I’m never sure what I will write about each day. Usually I expect to talk about one topic and end up discussing something completely different.
It’s usually when something has made me laugh. This is why regular readers end up with posts about bus etiquette or Peking Duck.
Sometimes it’s something that has made me think.
I couldn’t work out how to sum up today. It has been a day entirely led by distraction. I set out with a planned route and veered entirely off course to discover parts of the city I had no idea were here.
I just went with the flow.
Thinking about this while I was packing my rucksack – another train journey tomorrow – I’ve decided to talk about mindfulness because today has been about all five senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste) and I always link the five ways to wellbeing to mindfulness too: connect, take notice, be active, learn, give.
A definition of mindfulness is: “the psychological process of purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment…”.
Travelling and exploring helps me to stay in the present moment because there is so much to take in – a new town, new experiences, new people.
Today was a day that hit all of the senses.
I went walking along the four lakes that form the boundary of Guilin’s ancient city centre in a fairly steady downpour. The paths are lined with trees and shrubs, and the rain released the scent of the flowers.
I spent most of the time trying to work out what the smell was – rubbing my fingers on different plants to work out which one was the source of the fragrance.
I think it was magnolia – SP, the guide on the Hong Kong Free Tours had about us all a small magnolia and the smell in Guilin was similar.
The other thing that I enjoyed while I was walking, as I have done in every other Chinese city, was seeing people dancing, practicing tai Chi, singing and playing musical instruments along the paths. The lake paths are lined with clearings and pavilions where groups and individuals were rehearsing or simply just enjoying themselves.
I regularly see and hear people singing to themselves, quietly or at full volume, as they go about their business, on foot, by bicycle or while riding their mopeds.
I love that total lack of self consciousness – they’re enjoying the moment.
The leisurely walk led me to Elephant Trunk Hill where I learned that legend has it that the hill was formed around one of the Emperor’s elephants when it was too tired to keep moving.
Personally, I couldn’t see a strong resemblance but the climb to the top was worth it for the views.
Visiting tourist spots is one of the easiest ways to connect with people and have a conversation, as it is really easy to strike up a conversation by being asked to or offering to take people’s photos for them.
You never know what you’re going to find out and I ended up visiting the Seven Stars Cave because a girl in the queue for tickets told me I shouldn’t miss it.
She was a absolutely right. The cave is one of the biggest in the this Karst mountain range and, while I had been planning to visit the Reef Flute Cave, I had never heard of this one.
The caverns are all lit up and they are utterly stunning. The rock formations are all titled as scenes or characters from legend or folklore. As with the elephant… I mostly couldn’t see them but I greatly enjoyed the light show.
How could this be topped?
…until, as I was leaving the Seven Star Scenic Area, I noticed this….
By the time I left the Scenic Area and walked back to the waterside, it was already dark and the lakeside was lit up.
There were different smells filling the air now… food. Time to eat.
The restaurants were already busy and my mouth was watering. If I couldn’t find a table anywhere, there was always the night markets.
The street food in China, but especially Guilin, is delicious: the usual skewers of meat which smell great but would feed a family rather than one person. What I can’t resist are the new potatoes fried in chilli and served with spring onions and salsa.
I’m not so excited by the deep fried tentacles (chewy) or the scorpions and spiders. My main problem with the spiders is the fact that somewhere around this place, running around, are live spiders as big as my hand.
Let’s not discuss what the other food offering tells me about the size of the other creepy-crawlies.
None of this is knowledge that I need.
*Featured Photo: Seven Stars Cave