We have experienced every type of pollution during our time in China. Air pollution so bad we can barely speak our throats are so irritated. The water we drink is always boiled or bottled. And as for visual pollution, well the list of ugliness is endless here.
Guilin's air has been the cleanest of our time in China, the water is still dodgy, but the city is actually relatively attractive visually, with the karsts, parks and waterways. Our problem has been noise pollution.
Our first night here was disturbed when a group of Cantonese speakers arrived on our floor. They left their doors open and the old women played mahjong, shrieking at maximum volume late into the night. I shut the door on one group and asked them to be quiet, but they just ignored me.
That's the typical Chinese culture for you. It's so competitive that everyone looks after themselves and ignores everyone else's needs. Want a ticket? Ignore the queue and push in while the clerk is serving someone else. Driving a car? It's up to the crossing pedestrians to get out of the way. Or just take up the entire lane in your slow vehicle. And everyone likes your voice, of course they do, because you are the most important person in the world and everyone should listen to what you say.
Unfortunately, I have increasingly viewed this kind of behaviour in Sydney. Especially amongst iPod users on trains.
We went from a room with a fantastic view of the karsts to one with poor views. And no internet access. I am pissed off!
The noise pollution didn't end when we left the hotel this morning for our cruise along the Li River to Yangshuo. Sitting at our table on the boat were older Americans from the Midwest. Of course, they had to constantly verbalise. Talk, talk, talk, talk. They seemed nice enough, but the gorgeous scenery outside lent itself to quiet contemplation, not self-involved conversation. Thankfully it was a bit quieter above deck.
The taxi drivers in Guilin have been quite annoying, demanding set fees and even petrol money at the end over a metered fare. They wanted to charge us RMB100 for the ride to Zhujiang Pier. By the meter it was RMB68.40, a significant saving. The hotel concierge staff can be quite helpful in this regard.
The ride out to the pier was very interesting, passing rice paddies, stone carving villages, buffaloes and a huge pig standing in the road.
A great parade of boats left the docks for the river cruise. The karst scenery was quite otherworldly. I expected to see dinosaurs emerge from the trees at any moment. The karsts are limestone, the remnants of ancient shellfish, arround which the stone has eroded away, dissolved by the carbonic acid in water and due to vegetation. Interestingly, this is one process by which carbon dioxide in naturally removed from the atmosphere.
We passed bamboo rafts, caves high up the side of the mountains and stalactites growing from above the riverbanks where run-off has dripped down. Buffaloes, ducks and geese wallowed in the shallows, the possessions of the riverside village occupants.
The cruise ticket included a buffet lunch, mainly Chinese food, though the Americans were delighted with the french fries and “Twinkies” (whatever they are). We enjoyed the sweet kumquats, miniature citrus fruit, so much we purchased a bag from a streetside vendor later on.
After all the hype Yangshuo was a disappointment. Lots of tourist good shops, lots of the same old shops existing anywhere in China. At least the shopkeepers were less aggressive than elsewhere, probably understanding westerners' aversion to such tactics.
We visited KFC for its toilets (clean, but squat only for men) and ate some yummy peach egg tarts – different to Australia! Many attractive karsts dot the town, but we had had our fill and had no energy to climb (I am still busy sniffling away). So we caught a bus back to Guilin.
The bus ride was slow, bumpy and dusty. The noise pollution continued with the driver's frequent sounding of the horn. Despite this, we still fell asleep for some of the ride.
Dinner was in the hotel restaurant. Unremarkable, except that a couple of musicians were playing the lute and Chinese harp, the guzheng, both beautiful instruments.
Tomorrow we leave for Shenzhen and Hong Kong. I'll be glad to be leaving China proper and indeed I'm looking forward now to Japan, a country of manners and cleanliness. China has been a very interesting experience, but it is wearying and it's time now for a holiday.