Travel

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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cocktail hour in the laundry room: BYOB for my final hours in china :-)

Sunday, July 12:  Good evening and welcome to my humble laundry room for our last cocktail hour in China!  Please, do come in and have a seat. Strangely, it isn’t too hot and miserable this July evening, so I think we’ll be comfortable enough on my screened-in “porch.”  At least here we can enjoy our magnificent view over the drab and utilitarian hotel courtyard.  It lacks charm, as does my laundry room, but hopefully one of you will step up to the plate and charm us all with your wiles and wit.

I have to apologize in advance for asking you to bring your own beverage, as I’m in the process of cleaning out my refrigerator and eating the last of my food in preparation for my imminent departure on Wednesday morning at 9:40 a.m.  I only have one Tsingtao beer remaining, and I’d be happy to offer it to you, but…. I must say, I need a beer after all I’ve been through in the last two weeks. 🙂

I’m sorry it’s been three weeks since my last cocktail hour.  (The ex-Catholic in me almost wrote, “It’s been 3 weeks since my last confession,… Father.”) 🙂  Since that cocktail hour, I’ve been super busy.  On the weekend  following our last gathering, I went to the Longji Rice Terraces one last time. They were as beautiful as they were the first time I saw them, maybe even more so, and I’ve now decided they are the top place I visited during all my travels in China this year.  Here’s a glimpse, below.  I’ll write more about them later, once I’ve returned home.  I’m hopelessly behind in my blogging.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

In the last several weeks, I had a couple of dinners with students and colleagues, I marked 73 final essays and 37 listening exams and proctored several exams.  It’s been busy, so I’ve missed you all, and I hope once I get back to the USA, I’ll have time for more leisurely chats over a glass of wine, or two.

Please, tell me all about your week.  I hope my American friends had a nice Fourth of July.  For me it was just like any other day, as I don’t know why on earth anyone in China would celebrate America’s independence.

Actually, I take back that it was like any other day.  I just remembered that on July 4th, I spent nearly 6 grueling hours marking 19 of my 73 papers.  It was the furthest thing from “independence day” imaginable. The process of marking those papers was incredibly tedious.  It took on average about half an hour per paper, as we had to check students’ in-text citations and Works Cited pages, which frankly were a complete mess.  In addition, when sentences seemed too good to be true, with perfect grammar and vocabulary normally out of my students’ realm of knowledge, I felt compelled to search online for plagiarism.  It was terribly time-consuming. Those were some of the worst 4 days of my life so far.  Thank goodness they’re now over.  My grades are in, and I’ve been officially signed off, received my travel allowance and my final pay, and am now just packing the last of my things for my trip home.

So, tell me about your summer. I hope it’s been relaxing, as summer should be.  Are you enjoying your gardens and reaping wonderful fruits from them? Have you been sipping iced tea on a porch with a sunset view?  Have you traveled anywhere interesting, and if not, are you planning to?  Have you been swimming or eating ice cream to keep cool? What flavors?  Have you seen any good movies in the theater or on TV?  Have you caught any fireflies or gone crabbing off a dock?  Have you sailed the seven seas? Have you read any steamy summer novels?  Have you basked in the sunlight?  Have you sung “hallelujah”?

I ask about the “hallelujah” because on Facebook, my dear friend Mario, who many of you may remember from Oman, posted a beautiful song by Rufus Wainwright called “Hallelujah.”  It was originally written by Leonard Cohen, but I have to say I like the Rufus version better.  Once I heard this song, I fell in love with it so much that I’ve been listening to it repeatedly.  In addition, I found a website called songmeanings.com, and I looked up the lyrics to that song and read what different people think the lyrics mean.  I won’t rehash the comments here, but you can read them yourself if you’re interested: (Rufus Wainwright – Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen cover)).  Oh, how I adore this song, especially these lines:

And remember when I moved in you?
The holy dark was moving too
And every breath we drew was hallelujah

The music, the lyrics: all so stunning.  That song takes my breath away.

Time waster that I can be, I then proceeded to look up meanings for many of my favorite songs, including “I & Love & You” by the Avett Brothers and “Somebody that I used to know,” sung by Gotye and Kimbra. I’ve had discussions with people about the meanings of these and other songs, and I was happy to find someone in each feed who agreed with my interpretation of these songs.  I’ve had some people tell me that when Kimbra sings the lines below, she’s referring to one of Gotye’s old girlfriends who he can’t forget, but I disagree.  I understand her to be talking about herself; by breaking up with Gotye, she’s now become the “somebody that [Gotye] used to know.”

And I don’t wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know

I must apologize that I’ve digressed.  But isn’t this how a cocktail hour goes?  Any subject can come up; convolutions in conversation take you down winding paths you never imagined before. I love this about a cocktail party, or any small gathering of friends.

As for books, I’m embarrassed to admit I’m still slogging through The Sandcastle Girls.  I honestly just don’t make the time to read like I should.  That’s probably because I’ve been so addicted to the TV series Revenge and now Mistresses; sadly, those shows are taking up way too much of my down time.  I really need to have that mindless time sometimes though.  What do you do when you need time free from thinking?  I know Robin meditates; I sadly haven’t acquired that habit, at least not regularly.

In my final days here, it’s been a time of goodbyes. I said goodbye to all of my students and was very sad to do so.  I gave them my email address and invited them to come stay with me in northern Virginia any time they would like.  I know it’s unlikely that many of them will ever come to America, but if they do, I’d really love to have them.  I also asked them to keep in touch and let me know what happens in their lives. I really hope they will do so.

I taught 73 students over the entire year.  Most of the same students have been with me since September.  My 1408 class is the one I’m closest to because I taught them Writing AND Speaking & Listening.  I have an A class of 18 students and a B class of 19 students, for a total of 37.  We spent a lot of hours together over the year.  The personalities of these classes are very different; the A class is much more lively and talkative and fun-loving than the B class.  So I’ve felt especially close to them, and it was very hard to say goodbye.  Below is my entire 1408 class with all 37 students.  Usually the classes were divided into A and B groups, meaning I repeated the same lessons twice each week, but once a week, I taught one 40-minute writing class with all 37 of them together.

1408 class: all 37 students

1408 class: all 37 students

This is my wild and crazy A class.  I love them all for their outgoing personalities and their kindness. I have some real characters in this class, especially Albert, Edison, Chris, Yuki, Robin and Paul.  Spring was probably the best student I had overall. Robin and Yuki were the movers and shakers, the organizers who always arranged our parties, gatherings, KTV visits, and outings.

1408: all 37 students

1408 A: 18 students

My 1408 B class was a little more quiet and subdued.  It was only toward the end that they started to break out of their shells, especially thanks to Coco, Jocelyn and Hellen, Jack and Leo.

1408 class: 37 students:

1408 B class: 19 students

The 1407 class was really great fun too, especially the A class, which had 21 students.  The B class of 15 students was super quiet and maybe even a little boring.  I only taught them writing, so I saw them a lot less than the 1408 class.  Because I saw them less frequently and because we didn’t talk a lot in class (it was a writing class, after all), I sometimes got them mixed up, more than I would have liked!

1407 class: 36 students

1407 class: 36 students

A couple of students from the 1407A class invited me to lunch one day and I received from them a barrage of insults and compliments all at the same time.   They told me first that Colton, my partner teacher who taught reading and speaking & listening to them, said that I was a “harsh” teacher.  I said, “How would he know?  He’s never sat in on my class!”  Of course, it then hit me that he’d only know this if they told him.   But, said David, “I really like your teaching style better than Colton’s.  You make me think and you have us do more active learning.”  They also told me that they often didn’t understand what I said because I talked too fast.  I do know that I sometimes forget to slow down, as I do talk naturally fast. So I said, “Why didn’t you raise your hand and tell me to slow down?” They said, oh no, they would never do that.  As Chinese students they are taught to never question a teacher’s authority or teaching style, especially in front of other students.  I said, “Well, I hope it helped that I wrote everything on a Power Point so you could read along.”  They said, yes, that helped a lot.

On Wednesday, July 8, after I finished proctoring the reading exams, my 1408 class invited me to join them at a restaurant for a lunch they arranged. It was a lovely time.  When I finished with lunch, I rode my bicycle home and finished marking the last of the listening exams, entered all my marks onto spreadsheets and wrote up all the analyses of the marks to turn in as soon as possible.

On Thursday morning, I handed in all my exams and marks and analyses of marks, and got my checklist signed off on by all the official people.  This felt like the first huge burden lifted off me.

My 1407 class invited me to a party on Thursday, July 9 at the same rental apartment where my 1408 class had a Christmas party for me earlier this year.  The party was supposed to go from 2-7, but I had an appointment to get my hair straightened and cut at 11:00. I wanted to have this process done in China because it only cost 500 yuan (~$81), whereas in the U.S. it costs about $300 for the inexpensive version!  The whole process lasted from 11-4:30, so I was late to the party.

The girls made dumplings and we played card games and chatted and took pictures. It was a fun time, but I left at about 6:30, exhausted from the whole stressful week.

While I was at the party, I got a message from LiJi, one of the Chinese administrators: “Hi Cathy, Can you come to Dean Qin’s office tomorrow 11:30 a.m.?  You’ve been awarded the SCIC Dean’s Special Honor.”  For a few brief seconds, I thought this was really wonderful, except I couldn’t think why on earth I would get such an award.  Later that evening, I was emailing back and forth with Erica, my friend and colleague, to arrange a time to meet Friday morning to help her with her spreadsheets.  By now, quite suspicious of the “special honor,” I wrote to her: “Hey there, has everyone been invited to the Dean’s office at 11:30 tomorrow?”

She wrote back: “The invitation sounded really personal & special…then I got to thinking ‘you know, i bet everyone’s had the same invitation’…haha. I was invited for 11:40 though & not 11:30.”
Later in the evening, Gavin wrote me on WeChat and I wrote back: “So what time have you been invited to meet the Dean tomorrow? 🙂 ” He wrote back: “How do you know about that?”  I said, “Because we were all invited! My time is 11:30 and Erica’s 11:40.”  He wrote back: “Haha, I feel like the sandwich filling (11:35).”

On Friday morning, I took my signed-off checklist to the people responsible for reimbursing our travel allowance, and had the money deposited into my account by that afternoon.  While there, I ran into another colleague and I asked him, “So, what time are you meeting with the Dean?” He said, “What?  I’m not meeting with the Dean.”  I said, “Oh, I thought everyone was invited!”  Oops!

On my way up to meet the Dean, I commented to LiJi, “It seems like a lot of people are getting the award.”  He said, “Yes, nine.”  Ok, so I guess it was a little special as only 36% of the teachers were getting the award.  It turned out we were chosen based on student evaluations, classroom observations by the Chinese staff, and the votes of the Chinese administration.  And, on top of that, it turned out we got a 1000 yuan bonus (~ $162)!  So I guess it was a bit of a big deal. 🙂

The Dragon's Backbone in Ping'An

The Dragon’s Backbone in Ping’An

On Saturday morning, I asked Erica if she would help me lug a bunch of my stuff to the post office.  When we got there at 10:30 with two suitcases and two bags packed with stuff, we were told that the post office was out of big boxes.  We asked if we could leave my stuff behind the counter while we went to a supermarket to find some boxes.  The lady said okay.  We went to the supermarket, found two large boxes and returned to the post office.  The post office lady then told us that we are only allowed to use the sturdy post office boxes to mail things internationally.  So why did she send us off to find boxes at the supermarket?  And why aren’t they stocking enough boxes for customers to send things home?  After all, students are graduating and leaving the campus and will be sending stuff to their homes too.  This shows the lack of foresight often so prevalent in China.

It seems we were in a Catch-22. I told the lady I needed to mail my packages today, so what should I do?  (All this time, we were actually having our conversation translated by a poor student who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time!)  The lady said she would order 4 boxes (2 for me and 2 for Erica) and we should come back at 3:00.  We did that; the boxes were there (“hallelujah!”), and I sent my boxes home to Virginia by surface (1-3 months) for 791 yuan (~$127).  The whole ordeal, between getting the last of my stuff together and going twice to the post office, was exhausting and took a good chunk out of the day.

Nothing is ever easy in China.

Cheers to you all, and thanks for joining me tonight for my final cocktail hour in the laundry room.  It was really nice to visit with you again.  I may not be able to respond promptly to your comments, but I will eventually, I promise.  And I also will respond to those of you who commented on my last cocktail hour, and to whom I haven’t yet responded. Thanks for being patient.

Hopefully we can meet in a nicer spot once I’m back home in Virginia. 🙂

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, laundry room cocktail hour, Nanning, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Teaching English as a Second Language, Travel | Tags: , , , | 48 Comments

my final hike back to ping’an from nine dragons & five tigers…and back to nanning

Sunday, June 28:  After seeing all I can see of Nine Dragons and Five Tigers, I start to make my way to back to my hostel in Ping’An.   I can see the village ahead of and below me, and the gorgeous rice terraces laid out neatly below me.

the walk back to Ping'An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping’An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Every once in a while I pass Chinese tourists along the path, or I see them walking ahead of me, but luckily it isn’t too crowded.

the path back

the path back

view of Ping'An from the terraces

view of Ping’An from the terraces

view of Ping'An from the terraces

view of Ping’An from the terraces

looking down on the rice terraces

looking down on the rice terraces

the walk back to Ping'An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping’An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping'An

the walk back to Ping’An

the walk back to Ping'An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping’An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping'An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping’An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

I see a few farmers along the way, walking along the terrace edges, doing what they do best.

a farmer on the rice terraces

a farmer on the rice terraces

I pass a vendor, a Zhuang woman selling various textiles, at this isolated spot along the trail.

a vendor along the way

a vendor along the way

looking back from where I came

looking back from where I came

the farmer on the terraces

the farmer on the terraces

the walk back to Ping'An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping’An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

After passing by the most dramatic terraces, the path takes me along the edge of a mountain, where ferns and flowers are growing with exuberance.

the walk back to Ping'An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping’An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

through the woods

through the woods

ferns along the path

ferns along the path

buds along the path

buds along the path

buds along the path

buds along the path

After emerging from the wooded area, I can see Ping’An below me.

the walk back to Ping'An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping’An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping'An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the walk back to Ping’An from Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

looking down on the rice terraces approaching Seven Stars with Moon

looking down on the rice terraces approaching Seven Stars with Moon

looking down on the way to Seven Stars with Moon

looking down on the way to Seven Stars with Moon

cornstalks along the path

cornstalks along the path

I continue walking until I reach a lookout point that is on the other side of the village, looking over Seven Stars with Moon.

vendors along the path

vendors along the path

overlooking Seven Stars with Moon

overlooking Seven Stars with Moon

overlooking Seven Stars with Moon

overlooking Seven Stars with Moon

overlooking Seven Stars with Moon

overlooking Seven Stars with Moon

As it’s almost time for me to catch the bus back to Guilin, I continue through the village and back to my hostel.

back in the village of Ping'An

back in the village of Ping’An

Ping'An

Ping’An

a Chinese building along the way

a Chinese building along the way

Back at the hostel, I gather my bags and make my way 20 minutes down the mountain to the entrance of Ping’An Village.  I have bought a few souvenirs while here, so my backpack is rather heavy now.  I get on one of the two buses that leave daily from Ping’An directly to the Guilin Railway Station; it leaves at 2:00 p.m.  The only other direct bus left at 9:00 a.m., but if I had taken that one, I wouldn’t have had much time at the terraces!

On the bus, I talk during most of the trip to a young man from Stuttgart, Germany who has been studying in Beijing for his thesis on water storage and flooding control and is now taking a month to travel around China.  His favorite destination was a place in southern Sichuan near Tibet.

The bus ride to Guilin seems very short.  I expected it to be 3 hours and it’s only about 2 1/2 hours, meaning I arrive at the Guilin Railway Station before 4:30.  This means of course that, since my train to Nanning doesn’t leave until 8:10 p.m., I have to wait in the train station for over 3 1/2 hours, an excruciatingly boring and uncomfortable way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  It seems like an eternity.  I could have gone out to explore someplace in Guilin if I’d had a place to store my heavy backpack filled to the brim with souvenirs!

The fast train from Guilin to Nanning only has one or two stops, depending on which train you are on.  I always think it’s funny when this announcement comes on as we approach a stop: “Passengers who do not reach their destination cannot get off.”  Of course, there is no one to stop people from getting off if they want to, so of course the announcement should be: “Passengers who have not reached their destination should not get off.”  I laugh every time I hear this announcement on Chinese trains. 🙂  I arrive back in Nanning at 10:40 p.m. and then catch a bus back to the university, arriving home after 11 p.m. after a tiring day of travel.  This is way past my bedtime, but it was well worth the trip to see the rice terraces one last time before leaving China.

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Longsheng County, Nine Dragons & Five Tigers, Ping'An Village, Seven Stars with Moon, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

a morning walk from ping’an to nine dragons & five tigers

Sunday, June 28:  This morning, I sleep in until 9:00 after waking up at 4:30 and staring at the ceiling for a long while. I shower in my room but must use the hair dryer in the common room, which seems really weird, blowing my hair dry  in full view of other guests.  I eat a small breakfast of a scrambled egg, two slices of bacon, two pieces of toast, and coffee, and then head out for a walk.

I have to travel back to Nanning today, but my train from Guilin to Nanning isn’t until 8:10 tonight.  I purposely scheduled a late train so I wouldn’t be rushed when coming back from the rice terraces.  I figured when I bought the ticket that I could leave Ping’An around 4:00-5:00, as it takes 2 – 2 1/2 hours to get back to Guilin.   However, nothing is ever that straightforward in China.  I discover that there are only two buses each day directly from Ping’An to Guilin Railway Station, 9 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.  Because this bus goes directly to Guilin, I don’t have to get off at Heping and then stand by the roadside and catch the local bus back to Guilin, and then catch another city bus to the train station.  If I take this 2:00 bus, that means I will arrive in Guilin at around 4:00-4:30 and I will have almost 3 1/2 – 4 hours sitting around in the train station.  This is not an appealing option. 😦

The only other option is to take one of the slightly later buses to Heping; these leave Ping’An at 3:00 or 5:00.  If I take one of those, I must wait by the roadside at Heping for the bus to Guilin’s Qin Tan Bus Station, arriving there around 4:45 or 6:45, respectively.  At that point I have the additional hassle of catching the city bus in Guilin to the train station.  I’m afraid I’d be cutting it too close by taking the 5:00 bus.  Since it’s a choice between either the 3:00 bus with all the bus changes or the 2:00 DIRECT bus, and since there is only a one-hour difference between a hassle-free trip or a trip full of hassles, I decide to leave on the 2:00 direct bus, meaning I must get an early start on my hike to Nine Dragons and Five Tigers, also known as the Dragon’s Spine.

Does it sound complicated enough? It is.

Heading out from the Longji International Youth Hostel, I have a view of some of the terraces (below).  I head out of the village in the opposite direction I walked yesterday, making my way up and up.

View of the terraces from the Longji International Youth Hostel

View of the terraces from the Longji International Youth Hostel

Walking through the village of Ping'an

Walking through the village of Ping’an

laundry

laundry

following the trail out of the village

following the trail out of the village

Finally, I can see the village behind me on the hillside, and on the other side of the valley, I see the fabulous Nine Dragons and Five Tigers.

walking along the terraces

walking along the terraces

looking back at Ping'An

looking back at Ping’An

the village of Ping'An

the village of Ping’An

side view of the terraces

side view of the terraces

looking back to Ping'An

looking back to Ping’An

I’m at a lower spot on Nine Dragons & Five Tigers than I was on my previous hike.  I know I somehow need to make my way up to the higher viewpoint.

walking around the terraces

walking around the terraces

I walk around a point and come to these terraces shaped like a bowl.

a little bowl of terraces

a little bowl of terraces

After this bowl, I come to a path leading into the forest, so I retrace my steps back to another view of Nine Dragons & Five Tigers.

looking down at the dragon's spine

looking down at the dragon’s spine

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Ping'An

Ping’An

I can see people walking on another path above me, so I follow the convolutions and make my way up to it.  At that higher level I get some magnificent views of the Dragon’s Spine.  I really does look like its nickname and is simply amazing.

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

little pretties along the path

little pretties along the path

a higher view of Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

a higher view of Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

the high path

the high path

corn and rice terraces

corn and rice terraces

view of Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

view of Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

The terraces are wonderful from this higher viewpoint, and I realize I didn’t have this view the first time I came here in November (a walk along the longji rice terraces from ping’an to nine dragons & five tigers).

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers with Ping'An in the background

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers with Ping’An in the background

looking back from where I came

looking back from where I came

foliage and terraces

foliage and terraces

What an amazing place these terraces are!  I adore them.  I could come here every year and never tire of them.

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Finally, after walking around at these heights and taking hundreds of pictures, I head back along the trail that the guide led me on in November.  I’ll make my way back to the village and see enjoy more views, taking my time as my bus to Guilin doesn’t leave till 2:00. 🙂

 

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Longsheng County, Nine Dragons & Five Tigers, Ping'An Village, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

sunset on the rice terraces

Saturday, June 27:  After enjoying my dinner and beer at the Green Garden Hotel, I walk back to Seven Stars and Moon to see the rice terraces as the sun goes down.  I’ve seen a lot of photographs of the water-filled terraces reflecting the clouds, and this time I’m able to get a couple of my own.

Seven Stars with Moon as the sun goes down

Seven Stars with Moon as the sun goes down

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

The sky is quite dramatic this evening, and the light is magical.

cloud formations

cloud formations

framed clouds

framed clouds

I walk along the same terraces where I’d walked earlier today and enjoy the views in the fading light.

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

dappling

dappled skies

reflections

reflections

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon with cloud reflections

Seven Stars with Moon with cloud reflections

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Finally, I head back into Ping’An, where I find these pretty table runners, one of which I add to my collection of souvenirs from China.  Mine is not shown here.

goods for sale in Ping'An

goods for sale in Ping’An

view over Ping'An

view over Ping’An

red lanterns in Ping'An

red lanterns in Ping’An

I pass by my earlier resting place at the Green Garden Hotel, with its festive red lanterns.

the Green Garden Hotel

the Green Garden Hotel

Soon after, I encounter this feisty little lady who tries to sell me some of her goods; however, I already bought a table runner from someone else and I’m not in the market for what she’s selling.  She does, however, convince me to come into her humble abode for a foot & leg massage.  After my long walk today, I’m an easy target. She tells me she is 51 years old and her name is Pah-mee.

a feisty vendor and masseuse

a feisty vendor and massage business manager

She doesn’t do the massage herself, but has another Chinese woman do it.  The massage parlor is not quite like most spas, but seems to be just part of the woman’s house.

my foot massage

my foot massage

After the massage, I try to find my way back to the hostel without much success.  Some of the walkways are very dark and drop off steeply into black abysses. I keep turning on my phone flashlight so that I won’t fall off one of the cliffs. As many times as I’ve walked around Ping’An, I can’t figure out where on earth I am.  I seem to be going around in circles.  In the dark, the normal landmarks that guided me in daylight are not readily apparent.

trying to find my way back to the Longji International Youth Hostel

trying to find my way back to the Longji International Youth Hostel

Only after many convolutions do I find myself in a recognizable place.  At long last, around 9:00 p.m., I’m at the hostel, and I settle in with my book, giving my feet a much-needed rest.

 

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Longsheng County, Ping'An Village, Seven Stars with Moon, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

the long hike back from the longji rice terraces to ping’an

Saturday, June 27:  After reaching the entrance of the Longji Rice Terraces, I turn around to return the three hours to Ping’An, taking the lower road and detouring into Longji Ancient Zhuang Village.  The view along the lower road is even more spectacular than the high road, and much less traveled by tourists.  Not that there are a lot of tourists, compared to everywhere else I’ve traveled in China, but it’s more secluded on the lower road.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

The day is humid but still a bit cooler than most places in Guangxi, probably because of the elevation.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

I enjoy the views of the land carved out beneath me in curvaceous patterns.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

looking down at the layers at Longji Rice Terraces

looking down at the layers at Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

up close and personal at the Longji Rice Terraces

up close and personal at the Longji Rice Terraces

water filled rice terraces

water filled rice terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

a neatly carved landscape

a neatly carved landscape

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

daisies at Longji Rice Terraces

daisies at Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

I catch glimpses of farmers working on the terraces today.  These terraces are not only artistic, but are actively worked by the residents.

a Chinese farmer on the terraces

a Chinese farmer on the terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

I take one successful selfie of myself; most of my other photos are a blur.

self portrait at the Longji Rice Terraces

self-portrait at the Longji Rice Terraces

As I continue on the lower road, I can see the Longji Ancient Zhuang Village ahead.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Here is one of the water sources for the terraces.  The terraces are also watered through an irrigation system much like the aflaj in Oman (The Traditional Aflaj Irrigation System).

springs that water the terraces

springs that water the terraces

I love how the terraces are filled with water at this time of year.  If it were a sunnier day, you might be able to see clouds reflected in them, as I’ve seen in others’ photographs.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

heading toward Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

heading toward Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

The last time I ventured into the Longji Village, back in November, I got hopelessly lost, finally paying a little girl a small sum to take me back to the path to Ping’An (a 5-hour hike to the longji rice terraces at longji ancient zhuang village).  This time, I decide to keep heading up, as I know the road is above me and I’ll eventually find my way to it.

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

There isn’t much sign of life in the village.  Maybe everyone is napping, or maybe they’re out working in the terraces.

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces with Longji Ancient Zhuang Village below

Longji Rice Terraces with Longji Ancient Zhuang Village below

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

climbing up the Longji Rice Terraces

climbing up the Longji Rice Terraces

corn on the terraces

corn on the terraces

miscellaneous farming

miscellaneous farming

the steps uphill

the steps uphill

farmed terraces

farmed terraces

the outskirts of Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

the outskirts of Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

outskirts of the village

outskirts of the village

corn

corn

strutting his stuff

strutting his stuff

It’s a long walk uphill to make it back to the road that will lead to the path back to Ping’An, and it takes me well over an hour.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

I like watching the farmers working on the terraces.

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a farmer working the rice terraces

climbing the mountain to return to Ping'An

climbing the mountain to return to Ping’An

Finally, I leave the houses on the outskirts of the village behind and I’m back on the path through the woods.

the path back to Ping'An

the path back to Ping’An

There isn’t much to photograph in the woods, so I just keep walking, even though I’m worn out by now.  I still haven’t eaten a thing all day because I didn’t want to have any stomach problems.

the hike back through the woods to Ping'An

the hike back through the woods to Ping’An

the long walk back

the long walk back

Before long, I’m back at Seven Stars with Moon on the outskirts of Ping’An.  My legs are so tired!!

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

At long last, I’m back in Ping’An and I decide to look for a place to sit down so I can have a late lunch and a beer.

back to Ping'An

back to Ping’An

a vendor selling colorful earrings

a vendor selling colorful earrings

Ping'An

Ping’An

the Zhuang ladies of Ping'An

the Zhuang ladies of Ping’An

shredded something

shredded something

I head directly to my hostel, where I take a cold shower, which feels good as I’ve been sweating like crazy on my hike.  I relax a while and then head out to the inviting Green Garden Hotel, where I decide to stop for a Tsingtao beer and a Hawaiian pizza.

the village of Ping'An

the village of Ping’An

I sit on the balcony where I have a great view of the village.

taking a rest with a view

taking a rest with a view at the Green Garden

view over Ping'An

view over Ping’An from the Green Garden

The light is amazing as is seeps through the clouds. It spreads like melted butter over the mountains.

view over Seven Stars with Moon

view over Seven Stars with Moon

mountain light

mountain light

ethereal light

ethereal light

view from Green Garden

view from Green Garden

view from Green Garden

view from Green Garden

the Green Garden Cafe

the Green Garden Cafe

view from the Green Garden

view from the Green Garden

The proprietor has been very friendly.  He walks me out the door and tells me to come again.

owner of the Green Garden

owner of the Green Garden

I walk back to Seven Stars and Moon, so I can take pictures as the sun goes down.

 

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: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

weizhou island: multicolored beach, catholic cathedral, and return to nanning

Sunday, June 7:  After talking with Sam, the English-speaking Chinese guy from the ferry, my driver begrudgingly takes me to the east side of the island to see Multicolored/Colorful Beach (五彩滩景区;WǔCàiTānJǐngQū), a volcanic stone beach.

map of Weizhou Island

map of Weizhou Island

I have to walk down a long paved path lined with food and souvenir vendors, but I finally reach the stone beach. Luckily it isn’t very crowded.

Multicolored/Colorful Beach on Weizhou Island

Multicolored/Colorful Beach on Weizhou Island

Cliffs at Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Cliffs at Multicolored/Colorful Beach

seaweed at the lava beach

seaweed at the lava beach

looking east at Multicolored Beach

looking east at Multicolored Beach

The view is not that interesting until I look to the north, where the beach opens before me like a multi-textured moss-covered carpet of lava.

lava beach

lava beach

I find a young family sitting on the stones under an umbrella.

a day on the lava beach

a day on the lava beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

I love all the moss and lichens, and the shapes and textures of the lava beach.

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

It’s very peaceful here, and I wish now I had known about this place from the beginning. I could have spent a lot more time exploring.  As it is, my time is running out, and I can’t stay too long.

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

lava beach on Weizhou Island

lava beach on Weizhou Island

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

This is by far my favorite place on Weizhou Island, and I can thank Sam for that.  Finally, I’ve discovered a hauntingly surreal landscape that is unexpectedly delightful.

moss & lava

moss & lava

moss & lava

moss & lava

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

This is the kind of place I could explore for hours.

lava flow

lava flow

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

The minutes are speeding by, so I head back up the long paved path to rejoin my driver.  Sam had earlier told me that the driver wanted to take me to the Catholic Cathedral in Shèngtáng.  We head off through the banana plantations to the village, also on the east side of the island.  The Cathedral is in the center of the village, surrounded by a bustling food and souvenir market. When I get out of the motor tricycle, I head around to the back of the Cathedral, where I run into this beautiful couple having their photos taken by a professional photographer.  They don’t mind me taking a couple of pictures of them.

Chinese bride and groom at the Catholic Cathedral

Chinese bride and groom at the Catholic Cathedral

The Catholic Cathedral was built over a decade in 1853 by French missionaries. It is a neo-Gothic style and is made of coral sedimentary rocks from the sea bottom (Wikitravel: Weizhou).  I’m happy to find the grounds are well-maintained.

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Inside, more brides and grooms are having their photos taken. I can’t help but wonder how many, if any of them, are actually Catholic.

Inside Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Inside Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Bride and groom at Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Bride and groom at Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

altar at Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

altar at Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Finally, I go out into the street and take some pictures of the facade of the Cathedral.  I’m looking all around for my driver, and I find him at a corner restaurant slurping down some noodles.  I guess the poor guy had to eat some lunch since I never wanted to stop for lunch.  I grab myself a small snack of some chips and a drink and we sit and watch the busy life in the village.

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

At last, we’re on our way back to the ferry, where I bid adieu to the driver and immediately board.  The skies are darkening and the wind is picking up, which could delay or even cancel the ferry’s departure.

heading back to the ferry

heading back to the ferry

boats at bay

boats at bay

the ferry under ominous skies

the ferry under ominous skies

The ferry

The ferry

For some reason, our departure is delayed.  I am fretting as the skies are so ominous.  After about 15 minutes of waiting without being able to understand the announcements, I text Sam: “Hi Sam, do you know what is the delay with the ferry?”  He texts back, “The ferry will go after the storm stopped.”  I write back: “Oh no!”  He says: “Maybe in 20 mins.”  Sure enough, in 20 minutes, the ferry blows its horn and we chug out into the sea. Sam writes, “Here we go now!  We will arrive at Beihai around 16:30.”  Strangely enough, the sea is not as rough as it was this morning, and no one seems to be getting sick. I wonder if it’s because I’m now on the bottom level of the ferry, which may be more stable than the top-level, where I sat on the voyage to the island.

Meanwhile, I’ve texted Mari’s driver and let him know of our delay.  Luckily, when I arrive at the ferry terminal in Beihai at around 4:30, he’s waiting for me.  I hop in his car, and he drives me back to Nanning.  It takes us four hours to get back because of heavy traffic in various spots, so it’s after 8:30 pm when I arrive back at my apartment. I feel bad for the poor driver, who now has to drive back to Beihai at this late hour.  After he drops me, I text him, “Thank you for all your hard work driving!  I’m sorry you have to drive back to Beihai tonight!” I know he can read some version of my message because he has a translation app on his phone.  He writes back: “Don’t mention it should be.” Even though we had very little communication between us, I deeply appreciated this kind and dependable man. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Beihai, Catholic Cathedral, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Mulitcolored/Colorful Beach, Shèngtáng, Travel, Weizhou Island | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

weizhou island: a wild boat ride past crocodile hill, a visit to sanpo temple, and a stop at the sad shiluokou beach

Sunday, June 7:  After we leave the Saint Maria Church, my motor tricycle driver takes me to Nanwan (South Bay), a natural bay formed after a major volcanic eruption.  It opens to the south with cliffs on the sides.   The driver wants me to take a boat ride out into the bay and around Crocodile Hill.  He deposits me at a table under a covered awning beside a derelict abandoned bus.  I think people are living in the bus, or possibly using it as an office, as they are coming in and out of the bus as I’m waiting.

an abandoned bus, used for who knows what

an abandoned bus, used for who knows what

A man wearing an Asian conical hat, called dǒulì (斗笠), literally meaning a “one-dǒu bamboo hat,” is sitting at the table as I wait.  I don’t know exactly what we’re waiting for, possibly for more people to arrive to fill up the boat.  (Wikipedia: Asian Conical Hat)

my boat captain

my boat captain

However, after waiting about 10 minutes, the man, who turns out to be my boat captain, motions for me to follow him out to the beach, where I get into his boat.  There are no other people, it’s just the captain and me.

the disheveled beach

the disheveled beach

the beach near Crocodile Hill

the beach near Crocodile Hill

walking down to the boat

walking down to the boat

following the captain

following the captain

One of the captain’s friends gives us a shove off into the bay.

pushing off

pushing off

As we head into the bay, we pass all sorts of fishing boats anchored in the waters.  To the west, I can see Crocodile Hill and its lighthouse.

first view of Crocodile Hill

first view of Crocodile Hill

boats in the bay

boats in the bay

We pass by a cultured pearl farm in the bay.  China has a long and rich history in pearls coming from saltwater oysters and freshwater mussels. Hepu and Behai regions had active marine pearl fisheries as early as the Han dynasty in the 3rd century AD, according to United Nations University | Our World| China’s Pearl Industry: An Indicator of Ecological Stress.

the Beihai pearl farm

Weizhou pearl farm

home of Beihai pearls

home of Beihai’s famous pearls

After passing the sprawling pearl farm, the driver takes the boat close to where rough waves are pounding against the volcanic lava cliffs of Crocodile Hill (鳄鱼山景区; ÈYúShānJǐngQū).  We can see Chinese people are walking along the edges of Crocodile Hill, which be reached either by walking or by taking a shuttle bus leaving from the Volcanic Geological Museum (¥20/trip).  At first, I’m under the impression that the boat captain is going to drop me off at Crocodile Hill to follow the circular walk,  which is partially on wooden steps and planks and starts and ends at Crocodile Pharos.  However, I soon find I’m mistaken as there is no way to access the rough lava cliffs from the sea that is smashing relentlessly against the rocks.

Apparently the walkway “passes by the Seaview Pavilion, the Statue of Tang Xianzu, a volcanic vent, the Marine Pit, Canggui Cave, the Pirate Cave (Zeilao Cave), the sea arch, the Moon Bay, the Fall-In-Love-On-Weizhou-Island spot, coral sedimentary rocks, the Lover Bridge, the Moon Plaza, and the Sea Pier as well as craters and tree fossils” (WikiTravel: Weizhou).

The only thing I can see is a lighthouse and the walkway on the fringes of the hill, along with some of the lava caves along the shore.

lighthouse at Crocodile Hill

lighthouse at Crocodile Hill

lava cliffs at Crocodile Hill

lava cliffs at Crocodile Hill

While we are bobbing around in the sea near the cliffs, the captain is yelling over the noise of the wind and waves and making arm motions that look like a volcano erupting.  To indicate that I get the general gist of what he’s saying, I nod and smile and mimic a volcanic eruption right back at him!

After being tossed about by the waves for some time, I holler to the captain that I want to go back to the shore.  He can hardly hear me over the sound of the wind and the waves crashing against the rocks.  He keeps doing the volcanic eruption motions.  At this point, I’ve had enough.  I really want to go back to shore, so I point dramatically back toward the beach.  We must look hilarious to passers-by, with him doing his volcanic eruptions and me motioning  frantically toward the shore.

heading back to shore

heading back to shore

Finally, we’re heading back.  We pass by the cultured pearl farm, passenger boats motoring out into the bay, and some pearl divers.

the pearl buoys again

the pearl buoys again

a boat full of hardy souls

a boat full of hardy souls

divers

pearl divers

Now that I know we’re heading back, I can relax a bit.  I jump back and forth on the boat taking pictures from either side.

The captain deposits me on the shore and I walk up to meet my driver.  After hopping into the motor tricycle, the driver takes me to what is obviously a diving center.  I see it costs nearly 400 yuan to go diving.  I don’t want to do this as I don’t have enough time, and even if I did, I wouldn’t want to spend that much money!  I shake my head that no, I don’t want to go diving, and the driver grudgingly continues on his way.  Next, he takes me to the nearby fishing village and tries to drop me at a nice restaurant.  I shake my head, no!  I don’t have time to eat a big lunch at a fancy restaurant.  My time on Weizhou is limited and I’d just like to stop and grab a quick bite somewhere. Obviously, the driver would get some kind of kick-back if I went diving or ate a fancy and expensive lunch, but he’s not going to get it today with me as a passenger!

The driver shakes his head and takes me next to Sanpo Temple.

Sanpo Temple is also known as Tianhou Temple. “After it collapsed due to landslides, it was rebuilt a few years ago. The former temple was built in 1732 to chase away the evil and bring peace to the island. Local fisherman still come to the temple to pray for good luck, a good catch and a safe homecoming from the sea” (WikiTravel: Weizhou).

entrance to Sanpo Temple

entrance to Sanpo Temple

I like the dragons on the pillars and the colorful banners inside the temple.

dragon pillars

dragon pillars

inside Sanpo Temple

inside Sanpo Temple

colorful banners on the ceiling in Sanpo Temple

colorful banners on the ceiling in Sanpo Temple

colorful banners laid out on a table

colorful banners laid out on a table

lantern

lantern

Outside, I find a tree of wishes, or tree of good luck.  People are busily putting their wishes, complete with yin and yang symbols, on the tree.  According to Wikipedia, yin and yang in Chinese philosophy “describes how apparently opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, connected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many tangible dualities (such as light and dark, fire and water, expanding and contracting) are thought of as physical manifestations of the duality symbolized by yin and yang.”

a tangle of wishes

a tangle of wishes

the good luck tree

the good luck tree

Inside the temple are a lot of wise characters lining the walls.

I meet the driver outside the temple and we’re on our way again.  We stop at a marker for Weizhou Island.

Weizhou Island marker

Weizhou Island marker

After a quick stop at the marker, we take off through the banana plantations, which are found beside roads all over the island. Besides seafood, bananas are the most important goods produced on Weizhou.

Our next stop is at Shiluokou (石螺口景区; ShīLuòKǒuJǐngQū) on the western coast of the island. According to WikiTravel: Weizhou, the beach’s “long sand beach, clear water and its coral reefs make it the most famous beach on Weizhou.  On its managed beach are deck chairs, cold beverages, seafood BBQ and water sports available.”  The beach might be nice on a sunny day, but it seems very sad today.

a sad little beach - looking north

a sad little beach – looking north

looking south at the beach

looking south at the beach

boats and jet skis

boats and jet skis

umbrellas for sunny days

umbrellas for sunny days

I don’t see that there is much to do on this beach, as it’s pretty deserted and the weather isn’t nice.  I feel like I’m missing the highlights of Weizhou, as some of my colleagues told me there were some wonderful beaches here.  I can’t say I’ve seen any truly beautiful beaches.  I don’t know how to communicate what I want to see to my driver, and I feel he has an ulterior motive to take me places where he can get a kickback.  Then I remember the nice Chinese guy from the ferry who helped me so much and whose phone number I have.  I give him a call and try to describe to him that I want to see some of the beautiful beaches here.  He suggests that I might want to see the lava beach, called Multicolored/Colorful Beach, on the east coast of the island.  He tells me many tourists enjoy this beach.  I ask him to explain to my driver that I’d like to go to this beach and that I must be back at the ferry at 2:00 to catch the 3:00 ferry back to Beihai.  He explains all of this to my driver, and then we’re off through the banana plantations to the east side of the island. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Beihai, China, Crocodile Hill, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanwan, Sanpo Temple, Shiluokou, Travel, Weizhou Island | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

a foggy morning on beibu gulf, a ferry ride to weizhou island & a visit to saint maria church

Sunday, June 7:  I wake up early to a dreary morning and I worry that the ferry to Weizhou Island will be canceled.  The island is located 21 nautical miles south of Beihai City in the Gulf of Tonkin, an arm of the South China Sea.  The ferry was canceled yesterday because of inclement weather, so I expect it may be the same today.  That would be a disappointment, as I don’t have much time left in China and this is my last opportunity to see it.

Yesterday, Mari and her driver and I dropped by the ferry terminal to check on today’s ferry.  There was a helpful guy working in the terminal who could speak excellent English.  He gave me his phone number, so this morning I call him to check on the status.  He tells me the ferry is still planning to go to the island and he gives me instructions on how to get the ticket he’s reserved for me.

I pack up all my stuff and, after having breakfast at Mari’s apartment, I leave, locking the door behind me.  I head to the garage where her driver is waiting for me, right on time.  I load my stuff into the trunk of his car, as he’ll drive me directly back to Nanning when he picks me up at the ferry terminal later this afternoon.

The driver takes me to the ferry terminal, where I get the ticket the nice guy reserved for me, and line up to board the ferry.  I’m a little worried because I wanted round trip tickets; however, he was unable to get my return ticket from the Beihai end.  I’m told I have to get the return ticket on Weizhou.  This stresses me out as there are so many people going to the island, I’m afraid I won’t be able to get a return ticket.  I have to work tomorrow and Mari’s driver will be waiting for me, so I don’t want to get stuck on the island.

According to China Travel.com: Weizhou Island has an area of 36 square kilometers. It extends for 6.5 kilometers from south to north and is 6 kilometers wide. The circling-island road, which connects scenic spots, villages, and ports is 15.6 kilometers long.  According to WikiTravel: Weizhou is China’s biggest and youngest volcanic island. Formed by volcanic eruptions about 7,000 years ago, it has a unique geological and geomorphological landscape. The sea around Weizhou is rich in corals and other aquatic animals.

The seas are quite rough this morning and the ferry ride is longer than the promised hour.  On this uncomfortable ride, people are vomiting into bags all around me.  Thank goodness I don’t get sick myself.

Once I’m on the island, I climb off the ferry with the hundreds of other passengers and go down a long walkway to look for someone to transport me around the island.  Before I do, I stop at the ticket booth and buy my return ticket to Beihai for 3:00.  They tell me I need to be at the dock by 2:00 to catch the ferry.  That doesn’t give me much time, as it’s nearly 11:00 a.m. now.

the dock at Weizhou Island

the dock at Weizhou Island

Weizhou Island

Weizhou Island

Weizhou Island

Weizhou Island

the view from Weizhou Island

the view from Weizhou Island

At the end of the walkway, there are scores of people on motor tricycles and taxis trying to drum up business.  One woman follows me all the way from the walkway to the parking lot, gabbing in Chinese the whole time.  I end up taking a ride from another guy just because she is so annoying.  His charge is quite high, 100 yuan for the day (11:00 am-3:00 pm).  I’ve already spent a lot of money, as it costs 180 yuan EACH way for the ferry, plus an entrance fee to get onto the island of 100 yuan. Even though I’ve been lucky enough to stay at Mari’s house for the weekend, and I’ve had her driver readily available, I still am spending a lot on food, pearls ( 🙂 ), and this trip to Weizhou.

Our first stop is Saint Maria Church, a small Gothic-style Catholic Church in Chengzai village. It is less famous than the Catholic Cathedral in the middle of Shengtang Village, but still opens its doors for Sunday Mass.

Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

the grounds at Saint Maria Church

the grounds at Saint Maria Church

inside Saint Maria Church

inside Saint Maria Church

Interior of Saint Maria Church

Interior of Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church interior

Saint Maria Church interior

An auxiliary building at Saint Maria

An auxiliary building at Saint Maria

Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

I enjoy walking around the grounds and through the church, and chatting with the friendly fruit vendors.  I find it refreshing to find this church in China, only the second I’ve seen since the one I saw in Beihai’s Old City.  I have seen Buddhist temples throughout China, but I’ve never seen churches outside of this part of Guangxi province.

Fruit vendors at Saint Maria Church

Fruit vendors at Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church from the road

Saint Maria Church from the road

looking in through the gate to Saint Maria Church

looking in through the gate to Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

close up from the road of the church

close up from the road of the church

After walking around the church and the grounds, I return to the small parking lot and hop into my motor tricycle, wondering where my driver will take me next. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Beibu Gulf, Beihai, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Saint Maria Church, Travel, Weizhou Island | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

beihai’s silver beach & sunset on beibu gulf

Saturday, June 6:  On our last stop of the day, Mari is excited to take me to Beihai’s famous Silver Beach.  She tells me to prepare myself as it will be a beach unlike any I’ve seen before. According to Travel China Guide, Silver Beach “is reputed to be the best beach in China for its advantages of even length, fine and white sand, clean and warm water and gentle waves, as well as being safe and free from sharks in swimming area. When the sun shines on the river, the water is just like silver glistening on the surface which creates a dreamlike view.”

The first thing we see at the entrance is several ladies wearing facekinis.  According to Wikipedia a facekini is a mask designed for swimmers and beachgoers which covers the head and reveals only the eyes, nose, and mouth. People mostly use it to protect themselves from UV rays while in direct sunlight and from jellyfish while at the beach.  The mask is made of stretchy fabric commonly used in bathing suits and it comes in different colors and patterns.  It’s often worn with an accompanying long-sleeved body suit.

In the facekinis worn by these ladies, their noses and mouths are covered, so maybe it’s a knock-off version of the original facekini invented by Zhang Shifan, a former accountant from the coastal Chinese city of Qingdao. Facekinis are under mass production in China and are available in local swim stores near beaches.

ladies wearing the Facekini on Beihai's Silver Beach

ladies wearing the Facekini on Beihai’s Silver Beach

We head through the entrance and walk down a long walkway to reach the beach.

Entrance to Silver Beach

Entrance to Silver Beach

the walkway to the beach

the walkway to the beach

Near the walkway is a bathing suit shop.  I’m surprised by the number of people we encounter who are not at all prepared for a day at the beach; they don’t seem to mind at all that they don’t have bathing suits. 🙂

bathing suits for sale, in case you forgot yours. :-)

bathing suits for sale, in case you forgot yours. 🙂

In typical Chinese fashion, the beach is swarming with people.

on the beach

on the beach

I love how some of the girls wear their fancy dresses and shoes to the beach.

umbrella magic

umbrella magic

crowds at Silver Beach

crowds at Silver Beach

inner tube heaven

inner tube heaven

hanging under the umbrella

hanging under the umbrella

Of course there are those wearing wedges and hats who are messing about with their electronic devices.

picture taking with the iPad

picture-taking with the iPad

Some people even come in their business attire.

business attire

business attire

I pause for a moment to get a picture of my bare feet with the beach sandals.

beach shoes and bare feet

beach shoes and bare feet

And Mari poses in the midst of the bathers.

Mari with the beachgoers at Silver Beach

Mari with the beachgoers at Silver Beach

Some people seem more attired for an important meeting than a day at the beach.

More business attire at the beach

More business attire at the beach

But luckily there are many who also know how to play in the sand and swim in inner tubes.

Hanging out

Hanging out

Enjoying the season

Enjoying the season

Chinese beachgoers

Chinese beachgoers

I’ve never seen a lifeguard stand like this one before.

taking a stroll

taking a stroll

phone addiction under the lifeguard stand

phone addiction under the lifeguard stand

The lady below didn’t seem to notice the bathing suit shop at the entrance and just decided to take a dip in her fancy dress.

life buoys

life buoys

shoes set aside

shoes set aside

And as we leave the beach, we see some stride-bys in front of the Silver Beach Tourists Novelty Shop.

Silver Beach Tourists Novelty Shop

Silver Beach Tourists Novelty Shop

Mari has to catch a flight to Shanghai tonight, but she has kindly offered to let me stay in her apartment without her.  We stop at a fancy hotel for an early dinner and then she packs up her stuff and has her driver take her to the airport.  I know the code to get in and out of her apartment, but frankly, I’m tired from our busy day and I just decide to settle in and read my book, The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.  I also take a number of pictures of the beautiful sunset over Beibu Gulf from Mari’s balcony.

Sunset at Beibu Gulf

Sunset at Beibu Gulf

sunset in Beihai

sunset in Beihai

sunset at Beibu Gulf

sunset at Beibu Gulf

sunset on the gulf

sunset on the gulf

sunset

sunset

sunset

sunset

boats in the gulf

boats in the gulf

boats at rest

boats at rest

day at rest

day at rest

boat crowds

boat crowds

abandoned dock

abandoned dock

cotton candy clouds

cotton candy clouds

pink clouds over the dock

pink clouds over the dock

cloud mania

cloud mania

day is done

day is done

Finally, I drift off to sleep.  I’m to get up early tomorrow morning to take the ferry to Weizhou Island.  Mari has arranged for her driver to take me to the harbor and drop me off.  He will then meet me around 3:00 or 4:00, whenever I return, and drive me back to Nanning.  What a wonderful hostess Mari has been for someone she just met in one short weekend in Xi’an. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Beibu Gulf, Beihai, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Silver Beach, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

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