Anthony's Interesting Times 2004 travel blog

Is this Provence I see before me, or is that rice dying...

Internal courtyard

Nice doors, though the alley needs a paint

Early night after Huang Shan I can tell you. Then got up early yesterday and went to visit this old village before I had to catch my train. A lot of places that are billed as old in China (other than grand temples and palaces) are often a dissapointment as they tend to be converted into shops selling tourist stuff, which sort of counteracts the point. This village was the first exception I have seen and was fabulous. When the Chinese middle classes discover second homes in Provence so to speak, they will be flocking down here. Big old cooking ranges (proudly replaced with nasty 2-ring electric cookers), real solid old wood everywhere, beautiful slate roofs, sloping eaves, etc. Lovely, and very chilled too, just loads of Chinese art students painting the place. Up to 500 years old, some places.

And then overnight to Guilin, 20 hours hard seat (By the way, I keep meaning to say, it is only the men (and some old women) who smoke, hawk, and spit all the time). Thanks be to the lord I managed to upgrade my ticket on the train to a hard sleeper, which I can tell you I was very glad about. I was talking to this English Major who was in the worst hard seat ever and was doing the full 50 hour train journey to Kunmin. I couldn't conceive how horrible that could be (though I may find out yet).

And now here I am in Guilin, or more specifically, Yangshuo, an hour away, which is more than a bit of a culture shock, and not just because it has been a tourist attraction since 600 AD. I saw more westerners in my first ten minutes off the bus than I have seen in the last three weeks. This is backpacker central. What it also is - which is why we are all here I imagine (other than the fact it is not too far from Hong Kong) is the most amazing scenery. The whole small town is covered in and surrounded by karst peaks, limestone pinnacles like you get in various parts of South-East Asia, e.g. Southern Thailand. Pics are promised for tomorrow, but take my word for it, it is impressive and beautiful.

It is strange having all these westerners around though. The main street here - Xie Jie, West Street, is like a calmer version of Bangkok's Koh-San Road. Loads of clothes and CD shops and cafes doing european type breakfasts and pizzas. I have mixed feelings about this, but it might be nice to drink with some westerners for a change, or even to have a drink at all. The only other time was my strange pub crawl in Suzhou.

Over and out, Spock.

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