Monthly Archives: November 2014

a lazy morning in guilin & return to nanning

Sunday, November 23:  This morning, I have a leisurely morning at the Guilin Sapphire Hotel.  I walk down the street to a coffee shop where I order some Chinese-style pastry, which I always think is going to taste like Western pastry but doesn’t.  I don’t know what it is the Chinese put in pastries but they always have a distinctly Chinese taste.  While sitting at the outdoor cafe, I can see a bit of the street framed between two cars.  Within this frame, I get momentary glimpses of the different transport contraptions that people here have devised.

After I finish my pastry, I go for a walk up and down the streets around the hotel, where I stop in various shops to look at shoes and clothes.  I’ve found it is very frustrating to shop for either shoes or clothes in China because everything is too small.  I consider myself a medium-sized person by Western standards, but here in China, I feel like Amazon woman.  Often shoe shops don’t carry what equates to my medium 7 1/2 shoe size or my medium top size.  And the pants, well forget it.  Even the Chinese XXL don’t even begin to fit me!

I wander around just for a bit snapping a few other sights I see along the way.

Colorful building wall

Colorful building wall

I booked my train trip home today for 2:30 because I originally planned to see some more sights in the city, but after the disappointment of Elephant Hill Park yesterday, as well as my stomach discomforts, I don’t feel like venturing far from the hotel.  I wish I had stayed in Ping’An for another night; I could have had another day wandering around the rice terraces.

crazy-looking character

crazy-looking character

Last night, on the way to the massage place, this street was filled with colorful vendors and a festive atmosphere.  While I was having my massage, it started raining, and when I went back out the rain had chased away many of the people and vendors.  Today it is pretty gray and dreary.

pedestrian street

pedestrian street

I go by the massage place promptly at 11:00, but when I arrive a young man is lazily sitting in a chair playing with his mobile phone.  I saw him here last night and think maybe he’s a relative of the owners; I never saw him do any work last night.  I try to ask about the owner, the man who gave me the massage or the woman who gave me the pedicure, but of course he can’t speak English and just tries to get me to sit down and wait with my feet in a tub of hot water.  I don’t want to wait unless the man or woman are there, so I leave and go back to wander the streets.

the massage place where I went last night and I go for a foot massage this morning

the massage place where I went last night and I go for a foot massage this morning

I see fruit for sale and colorful buses and shops.

fruit for sale

fruit for sale

on a main thoroughfare, some buses in a queue

on a main thoroughfare, some buses in a queue

At around 12:30, I stop back by the massage place, and finally the man and woman are there.  The woman gives me an hour-long foot massage for 60 yuan (just under $10), and then I run back to the hotel, grab my bag, and catch a taxi sitting just outside for 15 yuan (the normal price for once!) to the train station.

As always, I enjoy the countryside scenery out of the train window, the green farmland with the fantastical karsts jutting up between the fields. It looks so surreal and beautiful and never fails to amaze me.  I arrive in Nanning at around 5:10, 2 hours and 40 minutes later.

From the Nanning train station, I catch a taxi back to the university and settle in to relax and take care of myself.  I’m hoping to recover from my stomach problems before the work week begins.

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Nanning, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 13 Comments

leaving ping’an for guilin: an afternoon at elephant hill park

Saturday, November 22:  This morning I wake up in Ping’An to blue skies, the first I’ve seen in China in weeks.  Unfortunately, I’m checking out of the hostel this morning as I have a hotel for this evening in Guilin.  I suppose I could have stayed longer, but I already made up my mind to see some sights in Guilin.  It’s too bad I made that decision, because in retrospect I would have loved another day, especially a sunny one, in the rice terraces.

No matter.  I leave the hostel around 8:30 to walk down to the parking lot, along with the little Chinese lady carrying my bag on her back, to catch a local bus that leaves at 9:00 a.m.  When I get to the parking lot, I find a small bus that will take us down the mountain to Heping.  It costs 10 yuan, rather than the 70 yuan I paid that driver to bring me up here on Wednesday.  I tell the bus driver I am going to Guilin, rather than to Longsheng, where this bus goes.  The hostel receptionist already told me that the bus driver would help us out in getting situated to catch the bus to Guilin.

On the bus ride, I have a long talk with a young man named George from England who is traveling around the world for a year.  By the time we’re on the bus, the blue skies have disappeared and there is a haze in the air.  He says, “Is this constant haze in the sky pollution or is it humidity?”  I say, “I’m not really sure.  I used to think it was humidity because it is very humid here all the time, but now I’m beginning to think it’s pollution.”  He has a disappointed look on his face that I know all too well.  Sadly, I do have to admit that I rarely see really clear blue skies in the south of China, although I hear the south is better than the north.  Some days in Nanning we get blue skies but they always do seem to be hazy as well.

At the main ticket office in Heping the bus driver motions for George and I to stay on the bus.  I figure he knows we’re going to Guilin and will do right by us.  The bus continues on up the hill to where I got dropped off on Wednesday, but the driver bypasses that spot.  About a quarter-mile later, he drops us off in the midst of some shops and a gas station and motions for us to stand on the opposite side of the street.  We hop off and within minutes, we get on a local bus to Guilin, paying 21 yuan for the trip back.

I finally arrive back at Qin Tan Bus station, and I catch a taxi to the Sapphire Hotel, getting ripped off as usual by the taxi driver for 30 yuan.  It should be about 15, but the taxi drivers waiting at the train or bus stations in Guilin, since it’s such a tourist destination, nab foreigners and brazenly rip them off.  I check into the hotel, ask about a dumpling place, and walk down a pedestrian street to enjoy a lunch of dumplings with pork and chives.

Then, with a tourist map in hand, I head to Elephant Hill Park, as it’s one of the tourist spots listed for Guilin in The Rough Guide to China.

On the street, I pass some pretty buildings.  I love this red one.

pretty red building in Guilin

pretty red building in Guilin

It doesn’t take me long to find the park as luckily my hotel is centrally located in town.  I can tell this is just another of China’s touristy attractions, which have been done up to the hilt.  I really do prefer the off-the-beaten path places in China, like being out in the countryside around Yangshuo or hiking through the rice terraces, which are more natural.  Although these are also tourist places, they don’t seem as commercialized as this.

Entrance to Elephant Hill Park

Entrance to Elephant Hill Park

Elephant Hill Park

Elephant Hill Park

pretty little bridge

pretty little bridge

Elephants galore

Elephants galore

tree of lanterns

tree of lanterns

riverside lanterns

riverside lanterns

elephant relief sculpture

elephant relief sculpture

Close up of elephant sculpture

Close up of elephant sculpture

I come to a little shrine, but I’m not sure if this is a Buddha or what.  One of the statues is of the god of wealth, or at least I was so informed by one of my Chinese students.

Little shrine

Little shrine

Little shrine

Little shrine

The god of wealth

The god of wealth

pagoda at the shrine

pagoda at the shrine

I walk up Elephant Trunk Hill on some very steep steps, where I get increasingly better views of the Li River and Guilin.

bamboo boaters in the Li River

bamboo boaters in the Li River

I think this must be the boat launching dock for the long cruise down the Li River.  I will have to do this entire cruise in the spring.  I hear the water on the Li River dries up in spots over the winter, and the entire cruise is impossible at this time.

boat launch on the Li River

boat launch on the Li River

From this viewpoint, I can see some of Elephant Hill Park and the city of Guilin.  Guilin is a big sprawling city similar to Nanning, but a little smaller in population.  Where Nanning has about 6.7 million people at the Prefecture level, Guilin has a population of about 4.7 million.  The main draw to Guilin is that it’s a hub for trips down the Li River to Xingping and Yangshuo and trips to points north such as Longsheng and the Longji Rice Terraces. As you can see from this picture, the karst topography surrounds the city, but I can barely see it today because of the haze.

view of Guilin and some of Elephant Hill Park from Elephant Trunk Hill

view of Guilin and some of Elephant Hill Park from Elephant Trunk Hill

On the top of Elephant Trunk Hill sits a pagoda named Puxian Pagoda. It is 14 meters high, and was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The pagoda looks like the hilt of a sword sticking out of the back of the elephant. According to legend, in the ancient past, the Emperor of Heaven set out to conquer Earth commanding his troops from the back of the elephant. The elephant worked so hard to provide transportation for the Emperor of Heaven, that it became seriously ill. The local farmers nursed it back to health. The elephant being extremely grateful, decided to desert the emperor and stay on earth to help the farmers plow their fields during a time of famine. The Emperor of Heaven was so angry, that he thrust his sword into the elephant’s back and turned the elephant into the rocky hill. The pagoda erected on top of the hill stands for the hilt of the sword. (China Odyssey Tours: Guilin Elephant Trunk Hill)

Puxian Pagoda??

Puxian Pagoda

view of Guilin down the Li River with karsts in the distance

view of Guilin down the Li River with karsts in the distance

Guilin and karsts

Guilin and karsts

In typical Chinese fashion, a girl cheerily says hello and plops down beside me at this spot, where I’m trying to catch my breath after climbing a million steps. She gets her boyfriend to take multiple photos of her hugging me, leaning her head against my shoulder, holding my hand. I feel like I’m a famous statue, existing for the sole purpose of being a prop for her photo. The Chinese seem to have a different concept of personal space than we do! Another funny moment in China.

viewpoint with pretty fences

viewpoint with pretty fences

As I usually do when a Chinese person wants to take a picture with me, I ask the photographer, in this case the girl’s boyfriend, to take a picture with my iPhone.

my new Chinese best friend

my new Chinese best friend

After the photo session, I continue along the path.  I love the old fences along the path.

I love these fences

I love these fences

At the bottom of the hill, I come to these brightly painted bells with ancient Chinese characters on them.  I’m still looking for the elephant-shaped hill, which, though I was on top of the hill, I haven’t been able to see.

colorful bells?

colorful bells?

Chinese guy

Chinese guy

Ancient Chinese character

Ancient Chinese character

colorful tourist rafts

colorful tourist rafts

colorful rafts reflected

colorful rafts reflected

Chinese bells

Chinese bells

Chinese bells

Chinese bells

Finally, I see there is a footbridge across the Taohuajiang River and a path that looks to be a continuation of the park.  I head across that, and finally I see the shape of the elephant hill emerge.

Elephant Trunk Hill is situated at the junction of the Li River and Taohuajiang Rivers. Rising over 55 meters above the water, it is a limestone karst hill with a naturally shaped cave at the bottom. The hill, standing on the western bank of the Li River looks like a huge elephant dipping its trunk into the Li River to quench its thirst.

Finally, the view of the elephant of Elephant Trunk Hill

Finally, the view of the elephant of Elephant Trunk Hill

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a country where so many people love to take photos of themselves in front of anything and everything. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people who brazenly love to take selfies, after much primping and puckering of lips and seductive smiles.  I have seen girls sitting on buses or standing along the side of the road or in front of a tourist attraction taking ten or twenty selfies, with all kinds of coy smiles and fluttering of eyelids.  They have no embarrassment at all about doing this.  I hate selfies and only rarely take them, preferring instead to find some stranger to take a photo of me, or to do without.  But the Chinese will take selfies, and hundreds of them, in any situation imaginable.

Chinese tourists posing with the elephant

Chinese tourists posing with the elephant

Elephant Trunk Hill

Elephant Trunk Hill

Bamboo boats waiting for passengers

Bamboo boats waiting for passengers

last view of Elephant Trunk Hill

last view of Elephant Trunk Hill

I continue walking along the walkway through the park, where there are pretty little bridges to little islands along the Li River.

pretty bridg

pretty bridge

I don’t cross every bridge, but I do go over one to find the Mysterious Village.

bridge over a canal

bridge over a canal

flowering trees over the canal

flowering trees over the canal

Mysterious Village

Mysterious Village

It is very mysterious as to exactly what this Mysterious Village is supposed to represent.

lovers in Mysterious Village

lovers in Mysterious Village

I wonder who these hands belong to.

a handshake instead of a kiss?

a handshake instead of a kiss?

strange creatures

strange creatures

Finally, I leave the extensive Elephant Hill Park and begin to make my way back to my hotel.  My legs are getting tired from all this walking.  I pass by Shan Hu, one of two tree-lined lakes that originally formed a moat around the inner city walls of Guilin’s medieval city.  Shan Hu is overlooked by forty-meter-tall twin pagodas named Riyue Shuang Ta, one of which is painted gold and the other a muted red and green.  I have trouble distinguishing the colors in the poor hazy light.  Apparently they’re supposed to be attractively lit at night, but I don’t make the effort to come out at night to see them.

Twin pagodas called Riyue Shuang Ta on Shan Hu

Twin pagodas called Riyue Shuang Ta on Shan Hu

Finally, I walk back along a wide walkway among the Osmanthus trees after which the city is named.  According to The Rough Guide to China, Guilin means “Osmanthus forest.”

walkway along the Li River, bordered by osmanthus trees

walkway along the Li River, bordered by Osmanthus trees

I pass by one modern hotel that looks very fancy.  It’s probably way out of my price range.

a fancy modern hotel

a fancy modern hotel

Earlier in the day, when I was eating at the dumpling restaurant, I noticed a massage place near the restaurant.  Because I have felt so rotten during this entire trip, I think I need some pampering.  I go there for an hour-long whole body massage and a pedicure; together these cost me 100 yuan ($16.25).  I’ve had Chinese massages before and they’re not relaxing but very painful, but I do feel afterward that it does me some good.  This Chinese pedicure only involves cutting my nails and taking care of my feet, but my old nail polish isn’t removed, nor do I get any new nail polish.  I still have yet to find a place in China that does pedicures like I can get in the U.S.

As my stomach is still acting up, I forgo dinner and relax in my hotel room, reading and going to sleep early.  My train back to Nanning doesn’t leave until 2:30 in the afternoon on Sunday, but I don’t know if I feel like doing any more sightseeing in Guilin.  I think a foot massage sounds appealing, but I’ll have to wait till 11:00 a.m. as the massage guy told me he doesn’t open until that time on Sunday. 🙂

 

Categories: Asia, China, Elephant Hill Park, Elephant Trunk Hill, Expat life, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Li River, Puxian Pagoda, Riyue Shuang Ta, Shan Hu, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

a 5-hour hike to the longji rice terraces at longji ancient zhuang village

Friday, November 21:  After I finish posing for photos wearing the traditional costume, I climb back up to the Seven Stars with Moon viewpoint, all the while looking for a path to Longji Ancient Zhuang Village and the Longji Rice Terraces.  I climb all the way to the top, and having seen no paths at all branching off of the main path, I walk back down again. This is only the first time I become what some might call “misplaced” on my long day’s hike.

rice terraces on the way from Ping'An to Longji

rice terraces on the way from Ping’An to Longji

Curvaceous terraces

Curvaceous terraces

ornamental grasses and rice terraces

ornamental grasses and rice terraces

Finally, I find a path about midway down the mountain that appears to head west.  I had passed this path before but a sign said the path was for farmers only.  However, this time, I notice that the path actually splits in two.  One is just a dirt path; I believe that to be the farmer’s path. The other one is paved with stones, and that seems to have no sign at all.  I think this may be the path to Longji.  I go ahead and take the gamble because I’ve seen on the map that the path to Longji should branch somewhere off of this main path toward the west.

the trail to Longji

the trail to Longji

I walk for quite a while along this path, maybe 15 minutes, admiring the beautiful rice terraces along the way.  I come to this little covered bridge where I sit for a spell.

a little covered bridge

a little covered bridge

I continue along the path.  Sometimes I’m flanked by steep banks to the right and forest to the left.  I love all the ornamental grasses and some of the autumn colors I see along the way.

continuing on the trail

continuing on the trail

terraces along the path

terraces along the path

the trail continues

the trail continues

grasses galore

grasses galore

ornamental grass frame of the mountains

ornamental grass frame of the mountains

a resting place along the way

a resting place along the way

views along the way

views along the way

During my walk in the woods, it would NOT have been pleasant had my stomach acted up. However, it would have been convenient.  I could have easily stepped off into the ornamental grasses without a soul seeing me.  But it behaved itself during the entire hike in the woods, much to my relief.

pretty fall colors

pretty fall colors

the path ahead

the path ahead

Finally, after about a half hour, I begin to spot signs of human habitation.  Most of the time, I’ve had this path to myself, although I did pass a couple of small families headed in the opposite direction. They seemed to be tourists, as they were dressed up as the Chinese usually are when they travel; they definitely didn’t look like farmers.

coming to the edges of the village

coming to the edges of the village

Finally I seem to be on the outskirts of Longji.  The houses are still spread far apart, but the further I go down the road, they congregate into increasingly close-knit huddles. I pass this woman working along the roadside, but she doesn’t even look up.  I guess she’s used to seeing tourists in these parts.

a farmer working

a farmer working

Soon after I pass this farmer lady, while on the outskirts of the village but not in the thick of it, suddenly I feel my stomach churning. It is letting its mind be known and I begin to panic.  I look around at my options.  I see a woman walking across the road close by; she’s carrying two baskets on a bamboo pole.  I’ve found the Chinese don’t often understand the word “toilet” but they more often understand “WC.”  I say to the woman, my voice probably sounding desperate.  “WC?? WC??”  She waves me off, though I don’t know how she does it when balancing that bamboo pole over her shoulders.  She obviously doesn’t want to have any interaction with a foreigner.  She walks behind a building along the side of the road and quickly disappears.

By now I’m calculating whether I can run back to the deserted path through the woods and fields, or if I can find a bathroom VERY SOON on this village road.  If worse comes to worst, I may have to crouch down right on top of one of the rice terraces, behind whatever tuft of grass I can find.  I look at the building nearest me.  It doesn’t look like a house; it looks sort of like a warehouse of some kind. I think maybe I can sneak behind the building.  I go to the backside of it and HALLELUJAH!! It’s a bathroom!  It’s not marked as such on the side facing the road, but on the backside, there it is, two doors, one male and one female.  I’m saved!

Oh sweet relief!  I, who have traveled through some of the most notorious countries in the world for causing stomach problems, including India for 3 weeks, have hardly ever had this kind of problem while traveling.  I guess I’ve been lucky so far.  Let me tell you, it is NO FUN to have to worry about this when you’re far from home.  At this point, I begin to wonder if I should have stayed in bed another day.

As I cannot allow myself to choose turning back, I continue on. I think I’m good for a while, and I have come all this way.  I come upon some new and being-constructed buildings along the road, but I can see the Old Village down the hillside.  I can also see a long curvy road upon which a lot of tourists are walking.  I keep walking ahead.

pretty wooden building on the outskirts of Longji

pretty wooden building on the outskirts of Longji

Now the terraces are becoming more dramatic.  There is a deep valley and lots of mountains with terraces cut into all of them.  Of course my camera won’t capture the ones on the opposite side of the valley because it’s too foggy and cloudy.

terraces in Longji

terraces in Longji

I pass a pretty little stream along the way.  I’m loving all the ornamental grasses I’m seeing today.

a little stream

a little stream

approaching the main viewpoint in Longji

approaching the main viewpoint in Longji

rice fields

rice fields

Finally, I reach the hugest rice terraces I’ve seen here.  They look like slices of turkey layered on a huge platter.  Of course the rice has all been harvested, but here the terraces are filled with water, and that gives them a different look altogether.

the main viewpoint of terraces in Longji

the main viewpoint of terraces in Longji

I keep walking along the upper road, but I can see there is a lower road where people are walking.  I determine that after I go to the end of this road, I’ll return on this lower road.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

The landscape is amazing!!  I just can’t believe how gorgeous it is.  The only thing that would make it better is if it were BEFORE the harvest and the sky were blue.  Or if it were sunrise or sunset.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

The beauty of it takes my breath away.  I’m stunned by the amount of work that has gone into building these terraces over the centuries.  According to China Highlights: Longji Terraced Fields, the terraces were first built in the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368) and were completed in the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) by the Zhuang people and Yao people.  The irrigation methods used make the best use of the scarce arable land and water resources in this mountainous area. There are about 66 square kilometers of terraced fields in southeast Longsheng County.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Rice terraces and house

Rice terraces and house

the Longji Rice Terraces

the Longji Rice Terraces

Eventually, after takings scores of photos, I begin to walk back along the lower road.  I assume it will lead into the Longji Ancient Zhuang village and then back up the hillside to the road, where I can retrace my steps back to Ping’An.

As I’m walking, two beautifully dressed young Chinese ladies ask me if I’ll take their photograph.  When people ask me for this favor, I don’t hesitate to ask for the favor in return.  This is the picture they take of me.

Me taking a rest along the way to the Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Me taking a rest along the way to the Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

I get closer and closer to the village.

Approaching Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Approaching Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Getting closer to the village

Getting closer to the village

Approaching the village

Approaching the village

Before long, I’m at the edge of the village.  I know the road back to Ping’an is up the hill, so I venture into the village, knowing that I just need to go uphill when I’m ready to leave.

the wooden houses of the ancient village

the wooden houses of the ancient village

clothing corn and bamboo

clothing corn and bamboo

I make my way out of this ancient village easily enough, and I walk uphill through more terraces and farmland.

Terraces

Terraces

walking up from the village

walking up from the village

admiring the views

admiring the views

looking down on the village and farms

looking down on the village and farms

I sit on the stone steps to take a breath and this is my view of the farmland.

farming terraces

farming terraces

As I get higher, I see I’m about to enter another village.  I figure again that I’ll once again head uphill when I’m ready to leave this village.

almost back to the road

almost back to the road

The problem is that once I’m in the village and surrounded by the buildings, I can’t tell what is up and what is down.  I pass by some ladies chatting around their motorbikes and I head off in what I think is an upward direction.  After walking and walking and walking around and about on convoluted walkways, I return right back to the point where the ladies are talking around their motorbikes.  I’ve come full circle.  By this time, I’m exhausted and I really want to get on the path to Ping’An.

A little girl standing with the women says “Hello!”  I think, “Oh boy, someone who can speak English!”  I say to the girl, “Road to Ping’An?” She points up a hill in the direction I already walked, the direction where I got lost.  She’s with her grandmother, who beckons her to lead me.  The girl runs ahead, with her grandmother following behind, and at the next crossroad, she points in one direction.  I still recognize this as the direction I walked before and got lost.  The little girl wants to stop at every crossroad, but I really want her to take me all the way to the road.  I pull out a 10 yuan bill and show it to her.  “For you, road to Ping’An.”  At each crossroad, she wants to take the 10 yuan bill, but I hold it back each time: “Road to Ping’An” I continue to remind her.  Finally, I see the road on which I came into Longji and I hand over the 10 yuan.  “Xiexie,” I tell her. Thank you!

wildflowers

wildflowers

gates

gates

Finally, I’m on the road that will lead me to the footpath back to Ping’An.

grasses and barn

grasses and barn

red flowers of autumn

red flowers of autumn

I keep walking down the road. I pass by my life-saving bathroom, so I know I’m going in the right direction. I’m looking for the trail to Ping’An off the main road but I don’t see it. The road curves sharply to the left, as in a switchback, and though this part doesn’t look familiar, I keep following the road which heads sharply uphill.  There isn’t a soul in sight to ask whether I’m going in the right direction.  Finally, at the top of the very long and steep hill, I see a woman out in her yard.  I say “Ping’An?” as I point up the hill.  She points back downhill in the direction I just came and shakes her head.  No, Ping’An is back down the hill, she gestures.  Though I’ve wasted a lot of effort walking up this hill, at least I’m glad to discover that my instinct was right that nothing looked familiar.

As I get to the switchback point, I ask a farmer: “Ping’An?” He gestures for me to follow him.  We head off on another path that I still don’t recognize but I follow anyway.  I figure he must know what he’s doing as he’s a local.  Finally, we reach a point where I originally took a picture of this sign, so I recognize where I am. The farmer leaves me at this point, taking off on another path.  Sweet relief.  By this time I’m exhausted and my legs are sore, I’m dying to get back to the hostel where I can put my feet up.

a familiar sign!

a familiar sign!

Now I’m back in familiar territory, surrounded by steep banks and rice terraces and ornamental grasses waving in the breeze, as if they’re cheerleaders encouraging me on my long walk back.

pretty grasses

pretty grasses

I’m also very thirsty at this point, as I haven’t had a drink all day.  I see this shack ahead, and thinking it’s a place I can buy a drink, I pick up my pace.  Sadly, I find it’s nothing but an abandoned shack.

on the path back, a promise of a drink, unfulfilled

on the path back, a promise of a drink, unfulfilled

I keep thinking that once I reach the covered bridge, I’ll be almost back. Not quite true as this was 15 minutes into the walk.  But I am happy to see it, and, as I did on the way out, I stop for a rest for a few moments.

back to the covered bridge

back to the covered bridge

grasses on the terraces

grasses on the terraces

Then I’m walking back around the rim of the Ping’An Terraces and I can recognize the contours of Seven Stars with Moon.

Return to Ping'An

Return to Ping’An

swirls

swirls

And I see some farmers doing a controlled burn on the hillside.

controlled burn

controlled burn

Finally, I arrive back at the hostel at 4:30 p.m.  As I started on the path to Longji at 11:30, I’ve been hiking for 5 hours, not including the walk up and down the mountain to Seven Stars with Moon and the posing for the photos in the costume this morning.

I see the Memory Board on the wall of the hostel, but I don’t add anything to the wall. I just want to go into my room and lie down for a while.

a Memory Wall back at the Longji International Youth Hostel

a Memory Wall back at the Longji International Youth Hostel

At dinner, I don’t really want to eat anything because of my stomach.  No Chinese food sounds appealing anyway. However, I figure I’d better put something into it because sometimes an empty stomach doesn’t feel good either.  I order some toast and I drink several cups of hot water, as well as several bottles of cold water.  It’s easy to get hot water at any Chinese establishment as the Chinese believe hot water is good for your health.

I’m planning to leave Ping’An in the morning. I’ll be going to Guilin where I’ve reserved a hotel room at the Guilin Sapphire Hotel.  I figure there are some sights to see in Guilin, so I’ll play tourist for another day before returning to Nanning on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Sadly, my unexpected holiday will be over and I have to return to work on Monday.

 

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Longji Ancient Village, Longji Rice Terraces, Longsheng County, Ping'An Village, Seven Stars with Moon, Travel, Zhuang people | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

making my way out of ping’an for a hike to longji ancient village

Friday, November 21:  This morning I wake up to find my back is miraculously better.  It was either the five Ibuprofen I took last night or the extreme naps I took yesterday afternoon, but waking up with no back pain means I’m game to hike to Longji Ancient Zhuang Village.  Even my stomach is feeling a little better but I’m really not sure how much I trust it to behave.  I do go ahead and eat some scrambled eggs and toast and drink some coffee.

I have studied the map and am told by the receptionist that the hike to Longji is about a half hour beginning from Viewpoint 2: Seven Stars with Moon. I don’t remember seeing a path marked to Longji near Viewpoint 2, but I walk through the village and up the mountain, keeping my eyes peeled for a path heading to the west.  I see some cute businesses and interesting masks along the way.

Coffee house in Ping'An

Coffee house in Ping’An

masks in Ping'an

masks in Ping’an

On my way up the mountain, I find some better views of Seven Stars with Moon.  I like how it looks in the morning fog.  I do see a path about halfway up the mountain, but it doesn’t say anything about Longji, so I continue up the mountain.

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

I am so tempted to buy some of the textiles but I never do.  I will definitely need to pick some up when I return again.

textiles for sale

textiles for sale

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

terraces at Seven Stars with Moon

terraces at Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

While I’m walking up the hill, there are these little viewing platforms where people can rent costumes and pose in front of Seven Stars with Moon.  A Dutch lady is sitting on one of the benches taking a rest and I sit down beside her to catch my breath.  When I do, I can’t help but look at some of the photos spread out on a table taken of tourists in the costumes.  When I find it’s about 20 yuan ($3.25) for the costume rental and the photo, I can’t help but try it out.  It’s kind of funny and the Dutch lady follows suit and gets some photos made herself.  We get a lot of laughs out of this!

Yours truly in traditional costume with Seven Stars with Moon in the background

Yours truly in traditional costume with Seven Stars with Moon in the background

Me in costume

Me in costume

After my little photo-op, I continue up the mountain to where the horseshoe-shaped arrangement of shops are, and I make a restroom stop.  My stomach doesn’t feel great, but nothing untoward is happening, so I figure I’m safe to continue my journey. I heard from some other tourists at the hostel that the path is about a half hour through the woods, so I figure if I can always go in the woods if necessary.

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

I still don’t see any path marked to Longji, so I decide to walk back down the mountain to the unmarked path I saw.

up the hills

up the hills & back down again

At the point where I see the path heading west, I ask some Chinese tourists: “Longji?” They nod and point down the trail.  I’m going off into new territory alone, with no guide and a map about the size of a 1 yuan bill.  I can hardly read the map without a magnifying glass.  But the path seems to be paved with stones, not just some dirt path, so I head off.  I figure I’ll go ahead as long as the trail does.

beginning on the trail to Longji Ancient Village

beginning on the trail to Longji Ancient Village

You can come along on my walk, but you’ll have to wait till the next installment. 🙂

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Longji Ancient Village, Longji Rice Terraces, Longsheng County, Ping'An Village, Seven Stars with Moon | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

a walk to “seven stars with moon” & return to ping’an

Thursday, November 20: My Zhuang guide and I continue along the trail around the rim of the rice terraces, and my back is hurting the whole time.  I periodically stop to stretch in different directions, and she continues to rub the small of my back when I bend over.

You may wonder why I don’t mention my wonderful guide by name.  To be honest, she tells me her name, but I don’t quite understand her, and then of course I forget it as soon as she tells me.  I don’t know why but Chinese is still just as unintelligible to me as it was on the first day I got here.  I have learned a few words, but only to get by.  And even though I’ve been taking Chinese classes for one hour once a week, all we’ve learned so far is Pinyin and the tones and sounds, which I have great difficulty with.  I can’t even differentiate some of the sounds.  My attempts to learn Chinese give me a lot of sympathy for my poor Chinese students who are trying to learn English.  The two languages are about as far from each other as two languages can be!

As she walks ahead of me on the trail, my guide keeps pulling at the ferns growing along the hillside and plucking them off and dropping them on the path.   It’s almost like Hansel and Gretel leaving a trail of breadcrumbs.

terraces on the way to Seven Stars with the Moon

terraces on the way to Seven Stars with the Moon

pretty fall colors

pretty fall colors

wheelbarrow

wheelbarrow

terraces

terraces and the village of Ping’An

Viewpoint 2: Seven Stars with Moon

Viewpoint 2: Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Rices terraces

Rice terraces

view from Seven Stars with Moon to Ping'An Village

view from Seven Stars with Moon to Ping’An Village

ornamental grasses and terraces

ornamental grasses and terraces

path along the terraces

path along the terraces

wildflower

wildflower

my Zhuang guide and her little bouquet

my Zhuang guide and her little bouquet

At one point, we reach a horseshoe-shaped arrangement of shops where there is a public restroom that is surprisingly clean and even has a Western toilet.  You must be able to tell by now that Western toilets are hard to come by in China, as I get excited every time I find one!  At the shops, I buy a bottle of water and a painting of a Zhuang woman carrying baskets through a tropical forest on black fabric.  I also find this cute little baby in a stroller and I wonder how on earth someone has gotten the baby uphill in this stroller, as there are so many steps and no cars can drive in the village or up these trails.

a little baby along the path

a little baby along the path

Somewhere along this path is the Seven Stars with Moon lookout, but I’m not really sure exactly where it is as I don’t see a sign.  I have seen signs TO the viewpoint but I haven’t seen any AT the viewpoint.  According to China Highlights.com, “Seven Stars around the Moon” is formed from eight small piles standing separately in the middle of eight rice paddies. The middle pile, filled with water, looks like a bright moon while the others are compared to seven stars.

Seven Stars with the Moon

Seven Stars with the Moon

Me at Seven Stars with Moon

Me at Seven Stars with Moon

Walking downhill from Seven Stars with Moon

Walking downhill from Seven Stars with Moon

Returning to Ping'An

Returning to Ping’An

>

Parking & Seven Stars with Moon

After we leave this lookout, we are heading down steps back into the village, and we pass a lot of shops selling handicrafts along the way.  I’m not in the market to buy anything today as I just want to get back to rest.

My guide stops to talk to this Zhuang lady who is selling some peppers or some kind of food along the walkway.  The lady’s lower gums seem to be detached from her lower jaw; I can see this when she talks.  Although she doesn’t look it in this picture, she seems very happy despite this problem.  She chats quite animatedly with my guide.

another Zhuang lady

another Zhuang lady in Ping’An Village

Then we’re back in the village where I see cute shops and some interesting sights.

back to the village of Ping'An

back to the village of Ping’An

Clothing, corn and characters

Clothing, corn and characters

Village door

Village door

cafes in the village

cafes in the village

We stop for a chat with this lady who also asks for some money for me and the guide if I want to take a picture of her.

my Zhuang guide's friend

my Zhuang guide’s friend

my guide and her friend

my guide and her friend

We have a seat at a lookout where we can see the pretty village below us.

the Zhuang village of Ping'An

the Zhuang village of Ping’An

my guide and me :-)

my guide and me 🙂

interesting wooden buildings in Ping'An

interesting wooden buildings in Ping’An

Finally, it’s about 12:15, and we return toward the hotel.  I see some cooking going on in the streets, and people washing vegetables in a stream.  I also see this foot massage place which I note, but when I try to find it later, I’m unable to do so.

the winding walkways in Ping'An

the winding walkways in Ping’An

sedan chairs - used for tourists who don't want to walk up the hills

sedan chairs – used for tourists who don’t want to walk up the hills

Meiyou Cafe

Meiyou Cafe

It’s lunchtime but my stomach and back are still hurting and all I want to do is lie down.  I go to my room, where I take a long nap.  It feels good to burrow under the covers and sleep for a couple of hours.

When I wake up around 3:30, I’m still hurting but I’m feeling hungry, so I go back out to explore a bit of the town and search for a restaurant that had looked appealing along the way.

Pretty pavilion in the town

Pretty pavilion in the town

sticks & stones

sticks & stones

drying corn

drying corn

the village of Ping'An from below

the village of Ping’An from below

9 dragons & 5 tigers OR 7 stars with moon

9 dragons & 5 tigers OR 7 stars with moon

Things that used to be things??

Things that used to be things??

Ping'An Zhuang Village

Ping’An Zhuang Village

Beer bottles as art

Beer bottles as art

When I find the restaurant, I order some “stir-fried vegetables,” which turn out to be cabbage and onions, and some rice.

the restaurant where I ate a late lunch of "stir-fried vegetables" and had to rush back to the hotel....

the restaurant where I ate a late lunch of “stir-fried vegetables” and had to rush back to the hotel….

As soon as I finish my meal, I suddenly feel my stomach about to give way, so I pay my bill and head downhill quickly to my hotel. I barely make it back to my room!  Oh my gosh, what a pain to feel so sick while traveling!  I lie down again and nap for the rest of the afternoon and early evening.

Later in the evening, I think I might be able to handle just some toast and some hot water.  While sitting in the dining room of the hostel, I meet a retired doctor named Ron Perrier who is traveling around the world and is in China for stint.  He is also a fellow blogger and here’s his blog: only where you have walked have you been.  He asks me about my health problems and makes a few guesses about what it might mean that I have both stomach problems and a back ache.  We have quite a long chat and he gives me some Ibuprofen to help me with my pain.  Even though I feel horrible, I enjoy meeting this fellow traveler and sharing some cultural observations.  We talk about spitting in Chinese society.  He says he has found that spitting to the Chinese is just like the vomiting impulse to us as Westerners.  The Chinese feel if they get the urge to spit, they must get rid of the phlegm as soon as possible, just as we do if we feel the urge to vomit.  We Westerners have learned to swallow our spit and we don’t feel it’s acceptable to go around spitting on the street, but that’s not the case with the Chinese.  We talk about many other interesting topics and observations, but if you’d like to see more on his take on life and travel, I suggest you visit his blog. 🙂

I go back to my room where I take the Ibuprofen and read the current book on my Kindle: Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford.  I sleep and sleep and sleep, hoping to feel better in the morning so I can hike to Longji Ancient Village and the rice terraces there.

 

 

Categories: Asia, China, Expat life, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Longji Rice Terraces, Longsheng County, Ping'An Village, Seven Stars with Moon, Travel, Zhuang people | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

a walk along the longji rice terraces from ping’an to nine dragons & five tigers

Thursday, November 20:  This morning, I wake up with a terrible lower back ache in addition to the stomach cramps I’ve been having for two days.  I don’t know if I slept in a contorted position or if it’s a result of sitting all day yesterday on trains and buses and then walking up the steep path, and then back down and up again, to Ping’An village.  I’m not usually one to get terrible back aches, but this one is bad.  I can hardly move! I’ve scheduled a 10:00 hike through the rice terraces with the spry little lady guide, and I wonder if I’ll be able to do it at all.

I walk out onto my balcony and check out the village below.  I’m on the fourth floor, so I have quite a nice view of the busy Zhuang villagers leading their horses up and down the path laden with logs and bricks and all manner of construction materials.

view of the village of Ping'An from the balcony off my room at Longji International Youth Hostel

view of the village of Ping’An from the balcony off my room at Longji International Youth Hostel

The Ping’an Terraced Fields are located in the Longji Terraced Fields Scenic Area in Longsheng County, which is 100 kilometers north-west of Guilin City. Longji Terraced Fields consist of three main villages – Jinkeng Red Yao Village, Ping’an Zhuang Village and Longji Ancient Zhuang Village. When talking about Longji Terraced Fields, it is generally considered to be Ping’an Terraced Fields, the core tourist area of Longji Terraced Fields.

The altitude of the Ping’an Terraced Fields is from 300 – 1,100 meters above sea level. This area was first cultivated in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and finished in the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) with a history of more than 650 years (China Highlights: Longji Ping’an Terraced Fields).

view of Ping'An from my balcony

view of Ping’An from my balcony

Ping’an Zhuang Village accommodates more than 50 families with over 200 people. Most of them are Zhuang people and some are Yao people. The Zhuang minority nationality is the main nationality in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. One third of the population in Guangxi is comprised of the Zhuang people (China Highlights: Longji Ping’an Terraced Fields).

the industrious Zhuang villagers of Ping'An

the industrious Zhuang villagers of Ping’An

I consider canceling my hike because with an iffy stomach and the pain I’m in, I figure it will be a miserable hike.   I don’t know if there will be bathrooms along the way for my stomach issues, and I could make my back worse and be laid out the rest of my holiday.  However, I don’t have limitless time off, and I’ve come all this way!!  I can’t possibly just lie around in bed nursing myself back to health.  I figure the fresh air will do me good and that I’ll just walk out the pain.

I go down to the lobby to eat a Western breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast and I tell the receptionist about the leak in my bathroom ceiling.  She picks up the phone and makes a call and says they will have to buy a new faucet.  I tell her it’s not the faucet that’s leaking but it must be some pipe in the ceiling because the whole ceiling is leaking all over the bathroom and onto the carpet in the room.  She sends someone up to inspect while I’m eating my breakfast and then she tells me they will need to replace a whole pipe.  She asks if I’d mind switching to a standard double room, with a Western toilet (!), for half the price of what I’m paying. This will be my third room switch since I arrived, but I’m happy to switch to the cheaper room.  I tell her I tried to book the standard double on C-trip but it showed only the family room or the dorm rooms were available; I preferred the standard double from the beginning.  She’s perplexed as to why C-trip showed the rooms as being booked as it’s obvious there is hardly anyone in the hotel at this time of year.  No matter, I move all my stuff back to the second floor and settle in, taking a nice hot shower to soothe my back before heading on the hike.

At 10:00, my guide appears at the hostel and off we go.  She’s as happy as she was yesterday when she hauled my bags up that steep mountain.  I’m inspired by her happy nature and figure if I’m going to be in pain on a hike, she’s a good one to be with for her caring and kindness.

My Zhuang porter from last night and my guide for today.   She's the nicest and most cheerful woman imaginable!

My Zhuang porter from last night and my guide for today. She’s the nicest and most cheerful woman imaginable!

We begin our uphill walk through the village and when we come to a crossroads she asks if I’d like to see Viewpoint 1 or Viewpoint 2 first.  I point in the direction of Viewpoint 1: Nine Dragons & Five Tigers, thinking we may as well start at the beginning.

Ping'An

Ping’An

My guide is strong and healthy, and with the way I’m feeling today I feel older than she is!  It’s kind of depressing, but I figure I will do my best to keep up with her.

keeping up with my Zhuang guide

keeping up with my Zhuang guide

She stops to speak to a friend of hers along the way, and to admire the little grandchild.  I like the corn drying along the front porch of the house.

one of my guide's Zhuang friends in the village

one of my guide’s Zhuang friends in the village

and the friend's grandchild

and the friend’s grandchild

When I was in Yangshuo, Audrey told me that people often keep the good luck symbols  from Spring Festival on their front doors all year round, even though they start to look tattered after a while.  They’re afraid to take them down because they supposedly bring good luck.

Zhuang door

Zhuang door

I love the rooftops of the Zhuang wooden buildings.  And I see a touch of fall colors in the yellow trees.

rooftops of Ping'An

rooftops of Ping’An

rooftops of Ping'An

rooftops of Ping’An

According to China Highlights: Guilin, in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in the south of China, enjoys a subtropical monsoon climate. The average temperature is approximately 20 degrees all year around. In the terraced areas, the farmers grow rice twice a year. However, due to the high altitude on the Longji Terraced Fields in the deep winter time, the temperature can be below zero. The local farmers only prepare the cultivation once a year. In late April, it is time to fill the rice paddies with water. The terraced fields, filled with crystal clear water, look like thousands of silver ribbons glittering in the sun. In summer time, the grain seedlings have green leaves which make the entire terraced area look like a green ocean. In late September and early October, the rice in the paddies is ripe. Each layer of the terraces looks like a piece of precious golden carpet. During National Day, you are able to see the farmers harvesting rice in the fields. From November onwards, it’s winter. Normally, the farmers don’t grow anything and just let the fields have a good rest. So the best time to visit the Longji Terraces is from April to October.

Of course the rice fields have all been harvested by now, so this is not the best time of year to visit.  However, I do find the terraces with their golden colors quite pretty.  It’s pretty foggy and overcast today, so it’s not the best atmosphere for photos either.  Nevertheless, I still find the scenery breathtaking.

Along the hike

Along the hike

The walk is all uphill and I have to stop many times to bend down and touch my toes to stretch out my back.  My little lady guide is very patient and kind, and gives my lower back a rub when I stop.  She doesn’t speak much English but she can say “beautiful!!” “a long, long way!” and “water” which she keeps repeating throughout the walk.

rice terraces

rice terraces

Of course, in typical Chinese fashion, some fellow tourists want me to pose for a picture with them.  Whenever the Chinese ask to take a picture with me, I ask whoever is taking the picture to take one with my camera too.

one of many photo shoots with random Chinese tourists

one of many photo shoots with random Chinese tourists

Some of the rice on the terraces has been burned and during my hikes, I see a number of burns taking place.  You can see the black patches in this photo.

terraces

terraces

terraces

terraces

water-filled terraces

water-filled terraces

I like the clouds reflected in the water-filled terraces.

water filled terrace

water filled terrace

The scenery is breathtaking. I of course have to stop every couple of minutes to take photos of the contoured landscape.

curvaceous terraces

curvaceous terraces

winding terraces

winding terraces

approaching viewpoint 1: nine dragons & five tigers

approaching viewpoint 1: nine dragons & five tigers

harvested rice terraces

harvested rice terraces

the terraces

the terraces

The first viewing point is “Nine Dragons and Five Tigers.” The name means the nine ridges look like nine dragons branching off from the main vein. Alongside, there are five tiger-like piles, guarding the peaceful village. Both of the two scenic spots are the best places to get a bird’s-eye of the Ping’an Terraced Fields.  We will head to Viewpoint 2 after this one.  That will follow in another post.

Viewpoint 1: Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Viewpoint 1: Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

view across the way

view across the way

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

from atop Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

from atop Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

We turn around here at Nine Dragons & Five Tigers and head in a circle toward the second viewpoint, on the opposite side of Ping’an Village.  Apparently if you continue along the path from here to the east, it’s a four-hour hike each way to Dazhai Village, another village at Longji Rice Terraces.  If I head to the west, from Viewpoint 2, I can go on an hour-long hike (2 hour round trip) to Longji Ancient Village.  I plan to do this tomorrow if I can get some rest this afternoon and if my back feels better.

You can see the path through the terraces in the photo below.

Heading toward Seven Stars with Moon

Heading toward Seven Stars with Moon

water-filled terraces

water-filled terraces

mountains and terraces galore

mountains and terraces galore

mounds of terraces

mounds of terraces

a bowl of terraces

a bowl of terraces

We approach a little wooden structure perched on the mountainside, where a Yao woman is selling some scarves and handicrafts.

a little shop along the way selling handmade goods

a little shop along the way selling handmade goods

The Yao people in the village are distinctive from the other residents because of their hair. All of the Yao women in the village have long hair; with the longest being over two meters. Huangluo Yao Village, which is on the way to the Ping’an parking lot, was listed in the Guinness World Records as the “World’s First Long Hair Village”. It is said that all of the Yao women in the village only cut their hair once during their lifetime and that’s when they become adults (18 years old). Apparently, there are three bunches of hair on their head. The first bunch is the natural hair growing on their head. The second bunch is the hair which was cut off when they were 18 years old. The third bunch of hair comes from the hair which falls out when they comb their hair daily (China Highlights: Longji Ping’an Terraced Fields).

my Zhuang guide and a Yao Long-Haired woman

my Zhuang guide and a Yao Long-Haired woman

The Yao woman tells me she’ll show me her long hair for 20 yuan, 10 for her and 10 for my guide.  How can I not take her up on it?  She also has the other long strand of hair that she cut when she was 18.  I don’t take a picture of that strand, but she somehow wraps that up with her normal hair into the bun she wears at the front of her forehead.

The Yao woman shows me her hair ~ for 20 yuan

The Yao woman shows me her hair ~ for 20 yuan

After we leave the Yao woman, we continue on to Viewpoint 2: Seven Stars Around the Moon.  This path is a little flatter as we’re walking around the rim of the mountains, so my back doesn’t bother me quite so much.  However, I still have to stop and stretch it out at various points along the way. 🙂

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Longji Rice Terraces, Longsheng County, Nine Dragons & Five Tigers, Ping'An Village, Travel, Yao people, Zhuang people | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

a day of travel & arrival at the village of ping’an

Wednesday, November 19:  This morning, I leave at 7:30 a.m. for my long day’s journey to Ping’An, a Zhuang village nestled in the folds of the Longji Rice Terraces.  As always in China, travel is not straightforward and I have many connections to make.  I begin by taking a taxi to the Nanning Railway Station for a 9:35 fast train.  Trains always leave on time and I arrive in Guilin at around noon, a little faster than the normal 2 hour and 40 minute ride.

I’m often too lazy to try to figure out the local buses to the bus station, so I ask a taxi driver at the train station to take me to Qin Tan Bus Terminal, where my student assistant Angela has advised me to catch the 2-hour-long local bus to Longsheng, getting off the bus one stop early at Heping.  When I ask the taxi driver how much he’ll charge to take me to the bus station, he says 50 yuan.  I wave him off.  That’s outrageous and I know he’s just trying to rip me off because I’m a tourist.  I ask another taxi driver, who tells me 25 yuan, still too much.  Angela advised me to take the #88 bus to the station, and it just so happens the #88 bus pulls up just as I’m waving off the second taxi driver.  I hop on the bus for 2 yuan.

Angela told me to get off at the CUI ZU LU stop, but luckily the girl sitting next to me on the bus speaks some English.  She asks the bus driver, who tells me to get off at the stop AFTER that one.  They wave in a general direction across the street and then deposit me at the next stop, but I don’t see anything that looks like a bus station.

I prepare to cross the road at a busy intersection, but I still see no sign of a bus station.  I pull out my Chinese notes from Angela with the name of the bus station and show the name to two Chinese ladies standing beside me on the street.  They motion to follow them and they start walking rapidly down the street perpendicular to the one where the #88 bus was traveling.  We walk about a half mile and finally we’re at the bus station.  It seems the 88 bus was not really the correct bus to get to the station as it was quite a walk to get there from where I was dropped off.

Next I ask at the terminal about “an ordinary bus ticket to Heping (final destination Longsheng) for 21 yuan.”  The people at the bus terminal are cheery and helpful; they sell me the ticket and before long I’m on the local bus to Longsheng.

All goes uneventfully, except for the constant stomach cramping and discomfort that I’m feeling.  I started feeling sick on Tuesday and I hoped it would clear up by today, but I’m still feeling quite miserable.  At around 3:00, the bus driver drops me along the side of a road at Heping.  I saw that we passed a busy tourist office downhill prior to where I was dropped, but it’s hard for me to gauge how far back it was.  A man with a van tells me I’m welcome to wait for the bus to Ping’An, but it will be a TWO HOUR WAIT!  Angela didn’t say anything about a two-hour wait, so I’m dubious.  However, there seem to be no buses in sight.  I call Angela for the one and only time on my five-day journey, and she doesn’t answer.  I call her friend Jack, who talks to a shopkeeper in Heping; the woman confirms that the next bus does not arrive for two more hours, but it’s possible to get a car for 70 yuan.  There is no way I want to sit alongside the road for 2 hours, so I tell the original man he can take me to Ping’An in his car.  But I say, “The shopkeeper said 70 yuan.”  He sheepishly agrees, and off we go.

We drive about one minute down the hill, where the driver tells me to go inside the big ticket office I had seen earlier from the bus and buy the entry ticket to Longji Rice Terraces for 100 yuan.  At that point I see there are buses galore.  Hmmm.  I go ahead in the guy’s car up a long and winding mountain road for about a half hour, passing numerous middle-sized yellow buses coming down the mountain.  These must be the 10 yuan buses Angela told me about; I realize that I’ve been ripped off royally.  If I had only walked down the hill to the ticket office, I’m sure I could have easily caught one of those 10 yuan buses up the mountain to Ping’An.

The van driver drops me at the gate to Ping’An where a man tells me I can pay 150 yuan for a porter to carry my bag up the hill into the village of Ping’An.  I wave him off, thinking I can just walk up the hill, especially for that outrageous sum. Another man offers me the porter for 100 yuan.  I shake my head.  “I’ll just walk!” I say, as if they can understand a word I’m saying.  Finally another man punches a number into a calculator:  30 yuan.  Okay, for that price, I’ll take him up on the offer!

At this point I think it is the big burly man who will carry my bag up the hill.  But he calls up a little old lady, about half my size and quite spry and chipper; she dumps my bag into a large basket with shoulder straps.  My bag is a carry-on size but quite heavy because it’s stuffed with winter clothes. The lady puts the straps of the basket over her shoulders like a backpack and starts walking briskly up the steep hill to the village.  The same man who offered up this little lady also offers me a sedan chair.  I can’t bring myself to take him up on the offer because I don’t want to feel like some memsaab on the Indian subcontinent!

I’m exhausted from my day of travel and my stomach is still hurting. It’s probably a half mile walk up the steep mountain and I’m huffing and puffling while the little old lady carrying my bag isn’t even panting or breaking a sweat.  Finally, after what seems like an eternity, she drops me at the Longji International Youth Hostel, a place recommended by one of my colleagues.  By this time it’s 4:30 p.m. and I’ve been traveling for nine hours.

Longji International Youth Hostel

Longji International Youth Hostel

I check into a room that has a squat toilet;  I’m not too happy about that.  Neither does the heater seem to work.  It’s so cold that the hotel receptionist is bundled up in a down jacket with a furry hood.   Despite my stomach ache, I’ve arrived and I can finally settle in for the evening.  I order a Tsingtao beer and sit on a porch chair to watch Ping-An’s busy residents scurrying about on various building projects.  They’re clever enough to keep their labor costs low by employing horses to carry building materials, logs and bricks, through the narrow cobbled streets.

Relaxing on the terrace of the hostel

Relaxing on the terrace of the hostel

view of Ping An from the terrace

view of Ping An from the terrace

View down the hill from whence I came

View down the hill from whence I came

the industrious Zhuang people

the industrious Zhuang people

beasts of burden in Ping An

beasts of burden in Ping An

After I finish my beer, the receptionist wants to know if I’d like to change rooms. She has one on the 4th floor with a working heater and a Western toilet.  I move into the new room.  Then I hunker down in the chilly dining room and eat scrambled eggs with leeks.  While there, I have a long chat with an Indian girl from London, Maria, who is traveling solo all over China.  She’s been in China for 3 weeks and has been studying Chinese with a tutor on Skype.  I tell her I’ve been taking Chinese classes for a month now and all we’ve covered are the sounds.  She can’t understand why it’s taking us so long to learn the sounds, and neither can I!

Maria asks if I’d like to take a walk through the town and we do so, even though I’m still not feeling well and it’s quite cold.  It’s fun to see all the arts and crafts made by the local Zhuang people and to see the rice being cooked and tended to.

the rice a'cookin'

the rice a’cookin’

My new room is quite cozy, even though the heavy down comforter feels a little damp. I think it’s just so moist in the air here that things never get completely dry.  I have the heat on full blast.  I also note that the bathroom ceiling is leaking all over the bathroom floor and on the carpet outside the bathroom.  It even leaks on my head when I use the toilet.  However, I don’t want to go back to the room with the squat toilet, so I settle in for a restless night to a serenade of of drip, drip, drip.

the second room with the leak

the second room with the leak

I’ve arranged to meet the little old lady at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.  She’s going to guide me on a two hour hike to explore the rice terraces around Ping’An.

Categories: Asia, China, ESL Teacher, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Longji Rice Terraces, Longsheng County, Ping'An Village, Travel, Zhuang people | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

nanning people’s park & a mood-lifting motorbike ride

Sunday, November 16:  At the end of the day, it’s the motorbike ride back to the university that lifts my spirits and reminds me that I’m only in China for a year, and that I’d better savor every moment.

This week, I finished the grueling and thankless task of marking 142 essays by 71 students.  Twenty hours of sitting and marking boring and often senseless essays made for a lot of physical discomfort, general stiffness and back and shoulder pain, as well as a foul mood.  It’s over now, and I survived it, but it was NOT fun.  I also felt a lot of resentment about the workload of the writing teachers vs. the reading teachers, who had no midterm exams to mark. Early in the semester, the Level 1 teachers had discussed the possibility of the reading teachers helping the writing teachers mark half the exams at midterm, but that plan just vaporized. No one asked my opinion; the decision was just made without any input from me.

I hate unfairness in the workplace.

When I take these overseas jobs, I never know exactly what I’ll be teaching.  It’s usually some general integrative English that includes writing, speaking, listening and reading.  When I arrived in China to find I would be teaching writing to nearly 80 students, I was not happy.  I didn’t have any say in this.  When I found out that some teachers who were hired made it a condition of their job acceptance that they NOT teach writing, I was upset, mostly that I didn’t think to make such a demand.  I guess I need to look out for myself more in the future.  

I keep reminding myself I’m here for the travel and that sometimes to get what I want, I have to put up with a lot of BS. 

The other thing that’s contributed to my bad mood is the weather.  I’ve hated the weather here since day one, with its high humidity and heat.  In the last two weeks, the temperatures have dropped, but the air remains damp.  It’s rained nearly every day since November 1, and when not raining it’s been overcast.  For someone who thrives on going on outings and taking pictures, this has caused me some consternation.

Saturday it rained, but today no rain is forecast, even though it’s gray and dreary.  Tired of having spent the last week cooped up inside, I venture out to the Nanning People’s Park. I take a taxi for 20 yuan and arrive to a bustling front gate with crowds of people milling about.

Entrance to the People's Park

Entrance to the People’s Park

Built in 1951, the People’s Park is also called Bailong Park for the lake that lies on its southern edge. According to “Records of Scenic Resorts,” a famous general called Di Qing from the Song dynasty was once stationed here with his army. One day, he spotted a flock of white sheep walking along the lake.  As it reminded him of a moving white dragon, he named the lake Bailong which means white dragon in Chinese (China Highlights: People’s Park, Nanning).

Scenic spots in the park are Zhenning Fort, Bailong Lake, Jiuqu Bridge, Huxin Pavilion, Bailong Restaurant, the Children’s Amusement Park, Goldfish Pool, Underground Ice Room, Martyrs Memorial and so on.

Pavilion

Pavilion

Just inside the gate is the main body of the park, Wangxian Slope, which is covered with green trees. A 10-meter-wide corridor of 141 steps leads to the top.  On the top of the mountain, there was once an Ancestral Hall to memorize the historical celebrities who contributed a great deal to Nanning, namely Di Qing, Sun Miao, Yu Jing, Su Jian, Wang Yangming and Mang Yitu. However, the Hall was destroyed by the Guangxi warlord Lu Rongting in 1917 and replaced by an emplacement, the Zhenning Emplacement, or Zhenning Fort. Built with bluestone, it is a ring-shaped castle with a high board on which is placed a German cannon made in 1890. Since the Wangxian Slope is the highest place in Nanning, the emplacement offers a bird’s-eye view of Nanning.

Rock sculpture in front of Zhenning Fort

Rock sculpture in front of Zhenning Fort

I walk up to the Fort and pay a one yuan entrance fee.  The fort is small and derelict, complete with walls of peeling paint, a Buddha, a stone turtle and incense offerings, a large cannon on which children are climbing, and some costumes rented out for photos.

steps to Zhenning Fort

steps to Zhenning Fort

inside Zhenning Fort

inside Zhenning Fort

Zhenning Fort

Zhenning Fort

Cannon at Zhenning Fort

Cannon at Zhenning Fort

View of Nanning from Zhenning Fort

View of Nanning from Zhenning Fort

Zhenning Fort

Zhenning Fort

When I leave Zhenning Fort, I’m bombarded by jarring noise from every direction.  A number of groups are playing or singing loud music.  I’m annoyed at first by the mish-mash of noise.  With so many people playing their various tunes, it sounds as grating and cacophonous as an out-of-tune symphony orchestra warming up.

I sit on a low wall to watch a group of middle-aged ladies practicing dance steps to a lively beat.  One level down the hill, a man is playing a traditional Chinese instrument, while a lady in a red shirt sings a high-pitched whining song over a microphone.  Music is emanating from other unseen quarters.  Children are running around squealing and yelling, adding to the general discord.

I follow a path downhill, where I can see some water through the trees.  South of Wang Xian Slope lies Bailong Lake, surrounded by green bamboos and willows. In the middle of the lake, there is an island, connected to the land by two bridges, Jiuqu Bridge and Sankong Bridge, located to the west and the north of the island respectively.  And on every bridge and every bit of shoreline, there are Chinese people.

Boats on Bailong Lake

Boats on Bailong Lake

The lake is a beehive of activity, from people skimming the surface in strange-shaped boats to people gathering under shady pavilions, to people standing on a puzzle-shaped bridge feeding koi.  People, people everywhere.  There is no way to escape people in a big Chinese city like Nanning.  It’s the complete opposite experience to my life in Oman, a country so sparsely populated that I could easily escape into wilderness and serenity.

Bailong Lake

Bailong Lake

on the perimeter of Bailong Lake

on the perimeter of Bailong Lake

Bailong Lake

Bailong Lake

water gardens on Bailong Lake

water gardens on Bailong Lake

Pavilion

Pavilion. (I cut out the hordes of people standing below!)

Bridge on Bailong Lake

Bridge on Bailong Lake

Boating on Bailong Lake

Boating on Bailong Lake

Rock statuary

Rock statuary

Walkways on Bailong Lake

Walkways on Bailong Lake

Crowds on Bailong Lake

Crowds on Bailong Lake

Bailong Lake

Bailong Lake

Bailong Lake

Bailong Lake

Restaurant on Bailong Lake

Restaurant on Bailong Lake

Island pavilion

Island pavilion

stone work

stone work

restaurant on Bailong Lake

restaurant on Bailong Lake

bridge on Bailong Lake

bridge on Bailong Lake

Bridge and boats on Bailong Lake

Bridge and boats on Bailong Lake

walkway to an island on Bailong Lake

walkway to an island on Bailong Lake

Before I head to the Children’s Amusement Park, I’m pleasantly surprised to find a relatively clean public bathroom with a western-style toilet (although it’s designated as handicapped).  It’s highly unusual to find any Western-style toilets in China.  In Korea and Oman, which mostly had squat toilets, there were generally a few Western-style toilets available as well.  Here in China, it’s rare to find them anywhere.

At the gaudy Children’s Amusement Park, I see children twirling about in all kinds of colorful contraptions.  This little girl doesn’t seem to be having much fun.

Girl on an amusement park ride

Girl on an amusement park ride

amusement park rides

amusement park rides

I have some fun watching this whirl-a-gig ride.  Two mothers are busily snapping photos of their children.  I have fun snapping photos of them, and I also play around with the aperture a bit to see if I can capture the motion.  The results are below.

moments in time

moments in time

minus one

minus one

movement

movement

I stop at a little kiosk to get some popcorn, which I munch on as I continue on my way.  Finally, I sit on a bench near the Monument to Revolutionary Martyrs, where an old man wanders over and attempts to communicate with me.  He points to the Monument sign and gestures to the steps leading to the monument.  He continues to talk to me even though I apologetically explain to him that I only speak English.  It apparently makes no difference to him that my responses are totally inappropriate to what he’s saying, because he continues to chatter and then hands me a pamphlet for the Natural History Museum, which I passed earlier on the grounds near the Children’s Amusement Park.

When the man wanders off, probably bored by in inability to communicate, I make my way up 157 steps to the Monument.  The monument was built in honor of the revolutionary martyrs who laid down their lives for the revolutionary struggles of the Chinese people in the age of revolution and war.

The structure stands 20 metres tall and looks like a smaller replica of the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tiananmen Square. On the east and west sides of the monument there is an inscription which reads “Eternal glory to the revolutionary martyrs!”

Steps to the Monument to Revolutionary Martyrs

Steps to the Monument to Revolutionary Martyrs

Built in 1956, this monument is now a historical site for patriotic education. The small square at the foot of the hill is also a good place for people to do morning exercises (Nanning here: Nanning People’s Park (3)).

Monument to Revolutionary Martyrs

Monument to Revolutionary Martyrs

Monument to Revolutionary Martyrs

Monument to Revolutionary Martyrs

As I leave the Monument, I come across a couple of foreigners eating a picnic lunch on a bench.  I do a double-take, and they do too.  I tell them it’s always shocking to me when I see foreigners in Nanning. They agree.

Continuing on my way, I pass couples playing badminton, children blowing bubbles, old people doing exercises, a middle-aged woman singing alone in the forest.  I see proud grandparents pushing their grandchildren in carriages and couples strolling along quietly, hand in hand.  Here in this park, the People’s Park, is China in a nutshell, every aspect of this multi-faceted culture in one tropical microcosm.

I come across this unusual statue, but I don’t know what it represents.

Wild statue

Wild statue

I walk through a tropical forest until I return unexpectedly to the back side of Zhenning Fort, back to where I started.

shady walkway

shady walkway

rock sculpture amidst tropical plants

rock sculpture amidst tropical plants

I eventually reach the entrance and head to the street to flag down a taxi.  I wave at a number of empty taxis, including one that has just dropped its passenger off.  I’ve heard from other teachers that taxi drivers don’t like to pick up foreigners because they can’t understand us, but I haven’t really experienced this problem much so far.  After about five empty taxis pass me by, a man on a motorbike somehow manages to ask where I’m going.  I tell him Guangxi Daxue (Pinyin for Guangxi University), but he still looks baffled.  Most Chinese never understand me, even though I feel like I’m pronouncing it correctly.   I show him my trusty Chinese-English Nanning map.

Back to the entrance

Back to the entrance

The man pulls out his wallet and shows me a twenty and a five.  I get that he is offering me a ride for 25 yuan, even though we can’t understand one word of each other’s language.  I nod and say, OK, and then hop on the back of his bike.

I don’t know what on earth possesses me to take risks like this when I’m in a foreign country.  I would no more hop on a stranger’s motorcycle in the U.S. than I would leap off of a tall building.  But here, I feel safe.  Maybe it’s foolish or maybe not.  There are so many people in China that even if someone wanted to kidnap me or harm me in some way, I don’t know where he’d take me without hundreds of other people around to witness.

With utter abandon, and with no small degree of foolhardiness, I hop on the back, and this ride back to the university is what saves my day.  I love the thrill of riding on a motorbike through the chaos of China and feeling the wind on my face.  I love hanging on for dear life as we dodge and weave around two- and three- and four-wheeled contraptions.  We whiz past buses and taxis and shiny new cars and old ladies in flowered hats pedaling carts of cardboard or vegetables or rubbish.  We flow like a river, along with scores of fellow motorbikes, around corners and we merge into new traffic patterns.  It’s a thrill, and I think to myself: I can’t believe I’m in China.  I am!  I’m really here.

Though parts of my life here sometimes depress me, most often I remember that this, this living in a foreign land, is what makes me feel alive; it’s what challenges and thrills me, what makes my life a surprising and unlikely adventure. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Bailong Lake, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Monument to Revolutionary Martyrs, Nanning, People's Park, Remnin Park, Zhenning Fort | Tags: , , , , | 26 Comments

wu li ting market & a sunday invigilation

Saturday, November 8:  This was a weird weekend, or rather a non-weekend, as, for the third time since I arrived in China, the university required us to work on a Sunday.  For our midterm exams, the administration decided to test out a new computerized British Council test on Vocabulary, Reading and Listening, for which a lot of computer labs were needed.  We had to give the exams on Sunday, as the computer labs were booked during the weekdays.  That’s the story anyway.

Wu li ting market

Wu li ting market

As you can imagine, I wasn’t one bit happy about this.  The thing that made it a double blow was that classes were cancelled on Friday and Saturday due to Sports Day, meaning that if we hadn’t had to invigilate for the exams, we could have had a three-day weekend, and I could have possibly traveled somewhere.

Wu li ting market

Wu li ting market

oranges

oranges

There were two bits of saving grace: one, it rained all weekend and I would have probably had a miserable journey if I had gone away; and two, we were told we get to take off the 19th, 20th and 21st, meaning we’ll have a five-day weekend after midterms.  Assuming nothing happens to upset these plans, I’ve booked a room in Ping an at the Longji Rice Terraces, also known as the “Dragon’s Spine,” north of Guilin.

Pomelos and apples

Pomelos and apples

a dark and dreary day

a dark and dreary day

Of course I have a list of things to do and see in Nanning itself, so I ventured out Friday to the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities.  Today I went to Wu li ting Market, not too far a walk from the main gate of the University.  The students from my English Interest Course had told me about this market, which, as they mentioned, is bigger than the market on campus, but not hugely so.  Though the rain slacked off today, it was still overcast and cool, and the light seemed uncooperative for pictures.   I did capture the essence of the market, I think, and I found the vendors friendly and gracious.

Grapes and lady in red

Grapes and lady in red

jujube and vendor

jujube and vendor

I'm not sure what these are: melon and durian perhaps?

I’m not sure what these are: melon and durian perhaps?

pomelo and dragon fruit

pomelo and dragon fruit

relishes

relishes

the vegetable lady

the vegetable lady

greenery at its finest

greenery at its finest

arrangement

arrangement

bed of eggplants

bed of eggplants

vegetable city

vegetable city

On my way back from the market, the construction for the new underground railway, which won’t open until well after I’ve left China, was as jarring as always.  This sight is always a striking contrast to the leafy pond-dotted campus of Guangxi University.

Construction for the new underground railway

Construction for the new underground railway

work in progress

work in progress

towers of steel

towers of steel

We have our Writing midterm on Monday morning, at which time I will have to mark 71 papers with two essays each, a total of 142 essays.  I dread this.  In addition to marking those papers, we’re to continue teaching classes following our normal schedules.  I hope to come out from my solitary marking confinement sometime before next weekend, when hopefully the rain will stop and the air will glow with ribbons of sunlight.

Categories: Asia, China, Chinese markets, Expat life, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Teaching English as a Second Language, Wu li ting Market | Tags: , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

the guangxi museum of nationalities

Friday, November 7: It has been raining here in Nanning off and on all week, and though I’m tempted to just stay inside all day, I don’t want to let the rain defeat me.  I have such a long list of things to see in Nanning and in greater China that I feel like I should do at least some kind of outing every weekend, rain or shine, sleet or unlikely snow.

So, I pack an umbrella, bundle up in a rain jacket, and take off for the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities, #5 on the Trip Advisor list of 84 Things to do in Nanning. It turns out I find the museum delightful.  The exhibits are beautifully done and descriptions are written in both Chinese and English.  The museum is huge.  It includes 3 floors in the main building, as well as an outdoor village with traditional folk residences representative of those found throughout the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Guangxi Museum of Nationalities (GXMN)

Guangxi Museum of Nationalities (GXMN)

Established in 1958, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is located in the southern border area of China.  Guangxi hosts 12 indigenous ethnic groups including the Zhuang, Han, Yao, Miao, Dong, Mulao, Maonan, Hui, Jing, Yi, Shui, and Gelao, and the population of these ethnic groups ranks first in China.  The total population of the Autonomous Region was 51.59 million by the end of 2010, of which 19.57 million are those of ethnic groups, accounting for nearly 38% of the total.  The Zhuang population of 16.58 million is around 32% of the total (according to information from the museum).

The ethnic groups of Guangxi live together harmoniously and have done so for generations, according to the museum.

Inside the entrance to the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities

Inside the entrance to the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities

I decide to start at the top and work my way down.

Up to the third floor

Up to the third floor

Guangxi Museum of Nationalities (GXMN), launched in 2003, sits south of the Qingxiushan Scenic Area on the bank of the Yong River.  Construction was started in June 2006; its purpose was to be a professional ethnic cultural museum, centering on the collection, research, protection, exhibition and public education of the physical evidence, cultural and artistic relics, classics, intangible cultural heritage and research results of the 12 native ethnic groups’ survival and assimilation.

The exhibition adopts both dynamic and static methods of display, combining words, materials, live-scenes, and pictures.

Guangxi: A land of colorful ethnic cultures

Guangxi: A land of colorful ethnic cultures

I begin my journey in the Exhibition Hall of Homestead.

Wooden houses

Wooden houses

drying peppers

drying peppers

Every family of the White Pants Yao (named for their distinctive costume) has a barn separated from their house for storing grain.  Their design discourages rodents.  The pillars are covered with bottomless clay jars, too slippery for rodents to climb up, thus protecting the grain stored above.  These exemplify the barns in Nandan.

White Pants Yao barns

White Pants Yao barns

relief carving of ethnic house and farm

relief carving of ethnic house and farm

farm implements

farm implements

Spring ploughing of Jingxi Zhuang

Spring ploughing of Jingxi Zhuang

Decorations for spring festival

Decorations for spring festival

According to a plaque at the museum, “Jing people make their living by the traditional form of fishing with a stilt.  They use stilts to fish in the deep-sea as fishes and shrimps usually live more than one meter below the surface.  To solve the knotty problem of catching fish and shrimp, the Jing who live near the sea invented the method of stilt-fishing.” These fishermen can be found in the only coastal area in Guangxi at Beihai.

Dongxing Jing Fishing with Stilts

Dongxing Jing Fishing with Stilts

Taming cormorants to catch fish is a tradition that has lasted hundreds of years on the LiJiang River in Guangxi.  The cormorant is a kind of dark-footed, web-footed water bird similar in appearance to a crow, and known colloquially as a “water crow.”  Cormorants are good at diving and live near the water.  They’re good at catching fish because of their long beaks.  They store fish in small throat pouches under their jaws, but fishermen tie a string around their throat, preventing them from swallowing the fish.

Fishing with cormorants on the LiJiang River

Fishing with cormorants on the LiJiang River

The next stop is the Exhibition Hall of Ethnic Costume.  Here the exhibit revolves around textiles and the costumes of the various ethnic groups.

silk merchant

silk merchant

weaver

weaver

Ethnic costumes

Ethnic costumes

The Exhibition Hall of Fine Arts and Craft blows me away with its fascinating exhibits of Dong wooden buildings, cave paintings, lanterns, dragons and other creatures.

The outstanding cultural art of the Dong is their woodwork and wooden architecture.  The most famous examples are the wind and rain bridges and the drum towers.  Wind and rain bridges consist of 3-5 stacked stone abutments.  Pavilions with double-sloping eaves are built above the abutments and then connected to make a bridge.  Drum towers always have four symmetrical pillars as their framework in the middle of the structure.  The architects and craftsmen follow the rules of balance, symmetry and harmony and use wooden joints with parts crisscrossing vertically with each other.  Not a single nail is used in the whole framework, but it is nonetheless sturdy and elegant.

These wooden buildings by the Dong are on my list of things to find in Guangxi while I’m here in China.

Cliff paintings in Guangxi are painted in walls of caves or on cliffs along rivers.  Most scenes show sacrificial activities in groups. The cliff paintings along the Zuo River emerged in the Warring States period and the Eastern Han Dynasty.

Next I head into the colorful Exhibition Hall of Traditional Culture.  This has so many fascinating displays, I stay in here for quite some time.

The Firecracker Dragon Festival in Binyang County is a unique form of the common Lion Dance held at 7:00 on the 11th day of the first month in the Chinese Lunar calendar.  Lion dancers pay a New Year call to every household. People can throw lighted firecrackers at the dancing dragon as they believe the firecrackers will get rid of misfortune and bring them good luck instead.  It is also believed to make them prosperous and healthy in the coming year.

Firecracker Dragon Dance of the Binyang Han

Firecracker Dragon Dance of the Binyang Han

“Mang Hao” is a transliteration from the Miao language. Mang means “mask” and Hao is a Miao god.  Every year on the 17th day of the first month of the Chinese Lunar calendar, young Miao men will wear masks and grass-made coats, lurking in the forest like their god “Hao.”  They dance wildly to the music of the Lusheng as a prayer to their god for a good harvest in the coming year.

This is something I would love to see!

Rongshi Miao ~ "Mang Hao" dance (the mask dance)

Rongshi Miao ~ “Mang Hao” dance (the mask dance)

During a Pan Yao wedding, the bride and groom kneel and kowtow to their parents and relatives many times to show their gratitude under the auspices of a Taoist priest.  The ceremony can take one to two days because they are expected to kowtow nine times to every single relative attending the wedding.

Hezhou Yao Wedding Ceremony

Hezhou Yao Wedding Ceremony

Guangxi has long been famed as the “sea of songs,” according to a plaque at the museum. All ethnic people “sing on all occasions and everyone is a singer.”  They replace their speeches with songs and meet friends with songs.

The Jinxiu Yao Yellow Mud Drum Dance is also called the Long Drum Dance, involving a female drum and four male drums. It is a sacrifice to the Yao King Pan.  Drums can be classified by their pitch male (low) or female (high).  During the dance, dancers turn, whirl and jump to pay a tribute to the legends of the King Pan.  The dance involves the reenactment of scenes of Yao life such as migrating, ploughing, hunting and sowing.

Jinxiu Yao Yellow Mud Drum Dance

Jinxiu Yao Yellow Mud Drum Dance

After visiting all these exhibitions on the third floor, I head to the second floor where I visit the Exhibition Hall of Bronze Drum Culture.  By this time, I must admit I’m getting a little tired.  Apparently in this section is a Beiliu bronze drum of the West Han Dynasty, which was considered as the king of Chinese bronze drum, but I somehow miss this.

Finally, for my last stop inside the museum, I drop in to the Zhuang Culture Exhibition.

I can see out the window of the museum that it’s still raining, but I’m determined to go outside to see the ethnic village.  As it’s rather wet, I zip through quite quickly, but here’s a bit of what I see.

Dong Wind and Rain Bridge

Dong Wind and Rain Bridge

Dong Wind and Rain Bridge

Dong Wind and Rain Bridge

The museum is a great tribute to the 12 aboriginal minorities’ customs, festivals, clothing, and architecture, as well as its precious historical relics, such as bronze ware, pottery ware, porcelain ware, bamboo and wooden articles, jade ware, glass utensil, and lacquer ware. I really enjoy my day at the museum where I am able to experience the cultural achievements Guangxi ethnic minorities have made with their hardworking, intelligence and solidarity.

Now my quest is to experience these minority cultures firsthand in my travels throughout Guangxi.

To get to the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities:

By taxi from the main gate of Guangxi University: It’s about 56 yuan each way. It will take about 45 minutes. (This is what I did)

By bus: Take no. 10, 32, 33, 601, No. 1 or No. 2 Around-the-City-Bus.  Stop at Qingxiushan Damen station, then take Sub-line Bus No. 71 and stop on Guangxi Minzu Bowuguan (GXMN) station.  Mon-Fri: 8:30  12:30  16:30 / Weekends and statutory holidays: 8:30  10:30  12:30  14:30  16:30  17:00  (From the museum’s brochure – I did not test this out!)

Address: No. 11 Qinghuan Road, Nanning

Tel: 0771-2024599 (Visitor Service Center)

Website: http://www.gxmn.org

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Museum of Nationalities, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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