Chinese tours walk by in what seems to be the hundreds – up and down the streets, going to the water to ride a boat on the Li River, or heading back for lunch and their buses. The hostel in XIngping in Guanxi Province and just south of Guilin is on the main thoroughfare (albeit very small) and between the people, cars, trucks, and motorcycles and the noise is unbelievable. Drivers in this country seems to LOVE honking horns as they pass every moving thing – although the same was true in Vietnam.
I hiked along the spectacular karst mountains in the area as well as the country roads surrounding the town. Xingping is small and very walkable. It has a market that I visited and at which I ate lunch several times. I also found a few places, introduced to me by Li Ya and Baozi (two young women who worked at the This Old Place International Youth Hostel and with whom I became friends), that I frequented almost daily. Here is a recipe for ginger milk tea which I drank every afternoon in Xingping and which I now make and drink at home in the U.S.
I had plans to stay in Xingping for a few days but loved it so much that I used it as a resting place and spent over a week there. It is truly a lovely region. You can, as I did, hike around the mountains but also walk along pathways or even do some real mountain climbing. It is easy to get into the countryside and see the many farmers (the majority of people here are farmers or are in the tourist business) pick vegetables or fruit, plant seeds, work in the rice fields, and tend to their crops. Depending on the clouds and sun on a given day the mountains appear otherworldly. And of course it’s so much fun to be asked/told, “hello, bamboo!” This is an invitation from those working in the tourism industry for you to take a bamboo boat ride along the Li River. I learned to cut the women short when I received a “hello” and not allow them to continue on to “bamboo.” Instead I quickly had to say “bu shi, xie, xie.” Thank you but no.
One day I spent three hours in the market, going up and down the stalls, taking photographs, “talking” with people, and checking out and buying food for lunch (not knowing what in the world I was buying/eating). I was invited by three men to join them for tea and I accepted. They did not understand a word I said and I did not understand them but we had a hoot sitting and attempting to talk with each other. They laughed every time I answered, “bu mingbai” — I don’t understand.
I discovered that despite *completely* adoring Lao, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Thai food — as well as the variety and excellence of food in Singapore — Chinese food remains my favourite. It’s such a big country and every region has its specialty. As my friend Michelle has said multiples times, I must have been Chinese in another life. And the Chinese people I met were uniformly surprised that I – unlike most tourists – ignored western food and ate what the locals eat.
There are three things, though, I may never get used to in China: 1) the retching sound just before a big gob of spit comes flying out of a mouth (mostly men) and onto the street; 2) people smoking everywhere (mostly men) and; 3) trash thrown with abandon on the street — all of the time (everyone). I have to admit, though, that even I ended up throwing garbage onto the street when there was so much of it around me and I could not find a container to throw it in. Maybe I am getting used to that!!??!!! 😉