Sunday, October 11, 2009


This might be long.

So, it was one of the most amazing vacations I have taken in my life. We had 8 days off because it was the HUGE Moon Festival (the only Chinese holiday second to the New Year where EVERYONE goes home and spends time with their fam). Abby, Lindsey, Shereesa and I started out by bussing to the train station (one hour) and taking a train (five hours) to Shanghai where we stayed the night at my mother’s friend Leanna’s home. We arrived at about 1 am and left her house at 7 that morning. After grabbing some fruit and “Chinese Pizza” (basically flatbread with MSG and green onion), we boarded our 25 hour train ride to Guilin. This was so interesting and although flying would have cut some major time I wouldn’t have picked a different method of transportation. Our “hard sleeper” beds were out in the open, in train cars consisting of about 100 people. Stacked in rows of threes, we had the middle beds on our way to Guilin. After getting situated in this tiny area, I was excited to lay down and take a rest. Um yeah, feet hanging off the edge kind of got in the way. But not to worry, I can still sleep great with my legs curled up, so I just got used to that. One nap, two naps, three naps, and eating in between each of them. It was great. We didn’t have a lot of English speakers around us, so it was fun to interact with the travelers. I loved the reaction they gave us when we showed them our journals. They poured over those pages as if they were the golden plates or something. But the feeling is mutual: when I watch someone write in Chinese I’m fascinated every time.

The train lights go off at ten o clock and most people wake up when the sun rises at 6 am. Workers go back and forth on the 1-foot-wide isles selling packaged fruit, ramen, dried meat, cigarettes, drinks, toothbrushes, and random toys for kids. It’s really so interesting to see the scenery as you fly by the beautiful countryside. Farm after farm. One thing that has caught my attention in China is the huge number of senior citizens working. Seeing an 80-year-old woman slaving away in the heat of the day has become a commonality. Overall the train rides were good. I generally felt that my stuff was safe and that the people around me were trustworthy. However, the worst part of this ride was the train squatter… no question. It was one of the most disgusting sights I have ever seen slash experienced. Picture this: Opening a rusted door into a 2’ by 2’ area for “doing your business” shared by a few hundred people. Everything goes directly onto the train tracks and the floor is completely moist from who knows what. So you, of course, avoid going to the rest room until your bladder completely freaks out. Then why in the heck do they advise you to keep yourself thoroughly hydrated when travelling? Urgh. The moment comes when you can’t avoid it any longer. You go inside after waiting your turn and…. there it is. Squatting itself could be considered an art to be mastered. After getting a good stance and preparing to just hurry and go potty, you remember that you’re on a train. Trains move. They rock forwards, backwards, and side to side. So yes, you have no choice but to grab onto the absolutely disgusting handle bar screwed into the wall about a foot off the ground to keep your balance. Okay okay, I won’t go into any further detail. But let’s just say that it’s very much a part of the experience.

So, we got off our train to Guilin, found another bus (one hour) that took us to the breath-taking Yangshuo. Again, I’m going to apologize that none of this blogging will include pictures, but PLEASE take the extra 5 seconds to Google this place. So good. And I also promise to post pictures when I get back in the USA. Okay- We get to Yangshuo and are already taken away by its beauty. “Dr. Seuss mountains” is what everyone calls them. Almost like gigantic rolling hills covered in green that come straight up out of nowhere. Not the most gradual. The sky was clear (woot) and we were in a location close to the Li and Yu Long Rivers. Our hostel was such the best: Monkey Jane’s Guesthouse. Not because of the quality but for the good times we had there. We had a tarp for our ceiling, a cement floor, stains on the walls, a huge hole in the door, a cockroach or two running around, and holes punched in the windows…. But hey it worked. We even were there to see the female owner of the place shave her head during our 7 night stay there. “New life, bikini dancing, freedom, I’m going to jail in 2 weeks”, she rambled after we asked here what brought about that change.

Day 1: Got massages on the rooftop of Monkey Jane’s place. Couldn’t stop laughing. Again. Conversion: Eight bucks for a one-hour massage. Took pictures with random Asians that would approach us (maybe 8 people each day asked to have their picture taken with us. Ha so funny). Met our dear, dear friend Victor from Quebec. Hit the hay early cause we were exhausted.

Day 2: Rented the sweetest bikes for the day. They had baskets to keep our stuff in and bells, which actually were handy considering the crazy amount of people out on the streets. Just biking around and seeing where I was became so unreal to me. I couldn’t stop getting the song “Lost” out of my head by Coldplay. Too appropriate for it all. It was hot, so the wind against my face felt good. We got to the famous Moon Hill about 45 minutes later and hiked to the tip top (this is another one of those places that you can Google). FABULOUS views. Hot, hot, hot. Wandered in some nearby villages after and grabbed a bit to eat. Later that night wrote messages on paper lanterns at the hostel rooftop and sent them up into the sky after we lit the candle inside them on fire. Probably not the best for the environment, but it sure was magical. More pictures with random Asians.

Day 3: The OFFICIAL day of the Moon Festival. Did the famous Mud Caves (yes, you have to Google this). We walked through caves with helmets and flashlights, looking at different rock formations and then bathed in the mud bath. It was such a free feeling. Best mud bath of my life. Came outside to a bunch of Chinese tourists waiting to go in. All four of us girls cannon balled into the rinsing pond (where some of them were already swimming), which instantly triggered a water fight. It was us against a bunch of 40 year old Chinese men. “Lawei, Lawei!!!” they yelled (foreigner, foreigner). Hysterical. Had a hard time picturing my parents having a squirt gun fight with some random Chinese girls touring America. Anyway… ha. Cameras shot out of bags and I suddenly felt like Britney Spears at the beach. One man showed Lindsey and I the over 200 pictures he had taken of us girls just swimming. Bizarre. The bike ride home from this day was quite interesting. I was just pedaling away when I saw it…… a man. He was strolling up the street, same direction I was going but on the opposite side of the road…. BUTT NAKED. Yeah, totally unexpected, especially in the extremely modest country of China. But gave my friends and I a good laugh. I mean, he wasn’t running and didn’t look nervous or anything. Just walking up the street like any other guy. Ate some fab food and met a whole plethora of people up on the rooftop that night from countries including France, England, Israel, Germany, and Canada.

Day 4: Got our bikes after breakfast and made our way to the Yu Long River where we found the Dragon Bridge. (Lindsey did all of the navigating for our day excursions… she has a talent.) One of the most gorgeous bridges I have ever seen- kind of a half circle shape. From the moment I saw it, I knew I had to jump off it. Fifteen meters high with bamboo rafts passing under occasionally. Some of my friends from the hostel where there and jumped within a few minutes after we got there. Abby and I made our way back up to the center of the bridge…. GEEZ. It looked so far down. Abby was fearless so I told her that I’d go if she went first. She went, no problem. I slowly stood up on the wall of the bridge, straightened my body, and looked down at what I was jumping into. Terror came over me…. Fast. Funny how much shorter the fall looked from far away. “One, two, three!” I jumped… and screamed the entire way down. My vocal chords hadn’t felt that way in a while. Hit the water on my rear-end and it’s still hurting one week later… but well worth it . J

Day 5: Breakfast and on our way to rock climb for my first time ever! No liability forms or anything… gotta love China. So we pretty much got there, stretched, and put our harnesses on. It was hard and completely new to me, but fun to see that I could actually make my way up the side of a cliff with some help from my Asian mate “Sky”. Shereesa climbed up the side of it like a little monkey. I hope she gets into it later in life. Later that night went to a beautiful spot that the tourists call “secret beach.”

Day 6: Kayaking on the Li River, about the width of a football field. It lasted three hours so I for sure got a good workout on my arms. I felt like I was in a movie or something as we passed little villages here and there. Cute little naked Chinese kids played games beside the river, water buffaloes made random appearances in the water, and an old man followed us the whole time on a bamboo raft to show us the way. My mom would have loved this. Then Monkey Jane had free dinner on the rooftop. Loved the fried bananas. There’s something about a hot banana. I’ve decided that it brings out the natural sugars in it or something. Cause now I’d take a hot banana over a cold banana any day.

Did a lot of shopping, eating, and walking everyday. If I were to ever revisit China with my family, this would be my first choice of places to bring them. Bye bye Yangshuo… “Love you long time."


erin noelle said...

Oh my word. Your squatter description. Your dad would die. Your mom would die. You are so lucky to be there.

Melanie said...

Brookie this is awesome! I love what a great time you are having. I am so glad you went and took a 25 hour train ride to experience all of this. You are the best. Miss you and love you.

Laur said...

Brooklyn. I'm sooo glad you can blog. I love your emails and your blog. We neeeeed to skype ASAP please!? I love you girl and i cannot wait to see you. Weird that I've been here 2 months- half way through. WeEEEEIIIRD. Went too fast. Love you so much

natalie said...

oh man... sound so good! I'm glad that you are having adventures. They will ALWAYS be remembered!

Ashlyn Isabella said...

your life is amazing and i am very jealous of it