Saturday, September 20, 2014


The best part of a journey should come last; Dali and Lijiang were planned for that.  However, sweet little May invited me more or less firmly to Foshan to meet me again; so I don't fly directly from Lijiang to Chengdu to go home, but to Foshan instead. Foshan is right next to Guangzhou, the capital of Canton, in the pearl river delta; that's two flight hours from Lijiang. A further two hours are needed to get to the center of Foshan by bus and taxi, so it's 10pm when I arrive, too late for a reunion. However, I'm still in Foshan the entire Saturday, as I travel home on Sunday.

May's employer honors weekends and public holidays, so fortunately, May has time for me on Saturday. Ok, after a good night's rest, so around noon she arrives at the hotel.

Foshan is not very touristic, so there's not that much to see. On the other side of the road there's a Zen buddhist temple, with a Guanyin which looks like a Madonna holding a baby.  May asks who the father of that baby is, and I explain that Guanyin probably doesn't need a father to give birth.  We light some incense, and she tests my knowledge by giving me four; this this the wrong number, you light three incenses at a time.

A few hundred meters down the road, there's a further, bigger temple, in cantonese style, a taoist temple. There's also the Foshan museum inside, and apparently the most important thing in Foshan is the Kung fu master Wong Fei-hung, who's a figure in about 100 HongKong kung fu movies, the best known probably the "Drunken Master" with Jackie Chan as Wong Fei-hung. I recognize him by his look, since the english translation of the texts call him "Cheng Long". But we longnoses don't know his chinese name. And May doesn't know "Jackie Chan" (even though "May" is her chosen English name).

In the temple's courtyard, there's a canton opera performance every saturday and sunday, and that's what we watch next. In my left hand, I'm holding my camcorder, and record the performance, with my right hand, I'm holding May, and caress her.  Since it's quite warm, she's holding an umbrella to shade us, and when we are thirsty, she gives me to drink, so that I don't stop caressing her. She apparently likes caressing and cuddling a lot, and after the performance, she accompanies me to my hotel room.  There, she's afraid of her own courage, so nothing dramatically X-rated happens, but we instantly go for lunch - noodle soup.

Afterwards, I've planned for shopping souvenirs; I need a tea service for my father (that's ordered), and a few cleavers, and something for my nieces.  We buy the tea service on the market, May pay's for it and declares it a gift for my father.  We try to obtain knives on the market, too, but they have "Zwilling" knives; I can buy them in Germany as well.  Real chinese cleavers are available in a small supermarket, and they are pretty cheap.

I invite her for dinner, too, and she's to decide, where we go.  She chooses a "western restaurant", which cooks European and American cuisine, and there, we eat a steak (well done - chinese people don't like rare) and spaghetti bolonese together - shared chinese style.  We practise some German, and she proposes to move to Germany, to learn German - with me as teacher.

Afterwards, she's accompanying me back to the hotel, and we watch for about an hour photos from Munich (and my apartment, which is what she asked for). And finally, she's asking the question when I'll be back, and "in two years" is too long for her. So she get's the promise that I'm back as soon as she likes, an intense hug and a kiss on her mouth.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Detian waterfall

You get to Detian waterfall from Nanning via a bus from Langdong bus terminal in the east of the city (the bus goes right to the entrance of the waterfall scenic area).  Google claims that Langdong bus station isn't far away, so I'm on the street at 7:50... and first wait a quarter of an hour for a taxi. Which drives straight into the inner city traffic jam and is stuck there.
So I at least buy a ticket at Langdong for the next day (for 94 yuan), and get back to the hotel, check in again.  There's still something to see in Nanning, the Qingxiu Mountain, a big park.  That's good for a whole day.  The most interesting thing there are the cycads: that's a pretty ancient seed plant, which resembles a tree fern, and probably have descended from those.  But they have real seeds.  Since cycads grow very slow, they get very old, and the Chinese love everything which is a symbol for "long life".  The cycads are also an evolutionary sign for long life: they exist for 300 million years now, morphologically mostly unchanged.
So on the next day, I get up an hour earlier, catch a taxi quickly as not many people are on the road to compete with me, direct that taxi to the right road (not through the traffic jam in the inner city, but to the express way), and, yes, am pretty early at the bus terminal.  Ok, better too early than too late...
The tour to Detian itself is worth a journey just by itself, since not only the famous Guilin, no, most of Guanxi is covered with beautiful carst hills.  The closer we get to the vietnamese border, the more beautiful the carst hills get.  At 2pm, the bus finally reaches Detian scenic area, and dumps a few travelers.  It's pretty far from Nanning, you can't do it in one day, and there's not that much to do in Detian.
I couldn't preorder a hotel here, so I take the "Rucksack Inn", a nice little family hotel, and definitely 3 stars for a backpacker hostel (and the German word for "backpack" is indeed "Rucksack" ;-): there's a toiled and a shower in the room, a TV, aircon, and free Wifi.  That's all optional for a backpacker hostel.  Of course, the shower has only cold water, but what do I mean with "cold"?  They can't obtain that cold water here that it becomes uncomfortable ;-).
Ok, so let's get to the waterfall.  The thing has two parts, on the right the Detian waterfall on chinese territory, on the left the Bản Giốc waterfall on vietnamese territory.  Some rumors are that the entire waterfall was once vietnamese, until the Chinese conquered the better part in the sino-vietnamese war in 1970.
This waterfall is amongst the biggest cross-border waterfalls, depending on how you count, it's number 2 to number 4.  Probably depending on the season - excluding the Niagara waterfall, all important cross-border waterfalls are only big during the rainy season.  This one, too.  Since the rainy season is just over here in China, it's now probably number 2.
On the upper side of the waterfall there is a sheer endless "Hallo" street, and that's for sure the biggest cross-border "Hallo" street, since it continues behind Stone nr. 53 in Vietnam (a "Hallo" street is a street full of merchants shouting "Hallo" at all the customers).
The highly weathered border stone has a shortly refreshed inscription on the side visible from Vietnam: "China, Guangxi province", on the chinese side there's nothing.  It's said to have a frontier guard here, but today, there's no sight of him.  Apparently, the two sides agreed on a local frontier traffic, and the only check is on the street further up, if everything's all right.  Most of the merchands (including the chinese side) are actually Vietnamese, who are busy to learn Chinese (using a phrase book).  Ok, it's not that clear, which citizenship these people have: all the people here are minorities who speak Mandarin as second language.
The next day I go back to Nanning, since there's no other place you can get from here.  A small bus takes me for 15 Yuan to Daxin, the next city with (quite oversized) bus terminal, and from there, every 90 minutes a bus goes to Nanning (for 61 Yuan), to another bus terminal (the one in the west).  Travelling back therefore is cheaper, but I've to add the taxi price to that sum.
In the meantime, May has started a serious conversation, questioning whether travelling alone couldn't be improved by travelling together with someone else, and of course, I send her pictures - some right from the scene, and more in the evening.  For whatever reason, China Unicom warns me that I'm in dept, even though I've a flatrate for 330MB internet in September, and September has just started - but the people in the family hotel know how to deal with that and charge up my card with 50 Yuan.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


My next highlight on the plan is the Detian waterfall, and to get there, I've to go to Nanning first. That's not far from Hainan, next to the island on the mainland, and the city hopper needs one flight-hour to get there.  May has just added me on QQ, but there are still other girls interested in me.  The pretty one next to me in the plane isn't, she's sleeping through the flight.  But in the shuttle bus to the train station, there's one who has questions.  And a dedicated selfie camera (yes, really - the lense is on the same side as the display), which she uses to take "selfie with longnose".

The first thing I'll try to do in Nanning is to get a replacement for my defective point&shoot camera.

The easy part is to find the Panasonic shop here.  On the hotel's internet, Google Maps even can do bus navigation, in the net of China Unicom that's not possible.  It's not really perfect what Google has found, but at least I can now read the bus plans:  the stops are named by crossroads, so when you know where to go, you can find the right bus (crossroad names are the concatenation of the two road names).  Oh, er, if you find the corresponding Chinese characters ;-).  A Chinese guy asks me at the bus stop where I want to go, and doesn't find another bus to get there.

The not so easy part is then the choice of point&shoot cameras in the Panasonic shop: five old shelf warmer.  With reduced price, but older than my FT3.  And even the reduced price is above the price of a comparable new model...
Therefore I decide to go to the shopping arcade, and check what's up there.  These shopping arcades are quite instructive.  It feels like there are 90% shoes and clothes for Chinese girls.  Shoes, ok: flippers.  But a huge selection of flippers, including high-heel flippers for the smaller formats (those of the Chinese girls ;-)!  And in the tech stage: Smartphones.  Quite a lot, the bigger, the better.  And eventually, I find a selection of point&shoot cameras.  In about the same desolate state as in the Panasonic shop: some old models with bleached price tags, no seller to be seen.

Conclusion: the marked for point&shoot cameras in China is dead.  The people there all take photos with their smartphones.  Ok, it lacks the zoom, but I think the zoom hasn't got much traction in China (even the poser-DSLRs usually have prime lenses), the selfie cam is somewhat closer to the demand.

I also find the traditional part of the marked, where those things are sold which Chinese people really need: knifes and pots, mats in all sizes, and things I don't quite understand what they are good for.  In Nanning, the big bulldozer of modernization to "old style" hasn't digged through yet.


Sanya is "China's Hawaii".  Ok, Hainan in the south is a tropical island, and has a climate more like Vietnam than China.  In the 1980s, when the government experimented with special economic zones, Hainan was one of them, but the model Hainan didn't work, and even changing the model to more successful ones didn't work.  Hainan simply is to far away.  It's so far away that up to the 1930s, one of the local minorities lived a hunter-and-gatherer life in the jungle.
So today, Hainan is simply doing tourism.  That means: building hotels on a beach.  Well, around the hotels, you need to build a city, as there's more infrastructure necessary.  And you populate this city with people from elsewhere - migrant workers.  Since on Hainan, there are just some hunter-gatherers...
The beach with most action is, according to my guide book, the Dadong beach (Dadonghai). So I book a hotel in this area (on, take a "special offer", but forget to check the exact location.  That's a mistake: The hotel is several kilometers away from the actual Daodong beach, and is operated by the Chinese marine.  But it's significantly cheaper, the staff is very friendly, but for a tourist hotel not very business-minded.
On the first day, it's raining heavily.  I take my umbrella, and explore the city.  Most of the city is in the classical chinese state, i.e. not really new (in contrast to the hotels, which are in a pretty good shape).  Due to my experience with the parents of my ex-girlfriend, I'm not sure if I should engage with a new girl... but I reckoned without the girls...
The first one asks me from the table next to me at lunch.  She and her elder sister are from Sichuan, and work in the hospital here - the elder sister as doctor, she as nurse (the money probably wasn't enough for two girls to study).  About Germany, they know Siemens, and the Volkswagen Golf, which the elder sister drives.  And they make suggestions what to do in and around Sanya (climb a waterfall in the jungle), and a weather warning: "It's raining every day!"  The nurse speaks some English, and looks up all complicated words on her smartphone, about as I do that with Chinese.

At least, it's not raining constantly, as on the first day, but in occasional showers.  On the next day, I'm looking around in the morning, eat noodle soup for dinner, and go to the beach in the afternoon.  What did I say? Reckoned without the girls?  There's another beauty, very young, with a - for Chinese pretty small - bikini, who shows enough interest to talk with me for some time.  While we are wave-bathing.  Which is of course quite sexy.  Her English is about as good as my Chinese.  But she's wasting her time on me, and has to leave quickly, when some group leader calls up her group.
I'm still tired, and sleep into the next day, as well.  I want to take a jungle tour, and ask on the reception how to get there, and the receptionist girl gives me instructions for backpackers.  Well, that's what I can do myself.
And since half of the day is already gone, I just go to the beach on the afternoon.  Today, there's little wind, and not many people are on the beach - without wind, wavebathing isn't so much fun.

For the next day, I plan to go to the west island.  There's no useful instruction on the internet how to go there, but before I went to the beach on the day before, I'v asked in the yacht port at the boat tour booth how to get there.  The reply was "completely wrong place", and I had to take the bus 16, and drive to the last station.  So I get into a bus 16, ask the driver, and get redirected to bus 8.  In bus 8, my seat neighbor explains me (in pretty good English) that I'm wrong; that bus 8 goes to the airport, but I can jump off the bus and take bus 16 or 25 or maybe a taxi to get where I want.
So I take the taxi, which arrives first, and it isn't that far anyways.  The taxi driver receives a commission for buying me a ticket.  The trip to the west island takes about 5 minutes, small speed boats carry about 20 tourists a time, and the taxi driver wants to get another commission from the dive club, but I prefer to snorkel.
For such an activity, I've originally bought my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3, which is waterproof up to 12m deep, and that's certainly deeper than you dive while snorkling.  But after a few dives, my camera starts to misbehave: the on/off button stops working.  And it suggests to "please turn the camera off and on again."  Yeah, right.  That's exactly what doesn't work!  Diagnosis: some water got inside.  And with salt water, this means that corrosion will eat through the device.  The camera is toast.  Ok, 3 years old, shot more than 10k photos... and as backup, I still have my camcorder and the smartphone.  And maybe I can buy a replacement.

So I stop snorkling, and join the Chinese who are swimming next to the pier.  Or rather not swimming, as only a few can actually swim.  Two girls like to have a photo together with me, and then want me to teach them how to swim.  Especially the delicate May is quite interested in me, and she is quite upset about the behavior of my ex-girlfriend's mother, "totally unacceptable": It's not the parents who decide, it's love (a very romantic girl).  And she knows several friends who married far away, to UK, to Italy, and even further away; even though there's a reunion with the parents only once a year.

We eat together (but with separate bills), exchange cards (she's sales manager in a mosaic shop in Foshan, which I have no idea where it is - but it's next to Guangzhou in the pearl river delta, and "May" is her name for longnoses - I understand 美, "mei", as in "beauty", and use that for some flattery - flattery which is quickly returned, because "you are so handsome!"), and I do drink the coconut milk, but not much of the beer.  We flirt a lot and she promises to add me on QQ when she's back.  Since it's a bit cold for her, she wears my towel.  She came to Sanya with a few coworkers over the weekend, getting driven around in the backseat of a rental car, and doesn't even know the hotel name.  Each of us sings a song on the karaoke bar - for 20 yuan each; I choose "Waterloo", but with a slightly different meaning (I was defeated...).

There's ample opportunity to take photos on the island, it is dizzling a bit, and my umbrella is said to be too small for three persons (me, May, and another coworker girl).

Of course they are selling nice souveniers here, and I buy a big shell and a bag of smaller shells. Finally, it's time to leave the island, and before we part, she again promises me to add me on QQ - and I tell her a "nice to meet you" in Chinese, to which she replies three times a "me, too!" in Chinese.  She's speaking English quite well, too.

On the next day, I feel a lot better, and I try the jungle adventure.  One jungle park is in the Yalong bay, and according to the internet, bus 27 goes there.  Bus 27 starts at the other side of Sanya, and I yet haven't seen a bus map - on the stations are only the lines which stop there and the list of stops of each line.
The jungle park's main attraction is a really long suspension bridge, a small pagoda, a bronze dragon and some jungle, but not really worth the money.  I also take a look at the Yalong bay beach, which is "the best beach around Sanya", but I can't see much special.  There's a special rock formation in the see which is depicted on the 2 Yuan note, but you rarely get a 2 Yuan note.

I take the bus 15 back, as bus 15 goes to the Dadong beach.  And in the evening, I google a bit more for the jungle trip I'd like to make: "Yanoda" is the keyword.  You get a bus from the long-distance bus station in Sanya; that's easy to do.  I have to wait an hour for that bus, apparently, I barely missed the previous one.  And then, there's another hour ride to Yanoda.
However, Yanoda has more to offer: A ropeway ride over the jungle, many paths with explanations about plants, and several waterfalls, which you can climb up - guided, of course.  I want to do that, too, but it's not that easy, you need a guide who has planned this.  But I get around the difficulties, and make a few new friends, who take me back to Sanya in the backseat of their car - however, to a beach even further away.  And since it's already late, and I know the restaurants in Dadong beach will close at 9, I take a taxi, which is considerably faster than the bus, but also a lot more expensive.