Journey from Yizhou to Guilin: notes from my diary.
He asks me to move over in the car 'for balance'.
I laugh, but apparently he means it.
So I oblige, shuffling over on the leather seat, and strapping myself in again, feeling elephantine. Breakfast had consisted of lots of little steamed rolls; some sweet, some stuffed with meat. There were also sweetcorn cobs, sweet potatoes and a selection of other roots. Maybe, over the last week or so, I have been eaten too many of them, although my clothes feel no tighter.
The road to Guilin is new and clear. For the first couple of hours we have not encountered another vehicle.
We've just stopped a filling station. There was a girl dressed in a cap and overall, serving us. She didn't smile, and when she had filled the car and the guide had paid she stood to attention and waved us stiffly away, careful not to make eye-contact.
The signs along this highway are in Chinese and English "Don't drive tiredly"
We stop at a public toilet but I don't go in, I just take photos.
It is large, alone, surrounded just by flowering trees.
Even in Autumn
There are flowers everywhere.
Back in the car the guide's phone rings. It trills like a bird. He takes no notice of it. This guide has spent some time in America and it shows. He is the first driver I've come across here who uses his seat belt. He doesn't want to talk. Instead he puts on some Chinese pop music. I ask him who is singing. he says her name is Dang Li Chung and she is from Taiwan.
We pass through another industrial district (most of the time we have passed through countryside). The chimneys of the power stations curve gracefully. Buildings are clean and newly-built.
"There is a bear and tiger place," says the guide, pointing to an entrance. "Thousands of tigers and bears."
I take a photo through the car's coloured windows:
Everything seems raw and unfinished.
I look again and we have entered Guilin: a 'small' place, he says, but to my eyes it is huge.
In China everything except pandas come in thousands and millions.