13 October – Our first day in Guilin 

We both sleep well. Our open window letting in pleasant fresh air with very little outside noise during the night. We may have heard a street cleaning machine going by at one point. There were no barking dogs like in Kathmandu. But as dogs are eaten here (at lunch there on the menu is “fried dog meat”) so perhaps that is why they’re not heard roaming the streets in the night. I digress.
We set off for breakfast around 8am and discover pretty much everything closed up tight. After a bit of wandering, we see a flashing light outside what looks to be a restaurant down a side street. It turns out to be exactly that. A small street food sort of cubby hole. After saying “Nee how” (hello) we point at a picture on the wall of dumplings and hold up two fingers. The woman operating this stall sends us across the street to sit at some little indoor tables. After a while she comes across with two enormous bowls of dumplings floating in very hot broth. It turns out to be two types of dumplings stuffed with different mixed vegetables. Spicy, but not over the top and piping hot. It’s an odd but filling and very tasty breakfast. We pay a total of cdn$6.00 for both then continue on our way.

We quickly find the quiet lake side path after crossing a busy road on a crosswalk at which cars at least slowed down as we made our way across. (Not nearly as horrendous a pedestrian experience as we are told may await us in Shanghai or Beijing). Shan Lake is surrounded by a fairly narrow band of trees, shrubs and flower beds with statues, bridges and little quays. It is all neat, clean, tranquil and really lovely. Amazingly there are very few people. Most of those we do see were involved with their morning Ti Chi rituals. Soft Chinese music plays from hidden speakers. This is not at all the mayhem I expected.

We stroll along until we come to the Sun and Moon Pagodas which are built out into the lake on a tiny peninsula.

After buying entry tickets we cross a causeway and spend some time climbing the seven floors of the Moon Pagoda. It is beautifully proportioned, successive levels each a bit smaller than the one preceding. On every floor we can walk around the outside and admire the ever increasing view over the lake, the city and eventually to the tall Karsts beyond. The wood work of the doors and walls is intricately carved and painted. The Moon Pagoda suitably explored, we head down again and then descend further into it’s basement. Here there is an underwater tunnel connecting the Moon to the Sun Pagoda. Through the tunnel we go and up into the Sun Pagoda we climb. This Pagoda is entirety clad in copper and has an elevator. I walk up but ride down as the steps in this taller Pagoda are very narrow and much steeper than the previous one. Dad is sensible and takes the elevator both up and down!

This Pagoda is more grand than the other – well shinier anyway – but it lacks the lovely carvings. There is a sort of office at the top so the view point isn’t panoramic given only one window is accessible.

The pagodas left behind we return to our circumnavigation of the lake and eventually end up back at our hotel. Dad has a short rest then we head off again for lunch. We decide to cross a bridge and head along a busy main road into the shopping district. There are plenty of shops, and huge department stores. Lots of expensive merchandise on display but no restaurants. We end up circling around the lake again from the opposite direction and find ourselves back in the area where all the restaurants were closed previously. Turns out they aren’t restaurants but food shops and the like. We eventually settle on an Irish pub. I know! Gee. Trouble is, with few signs in English, it is a bit tricky figuring out where to go. The pub does offer local Chinese beer and food so all is well. This is where I see “fried dog meat”on the menu. I’m sure no pub in Ireland would have that as an offering. We settle for roasted eggplant and chicken with peanuts. Delicious. So is the Chinese beer. As we finish lunch we realize it is now 4pm. Dad has missed his afternoon siesta so we head back to our inn where he is now sawing a few logs before we head down to the bar for a snack instead of dinner.

A wonderful gentle introduction to China. I’m so very glad we began our journey here where we can ease into the experience without the frenzied pace of a set tour schedule. 

Good night from beautiful Guilin.

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