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

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Cruising on the Yangtze

My cruise on the Yangtze was a four day three nights tour. Since you board very late on the first day and leave at noon the fourth day it is rather a three day cruise after all.IMG_2149 Still I am not going to complain here, it was very relaxing not to be responsible for anything, just to arrive at the meals and otherwise listening to the intercom and show up at the indicated times in the lobby.
The first morning I started lazy, had my breakfast and then went to a presentation about TCM instead of the optional Fengdu ghost city excursion.IMG_2150 IMG_2151

It was more of a snooze event especially since I felt a bit out of place on the cruise. 3/4 of the travelers were Chinese, and they were loud and obnoxious. Permanently on the phone, yelling (I don’t think they can talk to each other in a regular voice) or eating like pigs. The way these people storm the buffet you would think we were in Dafur.

The last quarter then was full of every other nationality from all over the earth. But were they old. I felt like the proverbial youngster on this ship (I saw maybe 6 people under 30, and 10 under 40). In the end it felt good to be one of the younger ones!

Anyway, after the TCM presentation I relaxed a bit in my room (lived that I had it to myself), then went for lunch and then around 5pm or so we arrived at our first stop, the Shibaozhai Pagoda or treasure stone. This was the first of three planned excursions for all passengers.IMG_2161

We walked through the little village with our respective groups and over the bridge to this old treasure. It had more than enough steps to climb to the top but I needed the exercise after reclining (except when I went for the meals) all day.IMG_2168 IMG_2169 IMG_2173 IMG_2176 IMG_2181 IMG_2182 IMG_2185 IMG_2187 IMG_2189 IMG_2190

Upon our return it was almost dinner time and after another battle at the buffet. We were then invited to attend a costume show on the entertainment deck. While watching it, I sat at the bar and wrote my postcards. It was the only illuminated place in the room and also the show was not really much to talk about.

For the next morning I had signed up for a visit to the White Emperor City and already went for breakfast at 6:45. It turned out the cruise was not so relaxing after all.

We walked through a little market to get to a bus station that would bring us to the site.IMG_2192 IMG_2193 IMG_2194 IMG_2195

 

 

 

Passengers who didn’t want to go with the organized ship tour were not allowed from board until an hour after departure. With this rule it was made sure that none could go alone. Very strange, I wonder if all cruises are like this?IMG_2196

 

We arrived and had to walk over a bridge and then again a steep staircase was waiting for us to get to the top. For the ones who didn’t want to walk carriers were available. Before starting to the top we had to walk to the staircase first from where we had a really nice view on the first gorge of this trip.IMG_2200 IMG_2205 IMG_2206 IMG_2209
At the top there was next to the usual pagoda a little museum about the history of the cliff coffins. Our guide couldn’t tell us if the water was higher in former times and the coffins lowered down from the top of the cliffs or if they built some kind of construction to get the coffins up. Whatever it was it looked very interesting and gave us something to search for while we were going through the gorges.IMG_2212 IMG_2213 IMG_2214 IMG_2216 IMG_2227 IMG_2228 IMG_2229 IMG_2230 IMG_2232 IMG_2233 IMG_2234
The smaller coffins were for a second class funeral. Meaning you were first burried in the ground and when your flesh had sufficently rotted, your bones were collected and then you got the cliff burial. In honesty it makes no sense to me, and I asked who would later pay for a cliff burial for someone who was long dead, but the guide knew no answer (also possible, he didn’t understand the question).

On the way to the ship I saw some interesting stalls selling all kinds of meats.IMG_2238 IMG_2240 IMG_2241

Finally we entered the first gorge (the gorges were the main attractions of the cruise) and I had to take some more pictures.IMG_2244 IMG_2245 IMG_2246 IMG_2249 IMG_2250The weather was always a bit hazy and overcast, so the background in the pictures looks all white. We were told that it’s really nice to come on the cruise in November and December because then the leaves would change their color to red.

After lunch we entered the second gorge and while in it we came to a point called the Goddess Peak in the Wu Gorge. Here we stopped and had another excursion. This time we changed into smaller boats and ventured into a small tributary. Steep cliffs on both sides made for a tight feeling and when our boat captain hit the rocks on one side I only thought not another disaster. It didn’t turn out to be the case, at least something! But I got gorgeous pictures from the tour.IMG_2262 IMG_2263 IMG_2268 IMG_2270 IMG_2273 IMG_2275 IMG_2280 IMG_2287 IMG_2291 IMG_2298 IMG_2299 IMG_2302

And this is the famous Goddess Peak.IMG_2303 IMG_2304

 

 

For that evening we had a captain’s dinner planned since it was also our farewell. This time no buffet but instead a set meal which was perfect and the Chinese food was wonderful.IMG_2317

 

The next morning we had our last excursion to the Three Gorges Damn which was impressive but in the end it’s a damn and who really cares.

On the way to it there was a security check were all passengers had to get off the bus, get screened and on the other side of the building had to get on the bus again. These checks were so weird.IMG_2318

 

And then we were finally at the dam.IMG_2320 IMG_2321 IMG_2322 IMG_2323 IMG_2324 IMG_2326 IMG_2327 IMG_2328 IMG_2330

 

On the way to our final stop we went through the last of the three gorges and easily the most picturesque.IMG_2336 IMG_2337 IMG_2368 IMG_2340 IMG_2342 IMG_2344 IMG_2348 IMG_2351

Then we arrived at Yichang were I got desperate for a second cause when we neared the harbor I saw that it was just another small ship station without any infrastructure. So there would be no taxi waiting for me to catch it. When I went down to reception to inquire about it, it was already too late to do much about it. On my way back to the cabin I met a guy I had seen about and told him my predicament. He offered to ask if they had a seat on their shuttle and really 15 minutes later I was driving with a group from New Zealand to the train station where I would grab a taxi and go to my hostel. Yours, Pollybert

Girls on tour

A breakfast in September birthed the idea of a weekend together and it all came to life last Saturday. Cat and I met Susi and Tici at the train station (Cat well prepared with a bottle of pink sparkling wine and some plastic cups) and we were on our way to Budapest.IMG_9013.JPG

After the first round we were ready for a selfie and some more sparkling (not to mention the three packs of chips…).
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And one more picture because we had so much fun!IMG_9042.JPG

We arrived right on time at the Keleti train station (gone are the times when you had to wait at the border) in Budapest which is a beautiful old building.IMG_8686.JPGIMG_9047.JPG

After a brief discussion with a local cab driver we decided on taking the metro to our hotel. The Palazzo Zichy was only two metro stations from Keleti away. The M4 line was opened this year and it looked brand new and shiny.
The stop at the hotel was only used to freshen up and get ready to meet with Sylvia and Eva at St. Stephen’s Basilica. The name alone made us feel at home but we found out the hard way that we were all strangers in this city. With ill-founded confidence we walked out of the hotel, immediately going in the wrong direction. When we ended up next to the Danube instead of the Basilica we asked some locals and were guided to the nearest metro station. The M3 turned out to be one of the oldest lines and of course we had to take some pictures

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IMG_8691.JPG (the pics which look as if done by “David Hamilton” are from Susi’s camera which adds a permanent grey veil over everything)

So with only 15 minutes delay we arrived in front of the Basilica where one of many Christmas markets was held.IMG_8694IMG_8704IMG_8697IMG_8702IMG_8706Lots of food stalls but also a fair amount of craft stalls which really offered something new compared to the stalls in Vienna. Just noticed though that I didn’t take a single picture of a craft stall (I wonder why?).

The apple punsch we tried left us disappointed but decidedly warmer on the inside and we were ready to search for a place to eat. This turned into an odyssey since a group of six is not easily accommodated and it was Saturday evening. We walked a lot that first evening in a constant drizzle of rain (rain wise this was the best evening) and saw already a lot from the city.IMG_8709IMG_8710IMG_8711IMG_8712

We also passed the Alexandra bookstore which has a beautiful café on top.IMG_8713IMG_8714IMG_8716

While walking and trying to find a nice place (we already got turned down by one place and I as usual was picky at where to eat) we arrived in front of Menza, a place we had seen in the Wallpaper City Guide for Budapest and deemed as visitable. The place was packed, but looked exactly like the spot where we wanted to spend a great evening. We set up camp at the bar and waited for a table.IMG_8717IMG_9015IMG_8735

When we finally got one, it was well worth the wait. The food was delicious, giving a twist to traditional Hungarian dishes. Check it out yourself and take a closer look at the garlic soup with Lángos.

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As you can see afterwards we all looked happy.IMG_8745

Sylvia and Eva went home after dinner, but we girls were ready for one more drink. The nightlife of Budapest has an excellent reputation and we wanted to try that ourselves. Madame Noi was supposedly right around the corner but after passing the address twice we gave up. Later we learned that it was closed, so Wallpaper City Guide needs to update its books. At least there was another place (also in the Guide book) on the way so we walked to kolor. Which was definitely not worth the visit. The service was slow and inattentive, furthermore we had to pay right away although we set at a table and the lemon in the G&T tasted moldy. Not a classy ending for an otherwise fantastic evening.IMG_8747
Upon leaving the bar it was raining harder, so we were glad to catch a cab almost right away. A cab which had a taximeter, something essential in this city!
Yours, Pollybert