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Published: August 10th 2010
Arriving in Guilin mid-day we were greeted with the hustle and bustle of a city with a big-town atmosphere. The buildings were no sky-scrapers, but the people were moving quickly in every direction, and we could see the layer of hazy smog hovering above us. We caught a tuk-tuk (not sure what they call them in China) to the backstreet youth hostel where we were turned away as we had no reservations, wandering out onto the street a man approached us and asked if we were looking for a hotel, why yes we replied, ‘follow me’ he said. We went down a back alley and up a mouldy side staircase that you would never have known existed without being shown, to the 5th floor. We got a room for 80¥ ($12 cnd) a night and as soon as the creepy owner left sat on the beds... no wait, not beds, box-springs, there was no actual mattress. It probably would have been softer to sleep on the floor had it not been covered in cigarette burns and stains that were highly questionable. Overall, the place had a bad vibe, and we packed all our valuables into a day bag and went back
to the hostel to reserve a room for the next day before finding a cafe with free wifi and settling down for the afternoon to contemplate our decision making in the past few hours.
10am we were awoken by a knock on the door and the owner trying to come into our room. Scott sprang out of bed and slammed the door in his face before we hastily packed up and moved to the much nicer feeling backstreet youth hostel. The room was decent enough, 120¥ ($19 cnd) it was a bit more expensive but felt much safer and the staff were friendly, and best of all, no wall mould!! We spent the afternoon wandering around Elephant Hill (a hill with many paths, a nice view and wild pot plants growing on the sides of the foot paths) and taking the path along the lake and river back to the hostel.
The next day we were on a trip to see the amazing Dragon’s backbone rice terraces, and the hill-side village of Longsheng. The trip to the rice terraces was a bit overwhelming, on a bus with some 50 other people, we arrived at
the Ping ‘an village where we were herded into the village like sheep and told to buy tickets to watch some hair show (the woman of the village cut their hair once in their life, when they were 18.) which we passed on and opted to wander around the village alone while the hoards of people went into to watch some woman and their long hair. We then realized how popular the rice terraces were, there were plenty of buses (maybe between 10 and 20) and they were all FULL of people (20 - 40 people per bus I would think). After switching to a more... ‘mountain friendly’ bus we hurled up a mountain road twisting and turning as the bus came close to flipping itself over numerous times, we eventually made it to the top, alive and safe and sound (phew). A good half-hour hike up the hill found us at a restaurant for lunch with a sketchy Chinese/Chinglish menu and just in time for the heavy seasonal rains to start!! We lucked out though, it poured the entire time we were eating and stopped just before we got ready to continue the journey up the hill. Another hour
long hike with many other people and many amazing views and we found ourselves at the top of the terraces, looking out on what can only be viewed as an engineering marvel of rice terraces. The expansiveness of the rice fields was amazing, and not because of the size, but how they managed to build so many onto the sides of these steep hills for miles and miles. After viewing the terraces from the many lookout points along the way up, it was time to trudge back down and through the hillside village of Longsheng. It was amazing to be up there, the majority of locals went about their daily lives as if we were not even there, and the few who had opened up shops were very friendly and smiled for every picture. The most amusing part of the trip up and back was the many tourists who opted to be carried up in old-fashioned people-carrier carts. Locals could be hired to carry you up the hill, and (I couldn’t understand this) back down again.
Our last full day in Guilin we went to the Chinese acrobat circus, where we were treated to a show that
before hiking up Elephant Hill
could have been part of Cirque du Soleil, with high-flying acrobatics, spinning plates and a young girl balancing 5 flaming chandeliers’ as she twisted her body in ways I didn’t think were humanely possible. At one point a jolly Chinese clown came out, now as some of you may know Scott has a problem with clowns that he has never fully explained. When the clown came out everyone was cheering and clapping.... except Scott. I warned him that clowns pick on the people who don’t look thrilled and sure enough, within seconds of getting on stage he called upon Scott and another un-sure looking Chinese woman to be his assistant in a thumb trick. A rather confident looking Scott got up in front of hundreds of onlookers and wound up with the clown’s thumbs tied together wrapped around him. I think this was my favourite part of the show!!
And so we find ourselves embarking on the 22hour journey to Shanghai via train. We booked our tickets the same day we got into Guilin, which was a good thing as there was no room for 5 days (we wound up staying one day longer than planned because
of this). We’re on the top bunk of the hard-sleeper berth and are expecting to be in Shanghai around 4 or 5 in the evening. We spent the afternoon before leaving desperately trying to find suitable accommodations, but as the Expo is currently going on it was pretty slim pickings. We managed to find ourselves a room in a 4 star resort for the extortionist’s rate of 580¥ ($92 cnd). Hopefully we’ll be able to find something a bit cheaper once we get into the city.
The train ride so far has been slow going. The compartment we’re in is full of three bunk sleepers, the top ones (where we are) have very little room so we’re stuck sitting on the small aisle chairs instead of crouching up into balls on our bunks. Scott has made some new friends and is working out conversations using slow English, the translation part of our Lonely Planet, and a lot of hand signals. Other than being a bit slow it’s fairly nice to travel by train as opposed to the long bus rides we were used to from South-east Asia, we can walk around and stretch our legs, the only
horrible part is the bathrooms (oh yes, squatters that drop out right onto the tracks). Food is a bit scares; we planned as far as two instant noodle bowls. The couple sharing the lower part of our three level bunk tried offering us some food; Scott was brave enough to try some Chicken feet (which smell like regular feet) and cucumber. At least we have a bed to get some shut-eye in.
But Shanghai here we come!! Expo, ridiculously tall buildings, and museums galore! We shouldn’t be bored in this international city!
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