Today was a mixed bag. Actually, it was a half and half bag. For as amazingly beautiful as the first part of the day was, the second part sucked in equal measure. We left our hotel at 3:30 in the morning and at 6:00 we started looking for a place to get some breakfast. As we were making our way down the street, a man stopped us and offered us two cups of hot tea. Now I ask you, who does that? Who sees two backpackers and thinks, “I bet they’d like some hot tea.” We accepted his offer and gave him one of our cards and continued on our way.
We soon found a noodle place and enjoyed a very nice breakfast among a group of smiling happy women. As we were leaving, we saw them preparing a dish we had seen and eaten before. I had no idea how it was made so we stopped to watch and I shot video as they were cooking the dish and before we could say no, they gave us a serving. It was savory with a squishy texture and I still don’t know how to ask for it by name which is a shame because it is delicious.
By 6:30 we were back on the road which had now narrowed to a single paved lane that meandered through lychee, banana and mango groves. We passed little pig farms here and there and even though we had caused every dog we passed to bark, somehow the sows and piglets slept soundly as we passed. We counted at least twenty pink piglets laying beside one massive momma pig.
Further up the road we saw a sign beside the road and Google translate told us it was a Buddhist temple. It was a couple kilometers out of our way but we didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity so we veered to the right and a few kilometers later, there it was on our left across a little bridge. They were up on a hillside and had the most beautiful views of the valley below that was dotted with little ponds. We were given bottles of water, offered food and escorted into the temple. The monk put on his robes and handed us lit sticks of incense and Doug and I walked to all four of the shrines, offered our incense and said little prayers. They even gave Doug a small Buddha figurine.
We left the temple and a few hours later, we were entering a town. We had walked about thirteen miles and my blisters were telling me that we needed to make it a short day. We went to the town’s only hotel and the guy running it flat out refused us. He had a very stern, unyielding and unfriendly expression on his face. We enlisted the help of our Mandarin speaking friend and she tried to straighten things out with him. He told her that the hotel was full but it was obvious to us that it was completely empty and that he simply did not want us there. We experienced this a few times last year as well and it’s something that we still don’t quite understand. Last summer it was only inconvenient as there were always other hotels nearby. But what do you do when that’s the only hotel in town? We tried talking to the guy’s son but it only seemed to annoy father more and when I saw dad get on his motor scooter, shoot us a dirty look and mutter something under his breath, I got the feeling that he was headed off to get the police so Doug and I jumped on the first bus we saw that was headed out of town.
It started to rain and then come down in sheets and out the windows of the bus I could see those beautiful limestone outcroppings that we were planning to walk past. I didn’t even get one picture of them.
We got off the bus thirty-five kilometers later in the next town. We walked into the first hotel we saw and we’re greeted by the entire four member family with “HELLO HELLO!” and the biggest smiles and laughter. They are so kind and helpful. Again, I guess we are where we are supposed to be but we had to cut 35k out of our walk and I was so looking foward to this section of the 324.