Stepping off into the Guilin airport, and characteristically missing my bus, I tried to ignore the filth I’d acquired 24 hours of mass transit. Guilin is small by Chinese standards–under 700,000 people live in the city proper. In typical Chinese fashion, however, the population is densely concentrated and, it would seem, all riding their bicycles, at once, in the same intersection. I must have looked helpless, because within minutes of getting off of the bus, a Chinese man gave me a lift on his motorcycle to the hotel where I would meet Tavi and Lori.
Now, there are a few differences in the driving habits of Americans and Chinese. The Chinese, for instance, never look more than exactly one bicycle-wheel’s length ahead of their vehicle, disregard all traffic signals (except Stop Signs, for which they speed up), and drive equally on the left and right side of the road. But, all in all, the system works very well for such numerous and varied vehicles. After several brushes with death, I began to relax and notice my surroundings.
The biggest surprise to me was the absolute lack of westerners. Guilin is a famous tourist city–indeed, it’s widely claimed that “Guilin’s scenery bests all others in the world.” But, apparently, this news hasn’t reached America. In fact, until I met Tavi at an upscale hotel, I didn’t see a single white face out of perhaps 5,000 Chinese. Nevertheless, Lori soon joined us at the hotel, and we set off–three pasty white tourists in a sea of Natives–to nearby Yangshuo.