Dave's Sketch Journal

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

1000 Year Old Towns

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It's 5:50 a.m. Saturday the 12th. I'm writing about yesterday.

The birds are waking up and they have decided to sing to me. I hear the steady waterfall outside in the distance. The sun is trying to push through our light-tight curtains but it's only having limited success. I can't open them yet as Ruth is still sleeping. I think I'll go out and journal from the balcony.

I have just made a cup of fresh Starbucks Italian Roast coffee using the water boiler in the room and my light plastic thermal plunger cup. I can get two excellent cups (or one big mug) of coffee from it. There is nothing better then journaling while drinking Starbucks Italian roast on a Yangshuo hotel room balcony.

It rained yesterday afternoon. The weather has been very good up to now. It's been 70 and overcast, which is perfect for vivid pictures. We rented a small van that seats about eight people including the driver and drove through some of the old towns. Tim and Maite loved the views and short walks. Sometimes we'd have the driver drop us off for a short walk and picture op. Then we'd meet him again up the road and we'd hop in for another short distance. At one point in the bumpy dirt road we had to stop to allow farmers to load their fresh picked oranges into their tiny truck. Their daughters stood along the road in their luminous pink jackets that contrasted in complementary color against the rich green backdrop of rice fields. I squeezed off a frame through the van window before they had a chance to see me. The colors you see are untouched. The overcast provides the even lighting, perfect for saturated colors.

At one old town we just walked along the cobblestone courtyards and peeked into some of the living quarters. It's so strange to see TVs and radios in dark, dank rooms with hardly a stick of furniture. We heard music up the way and rounded the corner to see an old man by the doorway sewing. He had to use the doorway as it was too dark inside. He had no electric light on in the house. There were no windows. He was sitting on the floor sewing by hand. Perched on an old wooden cabinet was a new CD player echoing Chinese tunes through his 500 year old stone hovel.

There were old men outside the town and one followed us into the courtyard to show us his hand carved tobacco pipes. He lit one up to demonstrate. We admired his beautiful work and the exquisite detail. The mouthpiece and tobacco reservoir were made of brass and buffed a golden hue. These pieces of the pipe accented the wheat color of the polished wooden shaft. Each pipe was uniquely crafted. He tried to sell us one but we told him we didn't smoke, that it was bad for the body. (Bu chou, bu hao shenti.)

The restaurants that you find out in these old villages don't look like anything you'd see in the States. In fact, you can't really tell it's a restaurant. You just have to know where it is. And we don't order from menus but instead tour the kitchen to select what is fresh. We found pumpkin squash, eggplant, bokchoy, tomato, eggs, and fresh fish (still swimming in the tank). So that's what we ordered. Every bite discharged a rainbow of flavor. The deep yellow eggs and ruby red tomatoes tasted as a fresh as a new day in springtime, the chocolate brown color fish with garlic and onion was almost boneless, the squash was piping hot and had a buttery cheese smoothness. It all disappeared in my mouth before I had a chance to register the tastes. I reached for more. The local beer, Liquan, came in 500 milliliter bottles and was delivered with four small 10 milliliter glasses. It was cold and it's fragrance was like fresh hay in the sunshine.

The tab, including the two beers, was 156 yuan ($20 for 7 of us, or just $3 per person).

Out in the middle of the fields we found a kindergarten, playground, and brightly painted wall. Later we watched some children come home from school each carrying their colorful umbrellas. They had to cross a makeshift bridge of planks and 500 gallon drums, all lashed together with bailing wire and twine. The Dragon Bridge we saw last time is crumbling and needs repair. Dragon Bridge provides a panoramic view of the unique Li river mountains.

We got back in time to have fresh coffee and cakes and watch the pouring rain outside wash the streets.

We had pizza for dinner.

Hmmm...seems like all we do is walk and eat. Yeah, that is all we do.

We had some great discussions together with all our friends too.

I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine. - Caskie Stinnett

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