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Published: October 14th 2008
Kids in ANshun
These kids were playing underneath a fallen Chinese Flag banner... THe other kid is hidden. I love how hids are the same the world over.
As is customary for me, my plans made a sudden change. Instead of heading north and staying in Sichuan Province.. I head south for Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province.
Guizhou province is the poorest province in China, and inline with that one might say one of the most untouched provinces in china. I arrive at the Guiyang Train Station after 19 hours in a VERY hard seat and am greeted by my friend (and local guide) Xiao Huang and her friend whose english name is (of course) Jojo.
Despite coming from Chengdu, a city deep in the middle of China, I am a little bit reawakened on the bus ride to my friend's university. DIRTY. thats my first impression. Dirty, muddy, smoggy, old. Guiyang oozes with these adjectives. I lie about my first impression of the place, not wanting to insult my ridiculously accommodating friends. "Poverty" is the word that comes to mind. And mirroring that, I see no other foriegners or tourists about. Even in China, this is rare.
I don't want to talk about Guiyang though. I only spent a few days there, though despite the grime, I found a treasure house of life, commerce,
and friends there. Instantly I am planning a return trip.
Instead I want to talk about Anshun.
Anshun is a "town" of a few milion I am sure. I am only here as a stopover to see some of the superlatives that China has on offer. The biggest waterfall in China, the biggest cave in China. I spent the day at Huangguoshu Falls,m and while mesmerized by the natural beauty of this massive cascade, I am annoyed by the onslaught of tourism that China has established in all areas of its natural beauty. BUSLOADS of chinese tourist, tour guides with flags and megaphones in hands, touts selling anything and everything; they all consistently contribute to shattering any possibility of finding serenity whilst appreciating what nature has put on show for us. I return to Anshun, to find a hotel, and to sleep off my semi-dissapointment.
There are no hostels here, no backpacker accomodation, and well... no foreigners. In my week in Guizhou I have seen four foreign tourists in total. It is extremely refreshing. However, there are its downsides.... I book into a hotel that is actually listed in the Lonely Planet. Anjun Guesthouse (the sign obviously
not in english) is just next to the train station and I talk my one night stay down to 80RMB. I check in, and I am happy with the location and price and the opportunity to finally rest a little. Rest, was not to be forthcoming though. No less than 20 minutes after the landlady left me in my room there is a quiet yet persistent rapping at the door. I throw on my shirt, and open it.
Outside there are 3 police officers. They greet me in Chinese and ask me what language I speak. I reply in Chinese that I am an american and they are delighted that I "understand". I, however, do not understand. I am half asleep and struggle through a chinese conversation in which these extremely polite, casual and friendly local police officers explain to me that I can not stay here. I don't understand. "whats the problem?" I ask again in chinese... Finally to clarify, a single english word emerges: "dangerous". I am confused, tired, and a bit annoyed, but I know where this is heading (if not where it is leading). I pack up what I had unpacked and head downstairs to
recollect my 80RMB before I am escorted to the police van.
I had explained to them that I was paying 80RMB for the night (for me this is alot as a hostel in western china in 25RMB/night) and they had replied to me that they could move me to a different hotel for 50 to 100RMB for a night. They obviously were not familiar with the available accomodation in their town. I am shuttled about to various 3 to 4 star hotels... the price ranging from 230RMB to 500RMB a night... not stressed at all. Rather, I am enjoying the unique situation I am in, a lawai in a police van being escorted to nice hotels... the stares I attract from the locals reverberate with "VIP". The bad news though is that I had, in fact, already found the only cheap hotel in Anshun. Finally, we arrive at the 5th hotel, price for a room is 390RMB, but after discount it is 240RMB. I talk the friendly manager down to 200RMB and the police shuffle off. This manager speaks some english and is able to explain that foriegners in china must stay in "star-rated" hotels. I explain that I
THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!!!!
have been in CHina for 9 months and have never run into this situation before, he acquieces that he has never had to deal with it either, but denies that it is a Guizhou-province-specific rule. He leaves me his mobile number. His name is Fan. I am already his number one fan.
It is amazing to me how quickly one adjusts to his environment. I have become very comfortable in china over the past few months. I speak enough of the language, and the people are so friendly, that I am happy to dine in hole-in-the-wall restaurants, wander down dark alleyways, start up converstainons with randoms gambling in parks, etc... and NEVER NEVER NEVER feel threatened. Yet put the white guy into an expensive hotel, tell him its for his own safety, and suddenly the outside world seems dark and foreboding. I refuse to give into this feeling though and head out at about 8pm for a bit of supper. It takes a while for me to readjust. I am shocked by this. All that has changed is that I am paying 8 times more for a bed than I would like to... yet now I feel like that
rich foreigner that everyone has always assumed I am. I need a beer.
What happens that evening is nothing special. In fact, I only write about it now because it denotes what quintessential china really is. I buy a beer, and wandering amongst the street vendors until I come to an attractive BBQ establishment. That is to say, the food on offer is attractive, not the establishment. I smile inwardly to myself as I pick out the food I want (Beef kebab, lamb kebab, shrimp, aubergine, chicken foot, tofu, potatoes etc..) while listening to the now customary sounds of "that foriegner doesn't understand (in chinese)" and "blah blah blah LAWAI blah blah blah HAHAHAHAH LAWAI" I hand my plate over to be cooked and duck off to the shop next door to buy another beer (interestingly enough this man seems to use sichuan dialect, as he asks if i would like my beer dong le rather than bing de) As I eat my BBQ I am engaged in a broken conversation. Its the usual stuff, but I understand (and am understood) better than usual: I am a traveler, I worked in shanghai, I went to the big waterfall, there
were to many tourists, I like spicy food etc. etc. etc.... I pay for the meal and leave. As I walk away I here the now usual "HELLO!" from a chinese guy walking along the street. "Hello" is the only word he knows. I reply in the same tone: "HELLO!" (with a heavy dose of sarcasm) and ask him in chinese how he is doing. HIs reply is to offer me a cigarette. I accept (to be polite) and allow him to light it. HE wanders off without another word with his girlfriend in tow (remarking "hey that waiguoren speaks chinese?!").
This is classic china and I love it. I feel at home here.
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