Karsts, Moons and Dogs…China continued

 

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My next destination in China was in the province of Guangxi.  This region is known for its karst formations.  I used Guilin as my entry and exit point, but it had some activities to do like climbing up on the karsts for amazing views and caves with stalactites and stalagmites.  One thing the Chinese always know how to do well, is to take natural wonders of the world and make them tacky.  In the caves, there was a 5 minute light and sound show on the rock surface.

I moved from Guilin and headed to Yongshou which is in the countryside.  Here I spent my days in the karst filled country side riding bikes, trekking and attending cooking classes.  It was great to get out into the country side to see the minority tribes and their villages.  Within these minority tribes, it was evident to see that when it comes to labour, they believe in equality.  Women of all ages were involved in manual labour.  What was striking was that most of these women were elderly.  Wherever there was a man working hard, there was a woman beside him working harder.  They were digging holes, carrying heavy loads like logs, building homes.  Can you imagine your grandmother working that hard?  No way.

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The karsts in the countryside were amazing.  These limestone structures rose up out of the ground with sharp slopes and littered the countryside.  There is one particular karst that everyone goes and visits which is moon hill, a karst with a hole in it.  A group of us from the hostel headed up to the karst and it was here that I learned about a Norwegian Tradition (please let me know if this is true or not).  After climbing up to the base of the karst, our group continued to climb to the top of the moon hill.  There was an overgrown path behind moon hill that we climbed up.  When we got to the top, the Norwegian in the group told us that in Norway, it is a tradition that whenever you climb something, you have to get naked.  Keeping with traditions, he took off his clothes and posed for a picture.  Somewhere in my photos, I have a picture of a moon on moon hill.

As food is a big part of travelling, I must tell you about the panic I had here.  I had ordered a meal which I thought from the picture was noodles and pork.  When I was eating it, I knew the meat wasn’t pork, but I kept eating it.  When I got back to my guesthouse, I read up on the specialties of the region.   One of the specialties was dog as evidenced in the market place where they were hanging from hooks in the meat section.  You can only imagine how my stomach knotted knowing that I may have had dog.  I prayed that it wasn’t dog.  I also read that venison and horse were specialties as well. I was hoping that is what I actually ate instead.  I think my fears were slightly lessened when another traveller told me that he was actively seeking out dog to eat and found out that the meat was prohibitively expensive.  That made me feel good, because the dish I had was a very cheap dish.  Phew <wiping sweat off my brow>.  IMG_3525

Sichuan Delicacy- Hot Pot or Hot Not

When I’ve been travelling throughout Asia, I’ve always noticed hot pot being an option on menus and have always wondered what it was exactly but had never tried it out because it was always too expensive.  I found myself in Chengdu in a hostel where 8 of us decided to try a hot pot, a very Sichuan thing to do.  It was 7 foreigners and 1 girl from Hong Kong.  As the menu was all in Chinese, she took on the job of ordering everything. We were asked only two questions: do people want pork? YES. do you want beef? YES.

What is a hot pot exactly? It’s a communal meal where you cook raw items, meat and vegetables in a spicy hot oily broth.  We had mild and a hot broth.  Seconds after the food was ordered, a trolley was wheeled up beside me with all sorts of raw meat on it including something that resembled the shape of a brain.  What is this?  I thought we ordered pork and beef.  Well, not only did we have brain from a sheep, but we also had duck tongue and balls of rabbit on a stick.  Somehow this meal was looking less and less appetizing.

There were more eager eaters than me there.  One guy couldn’t wait to try the brain.  It’s cooked, he constantly kept saying while picking it out.  The girl from Hong Kong would keep saying, let the brain cook longer, there is lots of bacteria in it.  When it was finally cooked, pretty much everyone around the table was taking samples of it.  I was not interested at all.  I kept thinking mad cow mad cow.  When they realized that I hadn’t had any, I became the focus of attention around the table.  You can’t come to Chengdu, China and not have brain.  To which I replied, This is something, that I will never regret in life.   A piece of brain found its way onto my plate and without them noticing, I put it back in the hot pot.  I was a wimp, I didn’t try it.  So far I haven’t regretted it.  I was a bit hesitant with picking food out of the pot, so I didn’t get much of the meat that I was willing to eat, and ate mostly vegetables.  This meal almost made me turn vegetarian.  As surreal as having a whole brain go into the hot pot was, the one item that made me stop eating was when the blood pudding slid into the pot, blood and all.

Hot Pot, done it, check.  Will never do it again!