About a month ago I was approached by my boss at my new job, asking me if I would like to go away with all my co-workers to Guangxi. Guangxi is a rather famous province for the stunningly beautiful place called Yangshuo which is a place that I have wanted to go to for quite a while! So, thinking of Yangshuo and of the potential fun to be had with my co-workers I said yes.
It wasn’t however until a few days before leaving that I discovered that…we were not going to Yangshuo as they had been there last year, instead we were going to a placed called He Zhou (Her Jo), a place that I, nor my colleagues had heard of.
So after a long day at work on a Friday, we had a rushed dinner, jumped on a bus and set off on an arse achingly long journey, and by about 1am, we arrived at our hotel.
The Chinese love to go on all inclusive package tours when they go away on holiday, I had unfortunately forgotten this when I had said yes. If I had remembered this then I don’t think I would have agreed to go as it is not really the way I like to travel. When in these tour groups you are given a horribly bright hat so that your tour guide does not lose track of his/her herd. So it was that during one of the long speeches given on the bus; of which I understood not a single word, that we were given said hats.
I was talking to a fellow blogger last week about how in China it is almost impossible to find any genuine historical sites. Everywhere that I have been too thus far in China has been a recreation of something old and traditional. I find this highly frustrating, I desperately would love to find a place here in China that is natural, untouched and genuine. A good example of this is as we arrived at the base of this mountain there were a number of rocks that had “cave-man” style engravings in them.
Anyway, we were led around this mountain for a few hours by our tour guide to a number of different sites. First off we were taken to see a nice waterfall where a horde of other tourists were gathering to photograph, this was followed by going to a very holy Buddhist temple were we were not supposed to take photos, something that I was not told until AFTER everyone had watched me taking a few photos. We were treated here to a long an very descriptive talk about the artwork and some other cultural things, all of which I had no idea what they said. But it was here that I was tricked and in my mind robbed by the monks to my outrage but the amusement of my colleagues. We were being shown how to pray correctly before being offered a stick with some Chinese writing on, one or two of my colleagues took these sticks, so in my ignorance I also took one, only to find out that I had to make a 10rmb donation for the honour of doing so…I was NOT impressed! Alas, after this I had the opportunity to drown my recent sorrows as we were led to the local mountain brewery were they made the local rice wine. Here we were treated to a number of different varieties of their moonshine before being led off once again to sober up at their tea gardens (I am rather partial to green tea).
The following day we were treated to a “traditional” village experience. This is another fine example of what I was referring to earlier. Whilst walking around this village we were led through parts where they were still constructing it. There were loads and loads of street food sellers; the streets smelled overpoweringly of vinegar and spice, as all of the foods being served were picked and spiced vegetables. Normally this would be something I’d be interested in, however due to the hugely inflated price and the sheer abundance thus therefore overpowering smell, I was rather put off buying any at all.
The only real redeeming factor of this village was that it was surrounded by the mountains that make Guangxi so famous. If you can imagine literally hundreds of small mountains as far as the eye can see covered in trees, then you can begin to imagine the classic Guangxi landscape. It wasn’t quite as beautiful as I know parts of this province can be, but it was a small taster.
Guangxi is one of the most famous parts of China, for very good reason! However there are parts of Guangxi that justify this provinces notoriety, He Zhou I am sad to say is not one of those places! What I can say though is that it has left me wanting to return to Guangxi for a more extended period of time without a tour guide, but with my girlfriend so we can explore the province properly.
I am still on the hunt for that truly authentic experience in China…one of these days I may just find it!
I am going to leave you now with a few of my favourite photos from this short trip.