Great News: Last week the local government decided that our school would be a site for China’s equivalent of the GED. Classes were canceled for Friday so people from around the city could come and take the test.
Danny and I each have Thursdays off, so the unexpected cancellation of Friday’s classes left us with a four-day weekend.Unexpected three and four day weekends have been pretty common throughout the semester. Even though we are only scheduled to have one official three day weekend this semester (Dragon Boat Festival, observed next weekend) We’ve already had three, three day weekends.
After toying with the idea of going to Beijing (a 15-20 hour train) we decided to go to Dehang (8 hours), a tiny village in a national park on the east side of Hunan Province.
Dehang was pleasant. The village itself is mostly populated by the Miao (or Hmong) minority group and the women still wear traditional looking skirts and jewelry. The national park is dotted by steep karsts (see my post on Yangshuo).
We spent our two days at Dehang hiking, which was interesting because it was mostly walking up very big karsts, then walking down.
But climbing was worth it, as it led to views like this:
There were tons of waterfalls in Dehang. Watching waterfalls is great and the waterfalls in Dehang were impressive, unfortunately all my pictures of the waterfalls look the same so I’ve included just the one.
Overall it was a good weekend. It was nice to get out of the city and into more rural settings.
After about a week and a half in Changsha finishing up school applications, I started to get antsy to do some more traveling before school started again. At first I was thinking of going north to Beijing and then Harbin for the Ice Festival.
Unfortunately Harbin just wasn’t possible. I had decided on Harbin too late and the train tickets were all sold out. Or more accurately, I wasn’t willing to spend 2+ days standing on a train without a seat in order to get up to Harbin. Instead of the freezing north, I went South to Yangshuo in the Guangxi Province. This was my first time traveling by myself in China, so ofcourse I missed my train stop, a mistake that extended the travel time by 9 hours. Beyond that everything went relatively smoothly, I bought tickets for buses and boats with no problem.
Yangshuo is a relatively small city that in the past decade has become very popular among foreign backpackers, especially rock climbers. The region around Yangshuo is full of large limestone hills. These hills are very famous in China and they are often the subject of paintings and poems.
The highlight of the trip was renting a bicycle and traveling through the surrounding countryside.
I met Ken in Yangshuo and ended up traveling with him for a day. He's from Shanghai and like most Chinese tourists had an enormous camera. He also had a binder of 200+ pages with information on things to do and places to stay in Yangshuo for his five day trip. Nice guy.
I’ll end with an unimpressive, but significant picture. The scene is from the China’s 20 Yuan bill:
20¥, about $3.00.
Unfortunately the morning I was there it was overcast, though still neat.
From Lijiang it was a quick trip (3 hrs) to our primary destination of the trip: Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡). Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest river canyons in the world. The legend is that while running from a hunter a tiger leaped across the river.
Tiger Leaping Gorge
We hiked for 3 days, 2 nights. We gave ourselves enough time for a leisurely pace and it was worth it. The views were incredible.
On the trail, there were small villages of approximately 10-20 buildings. Most of the villages had a guest house for tourists.
Guest house at Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Sunset at Tiger Leaping Gorge. Look closely for Phil.