So it was up at dawn again, down to the breakfast buffet, back upstairs to pack the last things, and then load up the bus with a new group. Six of us from Jenna's original group are going to Hong Kong, and 16 more from other groups have joined us. New people to get to know. All of us looking grumpy at the thought of yet another flight. Since we have left home we have been on Cathay Pacific, Dragon Air, China Southern, Sechuan Air, China Eastern and now China Southern again. I don't know what airline we take to Hong Kong tomorrow and we will be on Cathay Pacific again in 3 days for the flight home.
It was a 3 hour flight and I slept most of the way, waking to have my "lunch," which was a yeast roll, "chicken" (which was like round chicken hot dogs with rice), some salad-y thing with thin carrot slices, cabbage and something I couldn't identify, a package I couldn't get open, which was all written in Chinese, so I don't know what it was supposed to be, a container of vanilla yogurt, and a couple of dates.
I knew nothing of Guilin, which is in the very south of China, on the banks of the Li river. It is a small city, by China standards -- only 620,000 people (slightly less than the population of San Francisco). Its major industry is tourism. The name means "forest of sweet osmanthus" because apparently the osmanthus flowers grow in abundance here in the summer and the air is filled with the smell of the flowers.
Unlike Beijing or Shanghai, there are no high rises here. We are on the top floor of this hotel, which is one of the largest in the city, and we are on the 7th floor. The reason why there are no high rises is that the area's biggest claim to fame is the spectacular mountain ranges (I won't have photos until tomorrow) and no building can obscure a view of the mountains. This is the view from our room:
You can just barely get a feel for what we will see tomorrow.
There isn't much to report on our day today, since we were in the air most of the day, so I thought I would put in some observations and some photos that didn't fit in on previous days. First is this one:
This was on our buffet table at the jade factory and it made Char and me realize that we really miss Sherry here. She loves these shrimp so much. :)
And then there was this photo I took in one of our many traffic jams:
This was at a merge onto the freeway and just after we passed a sign (which I wasn't fast enough to get a picture of) with a "no" sign on top of a horse-drawn cart. No horses on the freeway in Beijing (though traffic moves so slowly, I don't see why not!). There was also a sign which I just loved (and also couldn't get a picture of) which showed a no sign on top of a burning car! If your car catches on fire, whatever you do, don't drive it on the freeway!
This place is such an amazing conglomeration of traffic. There are all those expensive cars, tour buses everywhere and also everywhere are people on either bikes or motor scooters. But not just bikes, bikes or tricycles that have been converted into mini trucks laden with everything from tall stacks of lumber to cases of food.
I saw an old man riding in the back of a bike last night and the bike looked like it was serving as a wheel chair.
Motor scooters often carry several passengers.
I saw a scooter with a baby under a year old strapped to a plank of wood in the back and a mother who seemed to be driving her children to school on her scooter in Shanghai.
The 2-3 wheeled vehicles are ridden by the young and the old and they all compete for space with the cars and the buses (whose drivers drive them like they were driving VWs!) I don't know how they don't all crash into each other, except that there are fabulous bike lanes, which are very wide (enough for a bus to drive down, if necessary) and separated from the main traffic by islands of greenery (the right lane, where the bikes are, is a typical bike lane)
The traffic problem is only going to get worse. In the paper this morning it says that Beijing has seen rapid growth in the number of new drivers, with an annual increase of about 600,000. Imagine that. In Beijing they annually license 600,000 new drivers, almost the population of San Francisco. Every year! They are hoping to create good drivers and say that new drivers in Beijing will have to take an oath to drive in a civilized way before they get their licenses.
The front page of this morning's paper says "motor vehicles with last numbers are not allowed on roads: Today 2 and 7, Tuesday 3 and 8." So I guess this is another way they are trying to cut down on traffic.
You know, until I came to China, as the mother of 5, I thought the "one child" policy was really unfair.
I wondered, with all the changes that have taken place in China in the last 20 years, if they were lightening up on that policy now. There are all sorts of "allowances" now -- families in the country (where children are needed to help work on farms), families with twins or mentally handicapped children, and families where a child dies are allowed to have a second child, but there is a steep fine if you just ignore the policy.
Having been here now and seen how HUGE this country is, how congested the streets are, how massive the high rise block houses are, how the highways are gridlocked and how the country is so impacted by a population of more than 1.3 billion, I now understand the policy better than I did before and wonder if this is going to be a hope for China to cope with its rising population. Jenna says she misses not having had a sibling, but she feels the policy is a good one, and necessary for China. She also said something that I had never thought of before. With the one child policy, in one generation you have completely wiped out the concept of "cousins," and what a sad thing that would have been for me, missing the experience of having cousins in my life.
But here in Guilin things aren't so bad. Tomorrow we will take a bus tour down the Li River and see a real small town and then head back to the airport for our flight to Hong Kong.
I am cautiously optimistic. Out of China and in Hong Kong, where Facebook is Big Business, I might actually be able to check in to Facebook! And apparently all those photos I uploaded to Flickr ARE there from Day 3, so I'm uploading more from the day we visited the school.