08.08.2008 - 08.08.2008
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We were nowhere near Beijing for the Olympics, still, we couldn't help but get excited as the opening ceremony approached. Guilin turned itself into a mini theme park, with rides and tat selling stalls on the periphery of the main square. As the countdown clock was nearing zero, a large crowd gathered beneath the large t.v. screen. We had been informed that the ceremony was scheduled to begin at 8 minutes and 8 seconds past 8 on the 8/8/08 - apparently 8 in Mandarin sounds similar to the word for wealth and prosper. The t.v. played adverts and any mention of the Olympics brought a loud, excited roar from the surrounding fans. People turned up with huge flags and we were given mini ones to wave with the rest of them. Professional photographers were snapping images of the 2000 strong throng. The Brunton's settled themselves down on the warm tiled floor, ready to watch the spectacular. Then a peculiar thing happened, well not specifically peculiar, so much as - nothing. The official start time came and went. Nothing. We waited patiently, thinking that the t.v. monitor had run into difficulty. When twenty minutes past eight came, the t.v. closed down for good, the crowd dispersed and the Brunton's were left puzzled.
No less bizarrely, but rather sweetly, we were befriended by a Chinese man with his wife and son. When he realised that we were English speakers, he asked if he could "make a friend with you?". We said yes, and while he went off to find a pen to take down our details, his wife went in search of beverages. He returned with a bic and scrap of paper, she with a variety of cold, flavoured teas. In "exchange" for our email address we received 2 bottles of iced tea. A small, inqusitive crowd had gathered around us, with mutterings of "England" when a new member joined. We felt like Z list celebrities. Meanwhile our new friends tried to coax out a telephone number and we had difficulty explaining that we didn't have one as we were travelling. Another bottle was foisted upon us (this time a flavoured milk), but we wouldn't budge. So, we shook hands goodbye and whilst they went to enjoy a meal, we went to drink their hospitality and watch the rest of the opening ceremony in the comfort of our hotel room.
Pagoda in Guilin