Our first day in China was spent with Adam’s friends Liv and Kaid in Shenzhen where they teach English. After helping us over the border from Hong Kong, they were a massive help to get us started in China, helping us sort train tickets, showing us around Shenzhen and giving us a place to stay. I know Liv was tearing her hair out at our assertions that we could wing it through China, and she’s probably right! Still, they armed us with a few useful words of Chinese and set us off on our way, and just to really throw us in the deep end they even ordered us a plate of chicken feet….. Which are bloody grim.
Anyway, we managed to make our first train, getting a great first look at the Chinese rail network on a 300kph bullet train. Sadly, we forgot at Guangzhou that it’s still China and managed to massively underestimate the bureaucracy and security to get on the next train. Add into that the size of the station there (like Heathrow Airport) and we made it on by about 30 seconds for a train to Guilin.
The town we were headed for is Yangshuo, about an hour or so South of Guilin, a town surrounded by limestone karst scenery. We were staying at Sudder Street hostel, just out of town and managed to borrow some bicycles to get out to the Yu Long river to try and find a bamboo raft trip. We arrived too late for the standard tour but did manage to find a little old man who was happy to paddle us upstream for an exorbitant fee (it’s still Asia after all). Sadly, he did abandon us upstream and we had to walk back…… Like I said, it’s still Asia….
We managed to get back to the bikes and into town for some beer fish (a great local delicacy) and some beer (with no fish) to wash it down. West Street in Yangshuo is full of bars and restaurants so we had a wander through a few of them. One of the most famous is the DMZ bar, a North Korean themed place (more on NK later).
The other spot near Yangshuo is a village called XingPing, which has a mountain called the Nine Horses, found on the back of the Chinese 20 yuan note. Its pretty easy to get to on a local bus which goes from central Yangshuo, costs about 8 yuan and takes 45 minutes. As usual in China, it’s all about shouting the place you’re going to until someone poins at the right one for you!
We did another little boat trip through the mountains on the Li river and got the photo of the day holding a pair of cormorants, like the guy from the old school HSBC adverts.
The final excursion in Xingping was to climb the viewpoint over the town, to get a great view of the surrounding mountains. A tiring climb in the heat but worth it for this photo:
We had one last excursion in Yangshuo on the back of an old geezers motorbike to see a huge natural arch and annoyed him by spending more time drinking Tsingtao than looking at the view.
Then it was off back to Guilin to catch a horrendous overnight train on a hard seat, with a two hour change in the charming (read miserable) town of Changsha. Never again….. no sleep, lots of pleghming Chinese people and constant stops. A far cry from the bullet train!
Still, onwards to Zhangjiajie!