Archive for GUILIN/YANGSHUO
Okay, I’ll put it out there… Nothing in my life raises such a nervous sweat than going through immigration at an airport. And that goes for driving across international boarders too. I am the obvious victim of watching too many cheesy TV shows and Hollywood movies! I can’t help it, when I approach an immigration kiosk or gate, my skin becomes clammy and I begin to rehearse what I will say if questioned, hauled over and stripped searched!
So, you may ask, what does this have to do with your entry into China? Good question. I have entered China from two locations, Beijing and Hong Kong/Shenzhen Customs. Both are the same in their very quaint and ridiculously cute way.
Today was indeed a full day with a few more trips to the tourist office on West Street including booking a car to the airport for the next day.
Standing on my balcony with my coffee, (thanks to Patricia’s Muskoka Roastery coffee – you are a lifesaver!) I notice I have new neigbours today. Judging by the hanging laundry on their balcony, one is a woman with a gift card for Victoria’s Secret!
This morning was dry! Cloudy as usual, but dry. I tried out a new place for breakfast. A western breakfast today. Just down the street from my hotel, the Venice hotel is a place called Café Del Moon. It has a pretty full and seemingly international breakfast menu. One can order an American breakfast, British, French, Dutch and also an Israeli breakfast! OK, I get the American and the French – Yangshuo has been invaded by the French in the last few days! But Israeli? That was a new one to me. International indeed! Though I think back bacon was missing on all the breakfasts menus in town!
This morning’s first outing is a boat ride along a short river system at Shangri-La village. This tourist site offers a look at the clothing, crafts and activities of four distinct ethnic groups, the Tong, Miao, Yao and Czhuang People. Costumed interpreters from the four groups are on hand to offer any answers or display their particular skills. These are four groups who have lived in the Guangxi area for thousands of years. Each have a distinct spoken language and express their language through such means as embroidery. Shangri-La is only about 15 minutes from Yangshuo and well worth a visit. Set this up by dropping into any of the tourism offices on the street in Yangshuo.
Today was all about the rain – and the river. Not the Li River this time, but the Yulong River . The Yulong flows along one side of a long triangle-shaped peninsula while yesterday’s Li River flows along the opposite side. The peninsula is home to Yangshuo and many other villages and towns. The Li is the river where the larger boats move goods and people. The Yulong is where I’m headed today. Today is the day I go rafting over nine sets of waterfalls. Cue the funeral music!
Today was my first full day in Yangshuo. I think I am recovered from my zombie-like, sleep-deprived sleep of the previous day.
Before moving on with my observations, I do need to put on my art critic’s cap for just a moment and give you a verbal tour of the hotel’s art collection! In the lobby of the hotel, there is a bit of a gallery happening. Above the cashier is a massive, relaxed & grinning Mao wearing his usual tunic, staring down on all the foreigners. Its not bad actually, but the expression is awkward and just wrong. Spotting a grand piece of kitsch, the French hotel proprietor picked it up for a song. Equally as disturbing, and I’m sure cheap, was the frightening Mona Lisa hanging at the head of my bed. It is also painted by the same proportionally-challenged artist. The painter tried – and his skill and handling of a brush is admirable, but poor old Mona looks more ghoulish more than serene. Sadly no picture exists since I accidentally deleted it. But maybe that’s a good thing as Michelangelo rests a little bit more at peace tonight!
I rarely sleep late. I know, it’s a sickness!
I’m always up early! But today, I slept until 9 a.m., late for me! Oh god, three hours of sleep after a long rough night fighting the chaos at the Chengdu airport on the tail of a typhoon. I felt like a zombie all day walking around Yangshuo!
The hotel was lovely. After such a horrible night, it was luxury to be in such a comfortable place on West Street, the main shopping and walking street in Yangshuo. After weeks of moving around the rugged landscapes of western Sichuan, it was good to be grounded. I will be using Yangshuo as my base for the next several days since there is so much to see and do around here.
Yangshuo is a pretty town, a town where all the shops and bars have one thing in common – they try to outdo each other for the chance to poke holes in your travel budget! Unlike the past few weeks, this is a pretty crowded place with a lot of tourists from around the world. Its fun to wander down the streets and listen to all the different accents and try to figure out where the people are from.
Maybe it was something in the water. Perhaps something airborne. But one thing was for sure, it spread faster than a plague of locusts.
It had been raining heavily on and off and before leaving Sim’s guesthouse, Sim warned me that all flights out of Chengdu were experiencing delays.
Getting to the airport was easy, picking up the ticket from the C-Trip desk was easy. Getting through security was even easier! Wearing large heavy hiking boots and carrying 30 pounds of camera gear on my back only piqued the curiosity of the security staff. I never had to remove my boots, they could care less about the heavy metal belt buckle holding up my shorts, and the suspicious handheld HD video recorder only got a yawn. What they really wanted to see and lay with were the cameras in my bag!
At the departure gates, things were starting to get a little tense! Huge crowds of passengers, to a man, were agitated. You could feel the anxiety in the cavernous Chengdu departures hall.
The hostel staff can organize anything for you from a grand expedition into Tibet down to a simple stroll of the panda breeding centre. I have opted for the latter.
The breeding centre is located a half hour ride by private van from Sim’s. It is a very large space surrounded by lush, thick bamboo forest. It is a magical place. The quiet paved paths lead the visitor from one area to another through a tunnel of bamboo created by the bamboo growing up and reaching over to the other side of the path.
Not much happened today. It was a travel day. The hotel wake-up was set for 5 a.m. and the day was long. The bus was to leave at 7 a.m. and get into Chengdu at 1 p.m. I say this because I experienced on of China’s legendary traffic jams along the way.
At about 11 a.m., the bus was honking it’s way through yet another town until it came to a grinding halt. For two hours the bus moved only seven metres! Many hundreds of vehicles ahead – there was a traffic accident. And this is a problem everywhere… whether it is a traffic accident, a landslide or another earthquake, rescue vehicles have almost no way of responding since the roads are clogged with vehicles or damaged.
Luckily today was just a traffic issue and nothing greater.