Yangshuo, back to the country
Trip Start Apr 14, 2008
85Trip End Nov 11, 2008
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Escaped the HK chaos at 4.30pm by train to Guangzhou. After arriving and being told that I had missed the night train to Guilin I had a decision to make. Stay in the city or try the bus. So the latter made sense as I was desperate to get into the countryside. To get to the station was an underground trip on two different lines. Survived, found bus depot and purchased a ticket. With 2 hrs to wait and little Yuan McDonald's looked attractive. Ok food with a/c comfort.There were no other Westerners at the station, I stood out from the crowd. Even the bus driver came up to me and knew which bus I would be on. Luck was on my side, the bus stopped in my preferred destination, Yuangshuo.
Bus had 1 layer, 2 seats one side, 1 the other. All leather and spacious. I was im s window seat (pair). 1hr into the journey I heard material rubbing in the seat next to me. I opened my eyes to see his left hand moving up and down, bag over his crotch. Time & a place and it was not here! I closed my eyes, but could not ignore it.
Every half hour the driver would dig deep into his chest, build up grog in the back of his throat and fire it out the window. What an attractive scene I'm setting.
We continued on over roads badly in need of repair. Precarious overtaking, slowing for potholes. Peace of mind having the seatbelt. Lightening was to our left (South), but it wasn't raining here. Maybe the typoon had hit the southern China coast. As I left HK there was a level 1 warning!
Day 72. Xi Jei Hostel Scammers
The last couple of hours of the journey there was some stunning karst scenery. The karst abruptly jump out at you as soon as they are gone. Generally taller than they are wide. Littered between them where three or more storey houses, and lots of them. Moving into the future I can see these family places becoming increasingly spacious inside as each new generation brings in only one kid into the world.
Stepping off the bus I was greeted by a rep/tout from the youth hostel I wanted to stay at. So I checked it out and it matched the price & description in the book. If anything the room was a much higher quality with ensuite. Venturing down the street to find an ATM I struggled to orientate on the map. The hostel was on the map, the owner also confirmed that, but everything else around it did not fit in with the map. Worse still the shop fronts were generally in Chinese characters. I thought this high street was meant to have beautiful shop fronts!
Eventually found cash, but not a place I thought I could eat at. Returning to the hostel I bought a terrible western breakfast and paid for my negotiated room fee. With such a tight itinerary in this part of China I hired a bike from the hostel and got into explore mode, although I was really tired.
The bike had gears, but it was stuck in 6 of 18. So on the flat, high speeds were not possible. I biked into the country along the Yulong River and around karsts. Arriving at Water Cave where I had a 2 hour tour booked. Disappointingly there was no one else on the tour but the guide. You enter the cave on a boat wearing a hard hat and holding a torch (although there were lights inside). Water runs the length of the cave (~2kms) at various depths. After 200m in the boat we dock and go on foot. Initially I was struck by the air, it wasn't like most caves....it contained cigarette smoke. It was not long before he asked me if he could light up! In the cave you could enjoy a mud bath, natural pool or shower under waterfall. There were some great formation within the cave, well worth a visit but the entrance fee was high. I was disappointed to see the guide touching the tops of the stalagmites. This cave condition I'm sure will deteriorate, its already been open a year.
Returning to the hostel I ventured down a prettier street and stumbled immediately on a massage place. Desperately in need of one I downed a noddle bowl and relaxed under some superb Chinese hands. Best massage yet, she knew through feeling what needed more work. Feeling considerably better I walked down the pretty street stumbling over landmarks on the map I was trying to find in the morning. Eventually I came across the real youth hostel I wanted to stay at! I was staying at a rouge hostel!
There was nothing to be gained by being angry at the owner. What I ensured was that the other backpackers I met did not book tours through him. One girl was lied to in the same way; the owner used a fake business card & said wifi was available. As our time went on his lies grew deeper. Things so silly like a restaurant we wanted had 'closed', hoping we would stay in instead.
The evening I went out for dinner/drinks with an English girl and two Norwegian guys.
One pub owner showed us pictures of the high street a week earlier. Flooded! He spoke of how business was down because the government were giving out less Visas.
Day 73. Li River Cruise
In the morning the 4 of us went for breakfast joined by 2 new Portuguese girls in the same hostel. We all laughed for ages about the lies we were told by the hostel owner. The tricks he used. His constant badgering.
I left by myself at midday on the local bus to Xingping. There I explored the town for 30 mins before settling down in a lovely cafe. After I joined a load of English guys on a tuk-tuk to the river bank. The karst topography here is famous for its print on a 20 yuan note. The boat took as up river a few kms and turned back towards Xingping. Stunning and overpriced trip.
Time to sleep and head early in the morning to the next tourist trap.