Gweilo in the Diaolou
Gweilo in the Diaolou: the misadventures of an Aussie in Rural China.
Gweilo in the Diaolou – first the meaning: Gweilo means “ghost man” in Cantonese – effectively white guy. Diaolou are fortified watch towers, only found in Kaiping county in southern China. So it’s about this white guy (me) trudging around Kaiping and a few other areas, a complete fish out of water. No language skills, no knowledge, no culture. Basically no idea.
Everywhere I went in Kaiping I was stared at. Glared at. I don’t think they see too many people like me. They don’t see too many Gweilos. It was very off-putting at first. I was completely out of my depth.
Two hundred eyeballs were staring, fixated on the freak that just walked into the restaurant and up the stairs.
It was dumplings, diaolou and dragons. I visited the villages, Niu Lu Tao, Gangning, Sha Wan, amazing townships of Baisha and Chikan; a restaurant in a place called Lechongcun which was next to a place burning tyres. We were lucky to get a table. It was packed. The restaurant was the size of a Bunnings Warehouse. We sat outside in the mud. At least they had cold beer.
I visited an island where they had fridges but they weren’t turned on. I couldn’t get cold beer but I could buy ice-cream.
I saw the water dripping UP the walls in Ma On Shan and Guangzhou.
I fell into a grave.
I was privileged to participate in the Qingming festival, where the whole village travels up the mountain to the graveyards of their ancestors and pay homage. I fell into a grave.
I’ve been introduced to Chinese toilets. They’re a bit different to ours. They take a bit of getting used to.
I played ping pong. I stuffed cash into red envelopes. I gave away $100 notes to complete strangers.
I went in search of my great grandfather. He was also a Gweilo.
My travels to this amazing country are a bit offbeat. There’s no Great Wall. No Terracotta Warriors. There are decaying villages, dragons and drums. There’s Mama’s chicken which is tougher than eating a piece of carpet. There’s the tv host with the blue hair. Did I mention the restaurant next to the dump burning tyres?
I love this place. I love the history. But most of all I love the people. And I love being the Gweilo in the Diaolou. I hope you enjoy my escapades as much as I did. Who knows? Maybe I will bump into you one day in a Diaolou in Kaiping? (Remember to duck – the ceilings are low.)
Paperback and ebook versions can be purchased through Amazon and also through my website: www.kovac.com.au