Tag Archives: lake

Guilin day 12

Well it’s a tourist town with a busy main drag that crosses numerous bridges and a couple of islands. There no acres of tower blocks and life is quite informal. Motorbikes seem to have priority over pedestrians on the pavements, a lot of hoiking and spitting. Motor cycle taxis. Thousands of Chinese tourists, hardly any English signage, abundance of fruit stalls. I can’t deal with the Chinese only train station to book my tickets for next week, and it’s just as well as I change my plans later in the morning when I check whether Kk will be free next week or not. Guilin is quite disorientating, I don’t seem to find anything easily even with a map and gps. I do manage to get to the most glorious nengren temple vege buffet restaurant. It’s quite well appointed and busy with large groups of quite old Chinese sitting around communal round tables. It’s a bargain at 28 rmb, and the food is so amazing that I have to fit my plans around getting there again.  
I’m not sure if this is a river or one of the lakes. Under the shade of trees on the banks elderly play cards, younger men are sleeping by their motorbikes. Now I’ve found the rong lake. This would have been idyllic with villas on the banks and Qing era painters and writers drawing inspiration from the waters and the karst peaks in the near distance. Little bridges and pavilions on the water proliferate. At night these and the trees on the shores are lit red green blue green. It’s actually not too gaudy. At the second lake there are some anglers. Standing proud in the lake are the twin pagoda towers of the moon and the sun. A spectacular tourist sight indeed. I’m accosted by a local guy who offers me a cigarette, then asks me how much my watch cost. He wants to show me his, which has a window on its reverse that shows its mechanism. Our conversation goes nowhere. I would like to speak to people but I want to know their political views and perceptions of society, and not to ask how old are you and where are you from. This will never be possible. Soon I’m joined on a bench by liu tang, who has faltering English but is engaging. He turns out to be master painter who has travelled China painting and teaches at uni. I let him take me to his and his friend, Robert, little gallery stall. His work is exquisite and very atmospheric. He paints in s traditional style, water colour landscapes. Liu has to excuse himself as his wife needs him. I spend a long time with Robert talking about art. He tells me that Liu is quite famous and very respected. He has work in the Sheraton hotel and in the national museum. Robert’s paintings are figurative and not nearly as evocative. He tells me that they sell their work here to raise money for orphaned kids. He shows me some antique calligraphy and illustrative paintings, some textiles from various minority groups, and tells me how he is influenced by wild swans, which is banned in China. He has it there hidden under a pile of stuff. He tells me he is keen for foreigners to appreciate and share his culture. There is no pressure, and we hit it off, and so I have bought one of liu’s works.Walking back a guy chats to me as I’m trying to cross the road. He tells me he has studied tea production..and is very informative about my destination tomorrow, and suggests things I might be interested in. But I don’t want to go on a group trip to the rice terraces, or go to the theatre.
Sunset over the lake is pretty, and the coloured lights somehow enhance it. Over the lake from the pagodas some out of tune singing comes from a little open air performance area. Nearby a woman plays a triangular ceramic pipe. On one of the bridges a threesome of boys of about 20 play very well performed melodic rock. Next door is the pitiful sight of an old man with a grey whispy beard in a wheelchair, crooning over some old Chinese pop playing from a crackly portable speaker. The Chinese listen exclusively to Chinese music. Strolling along the river both young and old play music through the tinny speakers of their phone. This apparent inability to enjoy the pleasures of being outside reminds me of the phenomenon I witnessed each Sunday in Italy of men walking the countryside or standing ion street corners with little transistor radios clammed to an ear, listening to a live soccer match.

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Final morning at sangkhlaburi…….

I’m not sleeping too well here, maybe the thin walls.

I dreamt about the Lovegrove brothers. Not a nice dream. Mat had inadvertently killed Luke, having administered forced water consumption via hosepipe then stood on his stomach. He dies later, mat unaware of that, from split gut. This has all been brought on by the pow drawings of Japanese torture at the jeath museum.

The sunrise is muted. There are veils of mist across the lake. A teenager is performing for the thai tourists. Climbing the legs of the bridge, beaming and waving, then wavering at the top, counting down neung song saam. The Bangkok tourist women in their bling, big sunglasses, large bright trousers and makeup egging him on. He plunges, resurfaces, swims to the pontoon bridge and collects handfuls of green 20 baht notes.

The schoolboy is carrying 2 bags of small fish with whiskers and river snakes yoked on a pole across his shoulders. I see the same people each day. On the first day he was dressed in a Boy Scout school uniform, the second another kind of uniform of yellow polo shirt and long black tracksuit trousers. Today it’s a red and white check polo with a red cotton longyi. I think, though I could be wrong, different uniforms for different school days. His mother is as usual at the Mon end of the bridge selling bags of eels. 15m away is the other mon eel and fish seller with her wide straw hat, yellow ash face. She always says hello to me. In the evening she usually suckles her baby at the breast there. The man with the gold tooth and camouflage jacket and blue cap is on the pontoon caling out boat rides. He knows me too and laughs when he sees me. He was unsuccessful in getting my fare yesterday, and when I returned from my cut price trip to the drowned temple he was still there waiting for custom.

Today I bought a bag of little fish. Inside is some kind of coloured powder solids also. I walk the pontoon looking for a calm pool of water between the bamboo cross struts into which to release the fish. This is some kind of Buddhist ritual. They do this with little birds in Malaysia and Indonesia. Releasing the creatures, I guess, is away to make merit. I contemplate my little fish before releasing them and wonder if they are in a perpetual cycle of being caught by the mon woman, bagged, sold, released and then caught again. What kind of spiritual release does that bring them?

The odd group of Amber monks wander across the mon bridge with their silver food bowls, as big as tom-toms.

 

Day 3 in Sangkhlaburi…..Religion

At sunrise their are groups of monks on the bridge heads. Locals are flocking down the hills to make merit by offering food then being blessed. There is so much food that they will end up not eating it all, for sure.

I negotiate a trip across the reservoir to the partially submerged remains of the old temple. The original village was drowned when the valet was dammed. The present settlement being newer and on higher ground. The temple must have been on a small hill. You are able to disembark and wander into and around the structure. Local mon women are arriving on long tail boats to prepare bunches of jasmine. The offer these to the subsequent passengers on the next couple of boats to land. Locals, I suppose, who have come to pray at the shrine inside the temple. This seems to be an auspicious day.

There is an aura of religion throughout the day. In the evening on the mon bridge I bump into the Taiwanese girl who i chauffeured from the bus station in kanchanaburi. As we watch the increasing number of monks a man in a simple white cotton smock and trousers informs us that there will be a large gathering of monks who will be chanting on the bridge soon. About 80 or so assemble and sit on mats facing the now dimming dusk sky. They have little bottles of energy drink. En masse at 6pm they begin to chant. I sit and absorb for over an hour. The atmosphere is special, though not totally serene, as the occasional boat buzzes out into open water. Not all the monks seem to be immersed. I see one chatting on his mobile and another taking selfies on an iPad! This event is to mark the mid-point of the monks' retreat. Now I understand why there is a monk camp site, and why they are behaving as if they are on holiday! These guys come from all ove thailand and are at Buddhist university. The man in white is also studying there.