XINGPING, Guangxi Province
While visiting Guangxi province, it only made sense to make Guilin our base. From here we have planned a few days stopover in Xingping and then a day trip to Danzhai terraced rice fields.
The Guilin-Xingping bus departs from the main Bus Station and the 85 km took us about 2 and a half hours via the town of Yuangsho, which is usually the obvious destination for tourists visiting the Guilin area. Since we have not much time left in China and because we wanted to see more of Xingping we have decided to skip Yuangsho and its highly rated light show and performance on river Li. Xingping is a small town, but very lively indeed. It's few thousand inhabitants make the most out of bus loads of tourists visiting each day. I must say its a very well oiled cooperative between Guilin and these 2 towns to the south of it. Arriving at 'This Old Place Hostel' was smooth and by 4pm we were heading up Lozhoi Hill which was literally outside our doorstep. 45 minutes later we were standing on the top and before our eyes was a landscape I can't compare to anything I've seen before. Tall pointy mountain tops dropping straight to the river, which has been taking a U-turn right beneath us, hills covered in green foliage and Li river reflecting the last rays of sun. At this time of the day I usually like to be around people and try to harness the beautiful red light of the magic hour, but this sunset was well worth it!
Next day we've set out for a walk, but ended up taking a bamboo raft tour on the river. A bit disappointing as the 'bamboo raft' is not really made of bamboo anymore, instead it is made of plastic tubes and the money we have been asked for up front, wasn't really worth the 30-40 minutes ride. Except of being overcharged and the material problems of the 'bamboo raft' it was quite OK. This Sunday afternoon however, was meant to take place something that I've been planning for the past 2-3 weeks and I knew it will be the highlight from my whole of China experience. Friends helped me get in touch with Mr. Huang, one of the few real cormorant fishermen remaining in this area. Truth to be said, no one is really fishing with cormorants nowadays, the river is too busy for that and nets hanging from modern boats catch more fish. The handful of remaining cormorant fishermen however, are very happy to show off their skilled birds to a few lucky ones who find a way to get in touch with them.
Mr. Huang picked me up with my 'assistant' and walked us to his bamboo raft, where his cormorants were patiently waiting for his return. The late afternoon and early evening felt like I was thrown back in time a couple of hundreds of years. This experience left me with a feeling that I've only came across a few times in my life. Definitely something I will cherish and remember for the rest of my days...
After this evening we have decided to stay in 'This Old Place Hostel' one extra day and night. And what a great call it was! Xingping holds a local market every date ending x3, x6 and x9. We have woken up to our extra day, 19.October, market day. The town was busy from early morning and we have enjoyed the stroll cris-crossing the market. In a hidden corner of it, Majka and a few seconds later myself, have received the biggest eye opener in China. Among many other animals, dogs were butchered and sold for meat. Strange, mixed feelings for a westerner to witness this on my own. But why do we think that beef is OK and a dog is different? For example Indians disapprove the western worlds appetite for beef! Long story short, a lucky dog is a pet, unlucky one ends up on your plate. Have I tried it? Not knowingly maybe, can't be 100% sure... Little shocked and with pictures of the market lingering in her mind, Majka opted for a light lunch and she decided to be a vegetarian. ...for the rest of the day.
Our visit has ended with a short trek to Shawan village on the hilltop across the river. Xingping is a little paradise on earth, with beautiful traditions, marvellous landscapes and a jolly fisherman...