Gloria, Nicholas and I went on a trip to Guilin. We spent a long time travelling there by bus and plane. Before going to Macau, I used to wonder why it was still considered separate from China - but soon noticed why when I was back in the busy hustle and bustle of the mainland. China has so much distinctive character.
We arrived in Guilin, and immediately caught a coach to Yangshuo. Yangshuo is the place on the lloyds tsb advert with the fisherman on a bamboo raft, using cormorants to fish. It's a stunning place with sharply cut mountains, intertwining rivers and pure bliss.
We found a cheap hostel to stay in and explored the village. Nicholas treated us to the local special food - fresh beer fish, rice in bamboo, vegetables with a nice bottle of local beer, which used water from the main river, Li qiao.
The shops were full of souvenirs - bamboo ornaments, jade jewellery, scarves, hand crafted vases, calligraphy stamps. There were a few bars playing live music so we went in one for a while.
The next day, we got up early to go exploring on a bamboo raft, sailed by a local man. The scenery was amazing! It was very peaceful. We stopped off at a beach where some locals were warming their hands on a bonfire. I had a photo taken of myself holding two cormorant birds on a bamboo stick! I was told to shake the stick to make the birds wings flap for the photo, which I did hesitantly as one of the birds looked pretty evil.
We sailed on through the river amongst all the lush mountains. To end our raft ride, we stopped off at another beach where small house boats were docked. There, we had lunch with some local people who spoke about their peaceful lives, living off their own catches, handiwork and rose Baiju. Money didn't matter to them, because they had a peaceful life to live by the river. Yaks were being walked along the beach by farmers, and chickens ran around the little constructed tents.
We then caught a bus to go and visit some silver caves which were huge inside. There were inserted lights in various colours, making the special parts of the cave look mystical and enchanting.
Later, we tried Yangshuo special noodles made from rice, which were cheap and delicious. After an evening of walking around and sitting in a music bar, we got an early night for the trip the following day.
The next morning we caught a small ferry to head to Guilin along the river. For several hours, we sat on the top deck watching the scenery. The more mellow songs from Sublime and Slightly Stoopid went well with the atmosphere. I spent a long time talking to a French girl, she was very interesting. She was studying international relations and had been staying with a family in Beijing. Her level of mandarin was amazing, which it should be after tuition of 30+ hours per week!
The ferry sailed past the famous mountains printed on the 20yuan note. We also passed a huge mountain famous for the horses spotted by a president. It was hard to make out the horses naturally sculptured into the rock of the mountain but I think I managed to find all of them.
After arriving at a really random place to stop, we trekked along farms growing green tea and oranges, to find a bus to take us into Guilin.
Guilin was great - we walked around the city, found the Taoist sun and moon pagodas, and headed on a day trip to some special rice fields. Many many years ago, farmers cut out steps in the mountain, which are known as steps to heaven. The sculptured mountains with growing rice are great to see.
We also went to look at the homes of a minority tribe, and they did a very unique performance for us including brushing their majorly long hair which they're famous for in china.
I met a Chinese guy, Steve who was very interesting to talk to and explained a great deal of stuff to me. His level of English was great as he'd studied English literature, and worked in Saudi arabia contracting with international companies using English and Chinese.
The trip to Guilin and Yangshuo was very peaceful, and ended with a meal of horse! I felt quite guilty for eating it, but it did taste ok. Some waitresses were sewing some large works which would take them approx. 5 months to complete. So much intricate detail, I hope I can find some time to sew like that!