M was very excited to go see the YaoLin caves after hearing my aunt describing it. My aunt has travelled many places around China as part of her work benefit (she is the onsite doctor at a factory). So if she says something is good, usually she is right. so we decided to join a tourgroup for a day trip. The tour groups are really abundant and convenient in China. You can basically join a tour group to about any scenic spot that is worth visiting. Everything can be arranged online and it is highly customizable. they will even do a individual tour just for you if you have enough money. It is all really reasonably priced as well. that is the up side.
the downside tho, is that the schedule is extremely tight. They basically forces you to go through everything about twice as fast as any normal human being ought to. Especially if your tour group is big, the whole time is spent listening to the tour guide asking one person or another to hurry up. The other big downside is that they always want to make you to buy stuff. At the end of your tour, they take you to like a tea factory, silk factory, pottery factory etc etc. whatever the local product happens to be and you have to sit and listen through some sales pitch and they hope you buy stuff. It is alot like a timeshare presentation actually haha.
I have noticed this year that services has been getting tons better, they don't pressure you as much to buy stuff anymore. most companies now has a policy that the tour guides are strictly forbidden to take any tips. this way it prevent them from trying to solicit you. So the experience is much more pleasant. And if you encounter a good tourguide, the talking is really entertaining as well.
Ok, that is enough about the love/hate relationship I have with tour groups. Our day was divided into 3 parts, in the morning we went to visit this man made tour spot called Grandmother's House. It is basically a replica of a traditional farm house. Not very exciting except for this one house that is actually 400 years old, built in the Qing Dynasty. It is now preserved as a museum. It is basically a home temple for ancestor worship. It was really big and every single corner was covered in beautiful carvings. interesting, M says that our old family house was like this before it was all taken away in the Culture Revolution. She lamented that I was born too late to enjoy our opulent rich lifestyle. But I don't know man, how opulent can it be when you don't have flushing toilets? hmm
After this brief tour, we rafted down this really shallow river on rubber boats that seats 4. It was pleasant but really nothing exciting except for the fact our personal rower was amazingly experienced and he only gets 5 Yuan (less than a dollar) for each trip of backbreaking rowing. He says he can only do about 2 trips a day before he die of exhaustion. poor dude. I totally felt like a capitalist oppresor
After lunch came the most exciting part of the day, the Yaolin caves. this limestone cave is supposed to be the biggest in China, streches one kilometer in depth and covers an area of 28000 square meters. The place is really too amazing and too hard to describe. I am just gonna have to post some pictures. I heard that there are some really nice ones in the u.S. too, like that one near Austin. But I haven't been to any of them to be able to compare.
Third part of the day is the sales pitch. we got some green tea and silk bedsheets pitched to us. All in all, not too bad, at least we got to drink the tea hehe.