Suddenly – as sudden as it can happen, moving by train and all – I am in this whole new landscape. Weirdly but extremely beautifully formed mountains pressing against the Li River, surrounding the city. Even though it is dark already, I can tell why this region is claimed to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. My hostel is located close to the river, so the local specialty is, of course, fish. Superfresh. In fact, it is still alive when you order it, swimming in a tiny bowl in front of the restaurant on the road. Once ordered, you spoke the fish’s death sentence, and the cook will kill it by banging it on the sidewalk till it’s ready to be prepared. I don’t know if I want to be responsible for that and order smaller fish that has already been killed beforehand, elsewhere.
Upon recommendation, I take a bus to the rice terraces the next morning, organized by the guesthouse I will stay with for one night over there. I arrive three hours later and although I won’t see much of the recommended sunset or sunrise over the fields due to the constant rain, the place is breathtaking. I think I could just as well stay here for a year and write a book or so. As described in the travel guide, villagers (old women) offer to carry my luggage uphill (offer is a soft word to describe their repeated aggressive attempts to take my backpack), but I can do that myself. I had planned to leave it downhill somewhere, but it is raining and I will probably be happy about a change of clothes when arriving in the hostel up there. When the tenth woman approaches me, I start getting annoyed slowly. Do they think they are stronger than me? I have already climbed 2000 m up Mount Hua in burning sun, I can do those 900 m eve with luggage now!
The siblings I met on the bus, Kevin, who lives in Beijing and is visited by his sister, both from Portland, stay in the same room as I do, and we have dinner together. They order the local specialty, bamboo rice, cooked for one hour (well, in the end it is more something like three) over fire, in a bamboo stick. Unfortunately, I am way too hungry for waiting this long, and I still want to take pictures before it’s dark, so I have to go for normal rice. When sitting on the sofa reading, later, through one of the wide open windows, a hand-sized moth flies in and against my head. We are both very confused. It could already account for as a bat or something. Well, this place is right in the mountains, so you’re as close to nature as it can get.
The next morning, it is unfortunately still raining. That explains why it is so green here. I get up early nevertheless, borrow an umbrella to protect my camera, and hike to one of the viewpoints. Aside from the usual tourist crowd, it is stunning. Internet doesn’t work today in the hostel, and also the way back turns out to be adventurous, because last night there was a landslide because of all the rain, and now a part of the road is blocked. It will be interesting, how much more adventurous the ride through the mountains can get – yesterday it was already quite thrilling to sit on a bus while the driver speeds through curves, announcing himself by honking, totally trusting in everyone else to slow down or watch their way.
The way down is a bit more challenging due to my luggage, it is slippery and pushes me down faster than I want to go – but at least, like this I still have time to buy some tea, and a pointy rain hat (because in Oulu it’s always raining, as well!).