National Day holidays have ended today, yet the remnants of Typhoon Nesat from a week ago are still hovering in Guangxi Province.
Last Friday morning had my hired driver, Mr. Ling, landing at the bottom of my stairwell right on time at 11 a.m.. My early morning class had gone very well and I was relieved that the heavy rain was holding off. The news had reported of a typhoon landing. The skies were all whispy, dark, wind-spun clouds whisking by but the rain seemed to be holding off.
I was hoping that would be the case on our 3-hour drive toNanning.
Oh, sadly, not so!
Little Flower, Mr. Ling and I were cruising down the road in his SUV only 20 minutes before the big wind swooped down upon us.
After passing our Longzhou tollbooth, we were on the expressway where we were battered by heavy gusts that had Mr. Ling gripping the wheel firmly while his windshield wipers frantically thumped on high speed to keep the glass clear from the rain. Even LF woke numerous times from her pleasant slumber on my lap when we were thrust and tossed aside by the quarrelsome gails.
Two hours into the trip and we still were experiencing bad weather, even for my favorite Fusui rest stop.
Fusui Rest Area
Let me take a little moment to tell you about these new-found Chinese rest areas.
As middle-class Chinese are getting wealthier, they are also getting more accustomed to comforts. One of those is private car ownership, which years ago in China was unheard of. Now the cities and expressways are full of private citizens with their own cars. This abundance of vehicles has obviously brought with it a great dealo f nuisance (traffic jams and horrendous pollution), but there some perks.
One of those plus points is the great rest areas China’s transportation ministry has developed. Before, motorists and long-distance bus passengers were forced to stop at grimy shacks that had rank, disgusting toilets and served unsanitary food.
Not so anymore.
The rest areas that line our Nanyou Expressway are truly lovely. As a newer highway, and one that stretches all the way from Vietnam, it especially has pleasant pit stops due to the Chinese-Vietnamese tourist trade.
For those of us traveling from Longzhou, the best one is the Fusui Rest Area.
Fusui is a small town located just 1 hour from Nanning. Its rest area is just before the exit into the town. Not only does it have the most beautiful scenery of the 3-hour drive to the capital city but it has the best man-made landscaping and biggest snackie offering in the convenience store.
I’ve taken plenty of pictures of the Fusui stop but not this time around.
When Mr. Ling pulled in to get gas and allow us to use the rest stop facilities, the weather was just too wet for photographs. LF pranced about in the downpour, hiding under trees and picking her way through the grass to do her business. I was more fortunate to have the indoor toilets to use.
Although it wasn’t as pleasant a stop as I usually experience, I did enjoy gazing for a short time at the misty mountain range that lay before us. Even in the wind and rain, the Fusui Rest Area was surrounded by the mystical charm of traditional China.
Arrival in Nanning
We made it to our small hostel a little over the usual 3 hours due to the wind and rain.
The trip was well worth the money, especially in the horrible weather. Granted, the bus is so much cheaper ($12) and on most occasions, I would use it. But with my luggage and the dog in tow, the private car is the best way to go. It is my only holiday splurge and since I save on the hotel (only $10 a night), I figure I can afford it.
Mr. Ling is one of the cheaper drivers in Longzhou. He charges $85 for a Nanning trip, which I still think isn’t enough. The toll on the expressway is 90 yuan ($14) one way, $28 roundtrip. The gas is 270 yuan ($45). So all together, it’s $73. He makes a total of $12 for his efforts, which entails over 6 hours of driving in one day, there and immediately back.
Mr. Ling was kind enough to wait for me to check into the room then give me a ride to the Xiyuan Hotel swimming pool, which was on his way back to Longzhou. With the horrible rain, getting a taxi was going to be difficult so this saved me not only a $5 fare but some time as well.
A Holiday of Drenched Spirits
Mostly around China , everyone enjoyed their official 4-days off with trips to scenic spots throughout the country, tours to major cities and outings to buy big on store sales. (Consumerism is huge in China for holidays.)
But here in the south, China’s 62nd anniversary of the founding of the PRC was a dreary affair. October 1st continued with torrential rains that just wouldn’t let up. Even the big fireworks display was canceled that evening. It did get underway here in Nanning but a sudden increase in rain caused the planners to give it up.
Dropping temps also had people hovering inside, not at all willing to go out in this mess with umbrellas in hand to fight those wanting taxies or thousands of Chinese crammed into shopping areas to get the best of the sales.
My greatest sympathy lay with several of my 2nd year students. Before the week-long holiday, on Thursday, I had met with a few of them in the English Center where they excitedly told me of their plans to go to Guilin , in the north of the province, for sightseeing. Guilin is famous for its gorgeous scenery, with odd mountain formations that jut upward out of the middle in the plains. Winding rivers weave their way around densely forested areas, giving tourists spectacular cliff views during river cruises.
Guilin is a well-established tourist destination with many attractions and is a favorite for Chinese and foreigners alike.
From Longzhou, it’s a 3-hour bus ride to Nanning to pick up either a bus (5 hours) or train (7 hours) to get to Guilin. The bus is more expensive as it is a straight shot to Guilin city. The train a bit cheaper as it stops along the way.
One group of my students was traveling by train, another by bus. They were so excited to be going on an adventure of this sorts with friends. Money is tight and touring is not something my students have the luxury of doing. When I heard of their plans, I was so happy for them. What a wonderful time they would have!
But those conversations were on Thursday, when our skies were clear and it was roasting outside, nearly 95 degrees.
The next day, the typhoon hit. \
Here Mr. Ling and I were being blown all over the road so I could just imagine the bus ride being the same that my students took to Nanning.
Saturday was just as miserable, if not worse, with the constant rain and cold. Sunday was likewise yet another day of showers with only Monday for us being dark but clear of the rain.
I’m wondering what stories my students will have when they return on Friday to begin make-up classes on Saturday. Most likely, it won’t have been a very fun venture, plus quite chilly as Guilin is far to the north. But I have no doubt it will certainly be a memorable, unforgettable journey for all of them.
Wedding Parties Grin and Bear the Weather
Yet others who had to make the best of a rainy situation were our wedding couples.
As is quite prevalent inChina, holidays are the time for marriage parties and celebrations to take place. Holidays are safe because guests invited are off of work. Since wedding celebrations are an all-day affair, beginning with a huge noontime dinner for a hundred guests or more, and then carrying on all day at the place of venue with card games, KTV or chit-chat, it’s important to make sure everyone can come. Holidays provide that opportunity and National Day is a big one for this. With most employees getting 4 days off, it’s the perfect time to share your marriage happiness with family and friends. In fact, one of my former students told me she had 3 wedding invitations this National Day. Busy girl!
In Nanning, last Saturday to Tuesday was to be the day for couples to gather outside of their chosen marriage venues (expensive restaurant hotels), greet guests and usher everyone in for the big dinner. Traditional white wedding dresses with poofy full skirts, glittery floor-length gowns or sequin-studded qipaos (Chinese dress) are the thing Chinese rent from wedding agencies throughout the city. The groom is likewise in a spiffy suit, usually a tux, also rented. Professional make-up artists and hair stylists also make sure the bride and groom look their best for their marriage display.
For National Day, it’s not at all unusual to see wedding couple after wedding couple along the streets, at the doorway of posh establishments, handing out the traditional favors of candy and cigarettes to guests entering. But for our southern China, the rain and wind sent a lot of our couples inside to greet guests.
Nor were the closing wedding pictures, taken outside in nearby parks with family and friends, yet another popular sight I’d usually be seeing at this time. I was sorely disappointed not to be able to capture any of these special moments on my own camera, which is something I often enjoy doing for holiday wedding parties inChina.
I only glimpsed one couple with their happy crowd standing at a riverside park in front of a flowery display of “62” (for the 62nd anniversary). This was during a lull in the rain, as I was zipping my way by taxi to the pool. I missed my chance. I had no camera in hand, and no other couples have I seen since.
Back to Longzhou
My last swim for the holidays was to an empty pool. The non-stop, pouring rain and chilly temperatures kept many of the die-hard swimmers away this morning. Since the pool water is not heated, the outside degree plunge has crept up on us all during the week.
Mr. Ling was not able to make the trip back to Nanning due to a friend visiting so he sent another driver, Mr. Wang, to pick us up. At 3 p.m., the rain hadn’t let up so we left as we had come: with stormy skies overheard and the windshield wipers frantically going.
And just as last week, as soon as we were within 20 minutes of reaching Longzhou, right after the tollbooth exit, the rain stopped. It was a dry landing, much appreciated by both of us. Little Flower was immediately able to go for a nice, long sniff-and-smell around the campus after being stuck inside for 7 days straight. Students were likewise out and about, finally able to enjoy a rain-free evening.
Will our 90-degree weather return?
According to the weather reports, when we all hit the classrooms for make-up days tomorrow, it’s to be noticeably warmer with bouts of sunshine.
Wouldn’t you know it. After holidays are over, we get the nice weather. Go figure!
While my photos were pretty sparse this time around, I’ve included a few. (Those from the Fusui Rest Area were taken weeks ago, on a much kinder weather day than the one we had for the holidays.)
Until next time, here’s Ping An (peace) from a drenched southern China.