Was it the Dalai Lama who said “Sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck”? Our last morning at our remote Yangshuo hotel, Riverside Retreat, was supposed to be a quick check-out. Nature foiled our plans. Rain started pouring in sheets at breakfast. As travel surprises went, our detention at the hotel turned out to be a stroke of serendipity.
This street was made for walking 1,400 years ago. The oldest in Yangshuo, West Street was still a promenade when I pounded its pavement of marble. Since the county opened up to tourism in the 1980s, the pedestrian street had also become a melting pot, a conglomeration of cultures catering to Yangshuo’s international visitors. Chinese out-of-towners, though, outnumbered foreigners in the unending stream of people.
Guangzhou / Xingping and Yangshuo County, Guilin, China
September 3 – 8, 2017
Quinn was my (reluctant) star student. He was engaged and engaging, inspired and inspiring – qualities that earned him the title Mr. Total Package in class. No matter how equally embarrassing and annoying to him, the nick stuck. He held up a paper with my name as he welcomed me at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport. I screamed, “Ni hao Mr. Total Package!” Not only could he not live it down, but he still lived up to it a year on and many miles away from the classroom. Let me count the ways.
The next best thing to living abroad was staying at local people’s homes. I never wanted to crash on anyone’s couch, though. I put a premium on comfort and privacy – both mine and my host’s. Houses that doubled as B&Bs and hotels owned by local families were as good as it got, and both were a dime a dozen in Yangshuo and Guilin. Language barrier considered, I could stay at such accommodations only with the help of my Chinese friend Quinn. He took charge of searching and booking homestays and hotels, many of which had non-English websites. It gave me an up-close-and-personal experience, not only of the place, but of its people and culture.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Grief got me to Guilin. My trip was a pilgrimage of sorts in the hope of tracing Mom’s footsteps in southern China back in 2002. I could not join her in that trip then. There would not be a second chance. Mom went home to heaven in 2015.