Monday, March 13, 2006

DAY 4: GUILIN

Yeah, Guilin, you know, it's got all the famed limestone pillars and shit. But let me tell you one thing, never go in early spring. First of all, Guangxi Province, for which Guilin is the scenic hub, is something like China's version of 1960s West Virginia, a backward-ass country of mud and mountains, home to an amazing breed of jalopie - part motorcycle, part tractor, part car. The engines are all exposed and actually cantalevered out at the front of these contraptions, often with a crotch-rocket motorcycle headlight and housing somehow grafted on. The Guangxi jalopies were actually my favorite part of the whole province, which I couldn't get out of fast enough. One thing I liked about them was how Chinese they were. Unlike jeepnies in the Philippines and tuk-tuks in Thailand, which can all be detailed, pimped out, and are at the very least kept bright, clean and shiny, the Guangxi jalopies are basically just covered in shit all the time....as, somewhat mysteriously were the streets of Guilin. The mystery was that they were almost all paved and no one could figure out why they were still covered with muck.

As we were driving in, rain and dense fog obscured all the "world scenic destination" limestone cliffs, and when Wane said something about how shoddy everything looked, MaD came back, "Guilin is a scenic area, not a development zone."

For the third night in a row, we arrived with only a couple hours before the gig, but at least there was time for some oily fried rice. Eating with the Vegan Swedes was always a challenge, and the thing I could never get was how much they loved vegetarian meat, which is aparently not plentiful in Sweden. They said they needed it for the protein, as they were somehow in disbelief that there was no brown rice in China. Yeah, they really thought that. There was no point in trying to explain.

MaD and Hunter Hai were vegetarian too - Hunter I don't know, but MaD seemed like he'd picked it up as part of his correspondence-school punk-by-numbers, or maybe he was sucking up to Jonas or some other eco-punks he'd interviewed at some point in the past. I asked Jonas about it once, and he was at least clear about his Veganism, saying, "It's an ethical thing. What gives us the right to kill animals?" And that extends to the concentration-camp-like livestock farms, dairy farms, etc. MaD, on the other hand, said he was traumatized because he dad always used to kill fish. I may be a suburban-raised white boy, but I still call that a pussy. And, oh, by the way, vegetarian meat is disgusting. We at it at Buddhist restaurants in Wuhan, Guilin and seems to me somewhere else. I don't mind so much that fake fish is made from taro, because I like taro, but I don't like taro shaped like a filet and doused in slimy sweet and sour sauce. If I hadn't been there, no one would have thought to order eggplant or green vegetables. Otherwise I didn't mind the meatless meals. They were less likely to be rancid.

The gig was in a third-floor wood-framed bar that was more suited to acoustic and folk, and it ended up being the weakest show thus far, though still decent with 60 at the door and a few hippy foreign English teachers. As with most gigs on the tour, it was located not far from a college, the Guilin Electronic Industry College would be the direct translation. The opening band was Banana Peel, who's singer/ guitarist- Liu - was the one who'd set up the show. As with SMZD in Wuhan, it was tight black jeans and tatoos, fast and vaguely melodic. The set-up didn't allow for much slam dancing, so the kids mostly stared. Energy levels were muted.

The hotel was in a crappy mud alley around the back, and when we dropped our stuff there before the show, I thought they had just mopped the floors, as there was a film of water over the tile, both inside and outside the room. This was actually condensation from the cold fog that permeated everything, leaving tile water-topped and slippery. The water was still there when we got back, as it was two days later in the Guilin train station where we waited for a train to Kunming that was running four hours late. It was like sleeping in a cold swamp, and within the next two days me, Jonas, and Erik were all sick.

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