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Observations From The Albino Panda

Guilin, China

I feel like an albino panda here. That's not a racist statement so don't even try. Most people I walk by here (and that's a lot of people because the population is very large) stop and stare or just follow you with their eyes until you pass them. It's quite interesting to walk down the street and have just about everyone observe you. It's not done in a rude way at all. Mostly, when I notice someone observing me, my cargo shorts are looked at first, then my shoes, and then my face. Because the order in which I am observed, I have noticed that I am one of the only people wearing shorts (they are cargo shorts with many pockets) designed like mine. And of course my funky-looking sandals don't help either. I have not seen one pair like them anywhere in China. The younger generation here in China (age 16-40ish) is very fashion conscience. I have never seen so many shoe stores in all my life! The shoes that the women wear here are amazing. Not being a 'shoe-guy', I am amazed at all of the different styles. The roads here and sidewalks are filled with cracks and crevices, steep and regular inclines/declines, and slippery areas from all the oil (from cooking; many vendors right on the street). Even with all these obstacles, women are wearing 2"-4" heels! Some of the shoes are a little over the top but are obviously considered normal here since I see so many women wearing them.

No pictures from yesterday. I went out to just observe. We leave this afternoon for Xian and so this is likely to be the last post until Monday your time. The train ride is 27 hours and so we don't get in until Sunday evening at about 8:00 PM if all goes well. On Monday we head to the terra cotta statues. I'm sure I will have a lot of pictures from their and from within Xian.

I saw a car wreck happen last night. Actually, I didn't really see it happen straight away but I caught it happening out of the corner of my eye as well as with my ears. A cab driver wasn't watching when he was making a right turn from the middle lane and so he got struck by another taxi. They weren't happy with each other. There were a lot of gestures and probably bad words but I can't be sure. The one taxi driver couldn't get out his door and so he is climbing over the middle console and yelling at top volume while trying to get out the passenger-side door. His passenger gets out of the taxi, walks over to the other taxi (while he is yelling as well) and then spits on the windshield. I stood there and just watched but needed to get out of the street because cars were honking at me to move. So I moved.

I have met three people here at the hostel in the past two days. Here they are:

The first picture is of Janina (Yeah Nee Nuh) from Hamburg, Germany. I learned today that Hamburg is where the name hamburger came from. Anyway, she is 20 and has been traveling for 8 months! She heads back to Germany for a month in August to work at her parents' shoe store and then she'll take off again to destinations unknown. She has been all over SE Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. She is very free-spirited and refreshing to talk to because of her positive attitude and quest for seeing as much as she can of the world. When I took this picture, she was planning her next month with stops in Tibet, SW China (Dali City) and Shangra-La, and Mongolia. She'll take the trans-siberian railway to Moscow and then get to Germany in a way she has yet to determine.

This is Tom from Wales:

He's 22 and has been traveling for six months. He started in Sri Lanka and was there for a month and then flew to Singapore. He then made his way north through Malaysia and Thailand by bus and train (he has a fear of flying). His next destination from here is Hong Kong to visit his aunt. He has no obligations and so he may go work in Australia or may stay here and teach English. He'll make up his mind when he is ready. As of now, he is not ready and will continue to be a vagabond.

It amazes me almost daily the variety of people that I meet in hostels. It's a different blend of people but most are free-spirited and have a zest for life and exploring that we don't normally see in the US. There are no worries and no time-tables for most of them to meet. We have sat downstairs here in the hostel for many hours the past few days just talking. No poitical talk but just life and travel experiences. Talk about no stress! This entire trip so far, with staying in hostels, has been like a big dose of Xanax but with only positive side effects. Being married and having children would preclude you from this lifestyle unless all your kids were out of the house. At the same time, though, I have seen families (one from Germany and another from Canada) with kids traveling here and enjoying the hostel experience. If you want to travel for a good price and don't mind sharing a bathroom and paying 1/10 the price of a hotel room, hostelling is the way to go. My room here costs my 30 Yuan a night. That's $4.41 each night. the beds are comfortable, the public areas are all very clean, and each serves authentic and western food. What more do you need?

Well, it's off to the train station for our 27 hour ride. We are going to head to the department and grocery store before going to the train. Might pick up a dice game of some sort or a regular deck of cards to help pass the time. We also need to have munchies and water. Each carriage has a hot water (drinkable of course) station and so with tea and noodles packed, we should be set for the journey to Xian.

I'll be in touch as soon as I can. If any of you can download Skype onto your computer (you need a camera and microphone), I would love to talk to you! My username is akstoltzy. Look me up and give me a ring!

Until Monday....

permalink written by  akstoltzy on June 12, 2010 from Guilin, China
from the travel blog: China
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