We had a few days off in Nanning and I was determined to get out of town. I used the Lonely Planet China book to find an excursion. Originally, I wanted to get to this town in the north of the Guangxi province, which we were in, and visit the Dong people. The Dong are an ethnic minority in the south of China whose language is sung. That’s right, sung. How f@£%ing cool is that??! Plus, they built a bridge called the “Wind and Rain Bridge” that was built by hand with no nails. It’s a UNESCO heritage site to boot. But after investigating how to get there with Lindsey, it turned out to be too far away. So we settled for a mountain hike about two hours away instead.
I was eager to spend the night outside of the city but few people seemed keen on it. In the end just three of us, Lindsey, Eamonn and myself decided to go overnight and a few others were going to meet us the next day. We were told that there was a bus that went directly from Nanning to the mountain we wanted to hike up (the name escapes me…) every fifteen minutes from the bus station. That sounded easy enough. Except it was completely false. As soon as we tried to buy our bus tickets I knew this was not going to go as planned. The woman selling tickets was so obviously annoyed with us that no language barrier could disguise it. The thing is, we were conducting this in Mandarin. It’s not like she was annoyed that we were like, “WE NEED TICKET. FOR HERE. PLEASE. THANK YOU.” She was just like, “Ugghhhhh. It’s too complicated. Why do you want to go there anyway? Can’t you just come back tomorrow? It’s too many buses. I don’t want to sell you these tickets.” All this was very surprising because I had, for the most part, found Chinese people to be ridiculously accommodating, like, keep-the-hotel-bar-open-till-6-in-the-morning-for-crazy-Irish-dancers accommodating or strangers-carrying-my-60lb-suitcase-up-the-stairs-at-the-train-station accommodating. In hind sight, she was kind of right, it was very complicated, but seriously, just give us the tickets.
The journey consisted of two buses and then a tuk-tuk. I’m not sure if that’s actually what they’re called. They’re basically a cart with two benches and a tarp thrown over it pulled by a motorbike. The tuk-tuk driver informed us that the village we were trying to go was at the top of the mountain, not the bottom as we had originally thought (following some misleading advice from Lonely Planet) and would be another hour and a half. He said he could take us to another, closer town that night and we could sort out the mountain business tomorrow. We agreed that was the best idea.
He took us to a village called Mashan and to a guest house he knew of. As we pulled up Eamonn said, “Wait….is that…a white guy sweeping that sidewalk?” When we stopped we realized it was indeed a white man, and there were two young Chinese women who spoke really good English. We discovered we were at the You family’s guest house. They had two daughters, Summer and MeiMei. They were both married to Americans. Summer and Casey (the white man we had seen sweeping) had been married for 4 years and lived in Oregon but had just had their wedding party in Mashan that very day. In fact, it had just ended and fireworks were still randomly going off across the street.
We felt a little awkward staying there on such an occasion but they assured us that it was fine and since we were Americans we were like family. We sat and chatted with Casey while they got the room ready. A neighbor came over to join us. He was the local doctor, the best friend of Mr. You and, incidentally, very, very drunk. He proceeded to tell us that America was #1 over and over and over and over and over. We noticed there was an older woman patiently waiting behnd us. Finally, she summoned Summer who interupted us saying that she needed the doctor immediately because, get this, this woman’s husband had FALLEN OUT OF A MOVING CAR and needed help badly. But he kept going and we were like, we get it! We are number one! We have the dialing code to prove it! Now please, please help this woman!
We went to the local barbeque stand in town with Summer and Casey for dinner. It was pretty busy and there where loads of kids from the town who were daring each other to come up to us.
The next day they suggested we visit a local cave. It was interesting and beautiful but I was really anxious to get outside. We started to walk the few miles back because it was a gorgeous day. We were surrounded by rice paddies.
We realized that we were burning daylight, though, so we tried our hand at hitchhiking. It didn’t take long before we were picked up by a large truck. Somehow I ended up the only one without a seat, forced to kneel on a shoe, some pop cans and other assorted garbage with my face two inches from the windshield. Luckily, it was only moments later that we were in Mashan. We decided to stroll through the sugar cane fields just outside of the village.
Back at the You’s, they were preparing a dinner for all the people that helped with the wedding. They invited us to eat with them before we left. It was quite a spread and a wonderful way to end our stay.
We had to ship off pretty quickly, though, as it was getting late and we had to get back to Nanning that night. We attempted to hitchhike to no avail. We then took a tuk-tuk to the next town and ended up hiring a taxi to take us back out of sheer desperation. We were kind of bummed that our adventure ended in an air conditioned mini-van but we also needed to be responsible.
I’m really glad we seized the opportunity to get out of town. When in another country, I usually prefer spending time in the countryside to cities. The only down-side it that it gave me a hankering for a real back-packing adventure. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found a way to get paid to vacation. I’m going to have to work on that.