Monday, January 22, 2018

Notes From the Road - Guilin, China: The Village Hidden inside the Park

A dog sits in a doorway inside a hidden village of Guilin, China
Continuing my "Notes from the Road" for Guilin, last time I left off at the tea ceremony and we were just about to head into a new park. On this day, we went to a park which was a bit unusual. For starters, we crossed over a rather steep, traditional Chinese bridge to get to this area that had a restaurant. We were told there was a "hidden" area back behind the restaurant but, at first, we could not find it. I ended up going inside of the restaurant with my guide to check out the inside of the place, since it was kind of pretty from the outside, and I thought I might like to do some portraits for a change. When I went inside to ask if I could photograph, my guide and I stumbled upon a gathering, a celebration of sorts. At first, we did not know what it was. Turns out that the people there used to sew handkerchiefs in a factory of some kind. Every year they get together to catch up with one another. The factory had since shut down and they are all retired now from these jobs, but they still meet one time per year to remember the factory and their co-workers. In the restaurant they had food and music, so we got to enjoy some of that while we were trying to figure out what what going on, what exactly we had stumbled upon in our travels that day. It was a very interesting stop along our trail.

Eventually, we went behind the restaurant, finding the hidden path, and made our way to the village there. It was a very small village, it was kind of falling down in some ways, almost more like the architecture of decay that we tend to shoot here at home. That kind of stuff is fascinating to me so I'm glad we found our way into the "hidden" village. It's kind of strange for me to see this type of place-a village hidden inside of a park. It would be as if Austin's own Zilker Park had a bunch of people living inside there. Actually, come to think of it, there used to be a trailer park over on Barton Springs Road that sort of, kind of was like a village hidden inside of Zilker Park. That's about the closest thing I can relate it to, but I enjoyed wandering around the little hidden village nevertheless.

As we made our way back into the village, I shot a white dog sitting in a doorway. He wasn't a wild dog, rather he was somebody's pet but he made for a nice doorway "filler" if you will, so I photographed him sitting there in the otherwise dark and empty doorway. It was a lovely day, with excellent weather and I got some interesting shooting inside of the little village. A bit different but fun to play with visually so I enjoyed it.

We had dinner at a place with a lot of lamb and meat but some vegetarian food also. They had one dish that was chicken with chicken feet but it had gravy that was so good and some potatoes. Also, green beans and this stuff that looked like carrots but was a rice noodle. It was tasty.

The nights in Guilin are crazy but I mean that in a good way. Everything is lit up. None of the stores have English signs but that makes it more fascinating, as the Chinese characters are all aglow in the neon signs. There are a ton of little markets and shops all around the city, it's a great place for shopping as well as photography, and it's fun to just walk around to enjoy the city at night. I wish I could come back and just do night photography here for a while. I would so love that. It's a common theme for me actually. I need to come back and spend about a month in this magical place. You will hear me say this over and over again. I must go back someday.

The next day we headed up to the rice terraces. I was a bit afraid if I could do it or not. It's about 26 stories of steps up to the hotel and something like 50 up to the top of the terraces. It's quite a hike! As we made it into the terrace area, they have these bamboo chaise lounge like carts, which they can use to carry you up to the top of the hill. I had said I was going to try to make it on my own, walking, without any help, and I managed to do just this in the end, but not without aggravating the locals first. What happened was that one of the locals saw me and must have thought I could not make it to the top, so he started following me. My guide and myself, we both kept telling him, "No thanks! I don't want a ride! I can make it, thank you very much." I mean, we were both trying to be polite but the cart carrying people were insistent. I finally made it up to the hotel level and actually caught up to my group a little bit tired but I managed to make it. The cart carrying folks were visibly upset that I had not collapsed, caved in, and rented their cart. Sorry fellas, I tried to warn you. It was kind of funny too because other people in my group, like Beth and a few others, had said they did not think I would give in and get a cart. They could see the determination on my face. I was going to hike up that mountain no matter what and I was not going to cave in and rent a cart half way up. Somehow, the locals didn't have as much faith in my fifty year old knees. Hey, I may be overweight and wobbly on these knees but this lady is pasta fueled, OK? Out of my way, I'm getting up that mountain already! And, yes, get up that mountain I did. At some point, I might share a picture of me at the top, taken by Jean Marc, one of the great portrait photographers along the journey. Suffice it to say, I made it up the mountain and, yes, I really enjoyed the view (and everything else up there. It was a cute little mountain village!)

More notes from the road to come. For now, this is the dog in the doorway, inside the "hidden" village in the park in Guilin.

Until next time...


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