On our way out of Kunming we had extra time so we decided to hit the local flower market. The only catch - to get to it you have to pass through a coffee and candy factory. Ah well, so be it. Boy were we in for a wild ride…there were hundreds of other tourists and the shop floor was so stacked with product that only a single narrow path was left to make your way through the sea of goods for sale. The hundreds of us were pushed through like cattle at a pace so quick it prohibited browsing of any kind. Through the maze, sales people on megaphones were describing all the products (we think, the announcements were only in Mandarin so we had no idea what they were selling). All was not lost, however, as at the beginning of the brouha we were handed a tiny plastic cup which got re-filled at every turn with one of their coffee flavoured drinks and they were also passing out other treats to try along the way (just like Costco). We were packed in those rows so tight that we could barely pause long enough to form an opinion about the
stuff we were tasting. It was complete and utter madness and I loved it. At the end we finally got released into the flower market which was crazy cool as well. Most of the flowers were actually dried and they’d been artfully manipulated for some pretty spectacular results.
We arrived in Guilin (gwee-lin) after dark (after barely making our plane - GOATs be with us, we lucked in and made it to the gate just as our flight was boarding). We took in the main attractions while we were there - Li river cruise, Longshen rice terraces and reed flute cave. As we’ve found with most tourist type sites we’ve visited, they were often packed with people, and when we could we’d meander off to whatever area was less occupied.
The Li river was lined with karst which made for pretty incredible views. Not surprisingly, there were tons of boats on the river so the one we were on joined all the others and formed a long procession snaking it’s way along the river. The bravest thing we witnessed were boatmen on tiny rafts (really six pieces of bamboo lashed together by god knows what - potentially duct
tape) that would launch out in the water and cross the freakishly strong current to latch on the sides of the river boats to sell trinkets to tourists. It was amazing every time they connected (and terrifying/hilarious when they missed. T got video of one taking a tumble into the water when they missed their mark - fret not - he was just fine).
There was staff cooking lunches on the backs of the boats and we watched as they made meals in these open air kitchens. The water they were using was yellow, though, and I had the repellent notion that the water was just coming up out of the river. There was also some questionable prep going on. Bleah. Equally high on my ick-o-meter was the fact that my ma and aunties watched some of the cook staff take a break to wash their hair in those kitchens. This was all fascinating
until lunch was served and I had a flash realization that if they were cooking on the backs of all those boats, that means they were probably doing the same thing on the back of MINE. Oh lordy. I can eat almost anything, but this...this
was a line I could not cross. I’m pretty sure the travel doctor meant to tell me not to ingest yellow river water.
I had a banana.
At the end of the sail down the river, we got off at Yangshuo and took a stroll along the main drag to check out the shops. On our way back to meet up with the group we passed by what might possibly be the most beautifully situated MacDonald’s on the planet. It sat there, across the river, taunting me…“oh, hello - I have delicious soft serve honeydew melon ice cream, but I am too far for you to reach me quickly and you are already late. I shall allow you only to take my photograph and gaze at me longingly. Now off with you - there are a herd of tired, old people waiting for you near a bus. Go. I am done with you.” Curse you and your indifference, Mac.
We also had another outing to visit the Longshen rice terraces and a small mountain community. Winding mountain roads + hike up a mountain = good time. The views were spectacular (it‘s always worth it to climb up
high) and it was one of my favourite days.
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