Last weekend was the best weekend I have had in China. We went to the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It was called Yangshuo. A tiny tourist town in the northern part of the Guangxi province. I did NOT want to leave. We arrived in Guilin at 4:00 a.m. from the over night train. We then got on a bus and drove to Yangshuo. When we got there it was about 6:00 a.m. and we immediately were corralled by a man who had a hostel that he was offering us. It was actually an amazing deal. It was super nice and ridiculously cheap. Only about $4.00 a person a night. We had our own bathroom and our own showers. After that we headed to "Western Street" and got some breakfast. I had toast! It was glorious! I missed it and I didn't even know it. Then, we rented bikes and scooters and we decided to just explore the city. It was awesome. I loved being able to just go and see whatever I wanted to see. I took so many pictures of the amazing mountains and hills and rice fields. After we rode around the city for a long time we went back and ate some lunch, rode the scooter some more, and shopped the street vendors. After a while, Christy and I decided to trade the scooter in for a two-person bike. It was so fun. I loved that.
The next day, we rode in a hot-air balloon. Yes, a made in China one. It was probably one of the coolest things I have ever done. The sight from the balloon was so incredible. Even a photograph can't totally show how amazing it was. We were in the air for about an hour and went over 1200 meters up. We landed in a tiny village and all the little kids within a mile came running to see the balloon and the white people. It was more expensive than the entire trip to Yangshuo but it was so worth it.
The next day we hired a rafter to take us down the Li Jiang River on a bamboo raft. All I can say is wow, it was awesome. I have never been in such a beautiful place. Our rafter didn't speak any English but we were actually able to communicate quite well. He was so nice. He took us to his home village. It was over 300 years old. The town looked like a ghost town but then someone would poke their head out and it was kinda funny. The little village had its own school and they had the most ghetto ping pong tables. The net was a log on bricks. After the village we went to lunch farther down the river at the shabbiest bamboo hut. I was a little scared because they killed our chicken right after we ordered it. The price of the meal was really expensive because the rafters get a cut of the money. We were more than willing to pay a lot because the 6 hour raft trip/tour was only 7 dollars a person and the lunch was about the same. After lunch we continued on the river and it poured rain! It was really pretty on the river. After the rain stopped, the clouds lifted and the mountains were even more beautiful with the clouds hugging the tops of them.
After we finished our raft trip we went back to Guilin and caught the overnight train back to Xiangtan. It was pretty cool on the overnight train, aside from the people eating chicken feet and other parts of animals that we American's would only tripple-dog-dare people to eat. All the traveling around China has made me want to go to Europe really really bad. I hope that I can go there someday. Maybe after graduation! Anyone can come!
All in all the weekend was fantastic. I want to go back there again. There was so much that we didn't get to do because we were pressed for time. I hope to go back and do the mud caves and the natural water slides. They also offer cooking lessons and rock climbing tours.
I was not super excited about coming back to Xiangtan after being in Yangshuo. This city is dirty, loud, and not very pretty. The redeeming qualities are the students here and the cheap food. I will really miss the students. I will give my final exams next week and then head to Hong King for a short stay. Then home for just about 12 days and then I head to LA for a fun summer at the beach! I am anxious to start school again in the fall. I think this experience will really change what kind of student I am. I also have so much MORE respect for teachers. It is a really hard job. It has been the most rewarding thing I have done though. By far.