Saturday, February 14, 2009

Trip to Guilin

When Brian and I cam to China last spring we went on a trip to Guilin, home of the cool limestone Karst mountains you see in all the Chinese watercolors. Chinese tours are grueling jam packed affairs with the guide talking too loud through a loudspeaker, but still fun. We first saw a lovely river park, probably a thousand years old with a limestone cave that had Buddha statues carved into the walls. Also a rice winery where the wine is fermented in caves and a tasting room. I had some of this stuff at a wedding, but it was cheap rotgut. The good stuff is quite tasty so I will probably get some to bring home. Just when we hoped we would be going back to the hotel about 5 o'clock we were taken to a gem museum with a huge shopping area. New China capitalism at work. We window shopped. Can we go hotel now? Maybe restaurant. No, time to go to a tea tasting. Some local food items, too. When the tidbits were passed around to sample, they ended up stopped with Tody where he laid into them like it was dinner. We were led through a maze of stuff for sale on the way to the bus. Hotel at 7:30. We are starving! Yummy spicy duck, eggpant, fish, beer. Yali and Tody are not used to spicy food so they suffer through.

7:30 the next day off to the river cruise. It is raining on and off and the mist hangs on the mountains. Just like the paintings! There are about a hundred boats at the dock each holding about 200 people. We pile in, sitting in the big cabin at tables with comfy chairs. We have made pals with some young people and are sitting with them. There is an incredibly loud guy telling us all about the mountains we will see and he will sell you photos of yourself on the boat, shut up, Asshole! We pull out into the river in a long convoy and we go uptop to escape the loud guy and enjoy the scenery. It truly becomes breathtaking and you can enjoy the beauty and create your own solitude imagining this place 200 years ago. There are showers off and on throughout the cruise, driving most below so you can enjoy it even more. The food served is good, especially the little fried crabs that you eat whole. Yali is the first to succomb to bad tummy this day. We land at a nice small town (only about 100,000 people), and walk up through a fun market place. Then into the bus and off to the limestone caverns. Another breathtaking tour. Big caverns with huge limestone waterfall formations and stalagtites.

We're not done yet! There is a quiet ride in local river rafts, a tour of a cheesy native village, and a stop at a national park to see a giant 1500 year old banyan tree. All throughout there are wonderful karst mountains and scenic farmland. All of the farms look like prize winning Rodale gardens, only they go on forever. Everything is done by hand, the biggest machinery I saw was a big rototiller. Buffalo are used a lot for pulling plows and carts.

Back to town by 7:30. Got a better hotel and no more tours! Tomorrow is Kunming, Yunnan province. We take the sleeper train. Tried an internet cafe, but it was like dial up on quaaludes and after waiting ten minutes for it to open the new mail page on my hotmail I said screw it.