A moderately early pick up at 9am so we can see the Great Mosque and Bell Tower in the centre of town before we leave for the airport. Wendy tells us that serving large tea mugs is a sign of respect as big is better and so old tourists like us get them, I'm a bit unconvinced myself. She also tells us she's going to take our advice and get married at Chinese New Year in the spring.
There's a small alley leading to the mosque with vast numbers of street vendor stalls which opens onto the mosque. Very Chinese in style it's well worth a visit. Outside on the street a water cart passed playing 'Happy Birthday' while spraying cyclists and pedestrians with water intended presumably to damp the ubiquitous dust.
We made some new friends on the Bell Tower when we were asked to be photographed with someone's baby. I think being a celebrity would really suck! There was also a small concert with bells in the Bell Tower and afterwards Mary and the harpist struck up a relationship and Mary had a go on the harp, they call it a Chinese piano although it has no keys.
Walking around Xian during the day it struck me quite forcibly just how many Chinese are at, or near, what we would consider the bread line with little or nothing to look forward to and how fortunate we are in New Zealand. Really the inequities between people are hard to reconcile.
Finally it was time to brave the airport and a very nasty cheese and ham toasted sandwich. Basically the lesson is stick to the local food, they just can't do European and the Chinese is just so much better.
One uneventful airflight later.....
Our guide for Guilan is called Julie (not of course her real name) and like the rest was there waiting for us at the airport and whisked us, via a series of poorly made up back streets, to the staggering Reed Flute Cave. It's warm here, 30 degrees and the van is in well air conditioned.
The chaps at Waitomo need to take a look at what has been done with lighting here but I suspect that the damage done by people, staff and visitors, to the cave formations is colossal. Makes a fantastic effect though. The touts on the other hand are the most persistent we have yet encountered, right in your face I'm sad to say, I suspect this is the future of tourism in China
We declined on the pearl factory visit but are down for the Cormorant fish catching and river boat show tonight. We'll see. She's also going to take us to a local restaurant for dinner
The dinner was pretty good, not the best we've had but far from the worst. We chatted with her over dinner and discovered she's 23 and just recently married to a man nine years her senior with a nine year old child. He's a heavy smoker to boot but she's quite wrapped with him. They are living with her parents too. Oh my.
The boat trip was ok but revealed Guilan as a tourist Mecca. Apparently most tourists are Chinese with some 15% foreigners. This shows up in the river/lake sights which are modelled on a Vegas style with small scale duplicates of various international bridges and every tree with it's own coloured light.
We walked back along the rivers edge and saw more Europeans than we have in all the rest of the trip. Oh well, that's how it goes. We'll see what happens tomorrow.