Friday, April 25, 2008

Update from the past few days!!

Last Night in Chengdu:

After dinner at an authentic "Hot-Pot" restaurant (think Chinese fondue), we had the opportunity to go to a Sichuan Face-Changing Opera. There were traditional elements, like singing, dancing, costumes, etc. but they also had puppetry, instruments, hand-shadow formations (the coolest part), acrobats, sword-fighting, and the famous "face-changing" actors, who changed costumes and masks in less than a second, and they did it about 50 times each. It was one of those things that you might not find on your own but Adventures by Disney delivered with one of the best parts of the trip so far. Off to Guilin and the land of "gumdrop mountains"!

Arriving in Guilin:

After spending some time in the very urban Beijing and Chengdu, I was looking forward to getting to rural China. When I think rural, I usually think the kind of rural we have in West Tennessee. I was wrong. This rural was more like West Tennessee circa early 1900's with chickens and cows roaming the streets at free will. It didn't matter because the views were like nothing you can see in America. The mountain formations jut out of the ground like a million shark fins in still water. All around you are these huge, steep mountains, but the terrain wasn't hilly at all. There was a slight fog everywhere, but not from pollution like Beijing and Chengdu. While the people in Guilin live in pretty much abject poverty, they thrive off of tourism and we were about to see why.

We arrived at our hotel, the Hotel of Modern Art (HOMA) which was a part of a larger modern art complex situated in a huge park-like setting. The contrast of the modern art with rural Guilin was shocking, but in a very good way. The hotel was basically a modern art museum with some hotel rooms around it. The park/art complex that surrounded the hotel was exactly what our group needed--a place to get out and run around without having to worry about traffic and crazy merchants. Once we were settled into our super-chic rooms, the hotel had bikes for us to ride around the property on. This place was unbelievable. Huge works of modern stone sculptural art and architecture were thrust into one of the most beautiful locations anywhere in the world. It's a stunning place that is truly a hidden gem in the world. After inquiring into why a place like this was in a city like Guilin, I found out that some billionaire whose roots are in the area wanted to invest and give back to the area that is basically a rice-farm and tourism-driven economy. After dinner in the hotel and drinks in the Austin-Powers like "retro space bar", we all headed off to bed.

Tai Chi/Stone Painting/River Cruise day of FUN:

I don't know if I've posted this, but if you haven't been to a country across the globe, it takes a while for your body to adjust to the time difference. It's not really jet lag, but you just pop up out of bed around 5 am or so every morning awake and ready to go. On this day, I finally was able to sleep in a little (7:30!). After breakfast, we did Tai Chi with a local Tai Chi master on the banks of the lake on property. Very zen-like. After I slung some paint over a stone pig in the art workshop, we got ready to go to on the cruise of the Lijiang River.

If you watched Survivor China last season, you know the scenic river cruises they went on during rewards challenges and such. This was better. We took a very scenic bus-ride down to the river where we boarded our boat. I thought the sights were great from the bus, but I was painstakingly wrong. This was real China, complete with fishermen on bound-bamboo rafts and women washing their clothes in the river from the banks. I really can't describe how beautiful this experience was, but when I get a chance I'll post my pictures on facebook and you can see for yourself. In short, river, chinese people, beer, great company, beautiful mountains, and a damn good time! Afterwards, we docked in this little tourist town that had a great street market. ABD gave each guest 20 RMB (about $3 USD) and were told to find the best deal they could for a white elephant gift exchange later that night. I got nun-chucks and these magnetic noise-making bead things.

That night after some free time, the hotel and ABD staff arranged an incredible Chinese barbecue by the lake that was nothing short of amazing. We did the gift exchange and I ended up with osmanthis wine??? It tasted like perfume. And of course, Disney had to go all out and capped the night off with a gorgeous fireworks display over the lake. Modern art, beautiful scenery, fireworks, tasty food, and great company. How could this get any better? We're now in Shanghai and I will have an update for you ASAP!

Get over yourself,



Jonathan Janis said...

dude this sounds awesome. abd might have a new tourist on their hands somewhere down the road.
get over yourself.

Staci Mac said...

Well this sounds a little more exciting than prescreening college students... I am soo glad you are having a great time, it all sounds amazing!!!!! Cant wait to hear all about it & see pics!