Dishes

DSC04699dog.JPG

This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, September 08, 2004 was originally posted on September 16, 2004.

DAY 326:  When I arrived in Yangshou three days prior, I was approached by a tout trying to sell me on the perks of his hotel, so that I might give him business instead of giving it to a place listed in a guidebook that didn’t need any extra publicity.  This has been a fairly common thing in my travels when arriving at a new place — someone tells me I’ll get a private room with a private shower and hot water (24/7), etc. for a price just as good as any place listed in a guidebook.  While these unlisted places might be a steal, comfort exactly isn’t the most important thing I look for as a solo traveler.  The most important factor is finding a place listed so that perhaps I’d meet other fellow solo travelers with guidebooks to hang out with.  If you’ve followed The Blog for a while now, this strategy has been the reason why I’ve met so many “characters” on the road.

The latest character arrived in the morning after a night of having the entire dorm room to myself:  Veronica, a young backpacker from Slovakia with a brown belt in karate, traveling for a little over a month through China and eventually Japan in time to see the World Karate Championships in Tokyo.  We got to talking and she mentioned something about Lonely Planet books being for simpletons, and I knew immediately that we’d get along. 

“You want a cup of tea?” she asked.

“Sure.”  I put my laptop down for a while and got to meet this latest character, explaining to her that the reason why I was cooped inside on a computer on a nice day was because I was a writer and had some work to do.

“Wow, you’re a writer?”  She was impressed at anyone who could write more than a couple of sentences per day in a journal like she did.

Tea Time eventually led to Bike Time, and soon we were both on rental bikes to see one of Yangshou’s must-see mountain peaks, Moon Hill, just about a half hour bike ride south of the city center.  We parked and locked our bikes by the entrance — where we ran into Chinese Spider-Man who had just come down from practicing for an upcoming rappelling competition — and started a short hike up a series of steps through lush tropical vegetation and bamboo trees.  One stone staircase led to another, which led to another, which led to another and it was felt like we were endlessly walking up an escalator perpetually going down.  Every now and then there would be a clearing so we could see what we were burning our thighs for:  Moon Hill, a limestone peak formed in an abnormal arch formation.  Sight of our goal made the hike less discouraging, although Veronica had to be wary of the occasional poisonous millipedes walking across the path since she was wearing sandals.

“This is like Tomb Raider,” she said, walking up the next flight of steps.  “It’s a stairway to heaven.”

“A stairwell to the moon,” I said.

Sooner than I thought we were passing under the naturally-formed archway, only to be greeted by somewhat aggressive tout women who followed us in attempts to sell us sodas and water.  The two of us politely declined and then posed for a photo, and then went looking for a way up to the very top.  I remembered Skye, the New York DA worker I met the other day, telling me that there was a way to the peak via a path where someone had knocked over a “No Admittance” sign.  We found this trail and ten minutes later we were at the top and sat out with a handful of other hikers to take in the spectacular views, some marred by the eyesores of satellite dishes.  We were all careful to stray away from the edge of the sheer vertical drop.

“So how are you going to make this into a story?” Veronica asked me.  “You can say that I was hanging onto a tree branch [over the edge] and you had to come and save my life.”  I explained to her that my Blog wasn’t fiction, but perhaps I’d figure a way weave her idea in somehow.

We came down from “the moon,” grabbed our bicycles and rode around the area, checking out but not participating in all the nearby tourist traps, including a guy offering rides on his two-humped camel.  It was the first day for Veronica to see the famous limestone peaks of the Guangxi province and she was constantly impressed with the landscape and couldn’t stop taking photos of the mountains and the farmers standing out in big green rice fields.  Eventually we grew hungry and decided to head back into town for a some food.


Rough Guide says that many Chinese tourists to the Guangxi province make it a point to experience one of the famous culinary specialties:  dog.  Dog as a meat is a controversial food — even for people who aren’t vegetarian — because the thought of feasting on the flesh of Benji or Lassie just seems wrong.  It wasn’t our intention to go out for dog when Veronica and I sat at a table at the Old Neighbours’ Restaurant on West Street, until we saw that it was available on the menu.

“Should we eat a dog?” Veronica suggested.

“Yeah, let’s try it.”  I told her that everyone that I’d met that had tried the canine meat raved about it.  In fact, Justine Shapiro, one of the hosts of Globe Trekker said it was pretty good.

“I can’t believe we are going to eat a dog,” Veronica said as we patiently waited for our meal to arrive.  About ten minutes later, a platter holding half a kilo of dog meat saut?ed with vegetables (picture above) — including the bones of two paws — was staring us in the face.  Steam was still rising from the plate and its aroma was surprisingly rather appetizing.  Adventurous and a little reluctant, we lifted two pieces of the meat with our chopsticks and put them in our mouths to let our taste buds be the final judge.

“It’s good,” Veronica said.  “It tastes like duck…”

“Duck and beef,” I said, trying to figure out how to describe its taste.  One thing, it didn’t taste like chicken.

“Yeah, duck and beef!”

The two of us finished the entire platter, with a side bowl of rice and coconut juice drinks.  In the end it was one of the better tasting “exotic” foods I’ve had to date.

“They should really give dog meat another name,” I said.  “Like beef is cow, but no one says you’re eating a cow.  Pork is pig, but you don’t say ‘pig.’  I think if they gave it another name, it might take off.”  The only word that came to mind was “woof,” which probably wouldn’t catch on.  Looking back at the plate I saw that we had left the bones of the two paws and thought that maybe it would never catch on whatever it was called.


WITH DOG IN OUR STOMACHS, we took the bikes out again to explore the smaller villages around Yangshou.  We rode to the east, down a road that went passed villages, farms and more rice paddies.  Veronica, the Slovakian amateur photographer, couldn’t stop taking photos of the scenery and the people who lived there — although she hated the fact that a lot would only allow photos for a fee.  We pedaled up and down hills far removed from the tourist scene — and far from the local scene for that matter, because we ended up on a remote road in between two villages with no one really around at all.  We stopped and turned back — and just in time too because we had to get the bikes back by seven.

With my body still sore from rock-climbing the day before, and the hike up to the top of Moon Hill, and all the bike riding, one thing was in order:  a traditional Chinese massage.  Conveniently the massage center in town was right across the street from the bike rental stand and we didn’t hesitate to go there first before anywhere else. 

The traditional Chinese massage is based on the Chinese science of acupuncture, as it focuses on the acupoints on the body.  Pressure is applied to the different pressure points to help blood circulation and get rid of sleepiness and general fatigue. 

Veronica and I were led to a room with two beds and two masseuses who rubbed us, poked us and stretched us from head to ankle for a whole hour.  I closed my eyes for most of the session to relax, hearing the slaps and snaps of my body being worked on like an automobile at a mechanics garage.  All my pressure points were hit, resulting in a rejuvenating experience, although some points just got me all ticklish.  Veronica said she felt the same way.

The one-hour “full body massage” ignored one important part:  the foot, which required a whole hour in itself.  We paid the extra money to get them done and sat in another room on big comfy chairs where our masseuses did their magic with herbal foot baths that soothed and exfoliated all the dead hardened skin off our feet.  We sat there while the masseuses did their magic of rubbing and poking the pressure points, and watched Chinese soap operas on TV.  Chinese soap operas are similar to American ones — with synthesized background dramatic music and overly dramatic storylines — only that they manage to integrate kung-fu fights in every episode.


THE REST OF THE EVENING Veronica and I just chilled out with food and drinks at the cafe next to the hostel.  Dog was not on the menu, not that we had any sudden urges to dine on canine meat again very soon.  It’s not that we didn’t enjoy it, but with our Western upbringings, it was just, for lack of a better term, weird to accept it as an everyday food; we just wanted to try it at least once.  Maybe one day in the future we’d cross paths and eat it again, right after I rescue her from almost falling down from a tree branch at the edge of a dangerous cliff of course.






Next entry: Forgotten Names

Previous entry: Chinese Spider-Man




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Comments for “Dishes”

  • ERIK - Need to Fix the two-humps pic

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/15  at  07:17 PM


  • Erik - dog does have another name!  “urban deer”  or “deer of the doorstep”.  (That “Lonely Planet food” book is good, I tell you!  nothing like the guidebooks)  I am somewhat grossed out by the dog meat story, but I’m kind of a culinary daredevil myself.  When I described Guinea Pig to people (after having it in Peru) - I could only describe it as “tastes like duck”...  When I come to Asia, the ultimate test is if I can eat an insect.  Perhaps we can meet up for some grasshoppers!  (chirp chirp!  woof!)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/15  at  07:43 PM


  • happy ending?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/15  at  07:44 PM


  • Hello again Erik,
    It’s been a while for me…and have seen a couple of other James’ appear…

    Not that it helps with the disruption of the scenery, but it may take the sting away…that looks like a microwave relay tower (rather than actual satellite dishes).  It’s probably been there for a while - it helps with radio/tv transmission. We have them further up north in Canada to help service more remote locations.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/15  at  08:12 PM


  • Good question Scott: .. well Erik?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/15  at  09:52 PM


  • ok…looking at the main pic before knowing it was dog was appetizing….but now…ummm…ewwie…i had to look back for the paw!

    good thing i ate lunch already!

    WHEAT = 30!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/15  at  10:10 PM


  • when i saw that pic on the main page..i knew it had to be ‘special’.

    btw, fried guinea pig is still the top of my “What Not to Eat even if my life Dependent on It.” list. Right above Human flesh.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/15  at  10:13 PM


  • To Scott & simf2p….you must of been watching HBO’s “Mind of the Married Man” .....he never gets a “happy ending!”

    Erik….great pic’s…..you were brave to eat those paws!  I don’t think I could of stomached eating “Lassie”
    LOL

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/15  at  10:52 PM


  • too bad you’re not a typical male(aka: “dog”), erik…well, at least it doesn’t seem like it.  otherwise, it would have been so easy to say:  dog-eat-dog…

    MARKYT:  I had to look back for the paw too…ugh…ick

    NYC AREA PEOPLE: can you imagine seeing “DOG MEAT” on hop kee or wo-hop’s menu?  *shivers*  ugh…

    “happy ending”...oh lawd…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/16  at  12:58 AM


  • There’s always “happy endings” in Erik’s adventures!

    hah

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/16  at  01:22 AM


  • Ew.
    I can’t fathom it…

    But, the pictures are great. And that green of the farmer picture - AMAZING. The hills are so strange - they almost look sheer underneath, but they’re covered in green.

    The arch one looks like Arches National Monument. Except for that whole GREEN thing…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/16  at  01:49 AM


  • Dog—interesting. Wouldn’t mind trying it myself—as long as I didn’t know what it was!

    Word Life.

    Moman!!

    Posted by Moman  on  09/16  at  02:15 AM


  • Any day that doesn’t end in an explosive case of diarrhea (particularly after eating “urban deer”) has a happy ending…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/16  at  02:27 AM


  • SARA:  Yeah, forget the old adage “tastes like chicken”—most “exotic” foods “taste like duck.”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/16  at  02:29 AM


  • “urban deer” is a good one Sara! Do they call deer meat “venison” in the States, or is that just a Canadian thing?

    We could call it “barkison.”  It’s a mix of woof and urban deer!

    BWT: Sara, I couldn’t eat the roasted bugs on Khoasan Rd…. I thought I would try some. But when I got to the vendor and the spread looked like a Terminx commercial gone horribly wrong, I chicken’d out and had paddthai instead…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/16  at  07:29 PM


  • Td0t - If I have beer to wash it down with, I can probably do it.  That’s how I got the guinea pig down.  Yeah, we call deer meat venison here.  I have never seen it in Chicago but my relatives in Michigan eat it.

    I am fascinated with the things you can eat in Asia.  A guy on the food channel, Anthony Bourdain, ate a cobra’s heart that was STILL beating!  gross!  It is supposed to make you really “virile”..

    here are those LP food books I keep talking about:

    http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/product_detail.cfm?productID=2277

    The Vietnam one is fascinating!  Lots of history and photos.  For plain old guidebooks, though, I prefer Let’s Go.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/16  at  07:41 PM


  • Sara: I think that must have been it…. I needed a few more beers in me, plus one in hand to chase the cockroach with… then maybe!

    This entry made inspired me to get roast duck for lunch!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/16  at  09:12 PM


  • I used to eat venison when I lived in the sticks of WA state and was much younger. I liked it. I’ve even eaten bear. Interesting…

    Cockroaches? Guinea Pigs? Ew. I think I’d chicken out too…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/16  at  10:57 PM


  • If anyone is bored, my guinea pig photos are about halfway down.  I rigged it so that you don’t have to sign in. 

    http://www.ofoto.com/
    ShareLandingSignin.jsp?Uc=135iryi7.an58da3b&Uy=oah0b2&
    Upost_signin=BrowsePhotos.jsp?showSlide=true&Ux=0

    [THIS LINK HAS BEEN SPLIT IN THREE.]

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/16  at  11:10 PM


  • SARA - awesome pics!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/16  at  11:17 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


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Forgotten Names

Previous entry:
Chinese Spider-Man




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