I’m pretty sure you will be reading this blog upon my return as research indicates Word Press is blocked by the great China Fire Wall. Likely more effective than the Great Wall of China at keeping out foreign ideas and influences.
Our 11 October 2am Cathay Pacific flight left YVR a little late but nothing like the 14 hour delay that happened the last time I took that flight. We arrived, travel weary, in Hong Kong 13 hours plus a day later. That international date line really does throw me off. Suddenly it is 7am (Hong Kong time) on Thursday 12 October. We spend the hefty price for a four hour sleep in a quiet room and feel considerably refreshed for it. A 40 minute walk and bus ride gets us to our gate in perfect time for our onward flight to Guilin.
The plane is very new and of course smaller. An hour after take off we land. An announcement is made that all foreign newspapers will be collected as they are not allowed into China. And so it begins – our first sense of disconnecting from the outside world. We are quickly going through Chinese immigration. There are numerous armed guards. I don’t know if they are police or military. There are a couple of uniform types so perhaps both. No different than Vancouver really. I wonder if the armed presence at immigration is now the same the world over.
Dad checked his suitcase so we wait a while for it to appear. Always a relief when checked baggage eventually swings out on to the conveyer. Then through customs. No one checks us and very quickly we are out in a large modern concourse being met by Joyce of Top China Travel. She is the person I’ve been in email contact with for several months now. She’s young, her English very good, and in very short order were being bundled into a newish car, meeting our driver, and setting off down a wide smooth tolled highway into a beautiful karst strewn rural landscape.
What are karsts, you may ask? They are steep sided limestone peaks that jut up out of the surrounding flatter terrain. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of them. They are iconic to this stretch of the Li River here in China and places like Halong Bay in North Vietnam to name a couple of famous karst landscapes. I can’t remember how they are formed, and because wifi seems to not work for much of anything here, am unable to refresh my mind with an Internet search. I believe this may once have been sea or lake bed and the karsts are the result of millions of years of water erosion – but please don’t hold me to that!
Guilin is a large, clean, attractive city. Traffic increases as we approach the center but there’s no horn honking or chaos that we’d been led to expect. Our Lake Side Inn is right by a small lake along a pedestrian only street so we leave our car and walk the last few meters. It’s a funny little place tucked into the corner of a much larger building. The reception and bar/restaurant are one. The owner greets us with smiles and quite good English. We exchange gifts with Joyce, say good buy to her and are led to our pleasant room. It looks over the lake and we can see one of the nearby pagodas peeking through the trees. We have a light tasty dinner at the bar and wash it down with a couple of delicious cold Chinese beers. Then to bed. It’s barely 7pm but we’re both pretty exhausted.