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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Bicycling around the Yulong River

The next morning I was ready again to conquer the world. Until I left my room and felt the heat suffocating me. I was exhausted the moment I closed the door behind me. Nonetheless I had a coffee in my hostelIMG_3227 and then walked to the hostel next door to rent a bike for the day.

With the clever plan from the city (and it is a city with 2 million people) and the information I had gathered last night I set out to find the Yulong River. Along of it I wanted to ride up to the Dragon Bridge. Once I passed the big street next to my hostel I was out of the city bustle and on the road to the scenic sights. Since I usually don’t really bike I felt totally adventurous.

I did my fist stop after 2km at an “ancient” tribal village. Yeah, definitely not ancient and not worth it. The only ancient stuff were some pottery shards and the rest was newly built huts, made to look old with lots of Chinese people dressed like the Flintstones.IMG_3228IMG_3229

From here on I decided to stick to the natural scenic sights, I would probably enjoy these more. Just a couple of kilometers more I cam across the bridge over the Yulong River and watched the bamboo rafters getting their boats ready for customers.IMG_3238

The scenery was really stunning no matter in what direction you looked. I stayed on the right side of the river going up, the road looked a bit better. I knew it would be about 10-12 km to ride up to the bridge.IMG_3232 IMG_3241 IMG_3243 IMG_3245 IMG_3248 IMG_3249As it turned out it was going to be a lot longer for me. I rode up al the way to until I came a motorway. I didn’t really want to bicycle between trucks so I turned around and tried to find a different route to the Dragon Bridge. On the map it looked as if a small dirt road would go all the way up to the bridge. But then the dirt road turned into a track and then the track turned into a mud trail and eventually it vanished. So not for me, after about one km I turned around again and looked for lunch.IMG_3250 IMG_3253 IMG_3254

I stopped at a very nice looking hotel and was the only guest there. The owners had just opened 2 months before and had a friend from the US staying with them. Which was good because this guy entertained me during my lunch of wild greens and rice (was still trying to avoid dog meat and it was so hot that it was almost impossible to eat anything at all). Then later he took a picture of me and my bicycle and they showed me which way to go to the bridge. Also, when I was about to leave it just started to rain, so the waiter gave me his rain coat. You must love the Chinese, they were really nice people.IMG_3259

With their directions it was easy to find my way. I had to cross a foot bridge again to the left side of the river and from there on it was easy-peasy to find my way. Also after about 10 minutes it stopped raining and I could remove the rain coat again. Shortly before the Dragon Bridge I met a German couple that was with me on the bus yesterday. We stopped for chat next to the river and they told me about their trials with China. They got scammed twice already, once on the Beijing Wall and once with the “Tea Ceremony”. I was really lucky because nothing like this had happened to me. While we talked it started to rain in earnest again and we sought shelter under a large tree where we talked for at least another hour. Eventually I said my goodbyes because still wanted to see the Dragon Bridge.IMG_3280IMG_3261 IMG_3263 IMG_3266 IMG_3270 IMG_3271 IMG_3274 IMG_3279

Was the bridge worth riding for kilometers on end? Probably not but the scenery all around was just stunning, so this waste amazing ride. Plus when I turned around I met Lisa and Paul again and we made our way into the city together where we went for an early dinner after this long day in about 35 degrees with 80% humidity or so. It actually felt more like a 100% but have learned better since then.

The place for dinner that we chose was small but had a couple of pictures on the wall and from there I chose one recommended by Paul some meat dish which was one of the worst things I had in China.IMG_3282
The dish consisted only of bone and from which animal they came I didn’t know and actually don’t want to. For the Chinese this would have been super delicious because they like to suck all the marrow out of the bones, but I rather I would have liked to have more vegetables with it. Nevermind though, it was an experience and the right ending for the day. I headed back to my room at the Westland Hostel, cooled down and later headed out to get some fruits and something cold to drink. But I went to bed early after all, I was sure I had done at least 20 km with all the turning around and I felt it. 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