Friday, 12 February 2010

Gorgeous Guilin

Anyhoo, back we went to Beijing until another week and then we were off to the South of China aka tourist central. Getting to Guilin was probably the worst journey I have ever experienced, and I have been on a few. It was 23 hours on that 90 degree angle box with people all around practically sitting on me. There were people everywhere, and for once I understood the word 'overpopulated.' There were hundreds of people sitting in the aisle, apparently paying the same price for a seat but squatting for 26 hours. I never even headed to the toilet, the 4hours to Chengde proved the fragrant smells of Chinese hygiene mixed with pot noodles. It was utter pain, and because some Chinese people have no sense of the word polite, I was dug with someone's elbow every 10 minutes, sleep was just non-existent. So after a very cranky 23 hours, I was ready to hop off and die. By the way did I mention, I didn't book a hotel this time either?

We met a man with a  plan on the train who said that he would help us to find a hotel. I am always a little skeptical of commission making touts or so I thought he was. He went from showing rooms that were £50 a night to his cousin's old flat that had one bed for the three of us about 20 minutes out of town. So after another 3 hours of searching, we moved into a crabby youth hostel with two beds for the three of us just to save money being destitute students. No matter, it was a place to sleep that was all for sure. So after our major upheaval and feeling a little sore, we were ready for an early night until that man arrived with his son and was ready for to show us the night town.

First was the night market, at the centre of town, Guilin being a hubbub of cosmopolitan people, it resembled the quaint stalls of Laos. It went on for miles and so we rushed through it planning to come back another night. Then we headed to the main park, with two very special silver and gold pagodas that floated on the water and lit up the horizon. After a galleon of photos around there, we walked over to another park, where the man got us a cheap night ride on the river around Elephant Hill- named so because the mountain is apparently that way. By the time it was 12am and we were about to die, we headed home, but not before going through a small foot road that had Irish and Cuban pubs. This was China?

In the morning we headed to find out we could bike ride in Guilin, unfortunately not. Yes, yes for those who know me, I will get back to this point. So instead, after some light refreshment, we jumped on what seemed a Tuk Tuk to QiXing GongYuan (7 Star Park), the driver warning us that it was utter crap. But we didn't have much choice as we were heading for an evening cruise that was nearby this so-called 7-Star park. It started off being quite beautiful, mountains became the norm and was almost expected. But the speciality of this place was supposedly it had an old cave.

Being a fan of all that is ancient and wonderful, I geared up for this. That was until I entered what seemed to be an amusement park, except I wasn't too thrilled. It was lit up with multi-coloured lights, there seemed to plaster all over the walls, people constantly flashing photos with their cameras and most of it I think was man-made. From the days I was in Spain, this did not even come close to what I imagined- ancient etchings and limestone water filled ditches. So sorely disappointed we wondered around for another hour or so, with plenty of time to kill. Eventually headed for the night cruise and that changed our fortunes. We got there in the nick of time, the sun was just setting, so we were lucky enough to get the pinkish, purplish glow that you get at dusk. And then the night was illuminated by the banks of Guilin, eventually reaching the two pagodas that we had already encountered, but now seeing it in the flesh.

It was about 8pm and we hopped off the boat heading to the night market. All I wanted was a magnet and after some persistent bargaining, got what I asked for. That's the good thing, you can haggle anything, even your own mother if they wanted. But it was a lot larger than we expected, so by 10pm we headed back to the suite to get some kip and prepare for our 5.30am start to the next city- Yangshuo.

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