Wednesday 4th November - ARRIVED IN GUILIN - ONTO YANGSHUO - THEN XINGPING
Heard people up and about around 7:30ish, but stayed in bed for as long as poss and didn't get up till 9ish - LAZY - who cares. Had apple and peanuts for brekky - HEALTHY! Read up with Ad about the area we are moving onto, watched bit of 27 dresses on ipod and wrote in diary, all to keep ourselves occupied. Arrived in Guilin about midday. Found a coach leaving now to Yangshuo and haggled the price down to around £1.50 each. Took about 1hr 30mins, but we wouldn't have noticed, were completely astonished at the beautiful views passing the windows. The limestone hills were like something out of the movies, it was stunning.
Once in Yangshuo bus station, we jumped straight on a bus to a town called Xingping, which we read was not to be missed. Only took about 40mins to get there, but we were def starting to feel tired now. Took a while to find the hostel we had booked, but we got a good look around the town, it's fairly small, with plenty of stalls and small restaurants to eat at and shops for anything we need. Our faces beamed when we realized our hostel had a roof top view overlooking the nearby lake, in fact the view matched that of which is printed on Chinese money. We took a picture to compare and it's almost identical - amazing.
Settled in, showers etc. Ad wasn't feeling too well and we were both really tired, so wasn't up to doing much really. Went to the nearest restaurant and got a pork and veggie mix dish, which was tasty enough but a wee bit more expensive then we are used to. They were a nice family running the place, but not wanting to spend too much we didn't opt for anything more. Leaving still hungry we had a look around and found a street food stand, where a youngish looking lad was cooking up a gorgeous tasty looking stir fry and a huge portion. The cost was def within our budget, so we grabbed one of them for ourselves to share. DELICIOUS and a bargain. Fancied chocolate afterwards, but it's so expensive compared to home and being a stubborn butt, who's trying to watch the pennies, I won't give in to over what I'd pay in the UK. So instead I bought a Chinese local choc. Really shouldn't have bothered, it was fowl. I guess you just can't beat a good bar of dairy.
Back to hostel, I went on web for a bit, while Ad went out back to watch some lads practicing the Dragon Dance for a festival coming up. I could hear the drums, they were so loud and as soon as I had finished my bits on the web, had to go and have a look for myself. It was impressive stuff, very skillful. Later a German lady Anita approached us to ask if we would like to join her for a bamboo raft trip tomorrow, as the cost will be cheaper, spread between us all. Took our time deciding, but in the end thought why not, it's something we'd thought about doing and looks really good and so cheap for what you get. Time for bed, realized Anita is sleeping in our room, so she can always wake us up tomorrow if we lay in.
Thursday 5th November - BAMBOO RIVER RAFTING - AMAZING
I awoke as Anita was leaving and arranged to meet her downstairs later. Ad took his time getting up cos he still wasn't feeling 100%, but we soon left for a quick bite to eat. All you hear as you leave the hostel is "BAMBOO, BAMBOO", everyone here is trying to sell you the Bamboo rafting, it's the main attraction, but we simply told them we were already booked up and passed. My back was a little bent out of shape when a local came right to the back of the restaurant, where we were eating/hiding to sell us the same thing- like it's not bad enough that you get hassled in the street, we just said no and thankfully he left us alone. Enjoyed the noodle soups and were good to go.
Met with Anita in reception and the guy was now there waiting to take us. We followed him down to the lake. Was approached by a fisherman who had two of those birds (Cormorants) that help catch fish on either end of his stick, which he was trying to get us to have pictures with in exchange for some money. It was like the advert for HSBC that has been out recently, really did not expect to see that. A huge section of the lake was dried up, so we had to walk right out towards the limestone hills that towered around us, in order to get onto his raft.
Anita kindly let us have front row seats first and it was the best. As we slowly made our way down the river, I was quite within my element, relaxing, taking in the fresh air and beautiful views. I really don't think anything could be any prettier, it was out of this world stunning. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and must of used up the whole camera, constantly clicking our way up the river te he
As we had been told the rough directions for today, we were a little concerned when our guy pulled up to one side of the river, with nothing there, when we were told we would pull up to a local village. Anita spoke pretty good Chinese, so as we got out, she said to him we'll go have a quick look around the village and come back with him. Sometimes people only take the boat one way and choose to walk back, but we'd left later than most and didn't think we'd get time. On hearing this, the guy now looking a little sheepish, called us back in the boat and after a little debate and a phone call to our hostel, he took us the rest of the way, like he was supposed to. Think he just couldn't be bothered initially.
He didn't want to wait for us to have lunch, but was willing to give us 15-20 mins to look around the village before heading back. Lots of ladies were selling fruit and flower hats, amongst other things, as we arrived and were bombarding us to try and sell, part of me was feeling stressed by it, but then I wanted to buy everything, cos they all looked quite needy, especially the little old ladies with very bent backs - poor things. Had a quick wander in the nearby streets, saw some kids coming back from school and locals doing their daily chores, it was a pleasant little place, can't imagine many people stay, so it was nice to purchase something, so Ad got some oranges from the smallest of the little old ladies and we headed back.
Anita took the front seat on the way back and we chilled out in the back, taking less pictures this time, so we could really take in our surroundings. It was so relaxing. We saw many locals working on the river, water cows in the mud, ducks, cormorants and many other animals amongst this beautiful landscape - what an experience and one I will remember always.
Back to our town, we strolled around the streets and came to a main road where we could hear lots of people shouting and clapping, as we got closer we could see a local game of basketball was in progress and it had drawn quite a crowd, must be a pretty big deal here. We watched until the end and was surprised that only a slight bit of screaming and clapping occurred now and then, whereas at home or America etc you would imagine it to continue throughout the match. Always good to see local events like this though, I particularly like watching the audiences reactions.
Now to the hostel for some more relaxing. We found a nice spot on the rooftop terrace and had a nap. Wasn't planning on sleeping but we must have been that tired. Woke up when the sun was starting to fade and enjoyed watching it fall slowly down behind the limestone hills, such a tranquil sighting. For dinner afterwards, we went back to that street food stand and got a stir fry each, which was just as tasty as yesterday.
Followed the crowds to a stage at one end of town, all set up for the festivals. Here we waited for some time before the show started. Wasn't bad, we saw some pretty good singing, dancing, a guy on a saxophone etc, but when it got to a comical show that we could not understand, it was time to go. Picked up some snacks and headed back. Was so pleased to hear the firework show would be over the lake and even more thrilled when we found the comfy spot on the rooftop terrace free. We settled well and watched the whole firework display from there and it was so clear, we could see the whole thing. Was one of the best firework shows I have ever seen. Very impressive, so chuffed we got to experience this - WHAT A COOL DAY.
Friday 6th November - BIKING AROUND XINGPING
Another bowl of noodle soup to start the day with full ready to go bellies YUM!! Hired our bikes and were on our way. Crossed the bridge, passed a few local houses (huts) and came to the countryside. Was beautiful. Limestone peaks all around in the distance and mountains beyond that. The dirt tracks were slightly hard to cycle on, with many bumps and holes, but hey ho just made it more unique. Saw the biggest spider we've seen yet, luckily it was dead, otherwise I may have had a heart attack - it was bigger than a grown man's hand, very thin legs though. Found ourselves getting deeper and deeper into farmland, until suddenly we came to a dead end, not sure if we'd come off track, but we couldn't for the life of us find another way through, was just rows upon rows of crops, so turned back. A van was offloading some local fruit at one point and we stopped to slowly maneuver the bikes around it, when saying hello and Ad briefly chatting to the guys, they smiled and put one of the fruits in his basket on the bike, very kind of them, we'll eat that later.
Instead of going back into town, we continued along the path in the other direction and came to an opening, alongside the river we had been on yesterday. Found a spot to sit and relax and Ad pulled out his Swiss army knife to attempt to get into the fruit. It wasn't easy and became quite messy, but once we'd broken into it's shell/covering the fruit within was delicious, it had kind of a grape fruit taste to it, was YUMMY! Stayed there for a while enjoying watching the bamboo rafts float on by and having a closer look at the peaks surrounding the river - stunning. After some time, we got back to the hostel, wanting to climb the hill behind for sunset.
Feeling particularly tired, it was not easy climbing the thousand odd stairs on the hill behind, but to keep us occupied we actually took it in turns to count a hundred - as if that would help us get up them. However, once at the top it was well worth it, the views were amazing. We could see the whole town on one side with the many mountains surrounding it, the countryside in the distance, where we had cycled today and the river meandering well into the distance, it was out of this world. Definitely one of the most spectacular views I've ever seen. Saw some locals clambering over rocks to get a better view of the sun setting, could see one guy up there with a particularly large camera (as if he'd done this before) so we followed suit, not wanting to miss the best of it. I must of burnt my camera out with the amount of pictures I took and Ad did to, it was so beautiful, could've of stayed up there all night, it was so great. Stayed until the sun disappeared and then made a quick trek back through the woods, which were getting darker by the minute, quite creepy in the wooded area. Had to use our torches for the last section, but it wasn't too bad, was surprised at how quickly it got dark though.
Made it back no problem and found a nice family run restaurant to have a mixed veggie dish and pork and onion dish - although much more onion then pork, you'd think we would have learnt by now, not to order meat dishes, they are much more money and you never get much meat - not good meat anyway. The veggie dish turned out to be leaves anyway, it was nice enough but I preferred the hot choc sachet I picked up from the supermarket afterwards - I really am that easy to please te he. Headed back for a night in the hostel. Was funny when we were all tucked up in bed with the light off, some lady came in and fumbled around for ages on the bed next to us, we could see there were bags there and knew the German girl had now left, so just presumed it was our new roommate. In the end she turned on the light, gave us a grin when she realized we were in bed, almost like she thought we were someone else, then turned back to see what she was doing - only to realize she was one floor down and in the wrong room - she looked so embarrassed bless her, she'd been rummaging through somebody else's things DOH!!