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Joe and I flew into Gulin on Thursday evening to celebrate our silver anniversary. Guilin has been famous since Tang times for its scenic location among a host of gnarled, two-hundred-meter-high rocky hills on the Li River, down which you can cruise to the village of Yangshuo.

We were met at the airport by the couple who visited us in Chicago in September. Joe and the husband Guanghui met online and had become buddies who could talk about almost anything. Guanghui and his wife reciprocate our hospitality with much more than what we could have expected. He took time off from work to accompany us (he can do this because he is his own boss and his wife doesn’t work) and hired a mini-van, a dedicated driver and a personal tour guide to make our vacation enjoyable and convenient. We’ve been getting royal treatment!

As the mini-van drove the four of us on the highway from the airport to the Farmhouse Resort, I noticed the silhouette of hills against the dark sky. Guanghui said all the roads had been built in the past ten years and before that traveling was extremely difficult. He is obviously proud of how rapidly the Chinese infrastructure has developed in such a short period of time and appreciative of the opportunities he has been given to prosperity. It seems to me that in China there are two types of people: the haters and the advocates. The former rip the government to pieces no matter what it does and they are noisy on the social media. I am glad Guanghui isn’t a hater and has a realistic and objective view towards different forms of government.

Early yesterday morning when I stepped outside our room onto the balcony, I found myself surrounded by knotted hills bathed in morning fog that casted inverted images on the water. It was stunning! After walking around the resort and taking some pictures, we packed up, got into the mini-van and headed for our next stop. The van barely left the resort when it hit a motorcyclist. Or more precisely, the guy flew into our stopped vehicle at the crossroad when he was making a sudden and unexpected turn. There was a big bang followed by a few seconds of dead silence. Then the short, middle-aged and dark-skinned man got up from the ground in front of the car, rubbing his head and legs. There was no blood. Everyone in the van heaved a big sigh of relief. The driver and the tour guide got out of the car. The tour guide had a brief conversation with the guy who was now sitting on the sidewalk with a pained look on his face while the driver got on the phone. After about 10 minutes, the guy limped away with his dusty motorcycle, and we went on our way.

We arrived by the Li River after breakfast and boarded a motor-powered raft for a three-hour scenic tour. I began to understand why people say “桂林山水甲天下” (Guilin’s hills and water are the best in this world). The surrounding mountains, the clear green water, the warm sun, the gentle breeze, the friendship and the love of 25-years filled my heart with peace, happiness and gratitude.

In the evening we went to see a magnificent show “Impression San Jie Liu” directed by Yimou Zhang, a famous Chinese director, producer, writer and actor. He was chosen to direct the Beijing portion of the closing ceremonies of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. The show utilizes the waters of the Li River as its stage, with twelve mist shrouded hills and the heavens as its backdrop. Except for the perfect seven pictures (seven chapters of the show), the performance also boasts both modern and classical music played by famous musicians of China. Additionally, there are in excess of 600 performers, all of whom are local people of the Li River. They present the reality of life for the people in Sanjie’s hometown through their primitive and wonderful performances. It is a must-see if you are ever in Guilin!

We enjoyed a lovely dinner on the famous West Street of Yangshuo. Because, at times, foreigners outnumber Chinese, this street is also called ‘foreigners’ street’. The 1,700-feet-long and 26-feet-wide street was packed with diners, vendors and shoppers at 10 pm. West Street is modern and fashionable, nearly every store has bilingual shop signs, and more than 20 stores have been opened by foreigners who have settled here. Artists walk around the street with their own portable sound equipment, handing diners the menu of songs. They will sing the songs of your choice for a fee. Guanghui told us that each song could cost 100 yuan or $15.

What a great and memorable day we had yesterday! I am ready for another fun-filled and culture-rich day in beautiful Guilin!