I've just returned from a few days away in a small town called Yangshou in Guanxi province, China. I had a really good time.
Ok, so we had to go to Yangshou on New Years Day. So, after recovering from a very heavy night of drinking (Yes, I know I said I wouldn't drink while I was in China, but it was New Years and I wanted some Baileys), we set off for our trip to Guilin and then onto Yangshou. We had to get a sleeper train there (we sleep on the train) as it was an 8 hour overnight journey, which we caught at 6.30pm. We spent the first few hours in the buffet cart, eating and talking before retiring to bed about 9.30. This was a bad idea because though I felt tired then, my body decided otherwise and I didnt get off to sleep till closer to 2am. As we reached Guilin at 4am we had to get up at 3.30am.
We departed the train at the way too early hour of 4am and, Jonny, after consulting his Lonely Planet Guide (an awesome book), led us to mcdonalds where we sat and ate a Big Mac for breakfast. We stayed there until we could catch the first bus to Yangshou at 8am. The bus was actually a coach, and a cheap one at that costing only 15 yuan.
When we reached Yangshou we made our way straight to the hostel. Yangshou is a beautiful small little town and I think the nicest looking town I've seen in China. It is touristville though so we had to navigate and ignore all the people asking us inf we wanted to buy fruit or go on tours or whatever. But the place is very beautiful and well worth a visit. The whole Guilin-Yangshou area is set within lots of mountains an the views are stunning.
We arrived at our hostel, checked in and then I had to go and find a towel because I forgot mine. Then we went back, had a shower and went to sleep for an hour. In the afternoon we went for some lunch and I had some lemon chicken. Yangshou has lots of western and chinese food so I thought I'd have some western food after going without for 4 months. By the time we had finished it was too late to go on a trip, so we rented three bikes and went for a wonderful bke ride in the country. I am not very fit when it comes to cycling so it wasnt the most relaxing thing to do, but the views was absolutely amazing and it was well worth it. It took a good two hours to cycle around and we saw a lot of the countryside (the real China) which was nice to finally see.
After we had returned and had some tea, we went to the river and there was a cormorant fishing display. For hundreds of years the fisherman here have trained cormorants to catch fish for them (they tie their necks so they can't swallow the fish). It was an interesting display but I thought it looked a bit cruel, especially when they were picking up the birds by the neck. It was interesting though. After this we went to get some BBQ. In China, everywhere you go in the evening they have BBQ night food for reasonable prices, available for you to buy. It is usually reasonably tasty and we enjoyed it.
The next day we had to be up early again because we had booked a rafting voyage down the river. The rafting was brilliant. We just sit there and a chinese man would drive the raft down the river in between lots of mountains. It was an amazing sight to see and, for me, it was the highlight of the trip. It lasted 2 hours and was a lot of fun. It was another bus journey back and then food. The size of the meals in Yangshou were impressive. Me and Jonny ordered Duck. They gave us a whole duck! We couldn't finish it lol. In the afternoon and evening we went shopping. In China, especially tourist places, you should never pay the price on the sticker. The shops deliberately price things higher and expect tourists to bargain (and if they don't, then they get ripped off). So I needed to buy some warm jumpers and a proper travelling rucksack as I'm off to North China (Xi'an and Beijing) later this week so I had to do some bargaining, I managed to come away with a rucksack and 2 hoodies for 240 yuan (24 pounds). Originally they wanted over 450 yuan for them, so I think I did quite well.
Sunday was travelling back day. I didn't enjoy this very much. We had to be up early and left at 9am after a quick yoghurt and muesli breakfast. We got on the first bus which should have taken an hour but took two. I don't know why. Then we had to wait around for half hour for another bus to take us across the city of Guilin to meet a sleeper bus. That was 40 minutes late too. The sleeper bus is exactly what it sounds like. A bus full of bunk beds. We had to pay 200 for this which I thought was a rip off but we had no choice as they had run out of train tickets. The bus journey was fairly comfortable and I got to see how chinese motorways work (much like ours basically). The bus journey was only 5 hours long but the first 3 hours felt like an eternity to me because I was desperate for the loo and I couldn't see any toilets on the bus, I hoped we would stop but didn;t and so by 3am I was getting so uncomfortable that I went searching for the toilet and found it, easily. Stupid me! The rest of the journey was pleasant, until they dropped us off.
They didnt want to go into Changsha, so they left us outside on a bus stop. Luckily there was a chinese person with us to help us out, otherwise we would have been stranded. We got on the only bus available and then proceeded to take a long journey of over an hour on this bus too. When we got off this bus we also had no idea where to go and so had to find another bus to take us back to somewhere we knew. Eventually we got onto the right side of the river in Changsha and we knew where we were. After grabbing a quick mcdonalds and catching a taxi the last few miles, we arrived safe and sound back at She Wai (the university), grabbed some more food and came home. The total journey time was almost 13 hours. I am now very tired.
I will be going to North China to Beijing and Xi'an later this week, until the end of January so will write a new blog then. Until then, Zaijian.