Day 2: Exploration

Sorry about the double post, getting internet is a bit iffy.

I think things are starting to settle down into the travel rhythm. Early to bed early to rise, and cram as much into the day light as possible (yeah I know, it doesn’t rhyme). Me and the guys woke up pretty early kind of as expected thanks to the travel and passing out hard the night before. I think each night is going to be like that for some time.

My goal for the day was to see how much of Yangshuo as we could since we weren’t sure if we were going to stay in the crazy busy tourist town, or head back to Guilin to be closer to our flight tomorrow to Lijiang. Elmar and Danny wanted to do some cooking class, and as much as I really like cooking I feel like that’s something I can do at home. I wanted to do a river cruise since that’s a major reason why I wanted to come to Yangshuo to begin with. So we decided to split up. They seemed to have had a good time, but I had a blast.

The tour started out with a ride on the back of a moped to the docks. Without a helmet. In the crazy Chinese traffic. I found myself in a situation I wasn’t comfortable with, but felt like I was too committed to just bail. In retrospect I think I should of even though everything turned out fine. But it was incredibly scary even for just a couple miles. One of my coworkers, Ben, is quite adverse to adventure and danger and I can just wonder what he would think of this playing Frogger on a moped halfway around the world. I had these images flashing through my head of ending up in a Chinese hospital with no one speaking English. Luckily the ride was short and everything went well.  It’s not an experience I want to repeat though. Walking suits me just fine thank you.

At the dock the little “bamboo raft” was tied to the outside of 4 other boats, and we had to walk up a rickety little gangplank to get there. I was really quite worried I would fall in and my camera would be toast. The raft itself wasn’t really made of bamboo. Maybe they used to be at some point, but now it’s PVC with little ribs like bamboo and caps on the end to keep the water out. They didn’t even bother to paint the PVC to try to fool me in a kitsch Disney sort of way. Either way though I was on cloud 9. Once free of the other rafts and boats we motored out into the middle of the Li River, cut power, and drifter for several miles. The scenery is just gorgeous and I can see a real draw as to why people would want to live here. It’s just plain spectacular. I can’t help but wish there was something just like it in Califonia, though it would be very hard to resist moving out of the city to be there. With so many people living here in Yangshuo and with none of the draconian laws we have in California to keep the air somewhat clear, there is this constant haze at all times, it’s not fog though, it’s smog.  After 2 days I can feel it in my lungs. I wish there had been a nice summer rain to wash it all away before we arrived. It adds an interesting quality to the pictures though, they end up kind of ethereal. I really can’t describe how content I was floating down a river snapping away with the camera.

Speaking of which… I’ve been using pretty much exclusively 2 lenses this trip, my 10-22mm and a 28-135mm. For my photographer friends, and I have a few, the 10-22 is a must have for really anything landscape with a non-full frame canons. It’s just a phenominal piece of glass and totally worth the cash. The focus is quick and sharp. The images always turn out with great exposure and white balance. I don’t have a single complaint, and it’s no wonder it’s considered an L lense for non-full frame cameras. Thanks so much to my parents for getting me it. The 28-135 though I’m less satisfied with. The focal distance range is spot on, it covers everything from slightly wide to slightly telephoto, encompassing the natural focal distance of about 35mm. The lens though always seems to over expose images by about 0.5 f-stops, and the colors are always a bit dull compared to the 10-22. The biggest problem though I have with it is the focus. It often hunts around, and as often as not fails to focus correctly leaving me with some soft focused shots. If it weren’t for the full time manual I would probably use the lens hardly at all. I’ve gotten half decent manually focusing, and with the lens always landing slightly nearer than it should I’m usually pretty quick to get it properly focused. I’m also glad I followed a photographer I met at Coachella’s advice and got the view finder focused perfectly for my glasses prescription and then taped over the little dial with some bandage tape so moving it in and out of my bag doesn’t upset it, then I can be 100% confident that what I see through the view finder is what the camera is seeing. Anyway, that’s my mini lens review haha.

After meeting up with Danny and Elmar we decided to go on a hike up to the top of one of those Karst mountains on a tip from a couple in their cooking class. We failed completely to even start. We couldn’t for the life of us find the little alley described that starts up a set of stairs up this massive piece of rock. Eventually we gave up and settled for ice cream. By the way, rice pudding ice cream is the bomb. In case you were curious. Anyway there is another smaller karst mountain right in the center of town with a little building on top, and we figured there had to be a way up there, I mean they build the thing up there. After walking around we eventually found a steep set of stairs leading upwards in the park. It turned out to be quite strenuous just because of how steep they were. I’m sure my camera gear and tripod didn’t help. But up at the top the view was spectacular, we had a near 360 degree view of the city honking and all. I couldn’t help but take a number of photos. It was totally worth the hike.

After that though we were done with Yangshuo. It’s an interesting place, but it has a bit too much hustle and bustle for our taste, and the constant pull at the wallet strings definitely decreases the appeal. We decided to head back to Guilin early and found our selves a nice hotel with 3 beds that’s much quieter, and much nicer for just $40.

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