Guilin City

When we got off the bus in Guilin City, we took a tuk-tuk to the hotel. It was a beautiful hotel, especially for $30/night. It had a East-meets-West interior with glazed black furniture, midnight blue runners, and reed mats in the shower.

When we unpacked, I realized my zip-lock bag with my watch, iPhone charger, and earphones was gone! I had put my watch in the bag for safe keeping in my purse during the night bus ride from Dongguan. I love that watch- it had been a gift from my family and was beautiful.

We went straight back to the bus terminal. With some difficulty, Nicole tried to express my loss to bus staff. We got sent from one person to another before we ended up in the administration office. A man there was eager to help. He made phone calls and then left, leaving Nicole and I sitting on plastic stools by a desk while a man cut brown pieces of paper into strips and another did paperwork.

The man came back and brought us to the bus we had arrived in. I took up the mattress and bedding, searching all around in hopes it had fallen down somewhere. No such luck. Nicole and I went to the Lost & Found office to leave her contact info with a rough description in Chinese. A woman who spoke English eventually came to talk to us and said it was very unlikely it would turn up.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped for cappuccinos in a Chinese bakery. They were very, very sweet but gave us the caffeine kick we needed. I tried to phone my mum on Skype to tell her about my watch, but there was no answer. No surprise as it was almost 11pm Toronto time.

We went back to the hotel to change our shoes and organize our camera gear for the Reed Flute Caves. We went down to the street and grabbed a cab. Unfortunately he was a very pushy cab driver who kept on trying to be our tour guide, and taking us to sights we didn’t want to see on our way to the Reed Flute Caves. Nicole kept on having to say “No, take us to the Reed Flute Caves.” until finally we got there. He remained persistent even then. We paid him the agreed upon amount from when we first entered the cafe and walked off.

Reed Flute Cave cavern

The caves were cool inside, which was a relief from the afternoon sun. We followed a Chinese tourist group as the cave wouldn’t stay alit without a guide there. It was quite spectacular. I’d never been in a cave this big before. It looked and felt fake, but it was all real (natural limestone). It is over 180 million years with inscriptions on the rocks dating from 792 AD. It had been used as a bomb shelter during WWII and now was alit with rainbow colored lights for tourists to enjoy.

We were hungry, so went in search for food in town. We walked around for awhile until we found a restaurant with an English/picture menu. The restaurant reminded me of the type of place Poirot would sit on a stop over on the Orient Express. It was on the roadside with traditional motif windows made from wood with wicker chairs and tables. It was lovely sitting there, listening to the traffic and the fan above our heads as a breeze swept over our hot, tired bodies.

We ordered beer and 3 different stir-fries. We washed our dishes with tea and then poured our beer into miniature glass cups to drink from. When the food came we thought we’d eaten too much, but within 30 minutes it was all gone. We were hungry!

After lunch, we went to a Chinese mall to look for a replacement for my lost iPhone charger. It was amazing to see the rhinestone cell phone cases and unusual clothing on sale. I had difficulty understanding why anyone with a design background would propose such things.

feet being nibbled on by small grey fish in a tank of water

After we found a charger, we wen to the Kissing Fish Spa to have a tank full of ‘doctor fish’ nibble at our feet. It was said to smooth out our skin and improve metabolism. The fish were slimy and you feel the suction on your feet and ankles as they nibbled. They tickled too! It took me forever to build up the courage to stick my feet in. It was absolute torture at fist but after a long period of protest I was finally able to immerse my feet in the water.

We went back to the hotel after being nibbled on by the little fishies. Nicole put a Mandarin kids show on the TV and fell asleep while I wrote a postcard. I continued to watch the TV while she slept. It was a show about forest animals vs. a hunter, and it was set in a landscape similar to Guilin. It was entertaining.

After our rest, we left to explore the city on foot. We went in the opposite direction than we’d walked earlier and ended up in the largest outdoor grocery market Nicole had seen in China. There were chickens on the back of bicycles, ducks in carts, eels and fish in tubs of water, vegetables and fruit. There was an escaped snake on the sidewalk which a man was kicking towards the road, likely to its death in the moped lane.

We walked along the river on our way home. Like the Reed Flute Caves, it was alit with colourful lights. There were women dancing with fans and men gambling on the street, everyone having a good time. When we got back to the street our hotel was on, we found it had transformed into a night market. There were whole fish on skewers and other culinary treats being offered, jade and pearl jewelry sellers, and all sorts of souvenir peddlers. It was fun to look around.

Nicole and I decided to fully pamper our feet today by going for a foot rub before bed. There was a sketchy looking place down an alley by our hotel, so Nicole asked the front desk if they had anywhere to recommend and they sent us there.

We were lead into a back room that was part storage room and part massage parlour. The women brought out big buckets of something that looked like unfiltered cider and smelt like sweet camomile tea. I stuck my feet in, half expecting fish to be in the bucket, but I was safe.

The foot rub included a back, leg, and neck massage with the masseuse’s barely touching a section of my body for more than half a second. The foot rub was very intense, but Nicole said it was worth it in the end.

After our foot rub, we headed back to the hotel. Now I sit in the hotel lobby finishing this post before bed. We need an early night as we will be rising early to catch a bamboo raft tomorrow.

* Photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

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