‘The English girls’ who had earlier parted their ways from their friend, left a goodwill message on the warden’s desk before leaving. They both had a sense of humor, second to none, that was used recounting some experiences during a five-week travel stint in India.
A young Dutch woman sleeping in the bunk above mine started a whistling snore which woke up the girls who whispered a kicked-up commotion about it. Their fuss must have also woke the woman because her snoring stopped. I did my best to stifle a few laughs.
The French guy packed up his plethora of computer equipment and left for Hanoi. I tried to suffocate a few more laughs that didn’t go unnoticed by the girls which started their’s off.
“He just didn’t seem to be able to interact naturally,” they declared.
‘Yeah, his over-politeness was a bit of a shame,” I agreed.
There’d also been a power failure for a few hours that put out the whole building’s supply.
It was a colder day that yesterday. The murky atmosphere was catching on. Most of the residents had checked out and left as I came down to the deathly silent reception and lounge area. Having to stay around for the warden to show up to see if I could stay in the same dorm again was a bit of an inconvenient hold-back. Thomas suggested I did not book a trip to the world-famous Detian Waterfalls as there would not be a deluge of water at this time of the year. I had read that they are just as high and just as big as Niagara but have been reduced to just another tourist sham.
But I was ready for the off, to kill a whole day, this time to Yangmei Old Town. The last occasion I went to one of these old haunts was when I was living in the Chongqing area of China. Not entirely sure if it is on the UNESCO list, artisans keep traditional methods of making handicrafts going: sitting on honkers, or on logs, sharpening blades and chopping wood into wafer-thin strips.
The bay was quickly found, and the waiting bus, although I could not read the Chinese:
“Is this the bus to Yangmei?” I climbed in and asked.
“Fingbudung! Fingbudung!” The waiting passengers chuckled; the usual reaction to foreigners that cannot speak or read much Chinese.
“Yangmei! Yangmei!” My remonstrated reaction verged on the angst.
“Ah! Ah!” They readily nodded.
I plopped down onto the nearest tightly spaced seat with relief. The rural folk jammed the aisle with boxes, heavy sacks; you name it.
Due to the bus jerking and slowing down on dusty dirt roads for part of the way, the journey took 90, not 50 minutes according to the hostel’s orange folder. However, it gave time to look at small villages or settlements it passed through, neglected or ignored by the outer world. Nothing what you would call ‘respectable’ or ‘proper’ exists. The guys sitting in groups looked as though they’d been dragged through a hedge backwards, hair unkempt, belonging to an almost cruddy existence. If Chinese do not give a monkey’s about organisation or respecting some of their own laws, here they are almost ‘out the window,’ excuse the pun. Even my own lessons, teaching English to two classes of lads, have gone hay-wall in China.
The Yangmei residents themselves sat huddled around log fires in the chilly cold,
taking heart and solace from one another. Some were playing cards inside gloomy forecourts, others were playing chess.
Its main attractions are simple and small: a Confucius temple restored by the villagers, an old run-down gate, fish ponds, a comely market square all nestled beside a meandering expansive river with a boat or barge-landing area.
I began to feel neurotic; worried that I would not get a bus back, particularly as it is so far out into the sticks here. No worries. There was one at 4:30 pm. Before then, though, I enjoyed sampling delicious sweet potato soup and bludgeoned rice folded into a roll with a savoury bean-like filling. Later, a hot bowl of chow mien soup with cabbage did not go amiss. I bought a local delicacy from a street-side vendor, a neatly paper-packed sweet powdery
Apart from gingerly stepping along streets that were running with hosed water, I felt like an intruder, an outsider who belonged to another world, so it was soon time to say cheerio to people who still drive oxen, sit in doorways chatting consistently; to a journey back to another world where people here hardly – if at all – enter.
My Vietnam visa was supposed to arrive around 9 pm. However, it took a lot longer because the consulate either refused or deliberated about issuing one to an Indian resident who was travelling with his girlfriend and a Chinese guy. I heard voices coming from the foyer, so jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. My passport had been returned.