Thursday, June 14, 2007

Playing Tourist in Guilin

We had a ball today playing tourist in Guilin. It was a beautiful sunshiny day, and we took full advantage of it.

For our first stop, though, sunshine didn’t matter. It was Reed Flute Cave. The rock formations are truly amazing, their appearance enhanced by multi-colored lights. Each highlighted formation had a name of some kind – Fragrant Flowers and Singing Birds, Autumn Harvest of Bitter Melon, Mushroom Rocks, and the like. By far the most impressive was Crystal Palace. Not only were the rock formations amazing, but there was a pool of water in front of them that reflected them perfectly.
You’d never guess that the pool is only 2 centimeters deep! Crystal Palace was the largest part of the cave, and we were told that local farmers holed up there during the Japanese invasion in 1938 and survived to bravely fight the Japanese.

Can you guess the name of this rock? It’s one of the ones I mentioned above (yes, this is a test of your imagination!).

It’s Mushroom Rock. Maybe it’s a trick question – the Chinese use many more types of mushroom than we do. These don’t look much like those button mushrooms we’re used to, but they sure look like Chinese mushrooms.

After Reed Flute Cave we went to Daxu, an ancient town. Some of the buildings there are over 1,000 years old.

It was a fascinating place, though the highlight for us was not the history of the town, but current events. Painted on the wall of one home was a string of Chinese characters. I asked our guide what it meant, and she said it was a reminder to obey the one child policy or suffer a fine.

When we first got off the bus in Daxu, we saw a woman raking kernels of corn across the concrete. She was drying it to feed to pigs.
A little further along, there were piles of chicken feathers and goose feathers. Farmers dry them and then sell them to manufacturers of quilted clothing.
A few steps further, a group of women were sorting chili peppers. We could actually smell them before we could see them, and the watering of my eyes preceded the smell.

The houses in the oldest part of town were all two-story, but none of them have staircases. They use a ladder to get to the second floor.

But as ancient as the town is, they definitely had modern conveniences. You may have noticed the poles and wires in the picture of the town. I don’t know if they are phone or electricity wires. But the place definitely had electricity, as evidenced by all the electrical conveniences in this home:
We visited the shop of a Chinese traditional medicine doctor. The medicines included these bottles of liquor with snakes and baby mice in them. (Across the street was a liquor plant, and its smell was even more pungent than the chilis!)

When we entered the store, the doctor was rolling candles filled with herbs. He told us that it was a remedy for headaches. Well, given my addiction to Vitamin I – Ibuprofen – I figured I’d give it a try. The doctor burned the end of the candle and then covered the burnt end with a red cloth. He then told me to hold the candle to my forehead. It was slightly warm, and as soon as it cooled down, he’d take it back and burn it again, and tell me to reapply it. I confess I didn’t have a headache at the time, so I can’t tell you if it will cure headaches. And I guess it’s possible that the guy wasn’t a doctor but a practical joker instead – I think I look pretty silly! Wouldn't that be a funny trick to play on the ignorant foreigner?!

It was a beautiful town, and it was right on the river. I loved this view under Longevity Bridge (of course we walked across the bridge to ensure a long life):

Our last stop of the day was Yao Mountain, the tallest in Guilin. We were told that we’d take a cable car up the mountain, which suited me just fine having painfully climbed some of the finest mountains in Fujian Province (see here and here)! It turned out, though, that it was not some large staid cable car – it was actually a ski lift, a new experience for me. Zoe rode with one of our guides, and managed to mount the thing like a pro. One of the attendants picked Maya up and set her in the chair, while I just had to stand there and be dumbly scooped up by the chair. Here’s Zoe in the gondola ahead of us.
It was a fun ride, and the views were amazing. At one point we were joined by a flock? – herd? – gaggle? – of dragonflies flitting about us. We could hear birds singing and look down on the tops of pine trees with new green pine cones. It was quite an experience. Maya loved it and kept saying “piaoliang,” which means pretty in Chinese. When we got to the top she said she wanted to do it again. It was easy to say yes to that, since we’d have to get down the same way we got up! And when it comes to climbing mountains in China, I say this is definitely the way to go!

The view at the top of the mountain was beautiful, though pictures hardly do justice to it (that didn't stop me from taking dozens of pictures!). The mist-shrouded mountains seemed to go on forever.
The kids loved wandering around the top of the mountain because there were many fun props for photo ops – each requiring a fee, of course! But I dutifully paid one yuan to photograph the girls in a swing with the mountains behind them . . .
. . . and using a huge hammer to bang a gong.
Then we took the cable car back down the mountain and headed back to the hotel. We hit the pool shortly after arriving, and it felt really good after a hot day of oh-so-strenuous mountain-climbing!

Tomorrow we cruise the Li River to Yangshuo. The views along the river are supposed to be even more gorgeous than anything we saw today. The day’s sights set a very high standard, so I’m looking forward to what the river has to show us.


mimifrancoise said...

Oh, what a fun day you had. What did Zoe say about the ride up the mountain? I love the phot of both girls on the swing with the (fake?) flowers. You are so busy it seems you will have to rest from your vacation when you get back to Xiamen. Thanks for keeping us updated on your days.

Sophie's Mom said...

I'm learning so much more about China, through your blog! Thank you!