Category Archives: Guangxi Province

Travels with Steve: Kunming, Xingping, and Beijing

Travels with Steve in China (Here we are in Xingping, Guangxi Province)

Steve and Tamar in Xingping, Guangxi Province (Photograph courtesy of Jeannette Bajon)

Joining me in China for almost three weeks, Steve and I spent two full days in Kunming, more than a week in Xingping, and almost a week in Beijing. Below are his comments with judicious censorship by me and a few photos to go along with each section.

Kunming. Yunnan Province

Capitalism is rife in Kunming, Steve has noticed. Young people trying to be hipper than hip by dressing as au courant as they can. Hand-helds are always at the ready. Hear that sound? It is Mao doing the circular shuffle in his grave. Steve is proud that Tamar has figured out all these little alleyways and niches for herself — she is a regular at the baozi storefront as well as the local soy milk and fried dough breakfast stall. She knows the bowling alley and the best massage parlours, as well as the most scenic parks in the city. Finally, she can find good food. What more does she need? Here are a few photos from our two days spent together in this Spring City, South of the Clouds:

Kunming, Wall in Daguan Park

Kunming, Wall in Daguan Park

Kunming, (Salt) Peanuts!

Kunming, (Salt) Peanuts!

Kunming, Man Drinking Tea at Confucius Temple

Kunming, Man Drinking Tea at Confucius Temple

Kunming, Man on the Street

Kunming, Man on the Street

Xingping. Guangxi Province

Who would have guessed that we would have spent ten days here? Not us. This place is home to the surreal landscape of Chinese scrolls and water colour paintings. Karst mountains all around the rivers that populate this area, including the Li River, which is minted on the 20RMB bill.  We’ve hiked and biked and visited the local market. Steve climbed a mountain while Tamar rested and studied. We took a “plastic” bamboo ride on the Li river, sauntered through groves of oranges, mandarins, kumquats, and pomelos. People working in the fields were generous and offered/gave us fruit during our various hikes. We have must have said, “Ni Hao!” to strangers a million times. Tamar had her brain re-wired speaking French to other tourists at the hostel while she was also trying to speak Chinese to the staff and friends of hers who work at the hostel.  We had plans on staying for five days and then go northwestward to the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces but a bout of Mao’s Revenge (poor Tamar) kept us here and we were just as happy with that. Below are a few photos from our 11 days spent together in Xingping.

Xingping, Countryside, Li River in the Background

Xingping, Countryside, Li River in the Background

Xingping, Old School House

Xingping, Old School House

Xingping, Countryside

Xingping, Countryside

Xingping

Xingping

Xingping

Xingping

Xingping

Xingping

Beijing. China’s Capital City

Steve expected a landscape of massive modern skyscrapers, spewing an endless supply of young people dressed like lawyers, hustling and bustling to build the perfect State, as serious as the day is long. Nope. Like Kunming and even like Xingping –  but more so – Beijing rings with the sound of frantic, petty, business. Everyone is buying and selling in the streets, in the little tiny first floor shop fronts. Apart from the Givenchy and Chanel shops this place is okay!

Steve wanted to see the embalmed Chairman but poor timing on our part made us miss our appointment with him.  We walked a stretch of the Great Wall; God help us if the Chinese ever get so motivated again. Our trip to Beijing: walking and eating and walking and eating and walking and eating as well as visiting friends. Steve thinks Peking Duck is AOK. And based on a conversation with a friend in Beijing we discovered that in October 2013 the Canadian population was 35,295,770 compared to Beijing’s December 2013 approximate population of 21,229,000 (“unofficial estimates put the population at around 21-22 million”). Unfathomable. These are the top three biggest landmasses by country (remember — Beijing is JUST A SMALL DISTRICT in China).

Number
Country
Area (km2)
Area (miles2)
1.
Russia
17098242
6601668
2.
Canada
9984670
3855100
3.
China
9706961
3747879

And finally, here photographs from our five days spent together in Beijing:

Beijing, Outside the Forbidden City

Beijing, Outside the Forbidden City

Beijing

Beijing

Beijing, The Great Wall

Beijing, The Great Wall

Beijing

Beijing

Beijing, Outside the Forbidden City

Beijing, Outside the Forbidden City

China: Guangxi Province

Xingping

Xingping

Xingping

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.

XIngping

XIngping

XIngping

XIngping

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.

XIngping

XIngping

XIngping

XIngping, People Preparing for a Funeral

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.

XIngping

XIngping, Woman Carrying Goods from Market

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!!??!!!  😉