After leaving Hangzhou we spent 1 full day in Guilin. We got a sleep train from Hangzhou that took 22 hours. We shared our section of the carriage with a young Chinese family who had the cutest little boy. He was not so cute when he cried for most of the night though and kept us awake. Not sure what was worse, his crying, his dads snoring, or his mum shouting at his dad for sleeping, all when we were trying to sleep ourselves.
While in Guilin we walked around the lakes and rivers and visited the Reed Flute Caves. The lakes were pretty but not as nice as West Lake in Hangzhou. We saw a man swimming in the lake although it was pretty cold by our standards! We sat down for a well deserved break on a bench where Rachel found herself a nice new bracelet! Finders keepers and all that although it did look like it belonged to a child! The Reed Flute caves were amazing! One of the best things we've done. The stalagmites and stalactities have formed shapes and patterns in the caves that the Chinese have added lights to to resemble things like a stage curtain, a tiger and a field of mushrooms and other veg. The most memorable part of the cave was lit up in blue and looked like something out of Pans Labarinth or that type of film. We managed to get some pretty impressive pics but due to the computers here we still haven't been able to upload them. We also had the chance to see 1000 yr old turtles in one of the caves (for an extra fee of course) and Luce and Vik both picked one of them up! They were so heavy!
We went to a club in Guilin and placed dice while sharing some beers. An Asian man in the club showed his affection for Rach by buying her a teddy and sending it over to her via one of the barmen. The teddy looks like an alien and says on its label 'keep away from other toys'. It is not the prettiest thing we've seen that's for sure! We've named him fugly!
We left Guilin by bus and arrived in Yangshou 5 days ago. This is the most touristy place we've seen so far. It's like being in the middle of Spain not China. There are so many bars and restaurants (mostly Western) along a main strip that is very reflective of the types of places in Europe that we visit on package hols.
Our first two days here were spent doing nothing, just chilling out and walking along the main 'West Street'. The weather, unfortunately, has been non stop rain and haze so we haven't been able to see the mountains very well. In true 'sods law' style though the sun is shining today, typical as we leave tonight! Our third day here we went on a river cruise along the prettiest part of the Li River. The drive out to the river included going through the countryside and visiting a small market town. It was very rural and amazing to see (just a shame about the weather). While there Luce bought some sugar cane that they eat here as a sweet snack fairly regularly. We've seen it in most places before but never tried it. The river cruise itself was well worth the money and we stopped at a small cobbled beach where the locals were selling seafood that they cook infront of you on a small wok and beach fire. We all tried something fish-y, not sure what it was, but was very good and hasn't killed us yet! There was a Chinese couple on the boat with us who had a live chicken with them, in a black bag which they tied to a chair. It didn't make a sound! Although you could see it's little feet moving like it was trying to get free, it was Lucy's neighbour for some of the trip!
We went to a local beauty salon here. Luce and Rach had leg waxes and Luce and Vik both had manicures. The chinese are famous for doing a meticulous job of nails and we can certainly confirm they do just that. The manicure and french polish cost 4quid, a saving of almost 12quid compared to back home and a much better job. After having both her legs waxed and then her nails done, Luce found she would struggle to put her shoes and socks back on without smudging her nails so the Chinese lady did it for her! Was very amusing!
Yesterday was probably one of the most memorable we've had and will certainly not forget. We went to the water caves. To get there we had to take a local bus which is a small mini bus (6 seats) that is no more than a box on wheels! The drive along dirt tracks with lots of pot holes was certainly an experience to say the least. The buses stop to pick up passengers along the way and although there are only 6 seats they carry at least 9 people. On arrival at the caves, in the middle of a thunder storm, we stripped down to our bikinis, were given a pair of flip flops and a hard hat (that didn't fit) and followed a tour guide into the cave with a torch. Inside at times we were practically crawling through the cave with a small amount of light and headed towards a mud bath. The inside of the cave wasn't as pretty as Reed Flute in Guilin but the experience was more hands on. The mud bath was great fun. It felt very strange to walk in though. After the bath we walked down the side of the mountain the caves were in and saw some of the most amazing countryside views so far. Rice paddies and mountains for miles around! Due to the thunder storm the haze had cleared so we could see a lot further. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the cave trek, neither of us had our cameras so we've missed out on what would have been some amazing pictures. We must have looked hilarious though - 3 western girls in bikinis with red hard hats in the middle of a thunder storm! At least we didnt get our clothes wet!
Today we've had a chinese cooking lesson. We learnt to cook 5 local dishes, including Beer Fish (the most famous here in Yangshou) and then got to eat the dishes afterwards! Delicious! We started that day by visiting a local produce market where we saw all the veg and spices that go into the dishes as well as the live produce section which included live chickens, rabbit, fish etc but also dogs which we haven't seen anywhere before! Luce and Rach went to have a closer look but Vik decided to stay further away though she could see one of the dead dogs hanging anyway. Luce tried to take a photo of the dogs but the Chinese don't like westerners photographing the dogs as they dont often buy it so threw a bucket of water and some some dog at her for trying!
We leave tonight to head to Macau, a country in it's own right, so we are leaving China. We've been here over a month now so it will be strange to enter a western country again. We're going on a sleeper bus which should be a new experience for us as we've only been on the trains.
Will update again soon (hopefully the comps will be better where we are headed from now on).
Lots of Love