Guilin and Yangshuo, China
28/05/2010 - 03/06/2010 30 °C
Our roasty toasty HK bubble went 'pop' as we went through the border back to China, but suprisingly it wasn't as bad a feeling as I thought it would be. The upside- cheap tasty food and a manicure/pedicure which cost £16, Inc nail treatment and mega buffing :D
One pampered Rosie later, we were ready to get the train to Guilin (15 hrs). This time we were in the top bunks (the hard sleeper trains have three tiers) so got lots of balance practice climing up n down as the train chugged along. Our Arrival in Guilin was unlike anything we'd witnessed before. Mainly because I've never witness pick-pocketing on the streets, or anywhere else for that matter. After arriving at our hotel n checking in, we took a walk to find breakfast - outside the train station we got noodles n bread (yum yum). Walking back to the hostel to settle in I saw a young guy (aging people in Asia is incredibly difficult but I'd estimate he was in his early twenties) walking behing a girl (again in her twenties) matchind her stride. Observing him try to unzipped her handbag I realised what his game was. I also happened to see another guy walking a few feet behind him, who then saw me observing. He started to laugh n told the main theif who turned to look at me. I shook my head n mouthed "no!" but he smiled, mimed back "shhhh"... Jon noticed another guy with them so not wanting to get stabbed (you never know!) we walked into a shop n watched from there (fingers crossed the girl noticed) - well, she did notice n screamed so we were happy. Not a nice welcome to a city n the vibe we felt in Guilin was one of greed, deviousness n a lack of pleasntry. However it's saving grace was the scenery - stunning limestone karst mountains with vegetation n bamboo all around surrounded by a winding Li River which we took a bamboo raft down to Yangshuo - more of that later.
The Rice Terraces, Long Hair and a wedding!
We took a day trip to see the famous rice terraces that are renound in this area. The day started dubiously as it was tipping it down wih rain- and whilst this acted as a reminder of Home it made us wonder if we would look like drowned rats by the end of the day! Luckily for us, the rain stopped in time for us to arrive at the bottom of the hillside where we visited the village there, famous for the womens long black hair (I think he longest is 2.5 metres) which they wash in rice water (apparantly it stinks in high summer so we were lucky to miss that).
Depending on the woman's social situation (single, married or married with children) dictated how they wore their hair. Single women covered their hair with a bandana like hat (only the husband can see the hair for the first time).
Married women (no children yet) wrap their hair around their head from forehead to back and round again. Married women wih children wrap their hair around from the forehead but create a knott which rests just above on their forehead to show they have had kids.
Whilst there we went to see a show they put on (singing n dancing and the like). They needed male volunteers so Jon was up there like a shot (volunteered of course by Rosie). Luckily jon is a good sport because he had to pick a girl to marry by tapping her on the foot with his foot ('Jon seems to be a cumulating wives like there's no tomorrow!' I hear u think- yes he is!) then do a dance, beat some dough wih a bamboo stick (were still not sure why) and sing a love song to her. Kareoke renditions from precious holidays ran through my head as jon waited for his turn but luckily he was saved by the fact it was his wifes birthday so he got to sing Happy Birthday to her (in front of 300 strangers)! It was fun :D
Lunch followed the wedding after a steep climb up (can u guess what...?) some steps! (did u guess right?) we had (and this was novel) rice in bamboo and chicken in bamboo. Literally a bit of bamboo is stuffed with said food and put in a BBQ. It tasted yummy.
Then we had another 15 min climb to the top where you could see the rice terraces in full view from above- there were viewing platforms along the way up so it was great to see these beautiful terraces from different heights and perspectives. We even got to see some terraces being 'worked' on.
A bus along a windy mountain path (you can imagine the type -steep drop to the side and speeding driver- back to Guilin ended the day so jon n I walked through Guilin to find a restaurant for dinner. This is where we met Avan, who approahed us as we were walking along the road. Not as dodgy as it sounds- he was honest n friendly n sold trips down the Li River (amongst other things). We took his number in case and went to the restaurant he recommend - it was good food n we met Jeff and Amanda there. Jeff was from Essex (yes Nika- Leigh-on-Sea- used to work at Totts!) and has now moved to Australia where he met Amanda who is Australian. They were also interested in the bamboo ride so we arranged it with Avan for the Sunday. No regrets there! It was a beautiful hot day, the bus picked us up with 8 other ppl and we arrived at the bamboo rafts. It was 6 ppl and bags to a boat. The 4 of us met Jade, an American girl studying Chinese at uni and Jens, a german who was traveling round china and Asia. And so we sailed to Yangshou, a small town on the Li River in beautiful surroundings (just look at the pics but they don't do it justice, so even better- visit!!!). Jade left that night but the 5 of us stayed at the same hostel, had dinner and arranged the next days activity.
The Dragon Bridge
The 5 of us rented bikes and set out on what we thought would be a few hr bike ride... 10am til 7pm and 25ks later we returned to the hostel for a well deserved shower n rest! We cycled out of Yangshou to the first bridge, stopping to take photos on the way- we were on tarmac for this bit rising leisurley through the countryside, karst hills dotted about as far as the eye could see and rice paddies on the low ground with streams diverted between the fields. Green lush plants everywhere, including bamboo, often springs with water buffalow lazing about in them trying to cool down. Comerant birds on the riversides waiting for their work to begin in the evening, and locals selling icecreams n drinks by the road side at well placed locations.
Then we had lunch at the giggling tree hostel and continued in our quest for the dragon bridge... This is where the road changed. To bumpy mud tracks stone laden- not nice on the bottom, or wrists :s the tracks went through tiny villages where locals would stare at these crazy foreigners on bikes but would kindly point in the right direction to our destination. We found the second bridge and were told it was only another 40mins to the dragon bridge, so off we went (this was about 5pm) to the dragon bridge! The track this time (I use that term lightly) was the 30cm wide 'bit' between rice paddys! Workers eitherside were looking at those crazy foreigners on bikes like we were mad! That, and laughig when one of us (mainly me) went headfirst on my bike off track into a rice paddy- I still managed to remain on my bike but it hurt :s after the third time I got off n pushed but still managed to slip down the path into the paddy- it was so narrow! Anywhooo. We realised we were lost (after half an hr) and asked directions. We finally got to the dragon bridge (must admit, after that rigmarole it was a bit of a dissapointment!) got more water n headed home with the thought of diminishing light hot on our heels!
Ow ow ow ow ow ow!
The next day (my birthday) our poor bottoms were sore, so we all went to the body doctor and got a full body massage for £9! Then we chilled out and watched a DVD at the hostel, went for a nice dinner followed by a few drinks. All in all a great birthday, thanks for all the messages!
The next morning we made our way to Moonhill and went caving- not as I imagined crawling on ure belly though tunnles (thank goodness) but hardhat n torch walking though caves to a mudbath! We entered a cavern where there was a natural clay mud mini swimmingpool which of course we all got into and had a mud fight not really sure who won out of the 4 of us but we were all caked in mud by the end if it! Then we were taken to a natural cave stream to wash off (mud, like sand, gets EVERYWHERE) then went onto the hot natural spring (sighhhhhhh). So lovely n refreshing, after that we needed another massage so the girls went off to 'recouperate' whilst the boys did final packing preperation. Jeff and amanda left that evening to go to hong kong so jon and I researched our next move- onwards to Vietnam!