Captain’s log 10

Captain’s log: Stardate – 29.10.05
> Today we arose early and took our time checking out of the hostel.
> We headed back into the Muslim quarter and to a Ming dynasty museum
> which gave us a working snapshot of life 400 years ago. We partook
> in a Chinese tea ceremony where we watched the intricate
> performance of washing and preparing the tea, washing and heating
> the pot, then tasting three different teas and finding out what
> properties they possessed for the human body. We paid for the tea,
> but to our surprise we were given a tour of the complex which took
> an hour, and was free. We would have been more than happy to have
> paid for the tour as it gave us a feel for life 400 years ago.
> Yesterday an interesting thing happened. You might remember in a
> previous log I mentioned the angry Korean ‘Janitor’ on his way to
> Nepal; well guess who we ran into yesterday at the Muslim night
> market, that is right, secret agent janitor. “Oh, did I not mention
> that I was coming to Xi’an”? he said. No mate, you said Nepal. Now
> you may be thinking that there is nothing unusual about running
> into someone twice in different towns more than 6 hours apart by
> train, except that we were in a particularly secluded section of the
> market which is well off the beaten track and is very difficult to
> find, especially if it is your first day in Xi’an, as he explained.
> He also explained how he was stood up by other ‘English speaking’
> tourists and suggested that we went for a beer. I declined and we
> parted ways….for now.
> Captain’s log: Stardate – 31.10.05
> We arrived in Guilin without incident and headed for our hotel
> through what appeared to be a lively bustling high street, selling
> the types of goods that the ordinary person would want. We got to
> the hotel a day earlier than we had told them, so a simple
> negotiation got us a room, where we dropped our stuff and headed
> back out into the Guilin night. By this time it was 23.00, so most
> of the food areas had closed. Unlike Beijing and Xi’an where a
> hairdressers shop open this late offers some ‘trim’ with your trim,
> here the foot massage parlours offer to massage more than just your
> feet.
> The next day we rose, moved rooms, then got out into the Guilin
> daylight. We walked to the Elephant hill, famous for (guess what?)
> looking like an elephant, which it really does. We then headed down
> into the ‘Seven Stars’ park where we admired the rock formations in
> caves and looked at the Camel hill, which looks like what animal…?
> Guilin is said to be the jewel in China’s crown and it is certainly
> geared up for tourists. Almost every other shop is a travel centre,
> and people walk up to you in the street and attempt to engage you
> in conversation, with the aim of securing a tour from you or money.
> One guy came up to us and spoke for a while, but when it became
> evident that he was not going to get any business he said that the
> Chinese hated Londoners, and then said that Mairead was typical of
> English women and looked like death! He obviously did not pick up
> on her Irish accent.
> We spent a pleasant day in the park the then arranged our trip to
> Yangshuo before heading back. On route we stopped off at a place
> called ‘Aunts’ for dinner and when we emerged an hour later a
> market had sprung up outside the restaurant, blocking off one side
> of the dual carriage way. We wandered around the market for a
> while, then walked along the river with other Chinese families out
> for their Sunday stroll.
> Guilin is a beautiful city, especially at night, with opera and
> water displays that make you wonder what sort of gems they have in
> store for the Olympics in Beijing.
> Today, after a late breakfast, we headed to Fubo Hill. This
> provided a spectacular view of the whole of Guilin and the
> surrounding province. We the caught the bus out of town to the Reed
> Flute caves. Again the stalagmite and stalactite formations were
> breath-taking despite the hordes of tourists of many nationalities
> who arrived at the cave at its busiest time. We headed back and
> wandered the back street markets until I got talking to a teacher
> who also had an art gallery. Owning or having your art work
> displayed and on sale in a gallery is not unusual here, and you are
> often directed to them by talkative art students displaying their
> work. I followed this man to his gallery only to find the man who
> “hates londoners” and referred to Mairead as “looking like death”
> sitting outside the shop. I pointed to him and laughed, then we
> left the shop. Hopefully he thinks that he has missed out on a sale
> as a result of of his earlier rudeness. We have an early start
> tomorrow as we head to Yangshou at 08.00
> Captain’s log: Stardate – 01.11.05
> We were up, not so bright, but early this morning and were waiting
> by the hotel door for our 08.00 van to pick us up. As usual it was
> late, but by 09.30 we were on our way to the Yi river with our
> Chinese speaking guide and a van full of people who understood her
> clearly. It took an hour to get to the river through some of the
> most beautiful countryside. Not so much “rolling hills” as
> “protruding mountains”, in abundance, as far as the eye could see.
> Each mountain resembled a peak covered in trees, and it remains a
> mystery to me how these large trees stay on the sheer side of these
> mountains.
> We got to the river and boarded our flat bottomed, double decked
> boat, and after picking up some school children on a trip from
> their Beijing school, we were away. The views from the boat were
> truly spectacular as the skyline continually changed, with one
> mountain seemingly merging with another to create a never ending
> landscape that was vivid to the foreground, but the appeared to
> echo with the silhouettes of the distant mountains, some glazed in
> mist.
> The journey took 3 hours and as usual, many observations were made,
> some of which I will relay in my next log.
> We disembarked and quickly found a bus heading to the town of Yangshuo.
> As I looked around the bus I got a real sense of where I was. In
> the countryside, amongst real people, in a packed minivan, and a
> bus conductor trying to squeeze more on. A snapshot of real China,
> which is the opposite of Yangshuo.
> Yangshuo feels like a tourist resort, in fact it feels like a theme
> park. It is as if someone has built a Chinese town just for
> Westerners. Chinese people work in it, but it is screened off from
> the rest of China. In all my time in China I have never come across
> so many Westerners, and that is adding up everyone I have seen up
> until leaving Guilin.I expect to look behind a wall or shop and see
> that it is nothing more than a stage front being supported by
> bamboo scaffolding.
> It appears that all the English-speaking Chinese people in the
> whole country are here. When you refuse a seller here, they say
> “Not today, that is okay” in an almost subservient manner. Their
> western politeness resembles someone who does not care because they
> are getting paid by ‘the man’  to be nice to tourists and
> travellers, or maybe they are firm in the knowledge that you can
> run, but you can not hide here in Yangshuo.
> There is western food everywhere, from pizzas to steaks, and menus
> written in English. We went into an eatery and asked for Chinese
> food at the bewilderment of the waitress, who had to repeat our
> request “what – Chinese food?” Yes, Chinese food woman, why: have we
> left China?
> If Disney  did China, this would be it.


~ by jeditopcat on 8 November, 2008.

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