I Get Why People Want to Live in the Mountains

After crossing the border from Hong Kong to China and being held up for a few minutes because they somehow didn’t like that I spent a week in Egypt five years ago, we entered Shenzhen to catch a train to Yangshuo.

I haven’t really been a fan of bikes in the past years, not at all. But this trip might change my mind: We rented some bikes and took a seven-hour tour through Yangshuo. Our bikes had no gears shifts, which I missed a lot in the hilly areas. Sharing the streets with heaps of scooters, pedestrians, other bikes, vehicles I’ve never seen before, busses and a tiny amount of cars was a challenge at first. After an hour or so I felt safe in the chaotic traffic.

Yangshuo is surrounded by karst peaks – tiny steep mountains. At one point we took a whopping 800 steps in the heat of the day to get to up to the Moon Hill, arriving bathed in sweat like I’ve rarely ever been. The view was worth it though.

During our bike tour, we went to see a dripstone cave. The colorful lighting inside the Gold Water Cave made it feel more like a Disneyland queue than a naturally occurring phenomenon, but the hot spring water pools, as well as the large mud pool within the cave, entirely made up for this. I don’t believe my skin has changed from the time spent in the pool, but the feeling of the thick, heavy mud pushing you to the surface is an very special and uncommon one. A bit like extremely salty sea water, only more intense. And it wasn’t crowded at all – people mostly skipped the pools… probably because changing clothes in the steamy cave without getting mud all over your clothes and belongings was a bit cumbersome. No pictures though, only on the memory cards of the hoards of Chinese tourists taking photos of us playing in the mud.

We also had an authentic Chinese restaurant experience today: Walking into a restaurant, realizing that there’s no English menu or way to communicate with the waiter. Searching for another one with an English menu. Ordering something there, getting something you might or might not have ordered. And spending a long time figuring out which dish belongs to whom… But in the end, my weird long mushrooms I had mistaken for noodles were very good, so ✌️.

Oh, I also got a Chinese SIM card for my iPhone today. 40 GB with 4G speed for 98 Yuan per month, all prepaid. I could only dream of anything like this at home. It’s still a bit tricky to get past the Great Firewall, but it works most of the time.

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