Last night was our final night in Beijing. To celebrate, I decided to have a solo drink in the lobby bar. To know me is to know I love hotel bars, and I find nothing more pleasant than sitting in an upscale one, drinking my Cabernet and silently observing those around me. I chose a table towards the middle and ordered something French sounding. I then proceeded to pretend to read my book while taking inventory. I was instantly delighted to notice I was the only young woman sitting alone and there were 3, yep three, hot, young guys sitting alone at different tables. I made the requisite eye contact with each of them and then began to fantasize about all of the fabulous reasons they would each be in Beijing. the one sitting closest to me was obviously American, reading a Nick Hornby novel and drinking beer. Another was a stunning black guy dressed in Paul Smith and drinking something girly. I made a note that we had a possible homo. The 3rd appeared a little too backpacky for me, but what the fuck. I'm in Beijing. Beggars can't be choosers. I did the occasional look up from the book and smile, although the only one staring back and smiling was the hot black dude. Homo confirmation.
A group of 20 year old Brazillian soccer players were sitting at the bar, and had finished their drinks and left. A few of them stood yards away, by a huge floral arrangement, and I noticed them looking at me and giggling. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw two approaching me.
"Excuse me." they both appeared terrified.
I looked up and smiled. "Hi."
"Yes" said the obvious leader, "Can my friend have one of these?"
He pointed to a Pingle sitting in the silver dish before me. (The Chinese are obsessed with Pringles. Even at the fanciest of bars, I'm always presented with them. Mm says it's because they travel so well.)
"Of course. You may have them all!"
He nervously grabbed a single Pringle and they both ran off, high fiving their compatriots and turning around shooting me huge smiles. I laughed, at which point the Nick Hornby guy looked up and laughed to. A ha! My chance. I considered sending over a note and a drink, and as soon as I mustered the courage, who shows up but my brother. Hornby shoved his head back in the novel and that was the end of that. Foiled!
We went to dinner at a terriblyfancy place called Aria, where I spent the evening dodging the stares from a hideous businessman at the next table, resembling a less atractive Mr. Kotter. Dinner, however was fabulous, and I had an incredible foir gras with tomato chutney that blew my mind.
Today, we left at the break of dawn and arrived in Guilin after a 3 hour flight on Hainan Airlines. No, I've never heard of it either. Guilin is a tiny fishing villiage, about 200 miles from Vietnam. This makes sense, as it looks exactly like Vietnam does, at least in the movies. We were greeted by our guide, Mr. Yen. Hardly a 20-something Asian beauty queen, Alex descibed Mr. Yen as resembling the evil villian in a James Bond movie.
"A-welcome to-a Guilin. Me take-a you to hotel and den we see da caves of magic and you very long flight. you rook at lice patties."
Oh dear. Oh dear indeed. As our rooms weren't ready yet, Mr. Yen took us directly to the aforementioned caves, which resembled the Small World ride at Disneyland. We immediately insisted on going back to the hotel and relaxing, as tomorrow is a 7 hour boat ride down the Li River and then a dinner and cultural performance designed to make tourists think China's got their shit together. The thing is, they don't. Not around here, at least. Mr. Yen kept pointing out all these empty buildings, apparently once lived in by locals but then kicked out by the government in order to develop the property into money-making businesses. The thing is, they can't develop anything. No one wants to rent. So they remain empty, and the people that were once perfectly happy living there are given a thrid of the value of their property and sent ot the country. Nice.
Guilin is tiny compared to Shanghai and Beijing, and about 20 years behind both. We've been warned sevral times about thieves and robbers, and I'm now, of course, terrible paranoid.
More importantly, however, I have to run as my dad and Alex are a half an hour ahead of me at the 2 for 1 drink special at the bar. And they do have, oddly enough, a killer Sangria.