|C H I N A
|Lovely, delightful, beautiful Guilin! We had not quite two days here--wish we had at least one more. After Shanghai
and most of the cities, Guilin is refreshing in its lack of pollution, beauty, newness, openness. It is considered a small
city by the standards of China--only 6 million. But, the countryside is marvelous and just walking the waterfront and
the pedestrian area in the evening is fun and vibrant.
|Along the way, small boats
tie up to the cruise boats
to deliver fresh vegetables
and other provisions.
Lunch is served on board,
being cooked in small,
open kitchen areas at the
rear of the boats. For the
brave, there is snake wine
available at lunch.
Bizarrely, snakes float
around inside the bottle.
|Kathy, who spoke English exceptionally well, offered us new first hand insights
into China, ones we knew from our general knowledge but not ones we had come
in contact with so clearly. After asking about our religious beliefs, if we were
Christians and what that meant, she volunteered that she was a Communist and a
"little Buddhist." When I asked what being a communist meant, she was very
proud to explain the process and of being chosen for inclusion. As a very bright
college student, she was nominated by her professors for membership in the party.
Following that, she was interviewed several times to determine her thoughts and
motivations and then completed extensive training programs (which we would call
indoctrination), making sure that she did nothing "wrong" during this selection
process time. Eventually she passed all the qualifications and was allowed to
become a party member. She is very proud of this achievement. When I asked
what the benefits of membership are, she explained that in China "connections" are
very important if you want to move ahead and have the opportunity to make more
money and improve your lifestyle. She is a very ambitious young woman who has
specific goals in mind for her life. Her brother, who is not a Communist, is a
doctor, married to a doctor. Because they do not have "connections," they are
assigned to work in cities several hundred kms.away from each other, even though
they have a child. This was a very interesting conversation.
|Back to the river excursion--at the end of the cruise, passengers disembark and then normally take a bus back to
the location where the vans and buses wait for the return to Guilin; however, Kathy suggested that we rent a
motorcycle and driver for an excursion out in the countryside. This was too intriguing to turn down. Again, by
departing from the normal tourist schedule, we had a memorable experience. The motorcycle had an old sidecar on
it--similar to WWII vehicles. Ken and I squeezed into the small seat and off we went. Soon we turned off onto
rocky, bumpy trails, along orchards, fields and simple farmhouses. It was the real China of the people--farming in
ways they have for centuries, back-breaking work surrounded by absolute beauty. One could easily see nothing
more than the picturesque, but knowing that this type of labor is long in the past in modern countries, it became
another witness to the ineffectiveness and stifled advancement under the reforms since the overthrow of the
dynasties by Sun Yetsen in 1912. The driver of our motorcycle stopped at the farmhouse of one of his relatives and
we were able to go inside. It was two stories, very primitive, without furniture, open windows.
|After visiting the spectacular Reed Flute Cave and Futbol Hill with its long views, walking the waterfront, admiring
its wide promenade, leafy trees, residents resting on well-placed benches and people of all ages out for a pleasure
stroll --almost a European setting--, Dawn and I couldn't resist another foot experience; so, while Ken rested for
dinner, we indulged ourselves.
|The pedestrian area up from the waterfront is alive at
night--restaurants, stores, sidewalk food stands, even a hawker with
a microphone selling those little vegetable cutting gadgets. Young
couples stroll with baby carriages, teen-agers prowl, shoppers study
store windows or actually go in and buy.We were headed for a
little, locals-only noodle restaurant that Kathy recommended. We
found it across the street from Kentucky Fried Chicken. So we ate
in a hole-in-the-wall place that has been there since the 1940's,
debating the merits of horsemeat, trying to figure out what the
options were--even though they had a couple English menus, we
still weren't sure what the differences were in the dishes--while the
glare of neon across the way spelled out KFC. We were so pleased
with our meal that we returned the next night. Each night the meals
came to the grand total of $2.50, including drinks, for all three of
us. After dinner each evening, we enjoyed real Italian gelato! Better
than any I have found in the US.
|We were sorry to have to leave for Hong Kong as there were more
places to find and discover in this "new" city. We will always enjoy
the loveliness of the Li River as it remains with us for quiet moments