Leaving China

It was not so easy to find a way out of China, there were no direct flights from Guilin to Hanoi so I had to think about where I want to stay a day. In the end I decided on Guangzhou and this was were I was going on my last day in China.

A taxi picked me up at 6:30 and without breakfast I was on the way to the airport. One last toll stationIMG_3384 and I was at the airport. The flight itself then was only for about an hour but we were still served breakfast. Really European airlines can learn something here!

Yeah, and then at shortly after 9am I arrived in Guangzhou. Not really an interesting city. But I had looked up on the internet on what was there to see. I took the metro to the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall which was on all sites the no. 1 thing to do. Upon arrival there I know why. It included also a folk arts museum with lots of little shops. The ancestry hall was beautiful though.IMG_3385IMG_3387IMG_3388IMG_3389IMG_3394IMG_3396

Of course the hall had been renovated by the Chinese so there was no telling what was original and what not.IMG_3398IMG_3399IMG_3400IMG_3402

The craft working of ivory was very beautiful and looked amazing but of course one cannot support it by buying anything. I have noticed in most of the big cities large ad campaigns against which included Prince William for e.g.
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When I left I saw a really cute police car in front of the metro station.IMG_3407

I took the metro again and the next station was already the Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street an area that had lots of craft shops, there was a street for jade work, and one for furniture, silver, fabric and so on. Really quite interesting but I was not sure what to buy since I cannot take fake jade from real one. So what is the point of getting a bracelet for a lot of money?

I needed first of all in the shopping mall right next to the pedestrian zone to get some lunch and for my last day in China I settled on Japanese.IMG_3409IMG_3410

After lunch I walked through the pedestrian zone, circled it from one end to the next. But there was really not so much to see, the heat and the humidity were awful and I didn’t really know what else to do since the shopping center was small and had no coffee shops. So I decided I would try to see the next point on the to do list, the Tian He Sports Center which is probably a sports center but when you get out of the metro you basically were surrounded by shopping malls. In this weather heavenly bliss!IMG_3411IMG_3412

I ended up walking around the underground malls for hours until it was time for another snack. Here I enjoyed a really great fruit yoghurt.
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Finally it was time to go to the airport and although my flight was delayed I was happy that I had arrived early. The leaving procedure took as long as the entering one. And that was it with China. Yours, Pollybert

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Rafting on the Li River

Rafting sounds probably a lot more exciting than it actually was. Since it was already May 28th and my visa for China would expire on May 31st I had decided to just do Yangshuo in the end, then go back to Guilin and from the there on to Vietnam. Time was just too short to visit anything else, so today was my last day in Yangshuo. I checked out early in the morning because I had booked a guided rafting tour on the Li River.

While waiting at the corner of the hostel street and the main road I took a picture of the little side street. So this is where I spent three nights.IMG_3317

The finally a mini-van stopped next to me, I got on and look into 30 pairs of chances eyes. I was the only white person on the bus. And I was only one without a seat, so I had the pleasure to sit on a little platform behind the driver facing everybody else on the bus. So how best to work in a situation like this? I started with a loud Ni Hao which is always charming. And it worked, they smiled at me and I smiled back. And that was basically the most conversation I had on this trip.

At least the bus ride was not very long, about 40 minutes later we arrived in Xingping which is famous for its place on the 20 Yuan note. We got off the bus and after a short bathroom break we were divided into little groups and with two other single female travelers I was put on a boat. Far from a bamboo raft, this turned out to be a little bamboo motor boat. Which didn’t change the fact that the scenery again was stunning.IMG_3318IMG_3321IMG_3322IMG_3323IMG_3325IMG_3326IMG_3327

Interestingly enough even on this river there was police presence and they had quite the big boat. Also it was a lot faster than all the others.IMG_3332IMG_3333 Here it was speeding past us, I am sure there was an emergency further up on the river!
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More stunning scenery to come and with a couple of stops in between where you could get your picture taken by a professional (or something like it) and buy the picture immediately.IMG_3335IMG_3339IMG_3344IMG_3347IMG_3349IMG_3353IMG_3355

The last stop was exactly at the spot of the 20 Yuan note. So of course I asked one of my fellow travelers to take a picture of me with the note.IMG_3367

That was the end of the rafting tour and we wait for a bit at the landing to let the other travelers catch up.IMG_3375

On the way back I got a real seat on the bus since a couple of people stayed in Xinping. I later hear from Lisa and Paul that Xinping was a really nice “village” with a lot less tourism and much more relaxed than Yangshuo. Anyway, it was too late for me to change plans.

Once we arrived in Yangshuo I went back to the Westland Hostel, got my backpack and waited for the green bus No. 5. Which was actually on the way to the overland bus station not a problem at all. For one Yuan I was on my way to North Bus Station of Yangshuo and a little while later on my way to Guilin again.

Once I got off in Guilin I walked to my hotel which turned to out to be wrong one. I had booked a room at the Vienna Hotel (pun intended) and it was not this one I actually booked but another one nearer to the airport. Since I would leave early next morning I thought it better to get closer to it. Which was a big mistake since I had to take a taxi from the Vienna Hotel downtown to get to the other one and had t o get a taxi the next day as well. There was probably no price difference between a taxi ride from downtown and from where I stayed. since it was in the middle of nowhere I am sure I paid about the same amount.

So checked into the hotel then and since there was nothing to do or see in the immediate area and the only way to get away from there was by bus again, I decided to stay in my room, enjoy the air condition and just call it a day.
Yours, Pollybert

The city of Guilin

The next morning I woke up early. I needed to head out and start sightseeing since on the way back from Yangshuo there wouldn’t be much time.

I had heard from Jonathan the day before that the palace was worth seeing. So after a quick coffee I headed to the bus station (loved it that the station names were also in English) and got off at Xicheng Crossing next to the two Pagodas.IMG_3107But I was not interested in them at the moment since I wanted to go to the Solitary Beauty Peak (the Prince City Scenic Area) first.

As usual my map reading skills were not on their best behavior and I had to turn around once. Which in the heat and humidity was not really great (I would say it had around 32 degrees). Eventually I found the surrounding wall of the palace and after a bit of looking I also found the entrance. Next to the ticket counter was a sign in English that an audio guide was available. Since I was touring alone I wanted to get one (even though the one in the Forbidden City was such a disappointment). They wouldn’t let me pay for it though and mimicked that I could pick one up at the entrance.

As it turned out the audio guide was only available in Chinese although the sign for it was in both languages. This is China for you. Always great on service!

It didn’t matter so much since with the ticket I got a map of the scenic area. As the name already said it was a peak, one which needed to be climbed.IMG_3113Another one with endless steps but now in awful heat.

But first it was a walk through the park and right at the entrance some students were celebrating their exams with lots of pictures. I asked one of them later to take mine.IMG_3115More impressions from the park, here the “Couples Tree” information (the well of fortune was probably the reason for the students visit) and the tree itself. I still like seeing the audio guide sign in English.  IMG_3118 IMG_3119 The peak was getting closer but so were other things like a little lake and a cave.IMG_3121 IMG_3124 IMG_3126 IMG_3128
Right next to the staircase of the peak climb was a sign for the Chinese on how to behave in the park. I really love how the Chinese Government tries its best to educate its people.IMG_3131
One more deep breath and off I went to the top of another peak/hill/building. After the first two levels there were small temples so I had a reason to stop and look. By then I was drenched in sweat, the heat was killing me. IMG_3132 IMG_3138IMG_3136 IMG_3140On top I noticed that someone was taking my picture so I asked where I should put myself for them to get the best angle. Of course then I asked them to take mine as well but with one of them. This girl was more than happy to oblige.IMG_3144 IMG_3147Down I went again and it was a lot faster than up and after a quick bathroom stop with hilarious impressions I left towards the Sun and Moon Twin Pagodas.IMG_3153 IMG_3156 IMG_3158 IMG_3159 IMG_3161 IMG_3162 IMG_3163 After a juice stop (I love that you can get a glass of freshly made juice on every corner) I was ready to walk some more in this heat but then didn’t make it further as to the Liberation Bridge and shortly afterwards to a restaurant in the pedestrian zone. I had some great food again but as usual it was too much.IMG_3166 IMG_3168 IMG_3172 IMG_3171You might not see that but it was strictly vegetarian. I had heard the night before at the hostel that they were eating dog in the area and I didn’t want to risk that.

After the meal I went in search of the pagodas and found them just around the corner. These were the sun and the moon pagoda. I am sure there is a lot of information about them out there, so I provided the link for you here,  please just read about it yourself.IMG_3173I searched a bit longer for the entrance to the Elephant Trunk Hill. Once found, the trunk was right there upon entering.IMG_3177 IMG_3178And again there was something to climb on top of and since I was already soaked, a bit more didn’t matter. Up I went to have another gorgeous view over the city and the karst hills far away shrouded in a hazy mist.IMG_3180IMG_3184 IMG_3185 IMG_3188 IMG_3191After catching my breath on top I went down again to inspect the actual trunk hole at the bottom. And here I found another example of how the Chinese follow orders.IMG_3192 IMG_3193 IMG_3194 IMG_3195 IMG_3197 IMG_3200 IMG_3201With everything seen (or almost) I was ready to leave Guilin and go to Yangshuo. While walking to the bus station back to the hostel I saw some restaurants which advertised their menu a little differently.IMG_3202 IMG_3203 IMG_3205But before getting on the bus to Yangshuo I still had to get back to the hostel, pick up my backpack and then get back on the bus no. 10 to the big bus station. The bus to Yangshuo then was leaving every 15 minutes and it was no problem to get a ticket.

On the overland bus I looked out the window and the scenery started to change very soon.IMG_3208 IMG_3210 IMG_3212Once in Yangshuo I had no idea on how to get to my hostel. I only knew that it was 15 minutes away from the center but of course the bus station was also away from the center and exactly in the other direction.
Since misery likes company I was glad that there were some others Western travelers on the bus. One of them even had a map on which I could clearly see that I would and could not walk in this heat with the backpack to the hostel. It was just too far.

At the North Bus station (where we arrived) should have been a green bus no. 5 but suddenly all public transportation vanished and only taxis were left. A really weird coincidence but with an asking price of less than an Euro per person I was happy to oblige.

I checked into the Westend hostel and had a room on the 4th floor all to myself. I loved it right away up there with the big bed and the air condition. So far Yangshuo felt as if it had a least 5 degrees more than in Guilin. How that was even possible I did not know.IMG_3214
When I had cooled down sufficiently and gotten some information on what to do in the area I decided to explore the city. The center of Yangshuo was West Street which is very similar to Khaosan Road in Bangkok on a slightly smaller scale.IMG_3215 IMG_3216 IMG_3217 IMG_3218
Looks crazy, doesn’t it? But it’s exhilarating to walk through it and watch everyone and everything.IMG_3220 IMG_3221 IMG_3222 IMG_3223 IMG_3224 IMG_3225When I finally had enough I walked back to my hostel, had dinner across the street from it and turned in for the night. Yours, Pollybert

Touring the Rice terraces

Pick-up time was 8:30 and without breakfast I was on the mini bus to the rice terraced fields of Longji. There was one other person also traveling alone so I sat next to him. Jonathan from Mexico was my travel companion for the day.

We had our first stop at the Huangluo Yao village to see a show from the long-haired women. Apparently they even made it into the Book of World Records. These women only cut their hair once in their life namely at 16. Then they let it grow and show themselves in three different hairstyles. The unmarried ones cover it. The married ones with children have a bun in front and the married ones without children wear it in some snail style. Not sure what good the differentiation into with/without children does, but to each its own.

At first we saw a dance show and then they presented the hair. We were told that even the older women still have dark hair because they wash it with rice water (or so). It seemed weird and unrealistic but they all had dark hair. So either they color it (which I doubt in a way after seeing the village) or there is some higher truth behind the rice water story.IMG_3010 IMG_2991 IMG_3001 IMG_3003IMG_3007 IMG_3008 IMG_3011 IMG_3013
From there we went for a local lunch. Jonathan was vegetarian (same as Sylvia) and he told me that his main staple on his trip was rice and potatoes. It really didn’t help that he was also picky with the vegetables. Lunch for me was as usual a tasty affair.IMG_3015 IMG_3016 IMG_3017
After lunch we took the local bus up to the Longji village to see the rice terraces. The driver must have been a frustrated race car driver because it was one hell of a ride. Still we arrived in one piece at the village and took the cable car to the top.IMG_3018 IMG_3021
We were told that only this village had the rice terraces flooded so it was much nicer to look at. And of course the cable car was not included in the tour price. The Chinese really know how to do business. No wonder they will rule the world soon.

Anyway, it was beautiful from the top. Too bad that the weather was not in top form.IMG_3023 IMG_3025 IMG_3027 IMG_3030 IMG_3031
We also did a picture with two Hungarian sisters from our tour and asked a Chinese guy to take it. You couldn’t count to two and suddenly there was a crowd of Chinese people looking and taking pictures of us. I still wonder what they do with these.IMG_3037 IMG_3040

The walk down was steep and long and I was very glad that we had taken the cable car to go up. It took us at least 90 minutes to get down to the village again. Just imagine you have to work here and scurry up and down all day long.IMG_3041 IMG_3046IMG_3052 IMG_3062 IMG_3066IMG_3067 IMG_3073 IMG_3078IMG_3082 IMG_3089 IMG_3092But the scenery was worth it. It was very beautiful on the way down. Then we were again on the local bus, this time with a calmer driver and soon after on the mini bus into the city.

Jonathan and I asked to be dropped off at the night market. With only an hour to kill before it started it was better to stay in the center than go back to the hostel and meet later again. The night market though was not much to write home about. I didn’t find anything and since Jonathan was not much of an eater we said goodbye rather sooner. I had my dinner then on the way to the hostel in a soup kitchen. I felt really bold because the meat in the soup was unidentifiable (and not just visual). Yours, PollybertIMG_3104

Moving on to Guilin

I started my next morning with a wonton soup breakfast just next to the hostel and from there walked over to the People’s Park.IMG_2945

Since it was ‘my’ metro station it was only right to go and visit. As it turned out on Saturday there is a marriage market in the park (I am sure my mother would be there too if she still had hope to get me wedded).

First I was not sure what the meaning was behind all this ‘advertising’ (not that I could read them, but with the age and height in numbers written I grasped that this was about people) but then I asked this man and he explained in sign language. It was more than clear then what was going on here. All in all it is an interesting concept that the parents or other sort of handlers are sitting there advertising grown-up people.IMG_2951 IMG_2952 IMG_2953 IMG_2954He appeared to be one of the important handlers there.IMG_2955 IMG_2956 IMG_2957 IMG_2958 IMG_2960
Walking through the park I noticed that it was a fairly large section actually. I remembered seeing something like it on tv, but in real life that’s something else.

Then it was already time to get back to the hostel. A quick photo stop at the Marriot Hotel where inside is the Maseratti car dealer. Really Shanghai had a different dimension.IMG_2963

Working my way up on the to-do list in Shanghai, I took the metro to the Maglev train station. This high-speed train brings you to the airport in no time.IMG_2967

With up to 300 km/h (I think advertised were 400 but this I didn’t see. And no, I was not reading on the train, not really) the countryside moved by in a flash.IMG_2971 IMG_2972 IMG_2973

As you can see the train was almost empty, in my compartment sat one other family. The train is of course super interesting if you are a tourist and have never been before on a high speed train. It was insofar a great experience as I can now say that I tried it and I did not feel any difference. But is very expensive especially since the metro goes to the airport as well.

At the airport there was just the waiting for my flight to be done and browsing the bookstore. Here at Shanghai airport I saw the first English books and magazines. Not even in Beijing I saw any. I also saw some people sleeping in the massage chairs while waiting for their flight and was envious because there was not one chair left for me!IMG_2982

Once in Guilin it was easy to take the shuttle bus, get off at the right station (had to ask only once) and then walk the 10 minutes to the hostel.
The Wada Guilin had really good reviews at hostel world and even provided one wi-fi which had access to Facebook and Google. Amazing really. It didn’t change the fact though that the wi-fi was not strong enough to upload any pictures. Still it was great to have access to FB and Google immediately.

I signed up right away for the rice terraces tour the next day since I only had one full day planned in this city and I was told it was easier to do it from Guilin. And that was it for the day. Yours, Pollybert