I’ve covered a lot of ground since the last update and unfortunately I can’t figure out how to make the map work. Number 3 on the map is Xian and that’s where I went for 4 nights after Shanghai. From Shanghai to Xian (terracotta army) I took a night train that was a day and a night train. 27 hours later in Xian not able to tell if my scratchy throat wa from the smog or the beginings of a coldI gave up the ideal of traveling on the surface of the earth. The train ride in the soft sleeper4 bunks, and 3 of them filled with menpolite men was hardest because of the cigarette smoke. Although no one smoked in the cabin, the corridors were filled so it didn’t really matter. The other tough thing about trains is getting on one. There are no escalators so you’ve got to haul your luggage up and down stairs getting to the proper trackin the midst of 100s of Chinese who are massing along. Outside of Xian is what is considered a little townSouhou. It is full of gardensnot of the grass and flowers variety but of weird stone and water and trees variety. One thing I learned about the small towns in Chinathey aren’t. The center may be small but they’re all surrounded by sprawl. The gardens were lovely though. and I ate a plate of dumplings at a place recommended by LP. Sure enough the logo was placed several times in a red stripe in the window. The dumpling place next door decided that they’d get in on the act and painted a red stripe and a very poor imitation of the LP logo across their window too. Souhou has a university as does Xian, it was fun to watch the boys getting their hair permed with these funny machines and foil.
Xian has the Big Goose Pagoda. In front of the entrance to the pagoda is a water show to musicyou know the type spouts turning off and on in time. I only saw it during the day put it was great fun to watch all the Chinese taking photos of themselves in front and the kids trying to get wet. At night you can add colored lights.
It’s wedding season too and lots of the hotels and restaurants have the party for the bride and groom. Thanks to Josie (she set up my China tour) for explaining the different parts of the event while we ate the best ever dumplings.
On to Guilin another night train although only 19hrs this time. And I officially have a cold. A bad cold with all the hacking. I felt sorry for my compartment mates.
Now the timeline speeds up and I wish I had scheduled more time in some places.
Guilin is a lovely town on a river. They’ve made a river walk with pagodas, Japanese style bridges lovely landscaping. I walked around it at night and the lighting was fantastic. Before that though I went to the night market. What thoroughly amazed me was the stream of motobikes with carriers attached. Red signs making up the sides. This stream then in a matter of 1/2 hour turned into a river of booths all neatly displaying their wares within identical red setups. Lots of handicrafts and art. Next morning we (I now have my own private guide and driver) got on a boat for the trip to Yangshou on the Li River. The trip takes several hours and includes lunch. I insinuated myself at the guides table because I didn’t want to eat alone. Apparently that’s the way it worksyour sat at the restaurant and then the guide eats somewhere else. I managed to side step the rule several times on the tour. The river is full of karsts. These are giant land formations that were created some 300million years ago and probably eversince the area was inhabitied inspired artists to paint them and others to name the rocks according to what the look likecan’t say I always agreed with the naming. But these are the odd arching rocks you’ve seen in countless watercolors and sumi paintings. Yangshou itself is definitely on the backpacker trail. Lots of young Westerners, lots of internet cafes and despite all that it’s really cute and it’s actually small. Stayed one night there and in the morning we took a bike ride to see the moon rockyup a rock with a hole in it. That night on the guide’s recommendation I went to see another water showactully she took me there, got me in my seat and waited outside catching up with all the other guides who brought tourist there. It was a great show, actually on the river and with dramatic lighting on the karsts and 100s of locals involvedsort of buzby berkley meets cirque du soliel. One scene involved at least 70 boat men in small skiffs carrying long red fabric and then moving it in and out of the water like red waves. Another had 100s of people in lighted suits that went on and of at certain times creating beautiful patterns. Got to say the whole thing was fantastic in that other worldly sense. The plot line was typical girl meets boy sort of thing.
Next day back by car to Guilin and a trip to a special parkthat at this time was filled with giant cardboard Disney characters for a childrens event.
This time I had help from my guide getting on the night train. By the way, she took me to the pharmacy and got me some herbal cough drops and some herbal decongestantlittle black pillswho knows. This was to be the unifying impulse in the next 6 daysguides and drivers trying to help me wth my cough.
Next stop-17 hours laterKunming. Kunming had 3 highlights: 1) the Bamboo Temple which has 500 arhat statuesyou’ll have to look it up because I’ve forgotten the symbolism. But they’re surreal, sort of buddhas doing things grouped like a freize around three rooms. We could only go into 2 of them and you could see the difference between the masters work and his followers. No photography. Really wild. 2) the Stone Forest. This is a similar land formation as the Li River. Here though they’re more huge rocks that come jutting out of the ground that you can climbon the designated paths and stairs. Of course, I’m coughing terribly and have little breath so I’m slow and of concern to my guide. Yet we push on through the whole thingagain with the naming of the rocks. The cool accident of the trip was that there is a diesel fuel shortage so trucks and buses and farm equipment cue up for days. And in typical Chinese cue fashion, if the police don’t get there early enough the road is blocked with vehicles just pulling up toward the front of the line. Because the driver knew a shortcut through a villiage, I got to see some of rural villiage life. We took the express way back. and 3) Fruit cocktail pizza. Yup I treated my driver and guide to pizza. We each ordered something different, I took vegie, driver took meat and the guide fruit pizza. Now we’ve got all sorts of exotic and fancy pizza places in SF, but this was a first. Open can of fruit cocktail, drain, put on pizza, add mozzeralla and bake til melted. The driver went back the next night with his son who likes pizza and ordered it again. Who knew? Wait make that 4A Walmart where I was able to find some Bayer cough and cold day and night capsules. Now at least I could get some sleep. I didn’t really look at the store only to see that it was every bit as huge as the ones at home.
Next stop -10hr night train-Dali Got off the train really early morning (every other train they take your ticket and give you a plastic card, just before your stop the collect itthat’s really the only way I knew to get offbecause I couldn’t understand the loudspeaker. Luckily I awoke in time to get my stuff ready and off the train. Who knows where I would have ended up) Standing outside the train station were dozens of young women in the traditional dress of the Bai people.
One of which was my guide. She qickly took me to my hotel and then off to a small town of Bai people and where it was market day.
Posted from Viet Nam:
does not exist
posted Saturday December 2007