Guilin….rice terraces and relaxation.

Enough of Chengdu already. For the past few days we have been based in Guilin after another 1.5 hour flight approx from Chengdu. Once we’d got past the serious issue of Joyce’s passport/ticket mismatch again (this time Elena had to get the airline to change the booking before a boarding pass could be issued..) we were allowed onto the Air China plane. This has to be the most chaotic, noisy flight I have ever been on with people running up and down even as we were about to take off. Nevertheless it all went smoothly.
So, yes, Guilin, a small place at one end of the Li River..or so I thought. The drive in from the airport was very promising with lovely new, landscaped roads but as we approached the city centre those awful tower blocks appeared once more. To be fair this is a smaller city of just 800,000 inhabitants but how come then, that it still has a main street that, at night, resembles Oxford Street complete with double decker buses?
Our hotel here has been the Hotel Bravo which is a big hotel used by lots of tour groups and it’s about a 15 mins walk from ‘Oxford Street’. It immediately had a different feel to it, more of a holiday hotel than business, partly because it is SO hot and humid here! When we landed it was 84 degrees but then we really are quite far south now. The hotel even has an outdoor swimming pool although you have to wear a bathing hat if you want to go in it. Oh come on…really? I left mine with the lovely plastic flowers on it at home.
We had a day and a half off here to relax a bit after all the previous running about we’ve been doing. This was much needed and allowed us to recharge our batteries a bit. It helped that on the full day it actually rained and so we couldn’t really do much at all although Joyce and Enid still managed to go shopping and bought lots of handbags at bargain prices. We spent some time seeking out alternative eating experiences as there has been a bit more on offer here. We’ve had a pizza at ‘Amani’ which resembled a French pavement cafe and then an Indian which was really, really good. Both highly recommended on Trip Advisor.
We explored the pedestrian street and shops but really other than this there isn’t much to do in Guilin itself. As part of our planned relaxation we decided to all have massages in the hotel. Joyce and Enid went first and then Jane and me. We didn’t see the other girls in between so no chance for them to warn us. We had chosen to have head and neck massages which sounded just the thing but when we arrived we were invited to sit down in what looked like barbers chairs. This was the beauty salon of the hotel and not at all private. Then the two Chinese girls set to work.. with us (and them obviously) fully clothed and no sign of any aromatic oils. Very odd business Chinese massage. They proceeded to poke, push, pull, slap, thump, bash, pinch, scratch and claw us. It was quite hurty at times as they got to grips with our heads, arms, hands, backs and shoulders. After an hour of this we were somewhat dazed and said ‘thanks’ and were on our way.
The next day, after the Indian, I woke up feeling rather unwell with stomach pains and generally on another planet. It seemed to get worse during the day and I honestly think now that it wasn’t the Indian but this massage that had made me feel bad. Enid says its something to do with released toxins. I think it’s to do with going out and drinking beer and eating spicy curry after a Chinese massage.
Either way I felt rough and didn’t really want to play. How marvelous it was then, that the tour today involved travelling two hours (have you noticed its two hours to everywhere here?) in the van along the most awful bumpy, bendy roads to get to the rice terraces at Longji! Yes, it was truely torture as I rolled from side to side in agony. Still I was determined not to miss out, even though when we arrived we still had to climb up 800 steps to get to the best viewpoints.
We took it very slowly as we were all actually suffering from the heat and humidity. We walked up through some old traditional villages and met some of the people from the Yeow ethnic minority here. This groups speciality is that the girls only ever cut there hair twice in their life. Once at 18 and once at 50. They wear it tied up in different types of knot at the front depending on how many children they have. Their hair is always really beautiful and shiny and black and supposedly never goes grey. It did seem to be true on the women we saw. The elderly people were sitting selling stuff to all the visitors ( and there are lots of visitors) such as fruit and chillies or string sandals they’d made. It was a little bit sad seeing them have to do this but it certainly seemed to be providing much needed income for the village as there was a lot of building work going on even here.
Our new guide here in Guilin is Chanel. She has the best English yet and tells us good stories in a very visual way including how to tell someone ‘I love’ you in Chinese. Just say “Wall I knee’. She led us up the hill until we found the spot for the best views of rice terraces in the whole world. There was a sign saying this so it must be true. It really is incredibly high so the views are spectacular even if the day was a bit hazy and the rice crop had already been harvested.
After the climb we came back down to the village and stopped for lunch at a nice, busy restaurant sitting on their balcony over-looking the village and terraces. The girls ate rice cooked in bamboo and salty green beans whilst I sipped slowly on the magical Coke Zero known in Mexico for its healing powers. Then we had the long drive back past other ethnic villages such as the Dhong and Meow people.
I stayed in that night as the girls went out for a Chinese at McFounds. I had a good sleep and then, when I felt upto it Jane got me my tea. A Snickers bar, some plain Pringles and a nice cup of tea. I knew I would feel better the next day. Meanwhile I lay thinking about the Meow people and realised that that is something you don’t see in China. Cats. Now why is that….?













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4 thoughts on “Guilin….rice terraces and relaxation.

  1. Mike

    Now I’m getting jealous. Looks fantastic, but the rice paddies in Bali are more impressive. But then you’ve got the Hill Tribe people here, so maybe more interesting here. And how many children do the ladies with much hair choose to have? Good job the Han Chinese have limits on this though. Imagine if they didn’t.

    • Hi Mike…no Bali can’t be better. We had the big sign….I wonder if the ones in Bali are quite so high up..these really are high! We are v impressed by your knowledge. You are right..these minority groups can have as many children as they like. These days also even in the Han people, if either parent comes from a one child family , they can have two children. Jane would like to know which parts of China have you visited? Xx

      • Mike

        Yeah, it’s surprising this new law is kind of an admission that maybe not half, but let’s say alot of people clearly had more than one child regardless of the law. I understand that those that did this, paid for it in hefty fines.
        I’ve been to Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Cixi (relatively small city near Ningbo – opp. side to the huge bridge that goes across to Shanghai) and Hangzhou (the only really touristy place I went to and got a taste of how busy those places are, although I was there for a Chinese holiday too).
        Have you ever read Wild Swans? We’re actually thinking of going to an evening talk by the author Jung Chang shortly, as this is an exceptionally interesting book (perhaps don’t try to buy it in China though, as it’s still banned) and presumably she can give an interesting evening entertainment on concubines, bandaged feet, Mr. Chairman (she’s not a fan), etc.

  2. Rob P

    Some incredible pics there Joolsy…. love the poorly engineered steps / rice fields.

    But my favourite is “Chinese man plays microscopic guitar overlooking big mountain range” – it’s a spectacular picture, very evocative… I hope you develop that, frame it, and hang it somewhere in your house.

    I also like the European default diet we ALL revert to in times of poorly tummies, including tea and original flavour Pringles.

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