my travels around the world

Guilin

Sorry I have been a bit slow at getting posts up. I will try to get my self together. Falling behind in china made things challenging.

Guilin is known as one of China's most beautiful cities… Of course I can think of a few others that try to lay claim the same thing but Guilin is probably up there in the list. Guilin is set amongst a forest of Karst mountain peaks. When you think of the stereotypical peaks rising from the mist in Chinese ink painting, you are thinking of the world around Guilin. However, Guilin is still a city, although the Chinese would claim that at only 4.75 million it is more like a big town than a real city. While beautiful in surroundings, Guilin definiately still has a bit of the dirty, white-tiled feel of most rural Chinese cities. However the parks in Guilin are stunning.

The “symbolic” mountain of Guilin is Elephant Mountian. You can see the trunk of the elephant reaching down to get a drink. Guilin is settled on the banks of the Li river (Lijiang, not to be confused with the town in Yunnan with a similar name, Lijiang.)

The Li river is a popular place for tourist cruises to see the beautiful mountians from a different angle. But it is also a working river, and people are out fishing with poles, nets, and in the evening cormorants.

Some “Li river” shrimp fried on a stick that I sampled for lunch while sitting on a traditional bamboo raft on the river. Quite a lovely setting for a meal.

Guilin is also known for its drinking culture. Poets, pretty places, and drinking are three things that went together quite nicely in ancient times. Above is the ancient Chinese “equalivant” of a beer pong table. The drinking game that was played involved floating shots of rice wine (poor translation, stuff is closer in taste to rubbing alcohol than what most westerners would think of as wine…) through the channel and making up poems before the cup reached the end of the channel.

After Elephant Mountain I headed off to some peaks I saw in the distance. They turned out to be the Seven Star peaks… or something like that. In that park, there was also the seven star cave. Being in China, they managed to make something beautiful into something quite garish. The caves were lit with neon lights that “showed off” the cave to their best advantage, or something like that.

You could sit on the red mat at the bottom of the picture and have your photograph taken by a “professional” fotografer. As the tour group I attached myself to was leaving, the fotografer turned off the waterfall. Ah, capitalism at its finest.

Also, on a much more depressing note, there were two minority women who were shown off like a side show down in the cave. They sat in that tent and “performed” for the audience. It was depressing to see these women treated like freaks for their different culture. The tour guide gleefully explained the “oddities” of their cultures and subtly pointed out how backwards they were. She practically said that they were lucky that the Han Chinese were their to save them. Up rears the ugly head of cultural imperialism once again.

One on the famous sights in the Seven Star park was Camel Mountain. For once I can really see what the Chinese are claiming the mountain to look like. (I am specifically thinking about Buddha's “nose” at Huangshan.)

There are also pretty lakes in Guilin. Four to be specific, and two rivers… I only managed one of each. Oh well.

As a final picture, I went out to dinner on the street and this little boy was the son of the noodles rand owner where I ate. He was sooooo into his mango; it was awesome to watch. Sorry the picture is blurry, but it was dark and he was moving around, making it hard to shoot.

Face down in a mango, what a way to spend your last minutes before bed time!

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