I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
(In 2007, I went on a trip to southern China. This was a recount of my old trip. Excuse the quality of writing, I wrote these on the fly…)
As time passed, I remembered very few truly horrible things that occurred. The few negative moments blurred with the positive to form a tapestry of experience. I remembered the places I have been and reminisce….
Hong Kong: A good start, and after Yangzhou, I don’t regret starting with it. However, I should have stayed longer. Jaime gave me the option to stay one more day. I never had the guts to tell her I wanted to. There was so much more to see. Her Aunt wanted us to stay as well. Jaime wanted to go, even though she never told me. There was not enough time. I loved Hong Kong on the initial visit, though the second visit on my final day was less that spectacular. I would return only if I had a guest new to the area I could show around. More time for Ngong Ping; more time for all of Tung Chung. A clean city and a beautiful one.
Guangzhou: Although it held many nice parks and towers, and even though the city is wrapped in a cloak of history two thousand years old, it does not change the fact that Guangzhou, at least the section I was in, was a dump, a human occupied landfill. Let’s be honest here. I find it odd they insist on squat’n’drop toilets because of germs but cover their city in a thick haze of pollution and don’t appear to pick up any of their trash. The parks were amazing, there’s no denying, and the temples were ancient and beautiful, but the homeless dogged me at every corner, the mass transit is a nightmare, and did I mentioned I had neither air conditioning nor a mattress where I was saying? Yes, I know, I was offered free room and board. It doesn’t change the fact that the city scared the hell out of me and Jaime got frustrated because of my confusion. It had no English anywhere, not on the signs and not coming out of any mouths….not even at the tourist spots. Most of the tourists I encountered all agreed, Guangzhou is not a welcoming place and its best avoided. There are better, older, locations to see. Given that, the water rapids were fun.
Yangzhou: A dream, Yangzhou emerges from behind the mountains. This place was amazing. Take the cruise from Guilin; you’ll thank me. Of all the locations on my trip, I would think of returning to Yangzhou the most. It was easy to navigate, the people were nice, and the sites were amazing. Yangzhou is a worthy location. I should have stayed there longer. Two more days at least.
The Worst Day: You would think it would the day I was kicked out of the house in Guangzhou. But not…it’s still being stranded with no money in Hong Kong on the first day. I almost had a nervous breakdown. Being kicked out of Jamie’s house was a close second.
The Best Day: Same day. I saw Jamie for the first time. We began a great adventure. We went shopping and explored Hong Kong. We finally ended with the Avenue of stars. Considering how the day began, it ended in pure beauty. With the rest of the trip ahead of us, all was possible. A close runner up was the first day in Yangzhou. I first began with the cruise and it ended with the Impression Tour. This was the most beautiful day I’ve ever experienced in my life. All my dreams afterward were all about Yangzhou.
Single best moment: The raft ride. Oh the Yangzhou cruise was majestic but the raft ride with Jamie and her family was tonnes of fun and finally getting revenge on Giant Super Soaker Man was fulfilling.
Single best person encountered: Other than Jamie, of course, it would be the tour guide on my real water cave. He was so much fun and so patient, trying to give me hints for every rock formation we encountered.
Best Meal: I know you might think it’s the Sushi. The Sushi was…really good. The price soured me a tad. However, the afternoon when Jamie took me for Dongbai food was the best. It cost like 15 dollars for both of us and I had more food than I could stuff. It was divine.
Worst meal: Popeye’s….nuff said.
Best Investment: The Li River cruise…by a longshot. The 40 RBY Scooter comes in a distant, but well placed, second.
Funniest Moment: Pelting a Ping Pong Ball off Jamie’s head (accident). Giant Super Soaker Man was a close second.
Was the trip worth it? Absolutely. I think if I had to do it over again, I would spend another day or two in Hong Kong, only spend about three days in Guangzhou (and get a hotel), and then spend the remaining time in Yangzhou. Besides that alteration, I think the trip went very well. Alas, life is not always fair and my future relationship with Jamie was bleak. Family pressures strained our relationship too much and it remained difficult to even recover a friendship. Still, I don’t regret my actions or decisions. It was still my best trip and one of the most memorable moments of my life. The travel bug has bit me (despite my friends’ claims that I have contracted SARS) and I want to travel more. My friend and I made an oath to see a Formula 1 race in the next two years. But…given enough time, I will be returning to China. However, next time, I will be traveling through the North, starting with Shanghai and Beijing and continuing all the way to Tibet.
I will be coming back…
(In 2007, I went on a trip to southern China. This was a recount of my old trip. Excuse the quality of writing, I wrote these on the fly…)
DAY FOURTEEN “Degradation”
I wake up still with a soar throat. Because of my lack of funds, I decide to divert my attention to more travel than shopping. I take a MTR to the island Hong Kong, which I never went to before. Yes, three of the largest buildings in the world are in Hong Kong. I walk to the ICF Mall and notice…well…women. Lots of women. Hundreds. Thousands. They are resting on mats, in cardboard boxes. Dressed well, they ignore everyone but themselves. They are on every bridge, every walkway, in front of every entrance. Only women, no men, what are they doing? I pass by group upon group before entering the mall.
The mall looks way to upper class for me. The floors are tile, the walls are all glass, and there is a fresh scent of pine. Store names are actually just called Armani, Rolex, and Prada. The movie theater there has an upper class lounge for executives only. I finally snap and order a hamburger from a local bar & grill (another rule broken) and leave after noon. I begin walking across half the island. I snap my remaining photos of the tall buildings and re-enter the MTR two stations later. I head over to the Station Plaza at Po Lam, the same station Jamie and I visited on our last trip here. Suffice to say, this place is way larger than expected. Its not one building, but three. I check out the stores and do, finally picking up a few DVDs.
As 4:00 rolls around, I finally return to the hotel to pick up my luggage. On the MTR route to the Airport Express, my bowels start rumbling. Something bad is coming. I finally reach the airport and check my luggage. I should have taken medication before I did that. I start frequenting the bathroom over and over. I start to feel light-headed. I decide to eat something. I can’t find anything interesting so I settle on Popeye’s. Now I mentioned I don’t lik
e eating meat off bones. So I have no idea what possessed me to eat this. Half-way through, I know I made a mistake. I feel nausea setting in. I need to get on that plane. I purchase some pills for that…which turns out to be another mistake. May cause drowsiness. I make my way for the bathroom again. I grasp the edges of the bathroom stall.
….ohh…this is a whole new feeling….<WHAMM>
My head strikes a wall. I recoil in pain and stagger around.
“Are you okay?” comes an Asian man.
“Fine, I…” I realize where I am. I am standing by the sinks, about 30 feet from where I was last. I have no recollection of the time in between. However, the strike injected enough adrenaline into my head to keep me alert to board the plane. I stagger and float on board. Before reaching cruising altitude, I know my body is reaching a breaking point. I sneak into the bathroom. I sit on the toilet and rest my chin on the sink…then it all comes out. You know you feel better when you can stare at a protein spill of this magnitude and not feel more sick. Of course, getting the clog clear is a different mess entirely. After a short time, I finally emerge a thousand times better but still tired and light-headed. I reach my seat and sleep the remaining hour to Taipei.
I am really thirsty. My mouth is dry. I start drinking water. I also check out every bathroom stall. Still dazed and tired, I slop across the Taipei airport and get on board the 9 hour long flight on the 747 back to Vancouver. I just need to make it back to Canada. After an hour on the flight and drinking my weight on water, my stomach starts making a fierce noise. I return to the bathroom again and repeat the process from the previous flight. I must have still had debris from the previous time and all it needed was some water. Here’s the problem with airplane basins. They are very shallow. Soon the spray deflects with the curvature and sprays on the far wall. Lovely. I clean up and once again feel better…I have also failed to keep anything down, not even water.
After five hours, I still can’t sleep and I need something to keep down. Finally, apple juice seems to work and I start drinking. However, I am still drifting in and out of sleep. As I land, I realize I am approaching Canadian customs woozy and groggy. However, I float through them with ease and rest outside the final gate. I must be really tired. For the first time, I sleep through the launch and most of the flight. We set down late and a friend is there to pick me up. I should mention that yes, he did wait for like two hours for me. I am still sick and still cannot keep anything down. To think I have to go to work tomorrow. I don’t think I am going to be able to get through that… But I am home and safe. Was it a good trip? Yes. Would I do it again? Right now, I can’t think about it…
DAY THIRTEEN “The Western Takeover”
Yes, the French. Okay…I admit not having a problem with the French. Not at all. I would love to visit France sometime. It’s a little cliché I took a moment to poke fun at. In fact, they were probably the nicest tourists I encountered on the trip. They kept feeding me. All I brought was a package of Oreos. They bought five different types of fruit. Is that a grapefruit? Okay, now, WHAT the hell is that? It’s small, red, with spikes on it. Is that a fruit or a sea urchin? They claim its fruit. I pass. They insist. I pass. They insist. I pass—okay, so eventually, I try it. It’s really not bad. It’s actually quite good. I share some cookies. Turns out, they broke a prior belief that France French hated French Canadians. They love them but always found their accents a little funny.
After a comfortable night’s sleep, I finally found myself at a KFC back at the Guangzhou Train station. Jaime agreed to meet me here. However, my lucky streak officially runs out.
Not only is she not here but when she finally does arrive, somehow we miss each other, passing right by without noticing each other. An hour passes and I finally purchase my ticket to Hong Kong. Only when I do a final check in the KFC, do we finally spot each other. We chat for the final hour but it appears bittersweet. We say our final goodbyes and glance at Guangzhou for the last time.
I predict I will be at the hotel by 1:00. Through train and train, I finally arrive at….1:00. The same hotel I stayed in previously. I settle in, shower, and head back out into city. I have only one real destination today, the Hong Kong Space and Science Center.
Alas, I quickly discover a new side of Hong Kong. Unlike Guangzhou, under attack by aggressive salesmen trying to sell me Rolex and Georgio Armani, in Hong Kong, I am ambushed quickly again…only this time, I am under onslaught by Westerners….or Eastern to be more specific. Dozens upon dozens of Middle Easterners and Africans interrupt my pleasant walk with, “Hello sir, make good suit for you. I make very good suit.” I am sure they all make very good suits but I just want to get to the HK space and science center.
I observe the fact to put a stop to anyone crossing the street at any point like in Guangzhou, Hong Kong erected fences all along their streets and built subways and bridges for people to cross. At the HK Space and Science center, I purchase tickets for not one or two, but three Omnimax shows. A new one by Tom Hanks on walking on the Moon is probably the best omnimax film I have ever seen. Another one later hosted my Tim Allen is more typical (Look as we strap our camera to a car!).
During the last one, about the Hubble Space Telescope, I develop a mild soar throat. As I walk the Avenue of Stars again, it gets worse. I decide to get something to eat. I stumble around and find a Sushi restaurant. I sit down and make the biggest mistake of the trip. I ask for the good stuff and eat until full. It should be noted, NEVER DO THIS. Oh yeah, the food was amazing and I sat there for 90 minutes. As I ate, the light show went on behind a massive glass wall behind the chefs and there were Fireworks. Finally I get the bill….2200 HKD!
I suddenly get diarrhea. I hand my VISA and pray to god. It clears, I leave and limp home. Suffice to say, my plans to shop all day tomorrow is shot to all hell. I need to make alternate plans. I just ran out of money. I observe the massive population shift as I walk home. Asians are suddenly a minority here, replaced with more Westerners. Arriving back at the hotel, I attempt to laugh off the most expensive meal of my life and try to sleep…
…unknown that my lucky streak was not only over, but about to get worse…
DAY TWELVE “The GoBot Connection”
(In 2007, I went on a trip to southern China. This was a recount of my old trip. Excuse the quality of writing, I wrote these on the fly…)
Okay so, with the exception of the Ford Probe (which I saw on an episode of Beyond 2000 in the early 80s), almost every one of my car loves can be traced back to transforming robots. It could be Transformers or GoBots, it makes no difference. My love for the Porsche 944 and 928 stems from two super GoBots I owned in my youth. One of my favorite of the smaller bots was a Red Scooter whose name escapes me. Since then, even though I’ve never owned one, I’ve always had a secret love of scooters. I went to bed that evening determined to rent one early next day and take Yangzhou for myself.
The first dealer I approached flipped me two cards that displayed 200 yuan each and claimed the price was 400 RMB. Suffice to say, I contained prior knowledge that the scooters were only 80 yuan. I walked away. As expected, she grabbed my arm and offered me one card. I told her I knew better and walked on. I kept searching. I eventually found another one offering them at 40 yuan with a 400 deposit. I take the chance and now I have keys in hand. I burn (okay…not burn…it is electric) out of the lot and take a cruise.
I soon discover that it is virtually impossible to get lost in Yangzhou. The very worst, you get driving the wrong direction on the right road. I bounce up and down the main streets for a while and find the same off-road I took the day prior with Shanndy. This time I take my time, stopping for pictures when I can. I pace myself with some tourist bikers that move slow and smooth. I pass by rice fields and rafts and the most beautiful peaks known to man. However, after three hours, the little battery is starting to give up the goods. I drive down the wrong way on the right road again and the battery starts to limp more. I decide not to reverse the path anymore and and take the main roads. I hope this puppet has enough juice to return.
Turns out I have more than enough and return the keys just past noon. I retrieve my deposit and get my bags from the hotel. Well…after eating, I have about four hours to kill. I make for the internet cafe.
At 4:00, I am planned to meet Shanndy and settle my bill. Her friend enters the Cafe at 3:00 with a phone. It’s Shanndy on the line. She cannot make it. Apparently, the night before, after parting ways with me, she got into an accident. I kinda thought she lacked confidence on the scooter. She does not go into details. I settle the bill and wish her well. She doesn’t charge me for the last day.
Now I must find the bus myself. I race to where I think I need to go, only to discover it’s the wrong place. People keep pointing to a general location. Finally a bus appears out of nowhere and a passenger screams, “Guilin? Train?”
“Yes”, I scream. I really cannot be this lucky. I have never gotten sick, I make all my trains and a bus literally appears out of nowhere and picks me up. The bus drops me off at Guilin.
Soon after, I sit on a bench, waiting for my train. I meet a nice girl named Joyce who looks 12 but claims she is in Foreign Trade. I meet another guy, an Asian fellow who speaks very little English. However, he claims his name…is Jeff. Yes, I actually meet an Asian guy named Jeff.
Jeff works with computers and versed in Windows 2000. Maybe that’s current in China. Soon the train arrives and we all part our ways.
“Xie Xie, Die Xing…Jeff.”
I discover I ordered a Sleeper Cell which, despite its title, is not a terrorist cell. I share a room this time with three other people instead of an open hall with 5. I hear new accents as I approach the door…
…It’s the French…
There has been much talk about whether or not my good friend Jamie was a tour guide or a girl I carried significant affection for. Suffice to say, this was not a point that contributed to Jamie’s and my split at the Guangzhou train station. Truth be known that I must be extremely cheap to spend six months talking to a girl in China to meet her, only to use her as a guide. What an amazing waste of invested time considering the cost to hire a local guide for the whole trip costs less than a day’s wage for me.
No, I went to China to see the country…but I also wanted to see a girl I have been associating with for almost six months. Turns out, Yangzhou was an amazingly easy place to navigate with almost every sign in two languages. Plus Jamie has never been there…so she would be in almost the same boat as me. I did miss her terribly.
DAY ELEVEN “That would be my ankle”
Yenshou Park is a dump. There I said it. It costs 10 yuan to enter if you are a foreigner, which is BS considering only two of the 6 entrances actually have a gate. I wander or 30 minutes in the park and reach…another entrance. Because Chinese are let in free, it’s become a haven for bums. The park is not maintained. The standing water creek is covered garbage and the one good picture is of a pillar with some letters on it. After an hour, I hurry the hell out of there. I walk across the stone wavebreakers on the coast and reach the Green Lotus Park, which is another robbery at 30 yuan. It is totally empty with no one inside. It’s just a god awful lot of stairs that climb about 300 feet up the side of the mountain. It still a better value than Yenshou park.
I have three hours to kill before meeting Shanndy at the Beauty shop. I walk around the streets and notice that if you are a tourist, you stick with Patao street and its branches. There is very little else of in interest unless you take the long busses to the real attractions.
After talking with the girls at the shop for thirty minutes, Shanndy shows up in a Scooter. She offers to drive me to the bus station where I will take the bus to the Water Cave. Okay.
Shanndy is not good with the Scooter. I have never ridden a motorized two-wheeled vehicle in my life…not even as a passenger. She invites me to drive instead. She sits side-saddle. How hard could it be…
…I know, you’re waiting for the turnaround…well…not this time…
…Its easy. I take it like a duck to water. Soon, she directs me off into a small road which eventually migrates into a rocky dirt road. The suspension is tested to the limits. I see the virginal landscape as it should truly be seen, the only marks of man are the flat rice fields in front of the rolling mountains. I almost ditch the bike looking up. The little drive takes almost a full hour and we reach the bus station and I snatch a full tour ticket. Shanndy also lends me her phone to call Jamie. She wants to meet me on my return to Guangzhou. She also does me the favor of booking my hotel in Hong Kong as Shanndy’s phone cannot call into HK.
I am the only rider on the little bus. Worry sets in as we drive onto off roads, onto dirt roads. I am going to get mugged and dropped somewhere. Soon the bus stops on a bridge…uh oh. Turns out the driver just needed a splash of water. Over rugged roads, we reach the water cave. I hand my ticket to the tour guide. He offers me a helmet and a stick and a wave of a hand into the canoe. Once again, since I arrive alone, my tour guide is personal. It’s only me and him. Most other tours have six to eight people. The boat drifts under a rock giving barely two feet of head clearance. We reach a rock ledge and are directed out of the boat. My personal guide shows me around. Thank God for good shoes. I hope I don’t lose my footing.
It’s really dark and only a few well placed lamps illuminate. Canadian nightvision sets in and I see the beautiful caves for what they are. Some are immense, with the ceiling reaching 20 meters up. A large lamp on the guide points out rocks and he taunts me to guess that they are. Some I catch on immediately, impressing him (“Wall of China,” “The Foot”, “The woman washing her hair”). He is especially impressed when I guess the Dragon jaw correctly. However, repeated hints at corn fail miserably. My guide is astoundingly patient and very enthusiastic. There is a mud bath and pool I skip and we reach the end after an hour. Of course, that means doubling back. Damn you nature for not making an exit. The formations are astounding. One single dripping water resembles a shooting star in the light, creating a human brain pattern on the smooth rock below.
The cave only has a few rudimentary carved steps and plank bridges to get around. Some ceilings drop to only three feet, making my navigation difficult. I just hope I don’t lose my…
…that was my ankle. It’s not broken but sure doesn’t feel good. We finally emerge in total darkness. My guide was so impressive, I slip an extra 20 yuan, which he accepts graciously. I return to the same bus driver. He notices me and shoves the small Asian girl aside, reserving me the front passenger seat. I return to the ticket agent and see Shanndy waiting patiently for me. Fifteen dollars a day, folks…worth it. I hop on the back and she drives me back to Yangzhou…
…and that’s when the tire blows…
Limping the scooter for a kilometer in total darkness, we find a shop that repairs the tire and its (count’em) five punctures. Shanndy pays the man and we trek on. The headlights on the scooter don’t work…and there are no street lamps. Approaching vehicles bless us with behind, blind us oncoming. After 30 minutes, we reach town. I depart from Shanndy, agreeing to meet her tomorrow for the final bill. I return to my hotel where my ankle finally waves the white flag. I cannot put any pressure on it. I hope I can walk tomorrow…
…alas…that more than I can say for Shanndy…
The Coast Inn of the North is blessed with numerous well regarded restaurants both in its belly and within a five minute walk. But despite having reviewed every other place in town, repeatedly in some cases, I’ve only critiqued one of the Coast’s three establishments. My excuse is that Coffee Garden is the only one open for lunch with the other two, Winston’s and Shogun, only open for dinner. The circumstances of this specific dinner are complicated and boring…so here I go: basically, I work at a big retailer undergoing major renovations, and I had been placed in a position of authority during said renovation. I befriended the SWAT team (totally not lying; that’s what they’re called) brought up from Vancouver to organize the reno. So to make a long story really obnoxious, they were staying at the Coast and invited me out to a restaurant they’ve frequented many times by that point.
More accurately, I encouraged the congregation due to not having reviewed Shogun and because I’m suffering from a crush for one of the SWAT team members—a healthy crush like Robin Williams in The Fisher King rather than Robin Williams in One Hour Photo. As readers will remember from previous reviews, I’ve about as much success with the female gender as a male angler fish, so let’s assume I crashed worse than Dale Earnhardt (too soon?) and move onto the actual review.
With the loss of Sakura, and with no one readily available to prove me wrong, Shogun is the only Japanese restaurant remaining in town with manned teppanyaki tables, a dominant characteristic of this establishment. Of course, they also offer staple sushi, but the hot plate is the draw. For anyone needing clarification, teppanyaki translates from Japanese into “potential burn victim” because of the proximity customers are from a cooking surface. Readers are more likely aware of its more western moniker, hibachi grill. If you see a restaurant claiming itself a Japanese Steakhouse, it’s because it features these tables, which purely for trivia nuts is related to another form of cuisine called Mongolian barbecue, which is neither Mongolian nor technically even a barbecue and let’s be honest, sounds a little bit racist.
We were handed menus which instantly dashed my hopes for culinary bliss. These oversized monoliths were more suited to a Denny’s…or for separating rooms in a temple in Guangzhou. These are the ones a pair secret agents hide behind, each holding one side. You can’t fully deploy said menu without it blocking the view of the two people flanking you. I swear I almost took out an eye once. I’ve played Dungeons & Dragons with smaller screens than this. Pictures in menus are probably one of the worst ideas for a high-class restaurant, a sure-fire sign you’re trying to sell your services to a section of the population still entertained by Teletubbies. You’d accuse me of fussing over minutia, but I believe it to be a legitimate concern when an opened menu will block not only your vision but the visions of those around you to the sole reason why you sat at a teppanyaki table in the first place. If Olive Garden doesn’t feel the need to post pictures on their menu, neither should a high-class Japanese Steakhouse. When building a successful culinary establishment, despite the obvious temptation, the one thought which shouldn’t run through your mind is, “What would Applebee’s do?”
The teppanyaki tables utterly dominate the small space reserved for Shogun, with booths the only tables which lack them. I found a seat directly opposite of the chef and eventually ordered one of the many platters offered. They go by many colorful names but are actually just different combinations of five ingredients: beef, chicken, scallops, lobster, and shrimp. I ordered the one with the beef, chicken, and scallops. Promptly, the chef throws down scallops not just for me but for the four patrons around me. This does raise a concern given that scallops are tricky to cook properly. Overcooked, they become tough. How this chef manages to cook them all nearly perfectly does verify his talent. Of course, it wouldn’t be a teppanyaki experience without him dousing each ingredient in alcohol and attempting to burn my eyebrows off.
Yes, lighting something on fire rarely ever contributes to a meal’s flavor. From my experience and from listening to certain experts, only crepes suzette and maybe bananas foster actually benefits from direct ignition. The food on the grill isn’t ablaze for long enough to offer anything to the final dish. And I don’t care. It’s all show, an integral part of the theatrical production of teppanyaki, a huge factor in its cost, and that’s a good thing. Every review I’ve written has discussed service, rating it alongside food and decor. Do I rate one more than the others? Of course, food is the most important, but I’d place service as second over decor, and the stagecraft of teppanyaki falls into this. Our chef is buoyant, witty, and watching him work is akin to the undulations of a lava lamp—borderline hypnotic. This is the same reason why the most enjoyable aspect of sushi, the part so many establishments forget, is the metrical knife-work of the itamae. Part of a sushi-chef’s appeal is the showcase of his skill and his mannerisms at the bar—how he interacts with customers and displays his work. When I call out Suzuran as the best sushi restaurant Prince George has ever had, why I befriended its chef, it’s because of his stagecraft. And this is no different. The value of Shogun is as much in its theatrics as in its food. If the food was crap, I’d take issue, but thankfully, it’s not. Along with the teppanyaki, I also ordered a tuna starter, which was also good. It wasn’t required since the mains were massive.
The experience lasted nearly 30 minutes, with food being served nearly constantly, delivered in bite sized chunks, pre-cut and ready for dipping. Yes, that does sound like an extravagant fondue, and you’d have a point, but once again it would still lack that panache of teppanyaki. At $30+ for each plate, this type of experience isn’t for the weekly traveller, and it’s not one taken by a lonely man with no friends to call upon. You take in Shogun when in need of celebration, when friends gather and cheer in unison at the performance offered. I can’t see why anyone would go to Shogun and not partake in the teppanyaki. Sushi can be acquired cheaper at a half-dozen places around town, but I’d like to return and see if it’s any better than the competition. But on the basis of its signature offering, Shogun stands as the best Japanese restaurant in town and one worthy of visit.
OVERALL: 8.3 out of 10
DAY TEN “Crouching Tourist, Hidden Costs”
Sleeping makes all trips go by fast and once again I arrive in Guilin after what seems like 3 hours. I purchase my return ticket with ease. I hop on a taxi and try to get through to my driver I need to go to the Li River cruise.
I think I have made a dreadful mistake. She keeps driving and driving. The toll climbs. We drive over bridge over bridge. Is she taking me for a ride? Off on back roads and single lanes. Seventy Yuan later, there it is, the Li River cruise. It’s closed. Shit. I notice its 7:30 am. Other tourists wait. So shall I. After finally entering, I buy my ticket and notice an overpowering urge to purge. I check the bathroom. I look behind as I stand at the urinal…and notice the Western toilet…Oh thank the dear lord Jesus…
It would be my first sign I was entering a more tourist friendly area of China. A couple from Kamloops told me Yangzhou is very friendly with Western food and a large percentage of English spoken. The man also added that Guangzhou is rather unforgiving and not a friendly place to live if you’re a foreigner. You don’t fucking say!
Soon, I show my ticket. The lady escorts me personally to a large, two story raft that will ferry 40+ people across a six hour tour of the Li River. There is a large percentage of tourists, mostly from Northern Europe. However, they speak good English. The Asian guy that speaks Norwegian freaks me out though. The first 30 minutes of the cruise resembles many of the rivers that criss-cross my native BC. However, as we turn a corner, I see a painter’s dream, the reason why this river inspired countless poems and stories in Chinese literature. The mountain rise with and fall with a flowing paintbrush. Jade green covers every corner of the round peaks and sweeping valleys. The Li River is shallow this part of the year. Kids wade waist deep 50 feet from the shore. Reef markers keep the boats from grounding themselves.
There is no lead up to these mountains. They don’t slowly rise and fall. Rising as sheer cliffs from the water, totally straight up, rounding a peak and, they sweep down the other side. The horizon resembles a child’s drawings of mountains in their imagination—just a simple wavy line, off in a hazy expanse. In my MP3 player, I have a directory of just ambient music…I play it almost nonstop. The music of Baraka and Michael Stearns echo in my ears. I never want this to stop.
Many years ago, Aliandro and I watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon together in a Vancouver theatre. In a moment of majestic scenery, I heard my friend remark the beauty of the Chinese landscape. I saw it firsthand, and seeing it with the limitless scope of human vision rivals any conformed view of filmed entertainment.
Yeah, dis was awesome!
The 20 yuan (3 cdn) coke can will hold the record as the most expensive can of coke in my life. Well, we are stuck on a boat. The massive lunch more than makes up for the gouge at the can. I try everything…except, of course, the chicken wings.
I almost fill up my camera, shooting photo after photo. We arrive at Yangzhou far too early. The beautiful resort arrives from behind a cliff, built into the side of the mountain. Literally, the mountains greet the buildings at their rear, rising up hundreds of feet behind. Even with the four and five story buildings, standing in front, you can still see the towers behind. New buildings are carved right into the rock or the rock is blown away, made into brick and the town expands. Huge cascading walls indicate where the water rises in peak season. Now, it’s almost at the bottom. There are some areas where one can walk from one side of the river to the next without soaking above your waist.
After disembarking, the crowds are shepherded into a battery of shops and merchants. For days I couldn’t find any traditional Chinese clothing or souvenirs. I know why now. They are all in Yangzhou. Not one but 20 merchants in a row all sell the same variety of silk. More up head sell Buddha’s and jade dragons. I wish Jaime was here. Walking up West street (amply named), every sign show both Chinese and English text. Most restaurants advertise Western food. Almost all double as small hotels as well. Street sellers try to force brochures and tickets for the variety of attractions in Yangzhou. I also come across the local guides, selling tickets and tours of the town.
Which is where I met Shanndy. Now you might think she sounds a little too much like Shady…and you might be right. I am not sure if she is legit or a crook. I cannot find my hotel and she promises to help with no charge. She just hopes to take me on as a client for my next three days. I figure to take the chance. And it’s a good thing to. I would never have found the hotel on my own. It’s off on a side street with only its phone number in English. The keeper speaks no English and immediately tries to jack the price by 300%. I keep to my guns, quoting the price (180 yuan for two days), which she finally agrees. Shandy leaves me with her number. I am still dubious of the idea. I doubt I will see her again. I settle into my room and take inventory. Two beds (sigh), A/C and a western toilet. Life is good. I change, have a shower, and exit onto the main street. The street is crowded. I doubt I will see Shanndy again. I figures the odds are about one in—
…one…She offers to get me tickers to the Impression show and take care of my other needs for the next two days. She charges 100 yuan a day. 15 bucks for peace of mind. Not bad. I take her up on it. I order the impression show and the water cave tour for tomorrow. She tells me to return to her Beauty Shop HQ at 6:30. I give her 100 yuan up front and the 180 yuan for the ticket. I hope I didn’t just get screwed.
As I wait for my bus back to Guilin, I am struck by an odd question? Does no one in Manitoba take trips?
Arriving in Hong Kong, I encountered few tourists. It’s a big town and we are spread pretty thin. The few whites I do encounter sport accents from mostly Europe. Of course, I could be surrounded by thousands of Japanese and Chinese shutterbugs and would never know it. The only time I hear English outside of Jaime and myself come from a group of Australians on the last day in HK. On the MTR, I look across the sea of Asians and spot the few outsiders here. Usually only 4 total on each full train.
In Guangzhou, I was a stranger in a strange land. The only tourists I ever saw were the ones disembarking from giant A/C busses rented just for them. Even still, most of those were German (Ohhhhh…the Germanssss). I found a few more on the Beijing Walking Street. Hardly any appeared the rest of my journey in the Sprawl. Walking on the streets, or riding the urban busses, I collected many looks from people. I figured they were more curious than anything.
“Is this guy lost?” As it stands, the only English any of them knew was “Hello” and usually it was one in a thousand (so three or four a block). Upon boarding the train to Guilin, the first signs of migration occurred to be tourist friendly. The Kamloops resident in the sleeping bed next to mine explained I was entering a tourist heaven. He wasn’t kidding.
A fully 20% of the entire population on West Street were White. On the Li River cruise, I heard a variety of accents, almost all from Northern Europe. In fact, all the people I carried a conversation with in English (save for Jaime), almost all came from people in Northern Europe (Finland, Sweden, Norway, etc). They were all so nice, I have to make sure I make those countries part of my journey on my cross Europe trip in a few years. However, some of the nicest people were the New Zealanders I shared a bus with from the Impression tour.
Most of these Europeans were older, in their waning years. The youth all sported backpacks and strode with ego and confidence across town. This was truly a Chinese Jasper. I develop this uncanny ability to spotting Canadians. Or maybe Canadians were all the youth arriving this time of year. Or maybe the stories are true and Americans are saying they are Canadians to avoid being murdered. Either way, after Kamloops, I encountered several Torontonians and a few Vancouverians. In fact, I found almost every part of Canada represented, except from the central provinces.
While waiting for Shandy with my ticket, I spot some young adults speaking with nary an accent. I assume Canada. I guess Calgary. I’m right. They are supremely nice people, way more polite those from Toronto I would meet a day later. As I traveled like a ping pong (bounced up from Hong Kong and now falling back), this trio are falling straight down from Beijing and for three weeks, they continue to plummet to Hong Kong. They will be in HK for the same night as me. However, with little time and no experience, they hold little hope of seeing the city. As it stands, they are only staying in Kowloon. Hot diggity…suddenly, I become an expert. Two days in HK and I am the authority. I tell them of the easy MTR system, the great places to see and do. I finally tell them if they are only in Kowloon, check out Tsm Shi Tsui and make their way to the Avenue of Stars. It’s all new to them, so they appreciate the advice. You never know, we may even bump into each other. Obviously the chances are less than 1%, but I did run into Shanndy three times on my first day in Yangzhou.
However, if I would point out the nicest people by far…it would be the Chinese. More often than not, they were willing to go to the ends of the Earth to help you. Yangzhou has some of the nicest people in China, and they appreciate the compliment when given. Even when I almost ran into a guy (more on that later), he responded with a smile and a laugh. Yes there are crooks and thieves and those who only want money….
…Come live in my town for a week…
I engage in some quick shopping (following the rules). Silk clothing is everywhere, next to name brand products, both real and imitation. Never buy Chinese DVDs…stick with Hong Kong. The Chinese ones are mostly illegal and are sold in boxes bigger than the porn VHS boxes seen in Adult video sections back home (five years at Movie Gallery, remember). Sure, you can buy the complete series of 24 (Is that Vin Diesel and Denzel Washington on the cover) for 50 bucks, but the box is 15 inches long, 8 inches wide and 4 inches thick! I return to the Beauty shop. The girls speak pretty good English. I wait for Shanndy. Was she legit? Yup. She shows up right on time. She hurries me onto a bus and hands me my ticket.
Okay…the Impression show. Its stage is 100 feet across, 300 feet long, with a backdrop of the real Yangzhou Mountains behind. Massive spotlights illuminate sections of the stage. Acts and musical numbers sail out on boats—oh did I mention the entire stage is set on water? For the next hour, I am beset with spectacular lights and music. The tickets were 180 yuan (25 bucks). It may seem pricey…but this is equal at least to the huge shows in Vegas that charge 500$ cdn for a single crappy seat. No way…it can’t be that good. At one point, 500 women walk on the dark stage wearing suits converted in 150 lights. They walk across moving arms across the water until finally forming a Z on the stage. I counted folks…500. This is after the huge number with men on board rafts with red tarps that covered the whole stage—a cast of literally thousands. The lights are all connected and turn off and on under command. Upon leaving, a 2-CD soundtrack and DVD combo is…wait for it…$8 cdn.
It’s over far too early and after 45 minutes of waiting, I hope on a return bus. I return to the hotel, exhausted. Tomorrow, I plan on more shopping and at 4:00, I have a water cave tour. Yangzhou is awesome. I should stay longer. I should have arrived sooner…
I miss Jaime…
Rather proud of this video. Finally, I get into the Shogun, one of the last restaurants in Prince George with teppanyaki tables. Here is a compilation of clips from that experience.
DAY NINE “Breaking Point”
I carried a nagging suspicion for days that Jamie’s mother disliked me. I could hear her talking very loudly. Although she often responded to my waves and “hellos” with a smile and a wave back, the tone of her voice in front of Jamie was harsh. I am not idiot. This is the same woman who wanted us leaving five minutes apart, thinking that would avert neighbor suspicion. If the thinks talking in another language will conceal her feelings, she’s even more naive than I thought. I could tell Jamie’s problems stemmed from her mother because all the points that Jaime brought up that were following her were subjects we dealt with and put to bed months earlier.
Although I will add that even Jamie was concerned. The neighbors were looking at us and not smiling. Jaime added she hates the local foreigners for thinking they’re all hot and can buy themselves into and out of anything. They can get any Chinese girl they want because they have money. So, to my surprise, Jaime walks into me bedroom at midnight with something to say.
She will not be going go Guilin with me. She will get some money back for the returned ticket. I also cannot stay. She claims I am only using her as a tour guide and doesn’t believe me when she hears my claims for affection. I got to bed worried and stressed. Do I continue north? I have a ticket and a hotel booked. Or should I return to Hong Kong where it’s comfortable. Jaime refused to tell me why she had a sudden change of heart but I know the reason.
In the morning, I say goodbye to the bed with no mattress, the room with no air conditioning and the toilet with no paper. I pack. Jaime and I attempt one final talk. She finally reveals the truth.
As suspected, it’s all from her mother. A traditional Cantonese woman, she objects to the fact I am not Chinese. She objects that I live in her home. She objects to the fact I am seen with her daughter. She objects to my shyness. I told Jamie I was uncomfortable with strangers, especially those I cannot communicate with. I could do little more than wave and say “Ni Hao”. However, she objects to the fact I carried little appetite in their home and the fact we never stayed long. Whenever Jaime looked nervous or upset, it was because her mother berated her the previous moment. Our argument yesterday came from a similar tirade. Her mother expected me to speak the language. She expected me to know every tradition. Jaime added that they were nice at the beginning, buying food I liked and such. However, if that were true, why did I leave five minutes early the very next day?
I have nothing against the family. Her brother is super and her Aunt in Hong Kong was delightful. Her Uncle was wonderful. He even picked me up as I was walking to a corner store to pick up some new headphones. However, these were all on the Mother’s side, and when I come down with my luggage, they are all burning holes in my Chinese shirt. The mother had turned them all. The father refuses to leave the bedroom. I even see him ducking back in when I come down the stairs. Even the relative’s plea for leniency to the mother, who wants me out NOW—Not in an hour or in four when the train leaves…NOW. Finally she throws her arms up and Jaime invites me to eat. I can tell everyone except Jaime is cold to me now.
Even Jaime admits it was a dreadful mistake for me to stay with them. I should have gotten a hotel. There were cheap ones in Guangzhou. Now instead of coming back here for a day, I need to go straight back to Hong Kong and stay a night there before leaving, which I honestly prefer. Her mother even won’t let Jaime take me to the airport but Jaime refuses to abandon me. Jaime’s feelings for me prevent her from blindly believing everything her mother says, very much against traditional Chinese values, where the elder’s word is law. I am eventually dropped in a cab with Jaime and we ferry off to the train station. Jaime receives a paltry handout for her refund and her and I wait the final two hours in the KFC next door. We order Ice cream (still following the rules, here…My conscious is clean). Jaime wants to come but adds a further bombshell that her mother added. If she leaves for Guilin with me, she needn’t bother returning home.
Then it hits me…when the hell did I become the black sheep? I hate the movie Cocktail. Tom Cruise, for most of his young life, played the jerk rebel girls fall for. I hate those characters. I was always the decent nice guy that never got the girl. Here I was…the rebel…the one the parents hate. It’s oddly ironic when you think about it. I am usually the one the parents want the girl with, so the girl never does. Alas, this is China, and as a result, our relationship is pretty much over.
I am petrified. I am going alone deeper into China. I have no idea how I am going to make it. I will also miss Jaime dearly. As we separate, I glance back at her as she waits until I am finally out of sight. I hop on the train and plop down on the bed.
12 hours from now, I will arrive in Guilin. I have no idea what I am going to do or if I am just going to huddle in the hotel room until my return to Hong Kong.
DAY EIGHT “Don’t stride the line”
On this day, we finally booked our hotels in Yangzhou. I know I said we were going to Guilin…but you have to go to Guilin to continue onto Yangzhou. Guilin is more a manufacturing city with very little to see. We will be arriving very early in the morning. We will take a look around, book our train back, and get ready for a 7 hour boat ride to Yangzhou.
Seven hours boat ride? Oh yes, we can take a bus and it only takes an hour. Do a Google search on the boat ride down the Li River and ask me again if a Seven hour boat ride is worth the time. We’ll be taking a bus back. I just hope the train station is not as insane as it was yesterday.
Today, we decide to drop Funland and head for Baomo Garden. Little did I know the garden was 4 hours away. If I knew its length and what it entailed, we would have stayed in. The bus network is insane. 40 000 people cram into the station. After an hour or searching we find and pay for our tickets. At this point, Jaime’s fear of crowds reaches breaking point. She is ready to abandon the tickets and go home. We force our way through the crowd and finally enter a nice a/c equipped bus…
…the wrong bus. After an hour, we leave and stand on the edge of a highway in the middle of nowhere.
Finally we take another bus to a terminal and switch over to another bus which takes us to Baomo. We left the house at 10:45. We arrive at 4:00. Like the station, Boamo Garden is packed. Jaime huddles into a corner and tell me to go on without her. I don’t want to but she insists. After five minutes, I return. We see the sights, take a dinner and leave at 6:30. Suffice to say, Boamo Garden is beautiful and when it is empties at day’s end, it looks great, but it was not worth an 8 hour bus ride round trip.
That evening, during the bus ride, Jaime and I have a long conversation about our life. Her mother still thinks I am using her and Jaime doubts me. Our relationship almost collapses and I contemplate ditching Yangzhou and returning to Hong Kong. However, as we spend an evening looking up at the smog sky on the roof of her house, I cool breeze flows in…and things get better.
“You’re crazy” Jaime announces. Okay, so I have a problem with bones. I don’t like eating off of them. In my opinion, it was a matter of personal evolution. It doesn’t matter what it is. Hot wings, Baby-back ribs, it makes no difference. I don’t like getting my fingers dirty with grease and food. I like my food boneless. This, above all others, proves to be a problem in Guangzhou.
On the train to Guangzhou from Hong Kong (Actually Shinzen), Jaime rips out a vacuum sealed package of purchased chicken wings. That’s right, two small chicken wings, boiled to kill germs and vacuumed sealed in plastic, ready to eat. I can’t even look at her when she chomps down.
On the day before “our” train to Guilin, she stocks up on food. We head on over to a supermarket and I see rows upon rows of varying vacuum-sealed animal limbs. You name it. I am sure the food is clean. Call me crazy. I will try almost anything on this trip…but I will not eat a cold chicken wing from a vacuum sealed package. I just won’t.
While in the supermarket, I notice a variety of strange junk food. Every curious about having a Chocolate Egg Roll? God knows I was. Combine the best elements of an egg roll and a Cadbury Cream egg. Bingo.
I also spot Baby Grape Sugar. Now if you think about, it kinda makes sense, but on an initial glance, it confused the hell out of me. I thought I was having a stroke.
Jaime snatches some pot noodles and a package of green onion cookies…you heard right. I, of course, load up on Chocolate egg rolls.
DAY SEVEN “An economy based on dippers”
You know…dippers…buckets or pails with handles?
It’s Saturday; Jaime’s brother and girlfriend are free. With their Aunt and Uncle, they invite us all to a boat ride. Boat ride? Hot digidy. I am up for that.
We hop aboard a minivan (mini being the expressed word), and drive for 55 minutes outside of Guangzhou. It’s still hot, but the humidity drops. The clouds clear up a bit. Outside, we pass lower and lower class housing, finally entering a lattice of water and rice fields. We enter onto a small road, weaving past dozens of bikes. I notice several shops on the side. They sell shirts, pants, knick-knacks and hundreds upon hundreds of water dippers of various sizes and colors, mostly pink. After passing the third or fourth dealer of dippers, we stop to purchase some. As expected, the moment the salesman sees me, the price doubles. We drive on to the next one. I try to hide but it’s hard for a pale white 6 foot 3 Canadian to be inconspicuous. Again, the price shoots up just as money was being exchanged. We snatch our money back and go for the next one. What’s the deal with the dippers? Is this a small boat? I assume it’s for bailing…I really hope not. Finally we nag six pink dippers. Each will hold a liter of water easily. I failed to pack trunks so I am going with long pants. I did bring a change of clothes. Jaime asks if I like getting water in my face. Oh dear. I ask her what the dipper is for. She says it’s a surprise…
It’s not a boat…it’s a raft. Albeit, it is a 2-man raft. Hundreds, actually, of two-man rafts. The river is real but this spot has manufactured artificial rapids and calm standing pools and created a thrill ride from the peak to the base. How much you pay denotes when you enter, the more you pay, the higher up you are let go.
For an hour, we search around for someone to buy us tickets cheap. Everything is about the deal. I have no problems paying the 20 bucks, but we eventually find a tour guide that lets us in for 10. They view is spectacular as we drive up the mountain road to the entry point. Then we are offered lifejackets which are far too small for me and hardhats taken from a Chinese army surplus. I am not kidding, they are still combat green. What the hell have I gotten myself into? I have a military hat, a tiny life preserver, and I am armed with pink pail. Jaime and I board the tiny raft. The water is cool but I soon find it most welcoming. Many other Asians are shivering. I’m in my zone.
The first sets of rapids are fast, thrashing us around. Jaime remarks we are moving way too fast. That easy to explain…she has a 230 lbs white guy with her…I count for two. After two or three minutes, we reach the first standing pool. Eventually, if you drift enough, you will coast towards the next set of rapids. We sit as more and more rafts join us. I soon discover what the dippers are for. The military hats are not for rocks…
…I’m about to enter a warzone…
The dipper is a weapon. Soon it’s every boat for itself. It starts innocently. As we bail the water from the raft, some splashes to another boat. They respond by dumping back. Unfortunately, another boat gets caught in the crossfire. Another is hit by ricochet. Soon, it’s a royal rumble, with everyone frantically throwing as much water to everyone else. The water in the boat. You don’t bail that. Its ammunition. Here are the rules:
You get splashed?
Someone bails into your boat?
Someone bumps your boat?
Someone looks at you?
Alas, I make a very large, white target. Soon it becomes, “Get the white guy.” I am the only one here. I take it and fire back with energy. Jaime falls into my chest, covering herself up as we are struck from every direction. I frantically fire back until finally it dies down. I got in a couple good shots.
I feel a sharp needle on my neck. I turn sharply and see a giant Asian man with super soaker…Giant Super Soaker Man… I fire back but he’s too far out of range. We fall into the next set of rapids and enter an even larger pool. More fights break out. I nail a guy so hard, he turns and locks on me. He starts paddling towards me. He comes in for the close kill. I bail him hard but he gets close and lets me have it. After a good 30 minutes of warfare, the crowds disperse and we enter the next set of rapids…
Each time we reach a standing pool, I paddle into the melee, dippers flailing. I try to get close to Giant Super Soaker man but he always evades me, either by paddling away or catching someone else in a cross. We move onto the last pool.
Smaller and tightly packed, many Asians are unsure if I am a good sport. However, a few well places shots give the proper impression I am all for it. I taunt them. Finally, I kneel in the boat, slap my chest and scream “CANADA!!” The water comes fierce and fast. I scream, taking every hit. A few think they went too far,
I give the thumbs up and receive splashes of applause…
…then I feel it. A sharp spike on the back of my head. He’s here. I slowly turn around and see him: Giant Super Soaker man. He’s close. I paddle towards him…he fires…out of ammo. Frantically, he reloads. I paddle closer. He starts pumping frantically. Too late, I bump rafts and let him have it. He grabs onto his helmet and I practically drown him. It’s a clean kill…an honorable kill.
After an hour, it’s over far too soon. We shower, change, and hop back on the bus. I feel great. Jaime enjoys my excitement and the fact I had such a good time. After another communal plate dinner, we return home early. It’s a good day. Tomorrow we plan on heading to either something called “Funland” or the Baomo Garden…I can’t wait…
Wanna an interesting negotiating trick I learned when bargaining down a price?
…or at least attempt to. First, show moderate interest in something…anything. They will tell you the price unless you ask. Don’t even say it’s too much. Don’t even try to say no…
…95% of the time, they will stop you and offer you it at cheaper. The amount of price drop depends solely on its initial price. Something in the hundreds of Yuan can usually be dropped up to an including 50% off. They will come with an offer usually 20%-35% cheaper.
They will hit you again…
Usually the third time they make one final offer. This is the one to be serious about. Maybe, at this time, try making a counter offer…unless you are really not interested in it unless it’s really cheap. I have problems with negotiating. I don’t like the fact that all prices are as high as they think they can swindle out of you. I object to the very idea. I like paying the price listed and would like it as cheap as they can make it…people who know me know where I work, a discount superstore where everything is cheap and the prices are non-negotiable. With Jaime, I am able to receive the discount. I also hate the fact I have to hide for Jaime to get the good price, as it jumps 100% just by looking at me.
In Hong Kong, already saturated with tourists, many items are already cheap, and there is no haggling. A good example is with a toy figure I bought. Guangzhou listed it at 47 yuan for one. I could easily get 2 for 60 or 3 for 80. In Hong Kong, I already bought 4 for 80 HKD. See what I mean?
So if you think something is pricey, you don’t have to buy it. Remember, there are 30 more dealers down that same street pilfering the same crap. One of them will deal…
All I can say is that now I am alone, I am keeping my purchases to a minimum until I return to Hong Kong.
Oversized menu with pictures; am I in a fast food joint?
Finally. Reviewing Shogun.
DAY SIX “Golden Insanity”
I was not totally aware of the importance of the Golden Harvest festival. Jaime simply called it the autumn festival. No school for one week (Until Oct 6th). Get these figures: 200 000 people moved through gates into Hong Kong in the first day. 1.8 million are expected every day from now until the end. 300 million Chinese are traveling across the country. I hope I can escape in time. Jaime assures since my flight is out on the 9th, I should miss the crowds when I return to Hong Kong. I am not so sure.
Today, we are going to try to book a train to Shinzen. 80 000+ people have crammed into this colossal train station. Every single train out of Guangzhou booked. There is no way to Shanghai. I discover Jaime has a problem with big crowds. It may even be described as Enochlophobia. She starts to shut down and get frustrated in large collections of people. I do find it odd considering she lives in one of the most densely populated cities on Earth. Jaime tries to be supportive. She claims many of the travel agencies hold tickets for their customers and we may be able to snag one. So we bounce between a dozen travel agencies (which, oddly enough, are all next to each other…in the travel district). I remain outside to keep prices low. Agency after agency…nothing. We are both getting frustrated. Finally we find a plane ticket available…Jaime says she will pay for herself…but at 1250Y a ticket, its far too expensive a luxury…I might as well go see the Montreal GP next year.
I finally give up.
The daylight has wasted away. We spent all day trying to find tickets. We continue with our plan to go to Guilin. We find and purchase our tickets. Originally, we had planned on going right away, but the earliest ticket leaves on the 3rd of October. We snag two train tickets and leave.
Jaime takes me to another Walking street. This one lacks the pushy salesmen. This is because I am the only White guy in a field of 100 000 Chinese. It’s like a sea of short hair I wade in. All the signs are in Chinese. Nothing is translated here. Unlike the Beijing Walking Street, built new over ancient ruins, this Market Street (whose name escapes me) was never built overtop of anything. It naturally is 100 years old. We eat at a three level restaurant 120 years old. There is another we find that is 150 years old. Obviously, they had adapted with the times, adding bathrooms, new kitchens, and adding chefs with more and more medals. There is a Daiwo Sushi on this street as well.
I don’t purchase anything this time. I notice many side streets people walk into. Some have a few lights but most are totally dark. These areas exist for those truly unofficial exchanges, where people purchase drugs, stolen goods, and women.
We return home after a lengthy bus ride. It’s hotter than the night before. I take a cold shower without turning on the heater and toss and turn on the flat bed again. Tomorrow, we have plans. There is still a zoo and a garden to visit. We’ll see what happens…
…Tomorrow…war be declared…