This is my summarized travelogue of my visit to Guilin with 11 photography friends and my husband. I came back with 12 of them plus a stick. Or at least I thought I did.
It was a low budget expedition and of course we chose Air Asia which was the only airline which took us directly to where we wanted to go. All excited, we caught the very early morning flight, with our backpacks and cameras and landed in Guilin with starry eyes and clicked at almost everything on our way to Xin Ping. You see, Guilin but more particularly its surrounding areas – the Lijiang River, the Longji rice fields were so much more interesting and colourful than the busy towns.
At Xingping, we were introduced to the first of the many multi-facetted Chinese men. These enterprising men would become our guide – our openair van-driver – our river boat driver – our cook – and also our hotel owner/manager. These same traits were very similar on the river or up at the rice terraces.
Our trials started when we had to make our way to Point 2 at Longji. Point 2 meaning (halfway there), where we lay our bags. We can either track up North to Point 1 for presumed stunning sunrise shots or track East to Point 3 to catch supposedly spectacular sunsets.
Mind you, each track up is about 1.5 – 2 hours and back would take an hour. The word (track) seem to me such a misnomer. I would liken it to arduous pre-birth experience with heart pounding labourious breaths and shaky legs only to find no baby at the end of the road.
The mist and haze shroud the expected picturesque overviews or the sun decides she wont lend us her crimson glows. This means that we have to repeat these trials on a twice-daily basis until any self-respecting photographer comes back with at least one photo which shows the pre-envisioned colours of the sky merging breathtakingly with Earth’s horizon.
But I digress. Coming back the title of my story. So what does any self-respecting couch-potato Malaysian do when faced with such circumstances? Get herself a personal porter, of course.
Yeah, this Lady Porter, all of 50 years or so, carries my camera bag, lenses, tripod, couple bottles of water up and down these terraces of pain while all the time being the supporting pillar to block me from falling off the cliffs. On the second day, she got smarter and found me a piece of firewood which she fashioned into a magic staff to abate the pressure of crushing patellas. From that day onwards, Mr Stick followed me wherever I went, proving itself more useful by the day. Horses and buffaloes were shooed, muddy depths were measured and helped with my ambulation downhill.
So attached that I was to Mr Stick that on the last day, I decided to bring it back to Malaysia with me. Hubby wasn’t too keen, as it would mean having to check it through.
With no packing materials – I handed it over to the counter – expecting it to be rejected. But Miss AA Countergirl was tagging it as if she receives firewood to be checked in on a daily basis. Ha! I was happy, with hardly any shopping done, my bags were for once underweight and the plane actually taxied off on the dot.
Alas! On arrival, Mr. Stick was nowhere to be found. All the bags have left the carrousel at LCCT and I stood forlornly at the Lost and Found Counter, maybe hoping that someone might bring Mr Stick to me. Mr Counterguy (Saiful) was trying his best to fill in the form with my answers. “Puan, hilang apa” – Stick. “Brand apa?” – err, takde brand, stick tu kayu. “Hockey stick ke?” – Tak, stick tu kayu. “Apa colour stick tu, Puan?” – err, brown, colour kayu. “Rupa stick tu, ?…” – and this time he did not wait for my answer any more.. and handed me the form, while bidding me goodbye and promised to send Mr Stick to me when they find it. Yeah, sure, I thought.
So a few days go by and dear Hubby said Air Asia called to say they are coming over. Yeah? Really? Damn well they did!!
See – here’s Mr Stick at home.