Rivers, mountains and tourist crowds
Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
83Trip End Sep 01, 2011
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We catch a morning flight to Guilin which takes just under two hours. It's a drive along the brand new deserted motorways to the airport. There are quite a few different Chinese airlines competing for customers. I was perhaps expecting one or two state airlines, soviet style, but I’ve counted at least six. Once again it’s a smooth operation picking up a coach and travelling to the city of Yangshuo. We are in the same geological countryside as Halong Bay in Viet Nam, except we are inland and have an enchanting sugarloaf mountain view just outside the front of the hotel. There is a standard Chinese hotel room which my room mate Ernesto and I have had three times now. Enter corridor – small bathroom to the left then on the right there are 2 very hard single beds. On the left is a desk, a TV and ahead a window with two chairs and a low table. We check in quickly as Bin has arranged a minibus to take us to the Li River
Bing has arranged a meal at a bar/restaurant in the tourist town area. It specialises in local dishes and I have a Pork and Taro dish plus a dish of river snails to share with whomever is game. The snails are minced up with pork and spices and the shells re stuffed. There are bars here, so the youngsters are happy and stay out late.
Yangshuo is not the real China, it’s another tourist town like Wuzhen and Hangzhou and you have to shop around for bargain water and beer. There’s a KFC and a McDonalds patronised by both Chinese and Westerners. The Chinese are enthusiastic holiday makers here and they seem to be having fun. The town is full of restaurants, cafes with internet wifi, shops and street vendors. Everyone is trying to sell something and the tourists are shopping. We come across beggars with disfigurements and I spotted a fat homeless person doing very well fishing food out of rubbish bins. Chinese like to order lots of food and leave piles uneaten to signify abundance. I guess it’s good for those who feed of scraps, but so far I haven’t seen that many dogs or cats
Thurs 18 August Day 5
Andrew has lost his camera at the bar last night and some people look a bit rough to be cycling through the countryside. We walk around the corner to pick up our steeds and I go for a narrow seat after my experience in Chaing Mai and also check that all the gears work. They do and it’s very modern with a sprung front suspension. We are lead by a woman guide in a conical sun hat, who takes us out through the city onto country roads towards Moon Hill. She says that the villages in this part used to be very poor, but with the advent of tourism, they have done well and we can see that the mud brick houses they used to live in are rapidly being replaced with modern ones. We pass through rice fields and come across a rice harvester which looks new and is being edged up a plank to get it on to the road. Our guide says she hasn’t seen one before so it must be brand new. Interesting that we also pass a peasant ploughing with a water buffalo and many farming practices are still ancient. Bin tells me that each person in a village has a land allocation. This is reviewed every 30 years and readjusted to account for deaths, births and emigration.
It’s a 800 step climb up to Moon Hill, which is a hole worn through a cliff. We park our bikes and having been warned by the guide that local ladies will try to sell us water at inflated prices, we set off. Fortunately our guide has encouraged us to buy water cheaply at a village stall some way back, so we are all able to say no to the local ladies and not agreed to 'later’ which is taken as some sort of verbal contract to buy