Friday, September 30, 2011

Middle Kingdom 2010 Part III: Guilin and Yangshuo

Hostel room window. Still raining.
16-17 July 2010:
One day of torture, sitting in one spot on a cramped, warm train. Never again will I make fun of the KTM train service back home (a resolution soon to be forgotten). That said the journey was made mildly better by the company I had- two college girls sitting opposite me, and one guy beside me- the girls being my age, the guy one year older (for which we made fun of him for a bit, poor thing), an immovable table-like protrusion separating us.

 We played cards most of the way- with them teaching me how to play- card games sticking to my memory like fish on land. One of the girls asked me if I watched Bleach- she mentioned someone called 'Abulei Lienji' which had me confused for a bit until I recalled Abarai Renji. Heh. She doesn't watch it, but liked his face. Or name. I can't remember- I was still rather sick. And yes- all three of them found my eyelashes most fascinating- being longer than most Chinese are capable of, I suppose.

Walked with the guy to his hotel, and from there to mine- he had time and enjoyed the company, I guess (though in my typical uncharitable state of mind, I mourned the departure of the two girls instead). He's staying there with his girlfriend, the lucky bastard. My eagle eyes noted a supply of condoms and massage oils on top of the TV set, conveniently provided by the hotel. How thoughtful of them.
Guilin Mifen
Unpacked my bags, and waited for the rain to stop- which it did, eventually. Satisfied myself with a walk around town to familiarize myself with the place- there's not much to see, really. Guilin is just a small town (or city, if you like- in China, if it has an airport, it's a city; also, a town might as well be a city based on how bloody big it is anyway). Dinner was the local specialty- Guilin Mifen. Simple, cheap, and quite nice. Returned to the hostel to find an American guy having trouble with the door- my chance to act wise and experienced by opening it for him (I had trouble opening it earlier myself- took a few minutes to figure it out).
Karst mountains.
18 July 2010:
One of the many... uh, karst mountains surrounding Guilin, for which it is most famous (the noodles coming in a close second). The sky seemed clear, so I decided to go for a walk- which in my travel vocabulary equates to 'bloody hell I'm not going on one with you again'.
Claypot rice.
Brunch was some sort of claypot mixed rice. Simple but tasted fine. And best of all, cheap.
Botanical Gardens.
I went for a stroll in the nearby botanical gardens after that- yet another huge park.
Japanese Garden.
No dogs, no Chinese allowed... eh, wrong period. Actually it just says that it's closed for repairs.
This is how Communists recycle their military hardware- dump them in their shopping malls. I'm not sure if it's real, though.
Tunnel vision.
I walked through two mountains today. I kid you not. Well, yes, there happened to be roads and tunnels and all, but... I walked through two mountains in a day, and that's the essence of it. I had a cup of bitter herbal tea from a roadside vendor before pushing onwards- hoping to reach the Reed Cave- I never did, somehow ending up an insane distance from town, and close to the airport instead.
Oh my.
 What. I suppose the proprietor paints on his/her old man's shiny pallet... pate. Dead tired, I decided to call it a day- but instead discovered that buses here were insanely cheap- a flat fee no matter where you get on- and went to the Elephant Nose Mountain Park instead- just for the sake of actually doing something today (or come to think of it, paying to do something).
Xiang Bi Shan
There you go, Elephant Nose Hill, or Elephant Trunk Mountain, or whatever it's called in English. The mountain is the highlight of the park- visitors can swim in the lake too.
View from the top.
After a long climb up the pachyderm's rump, I was rewarded with a view of the city- it's a lot nicer when you're not in the mess of people and don't have to listen to all the noise.
Blistering Barnacles!
I then... oh no. Not again. Retired to the hostel, where I met another room-mate- James from the UK. Damn- I think he was younger than me. 19, I think, though he looked older. He mentioned a 'Black Russian' cocktail at the hostel bar, which I tried- tasted like cough syrup. Gah. Kung Po Chicken Rice for dinner, watched 'Mr. Bean's Holiday' in the lounge, and retired to bed.
19 July 2010:
Took a bus to Yangshuo, which is this really touristy town a short distance from Guilin. As a result, the place is a lot livelier, being more compact- more restaurants, more shops.
Odd menu.
I had lunch at one of the restaurants- check out the menu. What in blazes is a 'squid to be'?
...I played it safe and had noodle with gyoza instead. Go on, laugh if you like.
Bike rental.
A better view of the town, with bicycles for rent. I got one of the cheaper ones- though in retrospect I should have just payed a little more for a mountain bike, considering the terrain I took it on. Hiring the bike itself is cheap- the deposit is not.
Tour guide/stalkers.
Rode out of town. I was shadowed most of the way by one of the local tour guides- a lady on a bicycle with a straw hat- despite me saying repeatedly that I didn't require her services. Ah well- her loss for following me.
Country road, take me home... not.
Took me some time, but I managed to get to the river. Well, not in this picture, at least. I somehow joined a group of cyclists- an Israeli guy, a Spaniard, and a Danish girl. The tour guide finally decided to give up on me. However I turned into a tour guide instead- being the only one able to speak the language. Yikes.
Boat girl.
 There's the river. Prices for the river 'cruise' are cut-throat.
Li River.
A better view of the river. Li River, I think it's called.
Nice door.
Someone's house. I've no idea what the words say- being hopeless when it comes to Chinese sayings. I assume that it says something like 'happiness and wealth, come on I'm waiting' or something to that effect.
Rodrigo Borgia
The Spaniard, posing. I told him that he looked a bit like Rodrigo Borgia (he didn't know who that was- and to be frank I wouldn't either, if not for Assassin's Creed).
Don't come here at night.
Macabre. Some sort of funeral pyre?
Uri Geller (not)
Down the street (a bloody long one, at that), Uri the Israeli. I thought his name was Yuri at first (and hence Russian).
River crossing.
Kate and Sergio. Took turns crossing the river.
Pi Jiu Yu.
We had dinner together- another local specialty, Pi Jiu Yu (Beer Fish), though I couldn't taste any beer on it (not that I can tell anyway). Parted ways after that, handshakes from the guys and a European double-sided air kiss which had me mildly confused for a bit.
Loch Ness monster, aflight...
Bus back to the hostel- crashed from exhaustion. Butt hurt like crazy- not surprising given the distance I went on that crappy contraption, and the terrain. I must have been insane, really.
20 July 2010:
Checked out today. Left my bags at the hostel, and took a bus to 7 Star park. There was an entrance fee, so I didn't bother, but instead wandered along the river, and another side of the town. Bloody hot today.
I must have been hallucinating. A girl in a kimono/yukata, in the middle of China? Damn the heat. Actually, she was real- there was a Japanese restaurant nearby. Poor girl, having to push that cart in that getup. Needless to say, I did not offer to help.

Old house.
Presumably used to post 'wanted dead or alive' posters in the not-so-distant past.

A lovely old mansion, converted into some sort of museum. Too bad it was closed when I was there. Headed back to the hostel where I had lunch, and waited for night to fall so I wouldn't have to wait too long at the train station. I got myself a 'hard sleeper'- a word of advice to all travelers, especially tall ones- just spend a bit more on a 'soft sleeper', especially if you've long legs like me. To maximize space, the train had a corridor on one side, and bunks separated into door-less compartments- 3 bunks on each side, with not much space to move or place luggage. Mine was for the top bunk, and I had to stuff my bags with me- didn't bother taking my shoes off either.

Anyway, the next morning, I was in Guangzhou...

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