Travel Journal

Guilin and Yangshuo 3-6 July

(Sunday 10 July 2011) by Julia Bartholomew
From Shanghai I flew to Guilin, meant to be one of the most scenic places in China, and featuring on the opposite side from Mao on bank notes. The town’s surrounded by those lumpy Chinese mountains that jut out of the ground like in Chinese paintings. I think it must be approaching the tropics as even walking around at 11pm felt like being in the greenhouse at Kew, making me ’glow’ radiantly. I achieved my apogee of unwanted attention (for my pearly white skin and blonde hair) during my one evening in Guilin when in a restaurant a queue formed and I had to have duet portraits and chink glasses with almost everyone there. IThat place had another mostly Chinese menu with a few fanciful English translations. I ordered ’pork’, but found in the tasty bubbling pot in front of me half a chicken sawed up, recognisable by the foot with claws, half a head and a good deal of sinew.

Yangshuo: more lumpy Chinese mountains, even prettier than Guilin, with rivers running through, full of bamboo rafts and their willing captains offering rides (with a degree of persistence). I went white-water rafting up river here. I wasn’t sure if the fact that the first safety helmets I had seen anywhere in China was a good sign or anndication of extreme danger. The descent was totally exhilarating. We sped down with absolutely no control, no paddles and about every 100m or so a drop of about 8m. Very little 'elf and safety’ in evidence - no one even asked if people could swim and most of the Chinese were using their hard hats to scoop water and splash other boats. At the end my companions and I were presented wth a whole cd of photos of us, features frozen in various terrified-lookng poses. The town, as my guide book codedly says, now mostly caters to the tastes of Chinese tourists i.e. more neon, competing music blaring out of every bar, tat for sale including t-shirts of such slebs including a new addition: Osama Bin Laden. Not sure whether the latter is meant to be ironic. I haven’t encountered irony so far in China so I suspect not.


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