01 Dec - 07 Dec 2012 Xingping

People’s Republic of China aka Red China
Guangxi Province
Rongtan Road 5
Clean and modern twin room with private bathroom and with wifi for CNY 120.- or US$ 19.20 per night. Enthusiastic and friendly young staff, excellent English.

Click below for an interactive satellite view of The Old Place Youth Hostel in Xingping, which we would highly recommend, and for directions:
Note the random 0 - 500 m misalignment between Google's maps and satellite views of the motherland, courtesy of the paranoid Chinese Communist Party.

Walking the cobbled streets of the authentic enough and picturesque country town of Xingping, located in the middle of the best karst scenery on the Li River, which regularly comes to life for its country markets which fall on days ending with 3, 6 and 9 (3rd, 6th, 9th, 13th, 16th etc.), and where locals devour, among other creatures, fried insects, smoked rats and cooked dogs.

“To most Americans, a dog is a potential mate.
To some Chinese, a dog is potential meat.”

Hiking through orange/pomelo/nartjie groves and a fantastic scenery of steep karst hills to the traditional fishing village of Yucun and motoring back up the river along panoramic formations on a (fake-)bamboo raft (c. 5 km, ½ hour, CNY 70.- for the ride), sneakily made out of plastic pipes in place of bamboo, a mildly more seaworthy option, thus spotting en-route Eurasian magpie (Pica pica), common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) and red-billed blue magpie (Urocissa erythrorhyncha).
“The bird dares to break the shell, then the shell breaks open and the bird can fly openly. This is the simplest principle of success. You dream, you dare and and you fly.”

Watching fishermen and their trained great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) taking a good catch on the scenic Li River between Yangshuo and Xingping (though cormorant fishing once was a successful industry, its primary use today is to serve the Chinese tourism shpiel).

Comparing the area of scenery pictured on the back of the current 20-yuan note with the stunning reality of the Li River, agreeing with one of the most basic and essential NLP presupposition that the map is not the territory and wondering about the real value of the Chinese Yuan.
"An almost hysterical antagonism toward the gold standard is one issue which unites statists of all persuasions. They seem to sense... that gold and economic freedom are inseparable."

Climbing up the 1,159 steps to Bird View Pavilion, located on top of steep Laozhai Hill, c. 220 m above the river and c. 375 m above sea level, and surveying Guanxi’s natural skyline through both our cameras lenses and raised bottles of just cold-enough Liquan Nature Beer (590-ml bottles for CNY 3.50 from any of the supermarkets in town).

Meeting world-travelling Canadian artists AlexaPatrick (email: evocal@gmail.com) who create stunning and colourful murals all over the planet and improving our own sensory acuity.

Digging into generous helpings of very delicious and succulent “beer fish”, Xingping’s signature dish which is cooked with fresh tilapia, local Liquan Nature Beer and assorted veggies for only CNY 25.- or US$ 4.- per person at any of the many Chinese no-name eateries on main road, and reading on the internet a short while later about tilapia production in China: “The farmers there grow the fish in ponds that are maybe one to two acres in size. That's their livelihood. And they use excessive antibiotics… It's not just antibiotic residues on the fish. It's also antibiotic-resistant microbes that come with the fish. A primary source of salmonella is the raw manure that is used to feed the fish. Many of these farmers have poultry - maybe chickens, maybe geese, and maybe ducks. The faecal waste of these animals is fed directly into these ponds, which is the source of nutrients for these fish… Poultry can harbour salmonella... that's shed in the faeces. And many of these little farms have the family outhouse just feed directly into the ponds..." - yummy or yuck?

Taking a local bus to Yangshuo (c. 25 km, 1 ½ hours, CNY 7.- or US$ 1.10 per person), hereafter an express bus from Yangshuo to Guilin and, eventually, catching the (overnight) a/c fast train no. K38/K35 from Guilin to Canton aka Guangzhou (883 km, 12 ½ hours, CNY 215.- or US$ 34.50 per person for comfy “hard sleeper/lower berth”), Red China’s third-largest megacity with a population of 13 million people, the beginning of the ancient maritime Silk Road and the capital of the in/famous Cantonese cuisine (which includes parts taken from rare or endangered animals and raises serious questions over animal rights and environmental issues; what a schande).

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