The first full day of our national holiday vacation began with the arrival of a car, driver and tour guide. We had arranged it at the airport the day before. We could set the agenda, and be taken around all day, for 200 RMB, or $30. Such is tourism with a devalued dollar. Or yuan. Or whichever way it goes — as visitors from the US to China, we benefit from it.
Anyway, with the help of our tour guide, Carrie, we planned our day. First stop — a mountain, of course! It was about half an hour out of the city so we thought we should take advantage of having a car, and do the far away things first.
Unlike Taishan, where we climbed on foot, we did this one by ski lift thing. Bad for the waistline, good for the “wow” factor. The ski lift was the usual dangle your feet in front of you, pull a bar down over your head, and hope for the best. This was not the moment to think about the recent scandals of inferior quality steel that had toppled buildings in certain nearby cities.
To keep us safe, there were rules.
And to make sure even ignorant foreigners who couldn’t speak the language understood them, they presented them in picture form.
The use of tuning forks is strictly prohibited.
No asking questions or making exclamations of any sort.
When exiting the lift make sure you go head first.
The day was
but the view of the surrounding landscape
was just amazing.
The way these mounds just
poked out of the ground,
and people just built their towns or farms
is just wild.
I haven’t seen a landscape like this anywhere else.
I wonder if it changes the way you look at the world, when the land around you is set of such sudden contrasts.
In any case,
when we reached the top,
we all hurried to the edge of the viewing platform.
We wanted to shoot the amazing scenery.
I mean, get your priorities straight.
For many of the Chinese tourists, it seems,
the scenery over the edge was far less interesting
than the scenery right in front of them.
I have to admit, I had heard many times that the Chinese loved to have their pictures taken with westerners. But I didn’t quite believe it until we got here. Dan and I are routinely invited to pose with total strangers. But nothing compares to the reaction Morgan and Rianna get.
fifteen or twenty minutes
to extricate them
from their fan club.
a few more photos
of the stunning views,
we started back down.
For the first part of the descent
we went by ski lift again.
But this time, half way down the mountain, we got off.
The coolest part was yet to come –
wait for it –
a mountain slide!
We each had our own little go-cart thing.
there were the usual clear and explicit instructions provided
about how to control them down the very steep mountain slide.
It was something about being sure to pull back on the handle if you were struck by lightning, I think.
In any case,
the ride offered a whole new view of the mountain landscape.
It was truly lovely.
I did wonder what the purpose of those handy sticks in the tree were for.
A quick escape if attacked by mountain lions?
The entry hall of Swiss Family Robinson?
Whatever it was, I wanted to climb it but there were signs posted that said (in English because only we would be so irresponsible) “no stopping.”
The slide was absolutely the highlight of what was already a way cool day.
We figured it would all be downhill (if you will) (or if you won’t) from here. But no. We hadn’t bargained for the Chinese love for glitz. So hang on to your hats.
They grew tea.
They made tea.
They studied tea.
For the sake of my G rating, I have spared you the photo of the little clay guy who, if you pour hot water over his head, um, voids.
And, of course, they catered to tourists.
Of course, we bought some.
Our next stop: the Reed Flute Cave.
I love the way every place is decorated. It has a way of heightening the importance or significance of whatever you are doing.
The Reed Flute Cave was one of the most striking.
It was a long, well paved, path
through some remarkable formations.
Nice and dark, elegant stalactites and stumpy stalagmites
(or is it stalagtites and stalacmites? Anyway, you know what I mean. The ones on top hold TIGHT to the roof, whether stalac or stalag),
soaring spires and occasional pools.
The formations were, of course, fabulous.
the Chinese added to the glory of the caves with colored lights.
I have spared you the photo of the sudden release of thousands of soap bubbles into the dimly lit cavern that certainly added to the fun.
Most, however, were a bit less garish
and made the whole thing even more cool.
Here is a walk through
an enchanted forest.
And I liked this one a lot too.
I thought the lights made it really lovely.
And check out the reflection
in the pool of water in front of it.
this one …
It’s like a big storm brewing over the land.
I really found many of these spaces very evocative.
And so do the Chinese, apparently, who name every single rock after something it sort of looks like if you turn your head sideways and look at it cross-eyed.
But my favorite
(and everyone else’s too, judging by how long it took me to get to take a picture which was not filled with tourists snapping photos)
was the hauanting city scape, reflected in the pool in front of it.
I tried not to think too much about the pool, how deep it might be, what might be lurking beneath it.
And, well, it turns out not just humans visit these caves.
Many hundreds of years earlier, it had been inhabited by turtles.
Or perhaps the turtles had lived nearby and entrepreneurial Chinese locals brought them into the caves.
In any case, for only a few yuan more, you could visit ye olde turtle.
On the other hand, who’d call that livin’ when no gal would give in to no turtle that’s 1600 years?
Even if they were off by 1,000 years, he was pretty darn old.
I’m not sure he was so thrilled about it all. I mean, would you want to spend your time draped with good luck tokens and prodded by visitors?
Of course, he didn’t survive all this time because he thrived on excitement. So maybe it was all ok by him.
So all this happened before lunch.
We then had lunch at an allegedly western restaurant allegedly offering pasta.
We then set off for another palace for the emperor or one of his siblings or concubines or something like that. Not for palace of whomever, which in any case was now the campus of Guilin University (!) but because you could climb one of the karst formations.
Not surprisingly, the girls took one look up the hill, and the steps to get to the top, and decided to stay down at the bottom where there were booths and things set up to buy food.
But Dan and I had to climb it.
But what I liked even more was another of the cultural differences I’ve noticed between China and the US.
Needless to say, that little extra gift of Chinglish made it that much more wonderful.
Then we went home and collapsed.