Tuesday, November 27, 2007

China - Day 9 - Guilin

Leaving Shanghai was an anti climax. Sensory overload was in full force and I was practically resilient from any more dramatic scenery. It's only now, in retrospect, that I fully grasp and appreciate the few destinations we had between Shanghai and Hong Kong; our first being Guilin.

We flew from Shanghai at night, so peering out of our small airplane window to see the incredible landscape below was no option. I passed my time then like I did on most plane rides by reading my newly discovered gem, Travels With Charlie by John Steinbeck. An oddly synonymous story of my own travels, despite the differences in plot and location. When we arrived in Guilin we were greeted with the thickest pollution yet. Which came as a surprise, as we were told the air there was especially clean. We could barely breathe getting off the plane, and mixed with the late hour and lack of sleep, our group was all but pleasant on the long ride to our hotel. Apparently there was a small fire nearby the airport and we were inhaling smoke, but for the sake of continuity I am going to chalk it up to Global Warming and coal burning industries ;)

An odd site at the airport was a bunch of fake palm trees colored in tacky primary red, green, and yellows. Odd more because there was no lack of natural, very beautiful palms in that part of the country. I would soon find out that Guilin had a knack for artificially coloring things to the point of nausea and absurdity (I think the government there may be enjoying a little too much opium, perhaps) they looked ridiculous.

Anyhow, the smaller town of Guilin meant a slightly smaller hotel, but an excellent one none the less.

Day 8 really started that next morning when we awoke to find we had another event filled day of sightseeing. We first headed out to what was dubbed a cave, rather the "reed flute cave" which really should have been called "a whored out tourism vomitorium of cave like structures and color, where people played reed flutes a long time ago"...I really enjoyed my time there if you can't already tell. At the cave we were filed through what equated to something like the Carlsbad Caverns or any generic cave with stalagmites and stalactites. One thing different, this cave had a light show of horrid excess. Picture a mini golf course or you local put put panorama with those terrible red flood lights lighting up the windmill for no apparent artistic reason, but in a cave. Caves are beautiful things, even with the slightest bit of natural or soft white naturalish light...why ruin them in color? Bahh, listen to me, I still can't even enjoy that place...I guess it had it's charms, Jessica and I got a rather cool photo after all:

We left the cave and made our way back to where I really found a place worth seeing. The entire region around Guilin (South West China) is dominated by rivers. The entire economy revolves around them and I found this to be one of the most serene places I had ever been.

Everywhere you could see, bamboo boats, fisherman, villages, everything was tied to the water. Perhaps I was finding solace in something close to an ocean and boats the slightly resembled surfboards, or maybe I missed my own surfboard a little too much, but either way I loved this place.
Life seems to slow down anywhere near water. It's as though your worries are washed away. Or perhaps you just have an excuse to sit, listen and think about things for a while. This city, as a whole, seemed to share the sentiment. "Screw motors, we can pull ourselves across the freaking river...whats the hurry" says the men pictured above and below.

I really found a lot of life lessons to be true in China, the most important of which being the lack of importance material possessions possess. These people could go an entire life time using less materials than I use in a week. Give a man a piece of string in China and you'll get a factory back. They really know how to make the most of the smallest amount.

Now I am also highly suspect of this "native lifestyle" so close to the tourism heart of Guilin. Take for instance this gentle man pictured below:

He was standing on rocks that helped frame a pedestrian bridge from the tourist bus stop to the tourist gift shop along the river walk. Apparently he was using that net to catch fish, but I swear, he threw that thing in there about 30 times and had nothing to show for it when he was done. Trust me, I must have shot about 30 photos of him tossing the thing in there, each time cursing his lack of skill. It now occurs to me that no fisherman in China is lacking in skill. I mean, shit, they've perfected the technique to levels that rival Great White Shark skill. Have you ever been lake fishing near a Chinese man or woman? I swear they can catch fish after fish using the same bait, the same reel, the same rod, less the 5 feet from you while you remain biteless. This guy not being able to catch a fish with a net strikes me as something a little...fishy. More than likely he served as a little tourism point of interest, along with his girlfriend below:

What you don't see in this photo is her sign that reads "10 dollars to take picture with my birds". Which Jim, in fact, did. Those birds, I learned, are cormorants. They are used as fishing poles...in a sense. The fisherman puts a ring around their neck that disallows swallowing of any fish caught, and then allows the bird to dive into the water to scoop up any unlucky swimmers and report back to said fisherman. These birds pictured didn't even have the rings on their necks...piff...the imposters! But still, they served as nice focal points for many of my photos, and were still pretty damn cool, authenticity aside.

Serving as a backdrop to all of this tomfoolery was one of the more dramatic cliffsides I have ever witnessed. Elephant Trunk Hill..

However, this site was nothing compared to what we were in store for on Day 10. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Not too far away from the hill were the elephants...of sorts.

Although cement, they did look pretty damn life like. Notice the boat captains? just hanging out, watching the day go by from atop their bamboo yachts...not too shabby I say.

These poor people ferry ignorant, photo happy, tourists like myself up and down this river probably 363 days a year. A lot of people say that going to war with China would be a cataclysmic event as they would overrule us in no time, but I disagree. If the patience level of these boat ferries drivers is anywhere near the average level, these people would never get mad at anyone, for anything, ever. I don't care what you say =)

We got back to our hotel after dinner just in time for a "traditional dance" of some sort. It turned out to be some crazy acrobatic/middle school performance with cheesey costumes and weird music:

and just when I thought it couldn't get any worse... I was taken captive by the evil temptresses:

I'm still not sure what I was selected for, or what I witnessed up there (Im in the back right with the please kill me now body posture) . A lot of colors were whizzing by me, and girls were signing and dancing around me in some twisted ritualistic virgin sacrifice. I think there must have been some opium in my tea.

Thankfully, the drugs wore off, and the dance ended and I was allowed to return to reality. A reality in which Jessica and I decided to get a 2 hour full body and foot massage. For about 30 us dollars were were granted two round trip tickets to heaven. Well, perhaps hell first, those little 16 year old Chinese kids have death grip strength, but heaven after....not that kind of after...Happy endings were NOT included nor purchased nor anything...ohh forget it...pervert.

We drank more tea, and passed out with perma-grins plastered on our faces the rest of the night.

Days 1-2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Day 10 Days 11-12 Day 13



Jim said...

You are really starting to crack me up!

Julia said...

You and your kissing silhouette photos. How many are you up to now? I admit they do look cool, but if you take too many of them, I might start thinking you might be gay. Good think you're like big flat screen TVs and baseball or I really might start to wonder.