When I arrived in Yangshuo, I had only one intention: find a cheap, pleasant, convenient place to settle down and get some work done (after the fun and chaos of partying away the New Year in Hong Kong). So although the weather was beautiful and the skies unusually blue, I generally forced myself to stay inside. Few laptops have transflective screens, rendering them near useless under the 10,000 luxes of full daylight – so about the best I could do (during particularly bright days) was to sit working on covered patios of outdoors coffee shops.
Still, I didn’t plan to waste the opportunities yielded by staying in a place like Yangshuo. Instead, I intended to get ahead on my work first and only sightsee later, once I was caught up.
Sadly, by the time my stay was coming to an end the weather had taken a turn for the worse…and nearly every day had become foggy and gray. D’oh! I found myself wishing I’d taken Dave up on more of his invitations to head out and explore.
So when an Israeli backpacker* I’d met in the hostel lounge dropped by to suggest a trip to a nearby watercave, I said “why not.”
The Water Cave seemed to be one of Yangshuo’s main attractions, with posters and advertisements plastering the front of every travel agent and tour operator in town.
And it did appear to be pretty cool! Massive caverns, huge sloppy mud pools, and running underground waterfalls…sounds like just my cup of tea.
Still, my day’s companion and I were a little apprehensive at first due to the increasingly cold weather. But the woman at the ticket booth assured us that the temperature inside would actually be quite high.
…which it was. At least, the air was. But that wasn’t what we were worried about. The temperature of the mud, by contrast, was not so high. In fact, it was arctic.
…And do you think that stopped us from jumping in??
After all, we had to get our precious photos 🙂
Rinsing off after our dip was a nightmare. If that water were ONE degree colder it would’ve certainly turned into ice.
But looking back, I’m glad we did it…and the next hour or so of exploring, climbing around in, and photographing those huge caverns was magnificent.
*One thing that’s both very noticeable and quite saddening about virtually every international trip I’ve taken – except to Europe – is the demographic of the travelers. Because after yet another six months abroad, I can honestly say that I don’t recall meeting one single long-term backpacker from the United States. Not one. On the other hand, I’ve met dozens – if not hundreds – from Australia, Israel, Russia, all over Europe, and a few parts of South America.
Why is it that, despite being such a first-world country, we remain so provincially isolated from the rest of the world? And when we do leave our borders, why do we shack up almost exclusively in five-star hotels, completely covering our eyes from what the foreign countries and cultures really have to offer?
I truly believe that if we just stepped outside of our comfort zone a bit more (this does not include staying at the Hilton and watching hotel-organized Kung Fu shows, nor does it include going to other English-speaking countries only marginally different from our own) we could develop such a clearer understanding of the world as a whole…and work to end the less than favorable international perception of us and our ways.