Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Yangshuo - Part Two

As recommended by Lonely Planet we took a bike ride through the local countryside, pausing to see two landmarks: an ancient Banyan tree and Moon Hill. We paid a bit extra to have a guided tour, which although our hotel told us was not really necessary, I’m glad we did as otherwise we would probably still in be in a field somewhere in south-west China. We had all dressed sensibly in trainers and comfy clothes, whereas our young female guide was clad in tight jeans and high heeled boots, and flew along effortlessly whilst chatting away on her mobile.

We cycled past fields where chicken or pigs scratched around orchards, and through villages full of construction work. Our first stop was the 1700 year old Banyan tree, which, was, well, a big old tree. It was a nice scenic spot to take a rest, and watch village life going on – supplies coming in by raft and women washing clothes in the river. It was also a welcome break from the bicycle, which seem to be fitted with the most uncomfortable saddle known to man. We then took a slight detour to see Moon Hill, before riding back into town. On the way we passed a lorry loaded up with the carcasses of dead dogs, some still dripping blood, which was not so scenic.

Our last adventure in Yangshuo was taking a hot air balloon ride. Not being the best person with heights (i.e., being stupidly petrified of them) at first I had chickened out and declined to do it, but as the day wore on I didn’t want to miss anything and so signed up.

I first began to have a twinge of regret when I saw our hot air balloon operator: he looked about 12, and I spent the whole ride wondering whether or not this was his first day. Our ascent has to be one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I didn’t feel at all secure when all that was stopping me plummeting to a grisly demise was a waist height wicker basket and a rather flimsy looking plywood floor, and held onto one of the balloon’s support posts so tightly that my hand started to hurt.

However, despite low cloud cover/smog, the views were fantastic, and gradually I began to relax and enjoy myself, although I still felt that I needed to hold onto something. This was until the point when we tried to land. We nearly hit some trees, and only just managed to skim over the top of them. Next we sailed perilously low over someone’s house and some power lines, all the time getting further and further away from the area we were meant to land in. Finally we landed on a public road, and then I made a spectacle of myself by being unable to get my leg up high enough to hoist myself out of the basket. There was another group ballooning at the same time as us, and when we picked them up in the minibus we discovered that they had landed in a tree. I think if that had happened to us, I might just have had hysterics.

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