Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Local Colour--Day 2 Nanning

Our "Day Two" was unlike the rest of our travels groups in that we spent it travelling to Nanning and exploring the city where we would receive our daughter. While it's sad we missed The Great Wall etc. it did give us some much needed down time to relax and get our bearings. Russell and I were even able to explore the city and the hotel some--a luxury the others in our group were not afforded. Some points of interest about Nanning (easily my favourite of the places we visited while in China) are that it is a medium sized city--by China's standards anyway--of 1 million people that own half a million motorcycles. Let me tell you, this is no exageration. Bikes and motorbikes are everywhere and in every state and condition. Many of the bikes have been converted into motor bikes and motor trucks by having lawn mower engines rigged up to them. It's incredible. The traffic is insane...but strangely enough I was never frightened by it. I felt very safe and quickly caught the flow of the movement of the city. Many of my friends who had previously travelled remarked on how dirty China is outside of Guangzhou but that was not my experience at all. What I found was a very old, very poor part of the world that was in need of repair, but kept very clean. There is a huge sense of pride in these people and they do what they can with what they have. The buildings (these are businesses and apartments) are in need of work and everywhere you see scaffolding up as they work to improve conditions. Construction was everywhere in Nanning and in Guilin--and he people worked quickly and efficeintly. Our hotel was gorgeous. Definately a 5 star experience but at rates you would pay for a Holiday Inn here in the states. Our room was equipped with a small crib which is fairly typical of the cribs in China. In the US we would consider them to be death traps. They are in disrepair and have hard boards for the babies to sleep on. (Hence my daughter's flat head.) The room came equipped with a bar with purified water both for drinking and bottle preparation which was extremely handy and there was a Wal-mart nearby for us to buy baby supplies. Wal-mart in China is incredible...and it is nothing like a Wal-mart in the United States. Many people told me it was 3 stories high. That is innacurate, actually it is 2 stories, but begins on the second floor. THe first floor, which was not a part of Wal-mart, consisted of about 50 clothing shops. They seem to really love small shops in China. Booths are everywhere selling orange drinks (there is no OJ in China they have Orange Juice subtitutes instead.) and you can even pay forrecreation at some booths where you play games and exercise etc. Large stores are very rare. (Making Wal-mart all the more unusual to the Chinese.) When you enter Wal-mart there is a very loud greeter announcing over a loudspeaker over and over Welcome to Walmart. Sound is incredible in China. It's an incredibly noisy place. It's almost as if there is a sound war going on...people trying to be heard over others in order to get your attention and thereby get your business. The Wal-mart has a huge fish section and the fish are all freshly caught and laying out. My first impression of the place was that it reeked of fish. The entire first floor is all food. Huge bins are everywhere. Frozen food is sold much the way you would buy candy in a candy store in the US. Instead of it being prepackaged, you scoop out as much as you need and place it in a bag to be weighed at the checkout. (A space saver this is not, but it definately cuts down on waste as you get what you need!) They also sold cereals, candy, spices, and nuts in the same fashion. The second floor is all houswares and electronics. It was an incredible experience and the prices for things were obscenely low. We bought enough groceries there to last us 3 day (with formula, bottled water etc.) and paid about $19 American. Wish I could do that here!


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