Guilin and All Its Charms

What Guilin lacks in size, it balances out with beauty. The city’s life-blood is centered around the Lijiang River, a body of water that stretches north from Xing’an County and south through Guilin and Yangshuo. After the heady experiences of Beijing and riding the Jinghu high-speed railway to Shanghai, it’s been nice to pause and reflect. It’s evening, though work calls, I amuse myself on the public walkways by the river. My hands rest upon the concrete railing built to protect me from drowning or falling. I test that theory by leaning my frame against it, applying a gentle pressure to my soft belly. Food’s been consumed, yet I feel hungry as my gaze fixes to the lapping river below.  My craving doesn’t entail dumplings or rice, but a desire for stimulation. Amidst the shadows of darkness, I see light. Beneath me, there are walkways, diffused with lamplight. The river itself stretches before me gently gurgling, telling its story… A bamboo boat is moored; a tanned, lean man is stretched out against its length. His eyes are at rest, maybe he’s dreaming, I’m not sure. I ponder his purpose. Fishing? There’s a lack of knotted, grimy nets at his feet, so I’m left to stew in my curiosity. A small, concrete dam juts above water level, redirecting the flow of the river. It’s shaped like an awkward triangle with a flat top, ugly and practical. It’s an aesthetic intrusion, that destroys the uniformity of the jade green waters. I question why it exists. On the other side of the river are apartment complexes with curved roofs made of ceramic tiles. The tiles lay upon each other intimately, reminding me of overhanging caves. Buddhists believe straight lines hold evil spirits; so Chinese builders designed curved roofs to keep happiness and luck intact. I am in love with this idea. A row of trees flank the complexes and walkway, their beryl leaves abundant, drooping over to offer shade at day or cover at night.  I do a double take, as my mind dilutes with déjà vu, for I spot an identical bamboo boat, a similar reed thin man as the captain, except this one is sitting up, smoking a cigarette. I sense that he’s waiting. I notice a box built into the center of his boat, and it finally dawns on me the ‘fisherman’s’ boat is designed the same way. […]