Our last day in China, breakfast of dumplings from a street vendor, and into the car for the drive back to Guilin. A visit to Steve’s office, local markets for more colour, noise and smells to assault the senses, then lunch to add injury to the assault – Sichuan hot pot.
Steve had to race off to do something, leaving the two off us hot pot virgins to tackle it alone. It was also early for lunch, so although other patrons were arriving, no one else had any food yet. Along with some lamb, beef, greens and mushrooms, there was a curious looking white food, cut roughly 3 cm square. I popped that in the roiling chili soup, waited a moment or two, pulled it out and ate it. It was tough, chewing and largely flavourless, so assuming it was some sort of fibrous root, I didn’t touch anymore. Thank goodness. An hour later when Steve returned I asked what the white stuff was. He grinned. It is chinese food, he said. What is it? I persisted. Pigs throat. Mmmmm. Add that to the list of the weird and wonderful, chalk it up to experience. The rest of the meal gave us the equivalent exprience opposite to that of a brain freeze. The zinging, tingling, chilli buzz envelopes your nostrils, back of your throat and across your scalp as it is washed down with lashing of beer and softdrink.
The chinese seem a mass of contradictions. The hold beautiful things in high regard, yet commercialise everything they can, adding awful lights, no protection of natural assets. like the caves, the mountains, the rivers. Their built environment around here is awful – they cannot pull down the charming older buildings fast enough to replace them with concrete cubes for houses, with aluminium windows in one standard size and bare concrete floors. The toilets are scary, often using the one toilet cubicle space for all ablutions, and the toilet itself as the only drain. Restaurant and hotel room toilets with a hole in the floor for the loo, the shower over this said hole (don’t step in the wrong pace when the shampoo gets in your eyes) Plus the sink has only a hose running from the plughole to the floor, so your handwashing water spreads over the floor on the way to the toilet hole. Never any loo paper, rarely any soap, never any towel. So one must crouch carefully, not getting anything wet, then rustle around for the pack of tissues in your handbag or poclet to fix yourself up some. We managed to avoid any disasters, but we’re glad to be back to familiar abluting.
After lunch, the Bear and Tiger Mountain Village Park – a local zoo stocking mostly tigers and bears. We saw the first couple of enclosures, and thought that must be it. Nup. There must have been over 300-400 tigers at this place. All lounging in the sun, but one enclosure of young tigers (adolescent) were so close, Charlie even touched one on the paw. So unlike home. None of the enclosures looked as good for the animals as the tiger enclosure at Adelaide Zoo looks, not by a long shot. But the scale!! These guys certainly had more space to roam in. There was also a pride of lions, a few deer, and 3 large enclosures with probably 50 – 70 black bears in each. That was the last experience in mainland China before heading to the airport.
A word on HK airport – it is massive. To depart, we had to catch a train from one end of the airport to another. Even with this, we had to walk miles and miles to get to our gate, and again to get from the gate to customs and baggage collection, and then to get to the right terminal to get our bus to our Kowloon hotel. It makes Sydney look like the old Adelaide airport.
HK, back to the bright lights, bustle, shopping, hawkers, markets, people, food and shopping.