Guilin + Surrounding Area
22nd Aug - 26th Aug (Day171 - 175)
We've arrived in China and it's been a manic five days for us. We haven't had a chance to stop at all. Whilst here we have been to the rice terraces, watched comarant fishing, a Li river cruise and a 20km bike ride round Yangshou.
We arrived in Guilin late at night and settled into our hotel for the evening for a busy few days. When we woke up the next day we didn't expect call girls' business cards pushed under the door. no doubt I quickly put them into the bin.
We spent our first day wandering around Guilin which happens to be a small city of 5 million people! We were plesantly surprised and found the city quite charming. There are many lakes through it with Pagodas. It isnt quite the quaint and authentic experience that some people are looking for. People drive crazily over here, bicycles have been replaced with silent electric scooters that come whizzing past you on the pavement, at zebra crossings, etc they are everywhere. There is no sense of organisation, which makes for crossing the road very scary. It is not even like Vietnam where you would take a deep breath and cross, hoping that the drivers will drive around you. Here if they see a pedestrian they drive even faster. I know we haven't been here for long but the hawking and the spitting is very disgusting and horrible, I don't think we will ever get used to it.
I like seeing the contrast between the huge limestone karsts and modern day China, with huge car showrooms set against these karsts. no sky scrapers though which is nice.
The next day we were awoken by our tour guide for our day trip to the Dragon Back's rice terraces. The weather was terrible, raimy and cloudy. We got on to our tour bus which happened to be full of mainly domestic tourists including one woman that had the tightest pair of jeans on, designer sunglasses and six inch heels. I don't think she really knew what she had signed hereself up for but i was looking forward to see how she was going to cope all day in her shoes.
Our first stop was a minority village that was famous for the girls having long hair. We opted out of watching the show but our mean tour guide was being very pushy for us to buy tickets. To reach this village we needed to cross a wooden bridge, it was packed with people crossing and the bridge was swaying like mad. Then we noticed the sign "not more than 15 people at a time". We weren't surprised that this wasn't enforced and that people do not take any notice of the sign. This is China!
Once the circus of the show was over we made our way to the rice terraces. It was very busy and packed with domestic tourists. The weather at first remained very hazy and misty but it cleared up a bit later on during the day. we wandered around just the two of us and found some interesting spots to wait for the mist to go and take photos. The rice terraces were amazing and the view was good. Unfortunately we didn't get the postcard picture. On our way back down we spotted fat smug chinese men being carried in sudan chairs. I can't believe how lazy they are, the hike was merely a hill. There were also many spots were you could dress up in traditional clothes and have your photo taken. All a bit gimicky for me. We also spotted the high heeled woman and noticed that she had to buy a pair of flip flops to walk in... i couldn't help but laugh.
The next day with our backpacks packed we waited foranother bus to pick us up for daytrip 2 with the same company for a Li River Cruise. We were picked up in a minivan with the funniest driver. He spent the journey quoting lines out of movies in a dramatic voice. It was the start of a good day. We arrived at the harbour where there were lots of ferries and lots of people. We were thinking this is how it is going to be for the rest of our time in China. Our boat was actually very nice with not too many people on there. The cruise lasted for four hours and the views for spectatular! lots of limestone karsts, very green, water buffaloes and such. It reminded me a bit like Halong Bay. Our tour guide pointed out lots of rocks that looked like "this animal or that" but I didn't have the imagination to see it, Chris faired a bit better spotting some horses! The cruise ended in Yangshou where we would spend the next couple of days.
Yangshou is very beautiful and tiny. It consists of about 5 streets and is completely surrounded surrounded by the river and limestone karsts. It is very touristy with lots of market stalls, western cafes and even KFC has made it here. That evening we signed up to watch comorant fishing. It was a very interesting and enjoyable experince. It wasn't quite like the HSBC advert. We were in a boat that following alongside a man on a bamboo raft and several comorants. We saw the birds catch several fish. Afterwards we overheard a conversation saying that this is all set up for tourists and that the real fishing takes place in the middle of the night.
Our last day we decided to take cycle around the surrounding area following the smaller river (yulong). We expected it to be a well signposted route but we were wrong. We got lost several times and ended up on a dual carriage way. We made it though to the dragon bridge. A helpful woman offered to lead us on the right path back but we were unsure of how geninue her help was. Finally on the right trail we realised why this cycle ride is recommended. The view again was amazing. We cycled past lots of local villages, kids tending to water buffaloes, paddy fields and fish farms.
It was great to experience a bit of rural china, as we don't think we'll be going to anywhere else that is going to be similar.
Sorry for the long long blog.