Hoa Lu and Tam Coc

While being on the food tour the evening before I had met another Austrian on the road. We bonded over the shared citizenship but not much more. Still it was nice to speak German again and when he told me about the guided tour he was doing the next day,  I was all for it and signed up as well.

We were picked up around 8:30 and off we went into the crazy traffic to go 150 km south to Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th century.

Not only did I want to go sight-seeing, I sought to escape the city heat as well. But it was completely in the wrong direction. For that I would have needed to stay in the hotel room. There was just no escape from the heat.

In the air-conditioned car we made our way slowly south and when we got out at Hoa Lu I was immediately perspiring again. The heat was unbearable. We made our way over a bridge and followed our guide around. There was really not so much to see.

                

Back in the car it took a couple of minutes to feel like a human being again. I really don’t like AC because mostly I get a cold from it, but without one there would have been no existing on that day. Funnily enough we then went to our lunch stop and since the restaurant was reasonably cool I could eat some lunch (which was ok; so far on tours lunch in Vietnam has disappointed me).

After lunch there was a boat ride along a river very similar to what I have seen in Yangshuo. We walked over to the boat and saw rice all over the port. So this is the way how it is dried. Very interesting.

  

Then we got on the little boats, always two by two. I was paired with the Austrian guy who had even managed to bring an umbrella with him on this trip which turned out to be quite lifesaving. I sat with a long sleeved shirt on the boat not to get burned up completely.

The Austrian btw used the umbrella to creep nearer and nearer until I had to tell him that my thoughts in this heat couldn’t be further from being touched and he should keep his hands to his side. Didn’t really help a lot but I think he got the message. Awful behavior when you think about it, especially since he was married. His wife never got mentioned though and later on was only referred to in passing. One can only wish for a husband like this.

  

Our rower was a little woman and here on this river everyone rowed with their feet! An astonishing feat!

      

The boat tour took at least 90 minutes or so and we crossed through a couple of caves which was alway nice to get some shade. Even the goats stayed in the shade.

                                

It looked all very peaceful and scenic, but most of all it was hot. And my clothes were wet when we finally made it back on land. In the afternoon there should have been a short bike ride and while on the van I had been all for it. But once back from the boat ride I couldn’t imagine going outside on a bicycle again. Actually nobody else could so the bicycling was canceled and we went back to town again after having a cold drink.

For dinner the Austrian and I (I knew how to keep my distance) went to the best Pho place in town. It had rained shortly before in one short torrential burst and the air felt a lot better after it. Maybe that was why the soup tasted so delicious? Yours, Pollybert

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 Moon Hill in Yangshuo

Another morning dawned (and with dawned I mean the literal sense because I seem to wake up on this trip always around 6am) and I started to update the blog. Some of you might have noticed that I am 2 weeks behind on the blog. Since China I am just struggling to update. Anyway the wi-fi was working well with the VPN in the Westland Hostel and I updated a bit again.

But around noon and two cups of coffee I felt ready to get moving again and for today I had planned to see the Moon Hill. So again I went to the hostel next door, paid my 10 Yuan (a little more than a one Euro) and cycled out of the city in the same direction as yesterday. This time though I went over the Yulong River bridge and went further. I noticed that the heat really got to me and I need to take more breaks in-between. Also I felt the day of cycling from yesterday. Apparently I was not in such a good shape after all.

When I found the Moon Hill I got stopped by a woman next to the entrance who wanted to show me the farmer’s way to it by paying her a small fee and no entrance fee. I decided to trust her and declare it as local development aid. So I parked my bike and hiked up with her a small trail about 150 meters from the actual entrance. The heat and the humidity in the jungle just about did me in. Eventually we arrived a stone way and she told me to just walk about there, I will get to the hill and use the regular exit upon leaving. What she didn’t tell and might not have done the Moon Hill after all that the hike would be cruel.

So I trudged up some stairs (always stairs and more stairs) and arrived after maybe 20 minutes at this point of view.IMG_3283IMG_3284IMG_3286

It looked spectacular and I felt like the king of the world, but since it was only a view point and you could get up to the real “Moon”, I wanted to go there too. It took maybe another 40 minutes to get up there but the stairs in this heat and with a lot mosquitoes and the humidity it felt like hours. While walking up there were always people coming down and they motivated me to get on going. There was an end in sight and since they had made it, I could too. Plus they told me that there would be cold water on top. And I bought an overpriced cold water bottle because I felt I deserved it and so did the really old woman who had brought it up. she even fanned me while I drank it an gave me something for the mosquito bites. So it was money well invested.IMG_3289IMG_3290IMG_3291IMG_3292IMG_3295IMG_3297IMG_3298

On that the I never stopped sweating by the way. I think the hike increased my core temperature so much, that I couldn’t stop until I was back at the hostel. I have never experienced anything like it that water just ran down my body while I sitting in front of a fan and was not moving at all. A very weird experience. So after I had a little break on top, I walked down again which I enjoyed a lot more than going up although now I noticed the mosquitoes. Before I had just noticed the bites.IMG_3299IMG_3300IMG_3301

I had parked my bicycle next to a shed which was actually a little restaurant. Si I went to this place and ordered mixed vegetables with rice and it was just perfect. Maybe because I was starved for some vegetables after the dinner yesterday or maybe I was exhausted from the hike. Anyway, it was the perfect lunch with a cold beer to get some energy.IMG_3304

But every break needs to end and after an hour or so I was back on the road to roam the countryside some more. I passed what I thought was a cemetery, but I cannot be sure about. It looked definitely cared for and quite lovely.IMG_3305IMG_3306IMG_3308
While some others looked overgrown and abandoned.

Since sweat was dripping constantly my grip on the bike was not the best and anyway I had enough of bicycling already, I decided to make another stop. I found this quaint roadside place and had a coffee and some lychee juice here. And even in this no-name place they had wi-fi. The world is really shrinking.IMG_3310

Two hours and 10 postcards later I thought I had exhausted the hospitality of the little café and rode back to the city. I stopped for another hour at the bridge, watching the water pass by.IMG_3312IMG_3313IMG_3314

dinner that evening was Chinese fast food and I loved the way how it was presented. It was only a noodle soup with some meat, a salad and a tea egg but so good! Yours, PollybertIMG_3316