Strolling around in Guilin at night is like walking onto a warm-up session for a non-competitive mini-scooter Grand Prix. Couples glide around on electric scooters embracing as they pass subtly lit bridges, with hues of green, purple, red and yellow reflecting off newly laid tarmac bridges and winding lakes. The Chinese young men chat as they effortlessly motor around the city – almost travelling in circuits, narrowly avoiding lonesome pedestrians and wayward cars. But no-one is in a hurry. This isn’t Shanghai any more. This is a more southerly part of China located in the Guangxi Autonomous Region.
Miles of market stalls line the central area of the city, somehow all managing to co-exist if not profitable, it provides at least a social event for the locals. There is barely another Westerner in sight, but one does still not feel bothered by intruding glares. The centre of Guilin is a safe area, even at 11pm. The only bother comes from pedal taxis offering to take you home, but it is not the same thrill as scooting around on an electric powered bike. The locals charge their low-powered machines up at newspaper-style kiosks and can last for 6-7 hours, ready for a glide around town. Under and over the bridge, these aimless travellers pass the time through experiencing the city as it changes before them.
Colour is also infused at the Reed Flute Caves, a setting the bikers would feel comfortable in as low atmospheric lights bring shapes of imaginary mushrooms, peanuts, cities and snowmen to life. In the “Crystal Palace” the epicentre of the caves the reed flute was played with a light show, causing a Chinese wave of “wows” through the crowds of visitors.
I have come to appreciate the Chinese character. Polite, even if communication is very much limited or lost in translation. A glass of sparkling water became a can of coconut milk, a plate of braised chicken became bony lumps with a claw thrown in. Some cultural differences aside, what makes the Chinese, Chinese? What makes the British, British one might ask. It is still too early for an assessment. But a few things can be said. People here are not overly religious, perhaps more spiritual than religious, they are economically savvy, not brash or showy, they are incredibly talented and hard-working. Some of the more difficult questions still have to be asked, but social harmony really is a feeling I am getting from the place at the moment, at least in Guilin. For example, felt completely safe in this city of 1.9m people, walking around at night.
- O, yes and I need your help – who is this in the photo?
- Ronaldo said he was going to sue over a similar advert…
I got quite a shock when I saw this prolific scorer holding a packet of throat sweets in China!