Back up at 6 this morning and ready for breakfast. I put the nooders in my mouse (I even put nooders in Nicole’s mouse.)  and away we go for today’s excursion. We are visiting a thousands year old pagoda that is on the top of what was a huge mountain before the Dam was put in. Now that mountain is mostly buried, so it’s at the top of a small peek and is connected to the main land mass by a swinging bridge.

We leave the ship and this is a walking tour, so no bus is necessary-and make our way up a ramp. All along the sides of the ramp the locals are washing their clothes and chatting. Their cattle are tied up along the shore also and their children are playing.  I think of how lucky we are to have modern washing machines and dryers-but then it hits me that I can’t remember the last time I went for a walk with my mom or my family and just chatted.  No phone. No expensive lunch. Just a menial task and a chat.  I think this time for them is part of their family ritual-and I bet if you gave them automated machines they would still prefer to do it this way. It also hits me that I can’t remember the last time I did laundry….. I could probably make a killing renting Chris out here….

We walk along the ramp to the town and there are venders just salivating as they watch us walk by.  We all say-wow this seems like a very unagressive group of sellers! And our tour guide explains that no, they have just been well trained to not sell until we are walking the other way-coming back from the tour. She also tells us that we should be saying “bow-shay” (spelled by pronunciation) when we don’t want something-this is the polite Chinese way of saying no.  Chris makes me write this down and practice it. 🙄

The seller stalls are on both sides of the street, the entire way to the Pagoda-about a 15 minute walk. And Nicole and I hear NONE of the words that are coming out of the mouse of the tour guide. Like, nada.  All I hear is my brain chanting-“stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff…… buy buy buy buy”. It gets so bad that we ask if we can walk ahead of the tour, do the pagoda on our own, and have more time to shop.  They are more then happy to have a few less heads to keep track of- and away we go.  If we really try we can have this history crap done within 10 minutes and be buying silk pajamas and slippers within 15.  It’s helpful that Nicole and I obsess over the same things-and couldn’t give a rats hind quarters about the same things also.

We walk over the rickety bridge-it sways against our determined “gotta get this done” walking…. and we give the boys their orders. “Give me all your money, go take pictures, and don’t get stolen”.

We politely -and as fast as possible- walk/run past all of the spiritually significant statues and buildings and walk toward the venders. They see us coming-and they actually look afraid at first.  Picture 2 short, large chested white women with Diana Ross hair (Dam humidity) and sunburns speed walking toward you talking a blue streak to each other in a language only they understand and giggling sporadically.  I think they thought we were running to the bathrooms.  Nope. We’re comin’ for your discount merchandise-dust off your fake jade and key-chains ladies!   Then it hits them that we’re coming for them-and children and break-frest nooders get thrown-they are ready for the first buyers of the day.  What they were probably not prepared for is the force that is Nicole in a buyers market.

At the first stall I make the mistake of touching something and playing my cards to early. It’s a book of paintings, and the shockingly thin vender lady goes from 480 Yuan down to 200 without me even saying a word. Then when I walk away-she literally puts two hands on my chest and pushes me back into her stall. Saying “okey-okey-okey lady 10!! 10!!” While I wrestle for my life Nicole has drawn a crowd and is brow beating a woman over 5 yuan on a pair of slippers.  She OWNS this woman. Meanwhile skeletore over here is physically assaulting me and has now felt my boobs more then I ever envisioned a woman would be given opportunity to- all while I cry and scream “bow shay bow shay! I’m too young to die!”.  It’s a whole thing. I call out to my sister (who I should add I have a good 60 lbs on) and ask for help.  I need to tag out.  Nicole says “one second I’ll be right back ” (in Chinese I swear) to her vender and runs over to my rescue.   Hand in skelatore’s face and a VERY strong “NO” and she is able to pull me away.  She tells me to stay out of trouble and goes back to negotiations. She won’t pay a cent over 20 yuan for these slippers. Oh and she wants the clean ones in the package. And could they be a little brighter red? They jump around and find oodles of slippers for my new sister-the Chinese business woman. Eventually she settles-pays exactly what she said she would-and now-word spreads. She’s market royalty.  As she walks down the street the sea of people parts for her, the venders bring her only their finest tchotchkes-and bring their baby’s to her for blessings.

Meanwhile, I’m a few stalls behind her, stumbling around, picking up her packages and being physically assaulted. Add to this that each time I touch a piece of hanging clothing at a stall, a vender from a shop across the street comes running saying “bigger over here!!! I have bigger over here.”  They bring me their finest XXXXXXXL dresses and tents and snacks. Also,  It seems I’ve been tagged as “the lady who got felt up by Velma at the first stall” and no one is seriously scrambling to do business with me.

In any case I do manage to spend a few dollars on some nice shirts and souvenirs, and we get the best thing a girl could ask for in China! PANDA HATS!!!!!! We are about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in our red panda hats and we decide we’re never ever taking them off.  Period.

Eventually the boys find us and after buying more beer and another bottle of wine we make our way back on board the boat.

We wear our panda hats up to the top deck and tan for a while-it’s an easy 30 degrees and it’s only 10:30am.  Then more of the same in the afternoon-relaxing on the top deck with beers and chatting.  We float between the public deck, Nic and Gary’s balcony and ours -depending on who has the colder beer and the sun.

This is our last night on board, so we dress up real pretty (I have to talk Nicole out of the panda hats) and head to dinner-this is the captains dinner as it’s the final dinner-so it’s a little later in the evening and a little bigger. We have become quite fond of our waitress-her English name is Ada but we call her Velma for obvious reasons (see pic above). She is Asian Skooby Doo goodness.  She is waiting for us at every meal with exactly what we ordered the first day-beer at lunch time and wine at dinner. Coffee poured the minute she sees us enter the dining room at breakfast.  She’s about the sweetest thing-and we ask for her picture-she takes off her glasses and fixes her hair-and we tell her NO!! Leave your glasses on!! You’re beautiful!!! She gets misty eyed-puts her glasses back on and poses for a picture. Her English is pretty good-but very limited-and about 10 minutes after we take the pic with her she brings over a male waiter who’s English is great-and he says that she would like our email address so she can get a copy of the picture from us!  We gladly give her our addresses and she is so adorably excited.  I will remember her.

After dinner we do our usual thing-comfy clothes-drinks on Nicole’s balcony, and giggles.   Tomorrow is an early morning as we leave the ship and take a bus to see the PANDAS!!!!

So excited and not sure if I’ll sleep tonight. 💋❤️