If you eventually managed to finish reading my last extremely long blog you’ll be pleased to hear this is considerably shorter and although it appears that life had calmed down for a while, it still had its moments!
For fear of repeating myself, another long journey saw the Polish couple and myself arrive in Yangshuo renowned throughout China, if not the whole world, as it features on the 20 Yuan notes and also made it on to the back drop of Star Wars Episode 3.
For our first full day we hired push bikes to get out of the tourist hell-hole of bars, clubs and shops! The beautiful scenery here is a common subject of Chinese paintings as well as the inspiration for poetry but certainly attracts the tourists as well. Although able to get closer to the amazing landscape and farming communities, cycling does have its limitations so we went back to the bar to swap bikes for scooters! By this time we had met others and spent a fabulous evening lighting a fire in a cave, sharing stories and got some beer flowing.
The following day the scooters took us further afield to the ancient village of Xingping; I felt like a real local and horn stomper! We actually walked the river to the exact 20 Yuan scenic spot. The end of the day saw me on my own though as the others had got too cold to explore further. However, I was having far too much fun on the scooter to stop, I wanted to see what I could get out of her.
After leaving Yangshuo I needed a taxi, while trying to bargain a price the driver took off with my rucksack so I had no option but to give in. Yet another train ride, 21 hours, but I made sure this time I had a bed, much more comfortable than my previous experience but I did have to contend with screaming kids and a guy who decided he did not need headphones for his TV series which just seemed to be full of wailing and crying women. Whilst the lady in the bed opposite took photos, with the flash on, of me in bed!!!!…
Arriving in Kunming I explored some small islands and was highly amused watching the Chinese get very excited over seagulls – something I think the English would struggle with haha!!
I tried a jacket on size XXXL, only £10 but still far too small. These Chinese make us Brits look like giants.
Kunming was a quick stopover on my way to Xichang, pronounced Shichang, for an English Christian Christmas!!!!!!!
They say it’s a small world – it certainly is. A few weeks after leaving home I found out that a friend of my sister, had a sister living out here in China. So this is how I found myself celebrating Christmas with a lovely Christian, English speaking family. Not only was it great to be with a family and enjoy bacon butties and turkey on Christmas Day, Paul was able to show me around. We wandered around the area, experiencing the wonderful market charm, the hustle and bustle, the witch doctors lining the street and I couldn’t believe there were free outdoor gyms – even one that massaged your back.
I also had my first experience of UFC international fighting.
Paul told me more of the torch festival they have here. Fire is a big part of their culture and in the museum men were licking red hot metal, putting it on their feet and eating sticks on fire.
Maybe the influence of a family gathering or the fact that I would be not recognisable by my passport photo prompted me to ask Paul for help finding a barber. He did me proud by providing me with a head massage, shave and hair cut for free; trouble is now Paul has to repay the favour.
Not sure whether it was the haircut but on the way home on the bus I got given a girl’s phone number!!!
Once again I was able to experience real-life and not just the touristy pitfalls. It was great to be able to meet Morgan, their daughter, out of school; where I learned that the children’s exit at the end of the day is staggered to avoid chaos at the school gates.
I had been dreading Christmas away from family but it turned out to be really enjoyable due to Paul, Sarah and Morgan’s generosity and hospitality. We celebrated by singing carols, enjoyed an American buffet with a great group of people, watched the children tell the Christmas story, opened presents, played games and watched TV including the Queen’s speech. I was also introduced to a highly recommended film called ‘The Last Prince’ which is a must watch!
During our time together Paul shared his amazing testimony of coming to Christ and his and Sarah’s calling to China as missionaries. They have worked with people who knew the world renowned Jackie Pullinger. Jackie’s book ‘Chasing the Dragon’ is an amazing and inspirational read that I enjoyed a few years ago.
I had wondered about Christianity in China and got to attend church on Sunday. It was all in Chinese which thankfully Paul translated; he was able to explain that the church was government run with strict rules, such as no more than 15 people can meet outside the church. Christmas and Easter are the only times that they can preach what they believe and altar calls can only be made at these services so the congregation were very keen to make the most of this opportunity.
Despite this I have seen a report by Andrew Brown, in ‘The Guardian’ entitled ‘China doesn’t want to suppress Christianity – just control it.’ It says “China is on course over the next 15 years, to become the world’s most populous Christian nation.
My last week in China was spent between Kunming and hiking in the beautiful Dali, trying to escape the torrential rain. I enjoyed staying with a first time couch-surfer Roy for New Year and later meeting his friend American author Dwight Goldwinde. However, my last week in this amazing country was slightly tainted – I kept getting lost, places I tried to visit were closed and I discovered that getting out of China was almost as hard as getting in as I panicked and tried to prepare documents to fly to Bangkok, Thailand.