THE BEAUTY OF TRAVEL is how a dull long journey can turn into a pleasant surprise. It started out as an uneventful breakfast buffet back at the hotel. It was my first morning in Guangzhou and I was determined not to be put down by the uninspiring choices of cheap coffee and tasteless buns. I did my homework and noticed that there are more than one railway station in the city, and bus stations are all spread away from each other. Due to the huge distances, I surrendered my RenMinBi to the local taxi driver so that I do not need to haul my bags all the way.

After a 45-minute ride and another hour of waiting in line just to retrieve my pre-booked pre-paid ticket, I was on board the train to Guilin. It was me, a young family, an old lady and a middle aged lady crammed into the cart. It was here that I started small talk with Ms. Tang, whom caught my eye, as she looked friendly and helpful.

Being a Guilin local, she gave me valuable advice on where to dine, shop and stay. Once I realized that I would never be able to visit all the attractions she listed, she went ahead and asked me follow her home for lunch. Apparently, she is coming back from a week-long business trip and today is the housewarming celebration of the new apartment she bought for her in-laws. It is auspicious to have guests visit new houses and she insisted that I am doing her a great honor.

HAPPILY, I TAGGED ALONG, venturing into local residential areas that looked absolutely “normal”. The apartment was filled with welcoming smiles. Ms. Tang’s husband hurried into the seemingly empty kitchen and started to serve all sorts of food on the squeaky new table. Her in-laws started asking questions while her son and son-in-law entertained me with information of the daily lives.

One of the more peculiar dish is Oil Tea 油茶, a hot broth made out of tea, accompanied with condiments ranging from roasted peanuts, rice popcorn, fried scallions and rice crackers. Such a perfect way to compliment the cool wet afternoon.

QiQi, Ms. Tang’s curious 7-year-old son confessed that he disliked learning English in school. His favorite sport is football, but since it was raining, he could not show me his moves. I ended up eating more than I should have. Spending time in a local’s home is an educational experience that I will cherish for a long time.

DESPITE HOW I WISH TO COMPLAIN ABOUT THE RAIN, I had to remain grateful because the warmth and hospitality of Ms. Tang and her family eased my transition into China. After several hours of feeling at home, it was time for me to depart. I shook hands with the entire family, congratulating and thanking them for their generosity. I was a guest feeling at home, yet my journey awaits. Hence, off I go, reminiscing these memories on my long bumpy bus trip to YangShuo.

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Ms. Tang “kidnapping” me back to her house.IMG_5069

Simple yet satisfying condiments for the Oil Tea below.IMG_5070

I love rice popcorn!

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Something spicy, not sure what it is made of.
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QiQi loves selfies.

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