Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sep 12 – To Guilin

It is a late start, 11:00 am pick up because of the rearrangement of the museum tour which happened already so this is the free time. We wondered around the hotel again along the same street that we walked last night. Things look different because there is much attention to the lighting of special landmarks. Unfortunately we did not think to take a cab ride to the south gate of the wall and photograph the Bell & Drum Towers. In fact we did not get an opportunity to go up either during the day or night.

We are learning slowly that we can change our schedules and refuse to follow the plan. A little late, we are learning that these guides should be accommodating and allowing us some freedom of choice when picking our meals and agenda. In retrospect, we see that Robert was not as good as Melanie in securing us restaurants and food that we liked.

Melanie picked a restaurant near the airport for our lunch (12:00) to make it easier for us to arrive in time for our flight. I like the way the guides walk us up to the check-in counters and take us right through to the security point. Once I did not follow close behind Stuart and I got detained. Melanie stays with us right to the end to make sure that we don’t encounter situations which require translation services. These guides are good that way. I was happy to wave Xian good-bye. Melanie sends us off with Moon Cakes. I am not sure if it is because she is afraid that we are unhappy with what happened last night at dinner. She looked apologetic but we understood that she had no control over the sequence of events which did not unfold according to her expectation. We usually have at least an hour or more before our departure time, so I walk around and look at the stores.

We arrived in Guilin airport after a two hour (4:00 pm) jaunt from Xian. Wendy our guide for the next leg is bubbly and exuberant. Mr. Jie is our transportation man, quiet and younger than the other two fellas. He loads our bags and we are efficiently transported to the heart of Guilin to the Lijiang Waterfall Hotel which is in the heat of the downtown and quite beautiful.


The parking lot is packed with tour buses, however we get door to door service in our van.


It is quite busy and we were upgraded to a private floor but it had a terrible view, no sense of the city at all; just solar panels on the roof. It looks like this is a newer somewhat unfinished part of the hotel.. It is so quiet and exclusive, the elevator goes up to the 15th floor and then we have to walk up one flight.


The floor above us is even more exclusive as it is taken up by only two suites. We wandered up to check it out and there is a small pool, hot tub and balcony that looks to be only for their use.

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We walked over to a small restaurant nearby called the Tasty Castle and Wendy ordered some delicious dishes that we had not experienced yet. One was an eggplant dish that looked like a layered salad or dip. It was sautéed eggplant with strips of diced green onions, red peppers, aged egg yokes and cilantro. It not only looked pretty, it was tasty also. Wendy is eager to please and she seems to know her way around the city, restaurants, how to get service and take charge. She reminds me of my mother in a restaurant when she wants things to be done; she waits for nobody.

Wendy suggests a boat tour of the lakes and rivers at night which we agree to pay extra for. It was well worth it and she was so accommodating about giving her personal time to escort us about. She really does love her job and meeting new people. Not only does she arrange for tickets, goes on the ride to explain the various points of interest and highlights but she gets a CD for us too. She does all of this without being asked.

Most of the pictures are fuzzy because we were trying to take long exposures from a moving boat. The whole city was lit up along the canals. It was a bit like being in Disney World.


As we went by these ladies popped out to do a dance and then went back inside. What a job!






After the cruise around the waterways in Guilin, we leave the dock and walk back to our hotel just in time to watch the 8:00 pm (10 minutes long) waterfall show at our hotel. They dump water over the side of the building and it becomes a giant waterfall.



Then she takes us down some streets to see this mile long setup of shopping stalls and storefronts.


Well, it was a full evening at last. Sure it cost extra but I was impressed that she offers to guide us on her personal time. Something that the other guides did not want to do, or even dare mention other sights to see.

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