Dave's Sketch Journal

Drawing is taking a line for a walk. - Paul Klee

Hanging Out

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Hanging out is cool.

We spent today just exploring Yangshuo town. We tried out another restaurant in town that served huge plates of American breakfast food. The food is always good but the "coffee" is instant. It's horrible. Choose tea or get the 20 yuan ($4) Blue Mountain brew. Just don't expect refills.

I do love the free wifi Internet in every restaurant. It's very cool. I can upload images to the blog or www.flickr.com while having breakfast. It takes some time to get the images up on the Net so why hang in the hotel room when you can upload at the restaurant, have breakfast, and people watch from the second floor?

It's great to spend time in one area. I can really get to know the town. And there's a rhythm to Yangshuo. The vendors set up in the morning around 8:00, the tours begin around 9:00, the kids get out of school at 11:30, the tours end at 5:00, and the vendors break down their booths at 5:30. It all begins the same the next day. It's a fairly enterprising approach.

The tour boats come up the river full of, well, tourists. The boats dump them off upstream and the people cascade into town, passing through the narrow path of vendor booths on either side. Nearly everyone of the tourists I saw carry a bag of trinkets so I guess it's profitable for the townspeople. Electric open-sided buses take the people back to their boats for a few yuan. This is the worst time to try to get a deal from the vendors. Wait until the last tour boat leaves.

There must be thousands of booths made of rusted L-channel and corrugated iron. I counted a hundred within a few minutes of walking. They were setting up this morning. Some were pushing heavy carts up the hill to their assigned booth, others tried to ride their three-wheeled bicycles weighed down with heavy goods. Some of the vendors sell onyx spheres, Chinese chops, and large wooden or stone Xiangqi (Chinese chess) games. Try pushing that up a hill! They sure are industrious.

Since Yangshuo is a backpacker's haven it can get kind of crazy at night. Every restaurant opens into the street and blasts music at you as you pass, trying to coax you in at happy hour time. Some teens are hanging out in the street wearing hiking shorts and hemp sandals batting a hacky sack between them.

Last night we found one restaurant with a second floor and enjoyed an empty, quite place all to ourselves. At least until the Birthday Party showed up with a DVD of a live rock concert. The watered down drinks of happy hour didn't help us any.

Afterward we walked down the relatively empty streets. Since it was Monday night, it was great to stroll down the street without fighting our way through hordes of people.

Oh I almost forgot to tell you, a very old person died and there has been a wake that has lasted parts of three days. It started Sunday afternoon and has run through Monday evening (tonight). I'm not sure when it will end. Someone told us they will take the body out tomorrow. There's a dead woman inside the shop. A Chinese wake is a street full of old men sitting at makeshift tables eating and singing a mournful sound.

The instruments they use are drums, cymbals, and two ear piercing reed horns. The musicians play the same tune over and over with intervals of rest of about 30 minutes to an hour. When I left them Sunday night they looked pretty good. By Monday evening they looked pretty bad for they have been playing continuously all night and all day. The hotel agent told us it's a happy time for them but they didn't look happy. They were slumped over leaning on the table when I walked by Monday morning to go to breakfast. As I passed they startled me because suddenly, as if someone wound them up using a key in their back, they popped up, played their tune, and then slumped over again. The crowd out in front of the store front swelled to 40 our so men by this evening. They are eating and drinking and singing. There is trash everywhere. It better end soon because I think it's going to kill one of the players before it's over. And I don't think I can take another one of these wakes.

So last night at the restaurant we could hear the wake next door, the Birthday Party and DVD live rock band on our same floor, and the Chinese flute player in the street. I think the Chinese really like noise, or at least don't mind it.

A day of sorrow is longer than a month of joy. -Chinese proverb
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