“Bryan, you’re more Chinese than me.”

We locked eyes; his blue, mine brown. The moment concluded in an instant as we burst out laughing.

“Yes. I am.”

Here we were, two waìguórén (foreigners) sitting in an opulent dining hall wearing our respective blue and pink bath robes, exchanging stories about life abroad while we munched on pickled cucumbers, tofu noodles, and slices of watermelon. I looked more the part, with my jet black hair and almond eyes, pitted next to Bryan. But after one week in China, I could still barely mutter a xièxie without feeling like an impostor. Bryan had three years on me.  He’d mentioned some of Guilin’s local attractions during one of our lunch breaks at the Chinese Language Institute, and I’d been itching since to investigate this fabled “Chinese Spa”. 

For journalistic reasons, of course.

To date, I’ve lived in Southeast Asia for 4 years.  Dodging traffic and eating questionable street food rarely warrants novelty anymore, let alone an upset stomach.  It has become a way of life.   But walking off the cobblestone streets of Guilin and into one of the town’s most luxurious hotels for a night at the spa was almost…otherworldly.  I had spent a week sightseeing around this “small town” (a small city by Canadian standards).  But it hadn’t yet struck me that this was really it: The ‘REAL’ China, I’d set out to look for.

Photo by Devon Wong