Here's a run down of what I've been doing since my last post.
The weekend before last we went to Hangzhou with our friends Laura and Thomas. Hangzhou is something of a sister city to Suzhou which is the city we went to a couple of months back. Both cities are highly recommended and are supposedly some of the most beautiful country in this country. Both were a bit of a let down.
For Suzhou we arrived to early, like in the winter, and none of the fine scenery had blossomed or bloomed. In Hangzhou the flowers had somewhat bloomed, but it rained the entire time.
We went to Hangzhou kind of spur of the moment as Thomas had to be there during the week for work, and Laura asked if we wanted to make a weekend of it. We did and we went. The focus of the city is a large man-made lake and several islands that float about in it. It was very beautiful, though quite soggy.
We took a boat tour of the island and the trees had blossomed and it was nice. Raining pretty solidly on Sunday we went to KTV (karaoke) and made an afternoon of it. Karaoke is much different in Asia than in the States to say the least. It is quite the ordeal here. An entire building was decked out for our pleasure. I consisted of dozens of small private rooms for which to sing and a large central room full of buffet style food. They had plenty of American songs and we had lots of fun.
This past weekend we went to Yangshuo. This is a little village that my sister has been to many times and absolutely adores. It is basically a tourist trap, but the views are so spectacular it is worth it. It is located right on a river, and the mountains look like some crazy prehistoric animals back. Again it was rainy and overcast and thus our views were less spectacular than I had hoped, but this place is so amazing that it didn't matter so much.
One of the rainy days we decided to go caving to get out of the wetness. We were the only white people there and we got many a stare from the Chinese. To get into the cave we had to take a small boat into a cavern. The entrance was so small we had to duck down into the boat and pray that we didn't get knocked over.
I've been to a few caves in the US and am generally underwhelmed. For safety reasons they have to be made so sanitary and generic that they usually aren't a lot of fun. China seems a little more lax with that and thus the cave was much more interesting. Besides nearly getting knocked over coming into the cave there were several moment where we had to nearly crawl through passages, step on slippery rocks to get across creeks and generally access areas a bit more dangerous than would ever be allowed into the states.
It wasn't terribly risky mind you, it was just so much more so than you'd ever see in the States.
The highlight was the mud pool which me and Amy and our friend Sara climbed into. Basically it is a small reservoir of water which is very muddy at the bottom. Tourists love to jump in and get covered in filthy cave mud. We were one of those and we got nasty. The water was actually freezing cold so it took a moment to warm up to, but after that we slung and wrestled and had a blast. Again we were the only ones in the pool and all the Chinese stared at the crazy Americans. They actually had a photo set up going on so that one of the tour guides took pictures of us, then uploaded it onto his computer. They had everything set up there so that we could look at our pictures right there in the cave and have it printed out for us as we toured the rest of the cave.
Farther down was a big pool of water and we took a good swim in it. It also was freezing cold but kind of refreshing. At the end was a massive waterfall that we relaxed under for a bit.
Also during the weekend we took a couple of boat rides and climbed a mountain. The boat was restful and the mountain intense. Lots of stairs followed by an off road trail filled with slippery mud and danger. The view was worth it though.
I'll try to have pictures up in a few days, and I suspect I will write in detail about Yangshuo later.
Due to weather we wound up having our return flight delayed nearly 12 hours and we didn't get home until about noon on Monday. I was in bed by 7 that night and the puking my guts out by 9. I remained sick all that evening and then feeling completely weak from it Tuesday. I'm feeling better now, but am coughing like there is no tomorrow.
And that's what we've been up to.