China Can Be Smooth As Silk
with Jovana Arnaut
I couldn't breathe when I reached the top of Mount Danxia in China's
It was partly because of its majestic view and partly because I spent the last hour clambering up its steep steps - close to 1,000 according to our tour guide Kobe. The steps spiralled around and along Danxia's great, red-rock walls. There were Buddhist messages carved into the mountain side and even a Buddhist temple at the top housing a golden statue of a Happy Buddha. Monks were also there silently, almost cat-like, strolling the property. They managed to gracefully stride up the steps while I clung to the railings. The steps were terrifying. I made the mistake of looking behind me but Kobe reminded me to keep moving forward. To keep breathing.
The anxiety simmered a bit when I boarded the China Eastern Airlines flight in YYZ. We had the privilege of flying business class – it was actually my 1 st time. They have their own menu in there! And I was able to lay down flat. How cool is that? I slept for 10 hours straight which thankfully didn't leave a lot of time for worry.
Guangzhou was over the top. Everything seemed to be decorated and lit up. There were red lanterns hanging from the trees and Christmas-like light bulbs sparkling on the skyscrapers - one of them being Canton Tower, the highest tower in China and the 3 rd tallest in the word. It had heart-stopping views of the city. Of course, we went to the highest point at 488 meters. I gripped the railing and snailed closer to the edge and looked down. I felt my anxiety rising again.
We were often instructed to use our imaginations in order to see hidden meanings in our surroundings. The Chinese people were very in touch with the landscape and their history. They were very welcoming and hospitable and the expressions and gestures they used filled me with such serenity.
Toronto and Zhang Zhelin, Vice General Director,
Guangdong Province Tourism Board
This was evident during out meeting with the Guangdong Province Tourism Board. “It is a great delight to welcome friends coming from afar," said Zhang Zhelin, Vice General Director. “We have kept the tradition of friendship with Canada and great importance is placed on furthering our cooperation with Canada through tourism."
In 2014, there were 259,000 Canadian tourists entering China and 100,000 Chinese tourists entering Canada who originated in Guangdong province. Zhelin believes that these numbers and interactions can grow and the tourism board has invested in promoting Guangdong's attractions. “We have huge potential and a huge business opportunity in front of us," Zhelin said.
The mountain range is located in the northeastern suburbs of Sheoguan City. It is a UNESCO Global Geopark and covers an area of 292 km sq. with more than 600 geomorphological landscapes. The mountain range formed from 960 to 1127 AD and the theme found throughout depicts the circle of life. There's even a mountain called the Male Stone which resembles the male sex organ and Female Mountain which resembles the female organ – no use of imagination was needed to identify these.
Guilin was the definition of a city with thrilling scenery. It was vibrant. The Li River was one of its highlights and an important part of Guilin's livelihood. Life revolves around it. Our hotel - the Guilin Grand Link - was actually nestled beside it.
Guilin is over 2,000 years old. It has a warm, subtropical climate and is full of pedestrian walkways, bars and restaurants, shopping quarters and, like many of the sites we visited, vital history. According to Justin, our tour guide in the city, Guilin was underwater 2 billion years ago. When the earth shifted, the mountains rose up and created the staggering scenery surrounding the city.
Today, Guilin welcomes 12 million tourists a year – its population is 4.5 million with ethnic groups including the Yao and the Han people. Yao culture is in fact the main culture in Guilin. We visited the Yao Minority Village and their Longji rice terraces which were cultivated in the 13 th century during the Yuan Dynasty. We even had the opportunity to watch a performance - The Impressions Liu San Jie - that showed the life and labour of the Yao culture.
When the 600 cast members walked onto the Li River in lighted costumes for the final number, I was astonished - that Impressions performance depicted my entire experience in China. The country's bustling and overloaded streets distracted me and its spectacular landscape and gentleness calmed me.
As we were disembarking the train at the airport and preparing to go home, the announcer ended her message by saying: “Enjoy your trip and have a pleasant life."