China 2019 – Day 10, Saturday, 27th July

Saturday today and I decided to head out and explore Yangshuo and the surrounding area on foot.

A 40 minute walk and I was in the centre of Yangshuo from Jima Village. I am half way through reading Alain De Botton’s book about travel. It’s a very interesting book, which among other things talks about the realities of travel.

An outsider sees the perfectly filtered Instagram shot which has been angled carefully to get the perfect photo of a tourist by a lovely landmark, omitting an undesirable bin or corner of a building site. We see the two person smiling selfie but are not witness to the lingering argument between the profile picture perfect couple.

I’m very guilty of this myself, taking a few steps here and there to avoid having a random parked scooter in my otherwise perfect shot (always happens in China!). I mean, I’d probably get about 16% less likes on Facebook if I had it in there – and that’s a lot of dopamine I am missing out on there throughout the day as I check my feed!

Anyway, with this in mind, I thought I would take a few ugly photos of China today – you may notice more selfies 😂 – as stunningly beautiful as it is here…and it really is… we live in a world where attractive and unattractive coexist and where is the line drawn? In fact, if you read my favourite book of all time, the Tao Te Ching, it says that opposites define each other and cannot exist without one another, these are just definitions within our own framing of the world.

Ok, so I digress. The morning in Yangshuo, I was hunting down some Yunnan coffee when I myself began to feel like the pray! It seems that a local school has given its children the homework of finding a foreigner, ask them to write down where they are from and what their name is, and then get a photo. It was good fun, I met a lot of kids, had a lot of photos taken, was told I was very handsome, and basically felt like an old bearded Justin Bieber.

Like many celebrities, it went to my head a bit and I turned to drugs. Luckily, my fix of caffeine wasn’t far off and I found a nice spot by the river to sit, write and enjoy a Yunnan coffee…and as if by divine intervention or mere coincidence, depending on your cosmic preferences, the lovely cafe I am sitting outside of, overlooking the River Li, has right next to it a knocked down building, more resembling dust and brick than anything edificial (yes, ‘edificial’ is a word, I Googled it).

And so the morning continued post coffee (after a month in Yunnan last year where I developed a taste for the local brew, I am pleased to find it’s available in Guanxi province too), with a walk along the Li river, far from the madding crowd of Yangshuo town and the hustle and bustle of Xijie (West Street), the scenery was so amazing that I excitedly and accidentally video called Karina (my girlfriend) to share my excitement, forgetting it was 4am in the UK.

Not far upstream you can find some solitude except for the occasional hum of a passing electric scooter and pensive mood that I am in today, I pondered the importance of spending time along and travel (but I may let those thoughts ruminate for a future blog post).

After a brief rest to let my feet cool off in the river, I returned to Yangshuo and found another nice cafe to watch the world go by for a while, write some more and and enjoy ‘yi bei bing de kaffe’ (an iced coffee), interrupted only by a Chinese guy who stopped and chatted to me for a while…a good way to practice my Mandarin!

After a little more walking around Yangshuo, I returned to Jima and explored a little more of the surrounding countryside. I’m constantly in awe of how beautiful it is around here…as well as how hot it is, so I stopped for a well deserved watermelon juice on the way back.

I thought I would check out a local restaurant this evening and try a dish famous in the area, beer fish. I’m pretty well known for my hearty appetite (AKA a bit greedy), so I was not disappointed in the slightest when it turned out to be a dish for two people. It was incredibly tasty and afterwards I returned to the school for an evening of training.

I sneaked into a more secluded training area to work on my White Crane forms for a while this evening. I have missed them. As much as I am enjoying the Chen training, I am very much steeped in my existing practice and it will be a while before I can switch seamlessly from White Crane to Chen, there are some very subtle (and some not so subtle) differences.

After nearly 3 hours training, it’s time to call it a night and enjoy a cold shower before bed!

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