Friday, September 18th: Toured the city with my friend who is a taxi driver. At one point we even picked up some passengers. They were Chinese and really surprised to see a foreigner in the car when they jumped in. It was fine we took them where they needed to go. Later in the afternoon I went to visit my friend Marina, she is married to an airline pilot
. They just had a baby in July. Shaky, her husband, (great name for a pilot), told me they call him Bob but really more like boba which is baby but we did agree it might make a good English name for the baby. We will see. Marina's mom created a wonderful dinner. She set a variety of dishes on the table and then asked me to sit on one side of the table. All the dishes on that side did not have peppers. We all had a good laugh. I guess everyone had warned her about my allergy to peppers.
After our visit we decide to go to Daxu. I had heard about it and read about it and it sounded interesting. But don't believe everything you hear and read. Like most places now in China you first pass through the MODERN city, then the semi-modern city and then you will find the old city. I began to worry there was not an old city. But there was and it was pretty good. Kind of a Xingping but run down and poorer. All the streets were lines with people selling the same old stuff you see all over China. It could be very picturesque but it needs some help. The people are delightful and you really have to search some of the side streets and along the water front to really get a feeling of what it used to be. At one time before the railroad came to Guilin just north this was the main city on the river. Everything came and went from here. Each home had a business, then a courtyard then the living quarters
Saturday, September 19th: I headed for Shenzhen. It is a commercial center right across the water from Hong Kong. I have a couple of friends there who were part of the Open Talk at the Juice bar a couple of years ago. One of them Angelina wanted to take me to an area to the north she had heard about, it is the island of Dajia. It is said to have beautiful beaches but the rest was a mystery. I spent the first night in Shenzhen in the Park District, Nanshan. The area was covered with parks, small lakes and several theme parks. I stayed at the City Inn for about $40.00 including breakfast. I was going to stay at the International Youth Hostel but it was full and cost only $25.00 a night but no breakfast. We wondered all over the area through the parks and around the lakes. Near to the hotel was an area of Art galleries and small boutique shops. Also several small cafes. We chose one for lunch My Uoodles a great noodle place most dishes were around $4.00, a little higher than Yangshuo but this is the big city. For Dinner we ate at LDS café a very nice dinner for two about $9.00. Both are great places for people watching.
Sunday, September 20th: Breakfast was good at the City Inn. My friend came and picked me up for our 90-minute drive north to a place called Huizhou
. Things did not start out the best way the driver had never been there before and was lost several times. After almost 3 hours we were there. It was a bit late to take the boat to the island so we decided to stay at the Holiday Inn at Daya Bay. Or as I came to know it as the ghost town in the middle of nowhere. The hotel was nice but a few things were different from the Brochure. The live entertainment wasn’t. The indoor pool and recreation rooms were two blocks away. Most the buildings in the area were vacant. Lunch at the hotel was nice a little pricey but what do you expect from Holiday Inn about $15.00 for the two of us. The rooms ran $75.00 a night and were ok but no breakfast. If we would have booked online it would have come with breakfast, which costs $10.00 a person. We had dinner in the "Marina Café" although simpler than the China Hills restaurant upstairs it cost more about $25.00 for two. After dinner we went for a walk in search of the town. We saw a few people out walking around but nothing like Yangshuo. About 10 blocks from the hotel we found a small area of cafes with people and that was it.
Monday, September 21st: Got up early and skipped breakfast since it did not come with the room they wanted $10.00 each to eat. We decided to go and take the speedboat to the Island. The Boat was expensive because it did not matter if it was one or 8 people you rented the boat
. $30.00 each way but then the hassles began. They said if we were going to stay on the Island then it was $45.00 each way. I started to wonder if this might not just be Pirate Island. We came all this way to see the island I said ok. I really wanted to see this mystery island. What is it they say a sucker born every minute. I had a gut feeling I was the new sucker. It took about 40 minutes and flat out speed to get to the Island. From the pier it looked interesting but you really could not see much. Then the driver said he would leave in 2 hours if we did not come back he would come and get us. I invited him up to the "village" for a drink. I did not want to let him out of my site. As you leave the pier there is a “government” fee to enter the “village”. You walk through the bannered entry to ?????????? a general store with generally nothing, a restaurant and I use that term loosely that was not open. Then we asked about the hotel and were directed to a single story building that looked like it was built by the Russians and last occupied by them also. The rooms were dark and dank more like cells. The beds had to be 20 years old and were these kid’s beds with plastic cover and cartoon characters. No air-conditioner, no internet, the bathroom was so dark I could not tell but did notice it was not western. Oh it did have a TV but the island had no or very limited electricity. The host told us that no electricity for the last couple of days but it should be on for a couple of hours tonight
. Rooms started at $50.00 a night. They wanted to show us more rooms but I said I did not think we were going to stay. The place was empty. Down the beach was a bunch of tents. You can pitch a tent for $5.00 a day or rent one of theirs for an additional $3.00. I kept asking where is the village and they would just look at me and point at the beach. The sandy beach was nice but the water was a little dirty after all the island in on the shipping route into Shenzhen area one of the biggest shipping ports in the country now. This bay Daya Bay had two claims to fame a questionable nuclear plant under investigation and one of the largest petrochemical storage yards in China. They did not say anything about them in the flyers. Luckily we had or captain follow us around and after a careful one hour of where is the Village and What else is to see here we decided to take the boat back to the Ghost Town of Huizhou even that is better than this place. Once back we decided that maybe we should just go back to Shenzhen we called our driver but he was busy but for an additional $20.00 he would come get us. We decided to ask our pirate captain if he had a friend who would take us to Shenzhen. I guess he felt a little guilty or something but he found us a driver for even less than the one who took us there.
Back in Shenzhen I decided to try out the International Youth Hostel.
I tried to get in the first time but it was full. A single room was $26.00 a night. It was fine and clean and had A/C no TV but did have Internet in the rooms. We went out to the My Uoodle again for another very nice meal. Got back to the Hostel just in time it began to thunder and lightening and rain like crazy. So I decided to call it a night. Tomorrow I will meet with some of my old students from 4 years ago they now have their own businesses in the area.
Tuesday, September 22nd: Got up and had breakfast at the hostel. For a Chinese breakfast it was $2.50 including tea and juice. This is a pretty expensive hostel but the location is great. However I decided to change back to City Inn for about $12.00 more I get an all you can eat breakfast, a TV and really nice comfortable bed. After the switch I got a call from Judy one of my former students. She and Spring would be there soon so I had to tell her I changed hotels again. There is a pretty good restaurant right across from the City Inn. The food was good and had a nice variety of things. A little expensive but everything seems to be in this town.
After lunch we decided to take subway ride. I wanted to see this place called Windows on the World. It is a theme park with architecture from all over the world
. When we got there we could not decide whether to go in or not it cost about $20 each and it was late and most of the shows were already over. We decided to walk over to Happy Valley few blocks away and another Theme Park to see what was there. One the way we came across a huge mall and my friend had to go and check it out. It was like going to a fancy mall in the states. All the shops were world class you name it and it was there Cartier, Rolex, Gucci, Levi and on and on. I only found two Chinese stores in the 6-story mall. On the ground floor in one small corner there was even an ice rink. After checking out each floor it was off in search of Happy Valley. The big sign was there but no directions and of course we started off in the wrong direction. By the time we got there I decided I had had enough and we should grab the subway and go back to the hotel.
Wednesday September 23rd : Had a good breakfast at the hotel and waited for my friend to come. We walked around for a while doing some window-shopping at some of the Art Galleries in the area. Then we decided to have lunch at the LSD Café. It was pretty good the luncheon special was about $3.00 and would have been enough for two. Then we decided to go and see if the monorail we saw the tracks for was really running. The first station we found was closed and the sign said we had to go to the next station at Happy Valley for the train
. But then we thought we had not seen a train any time we were in either area and just as we were talking about a train past by overhead. So we decided to follow it. At the next station you could not get on except if you had a special pass. They said we could go to the next station. So on we went now about 45 minutes later we were back in Happy Valley where we were a day before and could not find the station. But coming from this direction we found it. The ticket is about $6.00 and we were told we could get on and off at the different stations. We got off at the first station, which was Windows of the World just about across the street. But the station was at the public park. We walked around and found lots of interesting sculpture. Very modern and interesting. After about 30 minutes we headed back to the station just in time for the next train. Stop number 2 and 3 were closed for renovation but we could see some of the sights from above. Very few tourists at these places but they did look interesting. We got off at stop 5, which was near the cultural folk Village. All of the Attraction are owned by the same people who own the monorail and some of the hotels in the area also. So at each stop or almost stop they gave you a long commercial in Chinese and English of why you should visit this place or that. There was nothing interesting at this stop so we went back to the train. As we sat there lots of people began to arrive I guess the tour buses drop you off near by. We were lucky the attendant gave us a paper with the numbers 1 and 2 on it
. When the train arrived it was packed and there were only two seats available for the people with the numbers 1 and 2. We got on the monorail and all the people in our cabin were citizens on a tour and they all wanted to know about me. So I missed some of the scenery for this part of the trip. Stop 6 was closed and stop 7 you needed that pass to get off also. We were now back at Happy Valley and our time was beginning to run a little short. It took us about an hour to get back to the hotel to get my bags. It was still giving me enough time to get to the airport. But then it started to rain and like every city in the world all the taxis melt away when it is beginning to rain. It took us about 30 minutes to get a cab. Now I was a little panic because the topic of discussion with the cabby was how long it takes to get to the airport during RUSH HOUR. But this guy was a real cowboy. He was going to get us there in plenty of time even if it meant going the wrong way on a couple of roads and by passing a stop light or two. We got there in record time. Even had time to have a little snack before my flight. Got into Guilin about 9:00pm the flight was only 50 minutes long. My friend was there to pick me up. The lights at the airport are fantastic in Guilin. It gives you a little taste of what parts of the city look like. Checked into a hotel and went to bed this was a long day with lots of walking around.
Thursday, September 24th: Back to Yangshuo
. Taxi from Guilin to Yangshuo should be about $30.00 but some charge more to add in the tolls of about $4 or 5 more. The new expressway gets you to Yangshuo in a little over one hour now. Depending on the driver maybe a little less. Got back to the 49 Juice Bar and everything was just fine there. They had even sold some of the tons of stuff I bought just before I left. I decided not to have Open Talk tonight. I was invited by my friend Julia out to dinner, it turned out to be a Hunan business people’s dinner or at least the executive branch. There are so many people from the Province of Hunan here they have set up an association to help each other. They have over 100 members. Julia is originally from Hunan and needed they help I was there just for moral support. It was fine I new a couple of the people there but only Julia and Dawn spoke English. By the end of the dinner Julia was guaranteed that she would have not further troubles with the local government regarding her Farmer’s Restaurant on the way to Moon Hill. That is the way it works in China.
Friday, September 25th: I am always amazed by the people going down to wash their clothing in the river early in the morning. I like to take a walk along the river and some times I meet some foreigners or some local student. Today I met a couple of ladies from the States. One a doctor and the other an oil analysis
. We had a nice talk and they came over to the Juice bar for a drink. Later my friend Shelly called and wanted me to meet here new “team” to do something with the old high school. Now according to her the government will give her the school rent-free and pay for some of the infrastructure repairs. So we all went out to walk around the school. Two of the buildings are not bad but they are all classrooms and no bathrooms. The idea is t convert one building into a GREEN HOTEL and the other building into dorms and classrooms for the students to learn about hotel and restaurant service. The third building would be torn down and a leaning restaurant and kitchen would be built new. The problem I kept coming up with is that outside of one bathroom near the building that was being torn down there were no sanitation facilities. They all discussed how at the back of the “hotel” building there was enough room to add bathrooms for each room.
Back in at the river more tourists were enjoying the water. Along the all the streets in town the decorations were going up for the big celebration on October first. It is going to be really interesting.
This evening we had Open Talk. We had a guy form South Africa, several local students and two people from France. We had a good discussion it went on a little to long did not end till almost 23:00 (11:00pm).
Thursday, September 17th: Arrived in Guilin. Went for a walk down town and to the Lake area. One of the nicest areas in Guilin is around Ronghu Lake and the area near the two pagodas. There is a little outside bar right across from the pagodas where the drinks are not bad a little expensive but the music is generally good. Best of all is watching all the tourists both on the boats as they glide by and the one from the buses who rush down to get their pictures taken with the pagodas. One is Silver for the moon and the other is Gold for the Sun. As it gets dark all the lights come on. The boats, the buildings, and the pagodas it is almost like a fantasyland.