto the bus so Amanda and I spent the first hour and a half on the wood floor. It really wasn't bad at all we were both tired and laying on hard things is very lumbarly invigorating. 
A slightly blurry capture of the lovely arrangement we found ourselves in.
We eventually (1 hour and 45 minutes later) were ushered into two beds in the back with some of our other teacher friends which became a huge hot and sweaty spooning fest (the spooning was inevitable) and was great. 
By about two in the morning, my intense level of concentration on not pooping was so intense it sent everything in the opposite direction. Luckily I had grabbed some extra shoe bags (little red bags they have you deposit your shoes into upon entering the bus) so I quickly pulled them out and proceeded to have the most graceful upchuck of my entire life. 
(I know this is all gross but in China, throwing up in public, period, is really not that out of the norm - so bare with me)
Shortly after my character building experience, the bus made a pit stop and I was able to dispose of the unnaturally warm bag of puke and, feeling much better, was able to sleep the rest of the night. So I am writing this story to all of you so that next time you are on a long car ride to any given destination and you are feeling unsatisfied with the trip just think of ol' Preston and be grateful you are not on a crammed night bus with the pukes and the sh*ts! 

The love of my life
As we get ready to wrap up our time here, I really am grateful for all the insane crazy experiences we have had in China! If I have learned anything from this adventure it is just how incredible the power of prayer and positivity are. They really go hand in hand. 
Amanda and I often ponder times on our trip when we said a quick prayer, whether it be that we will not offend our host by not drinking, or that we will get on the right bus, or to not have IBS on a night bus. Whatever it may be, we have always kept a positive outlook on the situation and knew that our Heavenly Father would help us. We've found that with that, without fail, it has, and will 
A L W A Y S 
work out! 

with love, 
the Smiths 


A date full of Rice

This past week for the first portion of our vacation Amanda and I were fortunate enough to visit the Dragon's Backbone rice terraces or, the 8th Wonder of the World as we like to call it! We arrived at the bottom of the terraces in the afternoon of a rainy monday. The 40 minute hike to our hostel was such an eye opener. We were walking up stone stairs through villages passing farmers and chickens the whole way up. The terraces are such a unique experience because they are an agricultural necessity and are still being used.

I felt pretty medieval staying at the dragons den.
Our Hostel was called the dragon's den and it was impressively crafted out of matchboxes and toothpicks. But, in all seriousness it was such an impressive structure in the little village up on the mountain. It was so fun to stay in the hostel and to be able to look out the window and see such a beautiful site.

After setting our bags down Amanda and I went on a hike to a lookout called 7 Layers of Heaven. It was so peaceful and beautiful. The hikes were relaxing and it was so fun to see farmers out working on random levels of the terraces.
7 Layers of Heaven in our good old Chaco's
a farmer and his cart (I took this while jogging down the trail which makes it extra impressive)

The next morning Amanda and I woke up early and hiked up to a lookout called Music from Paradise. It was one of the greatest experiences I have had thus far in China. We waited out on the middle of a terrace for about 30 minutes before the sun poked through and shed light on this incredible manmade creation. It was out of this world cool.
Right as the sun came out
After soaking in the beauty we grabbed our bags and ran down the mountainous trail to the parking area to catch the earliest city bus back into Guilin (which was longer ride, but much cheaper than the direct bus we arrived on). We jogged around the bend and into the parking lot, just as the bus was pulling out! Luckily for us (the buses only came once every hour), another driver saw us and honked his horn so the bus would stop. Upon boarding the bus we realized how "local" the bus really was. It was full of farmers and ladies with hair down to their feet (it's apparently custom for the ladies to have very long hair in this region).
It was cool to ride the bus even though we weren't exactly sure if it was the right one. After about an hour the bus stopped in the middle of the road and a little lady ushered us off and pointed to a bus stopped in the street facing the opposite direction and said "Guilin" so we hopped on and sure enough, to Guilin it delivered us. 
My sweet wife/adventurist
such an amazing place

This was such a cool China experience. I recommend to anyone with Netflix to watch the first episode of Wild China because they cover this area and it is pretty interesting. I also recommend that you plan a trip to china and visit the rice terraces but I will understand if you only do the Netflix thing. Until next time, we love you all and hope you are happy!

Love,
PandA Smith