. I had a walk out to get some food and found a busy night-market which was full of souvenir sellers and there were plenty of Chinese tourists buying the usual stuffed donkeys (sorry, stuffed dragons..) and plastic knic-knaks. I then ducked into a bar for a quick beer and discovered about 400 of Guilins young and rich dancing the night away to a live dj - my first introduction to just how crazy the Chinese can get with some music and a few beers!! The following day I took a one hour bus to the nearby village of Yangshuo. Yangshuo is an old village nestled between huge towering limestone peaks and also alongside a scenic river. Along the river are lots of men in traditional hats steering bamboo boats with poles and across the other side waterbuffalo graze in the shadow of some of the mountains. The quaint main street is cobbled and pedestrians only which keeps it fairly traditional, albeit quite touristy as that is now the main business here. Most of the tourists are in huge Chinese tour-groups which arrive during the day, all wearing identical hats to enhance their pack mentality. Their tour guides are also conspicuous as they wave brightly coloured flags to lead their group through the village. None of this detracts from the peaceful atmosphere and I have spent a great week here enjoying the scenery, climbing some of the temple-covered peaks and learning the odd phrase of Chinese to get me by. The village is also blessed with lots of good restaurants and it is great fun sampling the special hot pots, rice dishes and dumplings
. Some of the menus, even when translated into English, are still an adventure. "Sauce of the exploding Rabbit" and "The Garlic burns the Pumpkin" are two good examples of being slightly unsure as to what you may be getting, which all adds to the fun. I have been warned off dishes containing "White Flower" which is usually tripe! It has been a great week in Yangshuo despite the rain and freezing cold temperatures - I have been wearing all my clothes at once for most of the week.. Have also enjoyed partying with Dana, Mikael, Truike, Mark & Richard (hopefully see you in Hong Kong) and a few beers always takes the edge off the chill!! Looking forward to tomorrow when I am off to Hong Kong to meet back up with Mandy and together we can enjoy a taste of China meets the West in that unique corner of the World.
I finally left Hanoi on a direct minibus which took me directly to 'Friendship Gate' at the border between Vietnam & China. On the Vietnamese side I got my exit stamp in a small ramshackle building, then crossed into China to be met by a modern new immigration centre about the size of a small airport. After a few sterm questions from the Immigration Officer I had my entry stamped and was looking forward to beginning my Chinese adventure. My first transportation was a 'pedicab' which is like a motorcycle but with a tiny 4-seat cabin built onto the back and this took me the 10km to PingXiang, the nearest town. From there I took 2 express bus journeys lasting several hours to reach the city of Guilin, arriving late at night. Following my trusty Lonely Planet guidebook I headed for 2 cheap hotels, only to discover they had been flattened to make way for a huge half-built office block. Luckily another hotel was nearby and despite a few communication difficulties I managed to check in and the room was rather nice, albeit with no apparent hot water