When Hannah left, Grant and I moved to a hostel that was not only cheaper than the hotel we were in, but also gave us the 'travelling' feeling that you don't get when you are stuck in a hotel room and don't have a common area to hang out in.
We still didn't know what we wanted to do after Shanghai. The original plan was to go to South China, but unfortunately there was flooding in the South, so we spent the first morning researching places to go. We decided on the island of Xiamen to chill out for a bit after the 2 week tour.
The tour was wicked, I had a really good laugh, but so much was crammed into such a small space of time that we were knackered and had had enough of being in city's for a while.
By the evening the weather had cheered up so we finally got the chance to go for a wander around the city. The hostel was really well located so it wasn't far to get anywhere and we made a start seeing the sites that we had seen in the rain on the bus the day before. We wandered round the main shopping street but quickly got bored of shopping and headed to the Bund, a pedestrian strip on the river front which overlooks the lit up CBT district city sky line.
The following morning we strolled around the old city part of the city, browsing the tiny shops and people watching. We preferred this area as it felt a bit more authentic than the built up areas that dominated most of the city. Luckily for us the old town was near the Xiantiandi area where we had been for cocktails before, so it would have been rude not to stop by for a quick drink in happy hour! Obviously this turned into a few more drinks and a lovely Thai meal before heading home.
As sods law would have it, the next day we found out that Xiamen had now severely flooded, with more torrential rain to follow over the next week. The prospect of spending more time in the rain (or up to our knees in water if some pictures were to be believed!) was not that great, so we changed plans and arranged to get a train to a lake side town which was supposed to be pretty chilled.
After an early train we checked in to our hostel in Hangzhou. I immediately like the town, it was much more relaxed than Shanghai and gave us the chilled travelling feel that we craved. We dumped our stuff and went wandering round the cute little local streets followed by dinner in the hostel cafe.
While we were eating our breakfast there the next morning, a Chinese man came up to the window, pushed his face against the glass and just stared directly at us like it was perfectly normal, no amount of bogging back at him seemed to shake him, he was there for a good 2 minutes before he reluctantly moved on! It was hilarious! We had people stare at us all of the time, but generally they either get bored quickly or are slightly more subtle about it, this guy was making no apologies for the fact that us eating our breakfast was the most interesting thing going on in his world!
The sun was shining so the next stop was the park down the road for a lovely couple of hours under a tree reading our books, followed by a long walk around the lake and a trip to see our first night market in China.
After a long, and needed, lie in the next day it was time to do some more planning on where we were going next. The weather forecast still looked pretty crap but we were really keen to see the South so booked a flight to Guilin in the South West and hoped for the best. We thought we'd go for a quick walk to blow away the cobwebs from the hours on the internet, but after following my 'i'm sure it's probably this way' directions, ended up getting lost the wrong side of a mountain and had to find a tunnel to get back on track. I certainly burned off my calories for dinner with that afternoon!
For dinner we found this random restaurant where you have a hob in the middle of your table, and you pick your ingredients from a list and cook it all up yourself at your table. The only hitch of course being that the menu was all in Chinese and so we had no idea what we were ordering! Luckily, the helpful waitress managed to translate a few things for us with her phone and what we actually ended up with wasn't bad at all. Was the most fun dinner we'd had in a while!
The next day was our last day in Hangzhou and even thou it was my favourite place in China so far, when you travel around so much you start to get cabin fever when you're in the same place for more than a couple of days, so I was ready to move on.
We spent the last day hiring a boat and chilling out on the river, and then wandering round the local food streets trying out some strange local foods... well at least Grant did... eating random meats and 3 whole crabs on a stick, i'm certainly not the adventurous one when it comes to food!
The journey to Guilin was a fun one! We thought the journey getting onto the cruise was good, but this knocked that one out the ballpark! We got to the airport at 8.10am for our 10.10am flight, and boarded on time. After sitting on the plane for about an hour we were told there was a mechanical problem with the plane and we would need to get off while they fix it - never a good sign. We weren't given any information in English, but again after hunting around for someone that could explain something to us, were told it would be about 2 hours to fix. We of course didn't believe this, but as the airport had wifi and they were handing out the food we would have had on the plane, we quite happily settled in for a bit of wait. A couple of hours later they announced something to the waiting passengers on a mega phone and everyone got up and started following the airport attendant. They didn't even complain about it really, so we had no idea what was going on and thought it might be a gate change. When we had again found someone to explain to us what was going on it transpired that we weren't moving gate, but in fact were being taken to a hotel about 30 mins away 'for a rest'. This did not bode well and we were convinced at this point we would be there for the night. As it turns out, after a couple of hours sitting in the hotel room we were told that the flight would take off and after another hour of faffing about with buses getting us back to the airport we did finally take off, a mere 8 hours late....
Our evening in Guilin was pretty shot once we finally got there, we had planned to spend the afternoon looking around but as we didn't check in til 9pm in the end we just dumped our stuff and headed to the hostel bar. As we'd seen that the weather wasn't supposed to be that great, we'd purposely picked a hostel that had a good reputation for night life, and we were glad that we did as we settled in for an evening of 2 4 1 cocktails and monopoly.
Although the next day started off pissing it down, once we had done the obligatory research and booking of where we were going next, we headed into town to do the sites. Luckily it mostly cleared up and turned to showers by the time we got to our first site, Elephant trunk hill. Its basically a huge rock that over time had eroded itself into looking like an elephant, with a trunk dipped into the sea. We went for a walk up the steps of the elephant, but it was so hot we were dripping by the time we got to the top and although the view was nice, we were not sure that it was worth it!
China was absolutely boiling by this point, we literally couldn't be outside for more than 5 minutes before being drenched, I've never known anything like it!
The second stop on our tour was very welcome. We got the bus to Reed Flute caves, which is an awesome massive underground cave which they have lit up in fantastic different colours, not only that, but because it was underground it was freezing! Exactly what we needed! We followed a Chinese tour round for a while, but soon got bored of that and found a couple of rocks to sit on and chilled there for a bit, not wanting to go back outside in the heat!
Once we left, it was time to head back home and get showered. We were planning on trying to find a place to eat but the journey home went slightly off track when the bus we got on didn't go exactly where we thought it would, and we got a bit lost getting back! It only took about an extra 20 mins to find our way, but were drenched by this point and couldn't muster the energy to go out again, so settled in for another night in the hostel bar.
The following day we were up and packed early to get a local bus to Yangzhou. When we got there we were pleased we'd moved on as the area was lovely and picturesque, and had a real hippy vibe to it. Our hostel was lovely, with a massive room and a balcony.
We headed out for lunch (at a Mexican place, I was so excited not to be eating Chinese food!!) and while we were eating were approached by 'Crazy Wendy' asking us if we wanted to go on a scooter tour of the countryside. We were sceptical at first as she was just some random approaching us but she showed us some pictures and reviews and left us to have a chat about it. We had been saying that the one things we hadn't done was see the rural China, not just the towns and the city's and the bit that most tourists see but real Chinese people's villages so we thought we'd give it a go. We're really pleased we did.
We did a tour round the beautiful countryside, seeing mountains, lakes, water buffalo and rice fields. We even encountered a few locals when they shouted at us either for money or just telling us to w*** off (I assume as my Chinese isn't that good!) when we took pictures of their water buffalo.
The tour got slightly exciting when I managed to lose control of my scooter after hitting a rock and ended up driving head first into a ditch! Luckily, I only had a few bruises to show for it and now as so many ex travellers do, I have my own falling off a scooter story!
The rest of the day was spent getting a foot spa by skin eating fish, and wandering round the night life of Yangzhou. The place really came alive at night with hundreds of bars, nightclubs and restaurants. It was the first place in China we'd actually seen nightclub, its not really their thing! We spent the evening chilling and drinking on a bar balcony people watching, very relaxing.
It was nearly the end of our China trip! We got up the next morning and got a 6 hour local bus to Guangzhou which was our last stop before heading to Taiwan. Unfortunately I don't really have anything to say about Guangzhou as although it was a big city, there wasn't much going on! The one evening we were there we spent wandering round the river, sweating, failing miserably to find any restaurants and ended up with bar snacks in the only bar we could find! Not the best end to our China trip, but we'd had such an awesome 3 weeks that we didn't care.
In the morning we headed to the airport for our flight to Taiwan and sat in the airport lounge watching thunder and lightning and torrential rain and after a 2.5 hour delay were finally cleared for take off. We didn't do well with any of our China flights!!!