October 8, 2004
Trip Start Aug 08, 2004
34Trip End Aug 2005
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We traveled by hard sleeper, 6 bunk beds to a compartment. I use the term compartment loosely, since that implies a private room
We arrived in Guilin at 5am, and by 9am had already seen the sun rise over Elephant Rock and climbed up the largest peak in town. The mountains amazed me-huge rocky formations jutting to obscene heights from right out of the ground. Although Guilin is a hotspot for Chinese tourists, it is still worth visiting. I appreciated the cleanliness more than anything else. Not once did I step in a loogie on the sidewalk.
Walking around town at night we happened to walk by a stall in which a man was hard at work preparing a cat to eat. Yes that's right, a cat. It was skinned, so completely bald and shiny, and had obviously been dead for awhile since its legs were stiffly sticking straight up into the air. I've recently seriously contemplated becoming a vegetarian
The next day we boarded a boat for a cruise down the Lijiang River to Yangshuo. Yangshuo reminded me a little of a ski town, nestled in the mountains and full of quaint touristy shops. Since it is reknowned as a backpacker's paradise, we were expecting to see foreigners. We just weren't prepared to see them on every street corner. In a delirious frenzy, we explored West Street, which is lined completely with Western restaurants. Instead of bar hopping, we went restaurant hopping and worked our way down the street. Veggie burgers, pizza, French fries, apple pie, even nachos...all of them had a suspiciously Chinese flair to them, but I didn't care.
The next day we set off on a day-long trek alongside the river. We walked through remote villages, through rice paddies, crossed the river on bamboo rafts. I have never seen scenery quite like that, except in National Geographic. I can't believe how much I've missed blue skies and fresh air.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. I spent another day or so in Changsha resting before returning to the joys of the fireworks, dining hall slop, dusty classrooms, screaming kids, eccentric Nigerians, frustrations and weirdness. Traveling revived me, and I am looking forward to many more happy journeys.