Guilin the Fairland – Part 1

I am sitting here sipping green tea with Dave.  It’s a little past midnight, and there are fireworks going off in the distance.  Such a wonderfully “Chinese” moment for me to write about our trip to Guangxi 🙂

Our Tea Set.  Chinese tea is all about ritual.  You begin by rinsing the leaves, to kill any bacteria that might be in them.  You also sanitize the cups this way.  Then you fill the big cup with water, and let the tea sit for a few moments.  With your index finger on the lid, and your middle finger and thumb along the rim, you use the lid as a strainer and pour tea into the small cups.   It's easy to appreciate the different flavors and tastes of the tea in these small amounts. It isn't just about a caffeine fix...it's about the time spent making tea, and drinking it with the ones you love :)
Our Tea Set. Chinese tea is all about ritual. You begin by rinsing the leaves, to kill any bacteria that might be in them. You also sanitize the cups this way. Then you fill the big cup with water, and let the tea sit for a few moments. With your index finger on the lid, and your middle finger and thumb along the rim, you use the lid as a strainer and pour tea into the small cups. It’s easy to appreciate the different flavors and tastes of the tea in these small amounts. It isn’t just about a caffeine fix…it’s about the time spent making tea, and drinking it with the ones you love 🙂

Guangxi is not technically a province, but a “Chinese Autonomous Region”, similar to Inner Mongolia and Tibet.  Although Guilin was once Guangxi’s capital, it is now only its 3rd largest city.  Still, it is a huge source of income for the autonomous region, as it is a very popular tourist spot.  It’s easy to see why…

Guangxi borders the province where we live (Guizhou) to the East
Guangxi borders the province where we live (Guizhou) to the South-East

We arrived in Guilin at around 8am on Sunday September 28th.  We took a bus to the wrong end of the city, and then took a cab to the hostel (oh the joys of the language barrier!).  At first glance, our hostel was a tad intimidating.  We had to walk down a back alley to get there, and our cab driver just left us on the side of the road.  But once we were inside, we were very pleasantly surprised at the cleanliness to price ratio!  We paid roughly $11 Canadian per night, and had a room to ourselves, with a comfortable queen size bed, a shower with hot water, and a flat screen TV.  It was small but very comfortable, and the staff were very helpful with directions and suggestions for things that we should do while in the city.

We had to walk down this alley to get to the hostel.  It was a tad disheartening at first, and made us wonder about the hostel we'd booked...
We had to walk down this alley to get to the hostel. It was a tad disheartening at first, and made us wonder about the hostel we’d booked…
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Our Tea Set. Chinese tea is all about ritual. You begin by rinsing the leaves, to kill any bacteria that might be in them. You also sanitize the cups this way. Then you fill the big cup with water, and let the tea sit for a few moments. With your index finger on the lid, and your middle finger and thumb along the rim, you use the lid as a strainer and pour tea into the small cups. It’s easy to appreciate the different flavors and tastes of the tea in these small amounts. It isn’t just about a caffeine fix…it’s about the time spent making tea, and drinking it with the ones you love 🙂
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When we arrived in our room, our minds had been made up: this is the greatest hostel in the world! For $11 a night, we slept in a bed much more comfortable than the one in our current apartment. And we had air conditioning(!!!), which was nice, because Guilin is actually quite a bit hotter than Guiyang!

After some lunch, we hopped on a bus, got a little lost, and then hopped onto another bus, to get to Reed Flute Cave.  I’m no expert on caves (I’ve only ever seen one and it was this past summer), but Reed Flute Cave has to be one of the most beautiful caves in the world!  The stalactites and stalagmites were enormous and took so many beautiful shapes.  The Chinese are also very big on lighting up their caves, adding colour to the formations, so you can better see why certain areas are named as they are.

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Our Tea Set. Chinese tea is all about ritual. You begin by rinsing the leaves, to kill any bacteria that might be in them. You also sanitize the cups this way. Then you fill the big cup with water, and let the tea sit for a few moments. With your index finger on the lid, and your middle finger and thumb along the rim, you use the lid as a strainer and pour tea into the small cups. It’s easy to appreciate the different flavors and tastes of the tea in these small amounts. It isn’t just about a caffeine fix…it’s about the time spent making tea, and drinking it with the ones you love 🙂
Beautiful formations, lit up with red lights.  These took thousands of years to form.  Nature is so cool :)
Beautiful formations, lit up with red lights. These took thousands of years to form. Nature is so cool 🙂

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After wandering in this enormous cavern for quite some time, we found our way to the gift shop, where we unexpectedly purchased a painting by an artist whose work is done solely with his hands and fingers.  We typically try not to buy much at gift shops, because items tend to be greatly overpriced, but the painting was gorgeous and well worth what he was asking.

A description of the art we purchased
A description of the art we purchased
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Our Tea Set. Chinese tea is all about ritual. You begin by rinsing the leaves, to kill any bacteria that might be in them. You also sanitize the cups this way. Then you fill the big cup with water, and let the tea sit for a few moments. With your index finger on the lid, and your middle finger and thumb along the rim, you use the lid as a strainer and pour tea into the small cups. It’s easy to appreciate the different flavors and tastes of the tea in these small amounts. It isn’t just about a caffeine fix…it’s about the time spent making tea, and drinking it with the ones you love 🙂
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Our Tea Set. Chinese tea is all about ritual. You begin by rinsing the leaves, to kill any bacteria that might be in them. You also sanitize the cups this way. Then you fill the big cup with water, and let the tea sit for a few moments. With your index finger on the lid, and your middle finger and thumb along the rim, you use the lid as a strainer and pour tea into the small cups. It’s easy to appreciate the different flavors and tastes of the tea in these small amounts. It isn’t just about a caffeine fix…it’s about the time spent making tea, and drinking it with the ones you love 🙂

The following two days of our trip were spent with a tour guide.  Emily Cai met us at the hostel at 8:10 am Monday morning, and helped us order some Baozi (Chinese steam dumplings), before heading to the port where our Li River Cruise was set to depart.

Steam Dumpling
These delicious steam dumplings can be filled with pork and mushroom (my favorite), a variety of vegetables, and even sesame paste. They are a cheap and delicious breakfast 🙂

We were put on the “Lao Wei” boat, which felt incredibly strange to both Dave and I.  The occupants were mostly retired Europeans, who were all either shocked or horrified when we told them that we actually live in China.  Some of them were so scared to try Chinese food (that had actually been heavily westernized for the sake of the western pallets on the boat), that they brought Wonderbread sandwiches along in little brown boxes.  Among the snobby tourists, we did find a few like minded people.  We actually sat at a table with some German retirees, who were taking a tour all throughout China.  They spoke some English, and Dave had a chance to practice a little German, but they were very lighthearted, friendly people, who enjoyed the food and wanted to learn some Chinese to make their stay easier.  We both enjoyed teaching them how to say “Binde” (cold) so they could stop miming the world ‘cold’ when they ask for beer at restaurants (Beer….brrrrrrrrrr….).

Cold

The sights were incredible on this tour!  The mountains are rugged and take so many interesting shapes.  The four and a half hour cruise made it easy to see why Guangxi is such a popular tourist destination.  The beauty there is even on the Chinese 20rmb bill, and we passed the mountains that are on the currency 🙂

I don't really feel that captions are necessary for the following pictures :)
I don’t really feel that captions are necessary for the following pictures 🙂

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There are 7 horses hidden in this mountain.  Can you spot them?  Dave and I found 4 :)
There are 7 horses hidden in this mountain. Can you spot them? Dave and I found 4 🙂

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Although I would love to finish writing about my Guangxi adventures tonight, it’s now 1:30am, and I need to get some sleep!  Stay tuned for Part 2!!!

4 thoughts on “Guilin the Fairland – Part 1”

  1. Wow am I ever jealous. It looks like the two of you are having an amazing trip. I love to hear about the little hiccups. I do have to say you two are brave. I don’t know if I would of walked down that ally at night!

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    1. Haha! The funny thing about alleys in China is that China is unbelievably safe. Communism helps with that. Crimes are very seriously punished here (over 50 crimes are punishable by death), so there are less of them as a result. It’s an extremely neat place to live, and I’m glad you’re enjoying reading about it! Cuz, boy do I love writing about it! Really helps me process all that we’re doing here…it doesn’t just become the ‘daily routine’. I’m always looking for things to write about lol!!

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