Monday, June 16, 2008

China Day 17: Guilin By Night

I've been getting a little antsy about my luggage issues, since there's no way on the green earth that everything we've bought is going into our current suitcases - not after the chops and the tea. And the tea pots. I approached Fred about this and he said that tonight after dinner he'll take us on a walk to a market. Ever since Beijing he's been body-checking everyone who even looked like they wanted to buy fans, kites, or souvenirs but tonight he's had a reversion of feeling. Full speed ahead, and damn the torpedoes!

Dad sat out this expedition. The walk was a lot of fun despite the rain. We crossed the street in front of the hotel and retraced the same path Dad and I had walked earlier to the first bridge along the river. On the way I noticed something: the sidewalk has a funny section of ridged concrete running down the middle:
I asked Fred about it and he says it's a "blind way" - a lot of major cities in China apparently groove their sidewalks so blind people can fit the tips of their canes in there and know they're not getting too close to the edge of the road. I don't remember this from Beijing or Shanghai, but I probably wasn't paying attention, or maybe we weren't in the right neighborhoods.

We crossed over the bridge, where we almost had our umbrellas whipped out of our hands by the gusting wind, and walked up the street past the shop where one of our group got an extra carry-on this afternoon for 150 yuan. Fred beckoned us onward so I marked the location mentally so I could pop in on the way back. After a couple more blocks we turned left onto a pedestrian way which was a kind of brightly lighted mall:
There were also several islands of vendors' stalls in the center of the walkway. It's clear Fred no longer gives a rip about baggage weight; he says we can each have two bags, up to 50 lb each, from here on.

Along the way, we came to the liquor store where Fred bought the snake wine for tonight's banquet. Several of our group wanted to buy some for a souvenir (yurrgh), so he told them they would get the price he bargained the guy down to: 40 yuan, down from 95.

I walked along, looking at the pretty lights:
and we came to another one of those vendor islands, this one with a luggage stall! I selected a light-brown wheeled carry-on "Pola" knockoff. Fred told me I should pay 1/3 of the starting price. The vendor started at 160 yuan and I got it for 70, so I didn't do quite that well, but I'm pleased with my ten-dollar suitcase.

After bargaining, I told the vendor that I'd come back in a few minutes, and the parade walked just a little farther until we reached the end of the wide promenade and entered a narrow little park overhung with trees, with strategic gaps on the river side. A few steps on, we could see the lovely Sun and Moon Pagodas across the river through a gap:
I am told the Sun means today and the Moon means tomorrow, so together they stand for Forever.

I walked back to get my suitcase and then caught a cab back to the hotel with Fred and another traveling companion; at 9 yuan the ride was a bargain. I showed off my slightly damp bag to Dad and then he sacked out while I rearranged the luggage. I ended with a sense of great triumph:
1. Everything is in there somewhere.
2. Everything vulnerable to water is wrapped in plastic - I haven't forgotten the soaked-through luggage in Yichang.
3. Everything I actually need for the next three days is in my carry-on!

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