Lychees, Longans and Pagodas

June 08 Southern Guangdong, China - When the Southern China Airliner descends for landing in Guangzhou's International, we see myriads of glittering lights below us. The time is early evening 1900 hours. In summer days, the air stands heavy and polluted in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong. A center of industrialization, the immense amount of manufacturing units add its share to modern days plight of greenhouse emissions. We sigh when we leave the Airport, nearly melting in the humid, stifling atmosphere that has engulfed the city.

Guangdong,  Guangdong,  Guangdong,  Guangdong  Guangdong  Guangdong  Guangdong  Guangdong  Guangdong  

We sigh when we leave the Airport, nearly melting in the humid, stifling atmosphere that has engulfed the city. Millions of people work here, like in the other big centers across China. Guangzhou is a showcase for the industrial revolution, its International Fair held twice a year draws Billions of foreign capital to the Chinese Economy.

The official figures claim 10 Billion Dollars are received in orders during 10 days of Spring fair, and the same happens 4 times a year.

Our contact man Mr. Wu is expecting us at the Exit with a signboard exhibiting our names clearly. After an initial welcoming ceremony we tend to the waiting cab and speed off towards the main bus terminal.

We will continue the journey to southern Guangdong without a rest in the capital. Buses in China are plentiful, we depart from the southern terminal near the railway station.

Along the highway the familiar sights of China, as in every province the huge signboards lining the roads, to lure customers to displayed merchandise, the modern capitalistic features of are everywhere visible.

I wonder how many times I must have seen the "HAIER" advert, written in huge letters on the billboard that we pass. Familiar scenes cross my mind. China, a gigantic country by all standards, a society which is diverse, unique in its size and its achievements.

Nothing will stop China from achieving superiority status, there is no other nation where people work as hard as in this progressing Nation. *now, in 2024 this has become reality - *

The bus speeds through the night, leaving the capital behind us, turning towards the southern parts, our destination unknown except for the name. We are anxious to see where we shall end up. Along the road huge Banana plantations which cater for the whole of the Chinese market, Guangdong's climate is ideally suited for the growing of fruits.

Where we will end up this night? We wonder, and Mr. Wu tries to elaborate on some scenic spots along the road. Since months have we prepared to reach this part of China, and now the time has come to see the 'fruit city', famous for its Longans and Lychees, throughout the dynasties Emperors in Beijing demanded the best fruits from here.

After four hours of ride we finally reach, the Terminus looks typically provincial.

Lots of dubious looking characters linger around here, which I dislike. One should be careful at night, always watch ones bags.

A Taxi in form of an 'Wulungxie', the Chinese version of a Minibus takes us to Mr. Wu's residence, he insists he wants us to stay at his home. Mr. Wu is a teacher in the Gaozhou 'Normal school', a Middle school with approx. 5000 Students. His residence is far outside, we cross rice fields, typical Chinese village like structures, and I regret not having insisted on staying in the city center. When the house is reached we recognize the residential structure of an apartment building, the ones covering China from North to South, East to West. Simple with basic utilities, enabling millions to live in an affordable home.

Through the dark staircase we reach the third floor, carrying our bags and start to sweat from the physical effort. As always I don't like to carry much baggage with me, this time I blame myself for not being persistent enough. Always revenging itself, a heavy load of baggage adds to your inconvenience when going to distant places.

When we enter we realize that we made a mistake to follow Mr. Wu's advice and lodge with him. The place is Spartan, to say the least. Our bedroom features two beds, hard wood as the source of a mattress, and a straw mat. There is lots of personal junk from the owner lying around. We decide to make it through this night, (anyway we do not have much of a choice). Mr. Wu is in high spirits, and he wishes us a good night before retiring. No one can find sleep, we are too tense, although very exhausted from the trip. When we doze off it is close to 0500 hours in the morning.

We awake to sounds of birds singing, the windows open and we can see rice paddies in front of the building. It's a lovely scene and we feel better than the night before when we arrived. Looking for a bathroom we find a basic, bare concrete floored shower and toilet room, enough to make you run back to where you came from.

We visit the kitchen and see a heap of unwashed dishes, signs of a Bachelor's life, and a rice cooker. Beside it a note, inviting us to have our breakfast consisting of rice congee. Two bowls and 2 pairs of chop sticks lay beside the rice cooker, the congee is hot, the cooker was left on 'warm'. We are hungry and taste some congee, the common breakfast in China, 'Xi Fan' as it is called.

The note also says he had to attend to his class and will be back around 10 AM. We have made up our minds, we will leave at the earliest opportunity, trying not to offend the host. Hard to understand without knowing the mentality of Chinese People, they offer you their home and you do not want to accept it.

When Mr. Wu finally arrives we are ready to leave, he looks surprised. He is of the opinion that his house is more convenient than a Hotel, however he agreed and calls a Taxi. Again I carry the unnecessary weight of our luggage down the stairs.

Due to the remote location it takes almost 30 minutes till the 'Taxi' arrives. A Motorcycle with sidecar, and the luggage is all stowed away. Rattling through the suburbs, we now fully realize how far the place is from the center of town.

A hotel is quickly found and we now settle into a somewhat more familiar surrounding. Mr. Wu has accompanies us and helps us to settle in, giving instructions to the chamber maid, the 'Foo Yuan' in Pinyin. We need rest, for the night we spent without much sleep and ask to be excused for a few hours. Mr. Wu leaves and promises to return in the afternoon.

We drift into a deep sleep and I wonder, like so many times before, what will wait for us here...

Guangdong  Guangdong  Guangdong  

Laos - Kingdom past and present

Mist shrouded mountains surround the village in the morning, a slight chill is in the air. During the day temperatures reach to the 40 C centigrades. I sip a cup of "Lao" coffee, and relax. The French left their legacies in form of "Cafe aux lait", - milk coffee, and an added surprise, baguette (French white bread for those who are unfamiliar with the word).

Sitting on the Veranda I order a Vegan baguette, it comes with a variety of garden fresh vegetables. Amazingly good, served by the proprietress of the guesthouse I live, the hearty smile adds to the beauty of the morning.

Elefant Cave  Elefant Cave  Laos scenery  vang viang  vang viang  rice paddies

The sun rises, with it comes the heat. The jungle surrounding us is now steaming. I rent a bike for the day, and set off to my discovered place, "MY" private jungle pool, a few miles from where I lodge. A cave that was discovered long ago, a Buddhist temple outpost; the hermit Buddhist monk who passed away years ago, his skull has been placed into the cave for those who want to admire it.

A small paradise in a foreign land, amidst lush tropical foliage.

The daily plunge becomes a ritual, an experience that leaves me refreshed and invigorated.

My thoughts wander to Hungary, Budapest, where I spa in a five star property. In stark contrast to the daily underwater massages, the mud packages, the Bio Sauna; here I have it all, and for nothing.

I would not exchange with Acapulco, nor with Biarritz at this moment.

Tiny fish swim curiously around me, the bottom is a few meters deep, and I set out to explore the cave underground. Deep from inside the mountain the spring has its beginning, and rushes out in powerful force. Difficult to overcome its current, swimming against is difficult. I manage into the dark, unknown cave, grabbing on the rocks that protrude from the side.

Not being exactly a cave explorer I return when it gets darker. You never know what you may encounter here.

Many years in Africa have taught me many lessons, and one them is not to take unnecessary risks. Challenging nature is unwise, in any form. I enjoy the sight and return to my fishes companions, who are playing in the current. I could stay the whole day here, enjoying the wonder of god's creation, for it is nothing less than a wonder. So I lay back, float in the pool till lunch time.

I notice by then that my body temperature must have dropped significantly. I step out finally sit on a wooden bench nearby the cave, and drench myself in the sun. I cycle back through rice paddies, the farmers waving friendly towards me, standing knee high in the paddies. Water Buffalos plough the fields, an unforgettable scene. Laos with its many surprises ....

dream of shangrila