Xingping: We got back (with a little help from our friends) (2017)

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One measure of character is how you treat others when you’ve never seen them before, will never see them again, and there is nothing materially to be gained.

We spent a week in a rural village accessible only by ferry. While we were there, we decided to take a small boat downriver to Xingping in order to see up close the beauty of the Li River. We would stay in Xingping a few hours and then take a boat back. It turned into an ordeal, but it was worth the problems to experience the character of some of the people we met along the way, none of whom spoke English.

The farm woman
It started on our walk to the ferry. We knew the way but we stopped to decide whether to take the easier path or the shorter one. An older lady on her way to work in the fields thought we were lost, so she yelled and motioned for us to take the path with her. She got behind us, I assume to make sure we didn’t stray, and stayed behind us until she got to her field.

The driver
Our caretaker, Haibo, had arranged for someone to meet us on the other side of the river. It was the lady who drove us here from Guilin. I didn’t know why she was there – it couldn’t be that hard to buy tickets and get on a raft. It was that hard. She led us through a maze of buildings and lots of people trying to sell us trinkets. She helped us get our tickets, led us to the loading area, and motioned with her hands for us to “sit and stay”. She gave instructions to some others sitting there and then left.

The teenage girls
The driver’s instructions were to put us with the first group of 2 to come by, since the boats seat 4. That was a pair of teenage girls. We followed them and the boat driver. We got to the boat, but getting on was a challenge. They are called “bamboo boats” but are now made of PVC pipe. It’s a balancing act, but one of the girls took my backpack and they both took our hands and helped us on. At the end of the ride, they again took my backpack, took our hands, and helped us off.

We didn’t stay long before deciding to go back. The narrow streets were lined on both sides with people trying to sell food or souvenirs. Now all we needed to do was find where to get our return ticket. (For some reason, you can’t buy a round-trip ticket.) It couldn’t be that hard. The first ticket booth was only for the big tour boats. They showed us which way to walk. We finally found the “bamboo boat” ticket office and I made a strategic mistake. They asked for our age. I knew there was a new regulation that people over 70 could not take the bamboo boats, but all I was thinking was “senior discount” so I told the truth. They wouldn’t sell us tickets. They sent us somewhere else, which turned out to be the big-boat ticket office again. I thought we would take one of those to either Yangshou or Guilin, then find a driver to get us back to the ferry, but they said the big boats didn’t go to either place. That couldn’t be, but I didn’t know how to argue. Our only option now was to find the bus terminal, find a bus to Yangshou, change buses there and hope to find the one that stopped where we needed to be. That’s when we met the ticket seller.

The ticket seller and the young couple
I knew there would be people trying to sell unofficial boat tickets. We had already encountered one. I assume this lady had the same idea – she had a large wallet with money and some sort of tickets. By that time, I would have paid a premium just to get on a boat, so I tried to show her on my phone the Chinese characters for the town with the ferry. She didn’t seem to understand, so she had us sit on a bench and then she started talking to a young couple who were also sitting there. What followed was a lengthy, intense discussion between the 3 of them. Occasionally they would ask me again where we were going. I finally tried to explain that it was OK, that we would take the bus, but they didn’t seem to think that was a good idea. After more discussion, the ticket seller said “car” and “200”. I nodded my head, but there was more discussion. The young couple seemed to think that 200 Yuan was too much, but it was less than half what the boat tickets would have been. I kept saying “yes”, the ticket seller made a call, and a van was there in about 5 minutes. I know the ticket seller had some financial arrangement with the driver, but the young couple did not. They all helped us get in the van and waved as we left.

The other driver
I knew there were lots of ways for this to go wrong. I paid the 200 up front and would not have been surprised if he demanded more at the end. I tracked our progress on Google Maps, wondering if he really knew where we needed to go. It was a long, rough ride but he got us to the harbor and didn’t ask for more money.

And so we’re back…
…to our 150-year-old house in a tiny village in rural China, thanks to the character of people we will never see again, including some who could easily have taken advantage of us but did not.

The drive from Xingping back to the ferry


Posted: May 23, 2017


Category: 2017, Asia, China, FBPosted, Map, Round-the-World 2017, Southeast Asia

  1. Donna & Stan says:

    This is so amazing!!! You are really experiencing the true culture and sharing with us is the best!!! Keep enjoying every experience and we love reading about it!!!

  2. Ruth Frew says:

    WOW! What a great story!

  3. David Cox says:

    Obviously God was with you!
    Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
    Seek His will in all you do,
    and He will show you which path to take.–Proverbs 3:5-6

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