Road Stories #43: Staying with a Dad in Guangyuan and the importance of slurping
Hitchhiking to Guangyuan
Getting out of Xian would have been an absolute nightmare, but thankfully our host drove us to the toll road and we were spared the trauma of having to find the edge of city that never ends.
We were first picked up by 3 guys who drove us through the hills to the south of Xian. Blue sky reappeared for the first time in 4 days and as the sun glistened we realised how important that big ball of burning fire really is. How could people live without seeing the sky? The sense of suffocation, of impending doom, of hopelessness was foreboding in Xian. Interesting as it was, living there would never be an option. The three guys were nice though and bought us some lunch in a canteen before leaving us on the highway to continue.
A family of 3 took us on a little further and then a guy with nice clothes and a nicer car scooped us up. We deduced that he and the procession of the cars he was in were some kind of polo team but seeing as we had no language in common, it was impossible to find out more. He dropped us off at the edge of town and a skinny guy with a young couple in the back took us into town and called our host’s dad for us.
Our host’s Dad? What?
Staying with a guy we’d never met’s Dad
Now. We had organised couchsurfing with somebody from Guangyuan. The only problem was that he wasn’t actually in the city. His Dad was. He didn’t speak a word of English.
The first people to meet us where some of the Dad’s underlings at the bank. His Dad must have been pretty high up as he was able to command one of the ladies who spoke the old word of English to come and meet us. Poor girl! Still, she took us to her office and gave us tea while we waited for the next move.
The Dad finally arrived and we took our bags to his spacious apartment. We were then whisked away to a restaurant. Dad, translator, translator’s friend and us.
We were expecting some kind of street eatery, Chinese noodles, maybe some rice and meat. What we encountered made us feel very out of place. The poshest hotel in town is where we would be having dinner. All the bank workers were dressed in suits while we were dressed in our travel worst.
We had heard before that slurping your food was a sign of good manners in China. This doesn’t sit so well with us but as everybody was doing it, we tried to do our best to integrate ourselves. I must say, however, that it didn’t feel right to be in an expensive restaurant slurping away like some kind of animal at my food. When in Rome, I guess…
The food, though, was divine. The father was a nice guy, even if we did have to communicate via his mobile phone. And after a couple of beers the awkwardness subsided and it felt really great to be trying something different that would normally be off limits to us. Apparently the finer things in life are actually slightly better than the cheapest option on the menu. Who would have thought it? Content, a little tipsy and a whole lot more at ease with the world, we slept in the lap of luxury that night in the house of a Chinese banker. Life’s strange sometimes.
Chinese banker / tour guide / private driver
We had only planned to stay in Guangyuan for 1 night, so when, the next morning, we learnt that our new friend had an activity planned for us we didn’t really know how to react.
It seemed pointless trying to reason with him about time and the like because he didn’t understand a word we said, so we went with the flow.
He took us to a temple dedicated to Wu Zetian, the only woman in Chinese history to hold the title of Empress Regnant, and even paid for an English language guide to further enhance the experience. The guide was so nervous she stumbled over her words, letting out little giggles halfway through every sentence. It felt a bit like a motivation therapy session as we kept assuring her of her excellence and worth. It was fun though.
After the tour, our host then drove us all the way to our next destination (over 150km away), and helped us to find accommodation there. What a guy!
written by: Jon.