Guilin & Macau (Desperately Seeking Beans)

November 5th 2009
Published: November 9th 2009
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I'm in Macau! Guilin was a nice place, and about 30 degrees, it's good to be warm, I find. I'd taken a soft sleeper, and it was lovely, I bunkered down for the full 30 hour journey with my noodles and oranges and slept for a good 20 of those hours. I think the Chinese people in my cabin thought I was ill, and so brought me hot water every now and again. Train down there arrived four hours late, so I drank some beers, didn't get bit by any mosquitoes (who, if I haven't mentioned, have been voraciously feasting on my dirty blood for some time now), ate some noodles and hit the sack. Tried to work out where in Thailand I want to go, but established that everything sounds the same, and I'm going to need to seek advice from a wiser source than sodding Lonely Planet (Bird, M.D.)

The next day, I hung around the hostel planning & buying flights, and playing with the puppy in the hostel. It was a scabby little thing, and didn't really know how to play without biting, but it loved my flip flops, so I couldn't really leave even if I'd wanted to, being barefoot. I'd been telling myself I needed to leave the hostel at some point that day, and not turn Guilin into a repetition of Chengdu, but there was an Auzzie girl there who was doing the same as me, just lazing about, and I used her as an excuse to not leave either. Her name was Emma, and we had some beers that night and she kicked my arse at pool. I also learned (usefully) that in Auzzie pool, theres no two shots rule, and they call em thongs and knickers instead of spots and stripes. A crazy German girl turned up, as did two Kiwis who'd lived in England, and me and the Kiwis put the world to rights about how uncontrollable today's youth are in England. So when I'm prime minister of the world, and we know that day will come; I'm having that woman as my head of justice. Me and Emma established that Chinese people aren't horrible to everyone, and if you're in a group, or even a pair, they're a lot nicer. We performed an experiment, where we sat on the kerb and said hi to anyone that walked by and took a tally of how many were nice. It turns out we're right, the Chinese are much more friendly to pairs of girls, rather than lone girls. Take note.

The next day, as a favour to Emma, me and the German went with her to some caves that have neon lights in. The caves were really cool, and the little guide girl we had was lovely. She had a story for every cave, and would point the torch at an area that looked like something in the story, like an old man in a chair, or his grandsons, or (the best one) the vegetable garden with brocolli, cauliflower and broad beans! I really liked the cave, and the floor wasn't wet at all, so I was fine in flipflops, and I would actually quite like to live in the cave, with the old man and his grandsons. One day, one fine day, maybe.
We walked up a billion steps, and had ice cream, and saw some crazy insects, including a real live huge grasshopper. Emma was attacked by a leaf, and so we decided it was time for the bus.

Back in town, we went to (bloody hell) KFC, and walked around a park that had cool animal statues. We managed to get to the train station, and buy my ticket to Guangzhou, which they once again (haha!) had only soft sleepers left. Me and Emma decided to have an adventure and take a random bus that we thought would get us home, but it turns out it didn't and so we only stayed on one stop. But in China, the stops are really far apart, so we had to walk and walk and walk, and couldn't work out where we were on the map, so got a taxi. But then he took us (what we thought was the) wrong way, so we made him stop and jumped out. Emma was nearly having a nervous breakdown at this point, and I was no use because my ability to read maps is as good as my ability to keep hold of my shit on a drunken night out. However, my ability to speak Chinese & stay very very calm is a bit better, and we sat down and asked a small cute little Chinese girl, who, after a lot of repeating herself, I finally realised was trying to tell us that there were 3 train stations in Guilin, and we weren't at the one we thought we'd been. We were on the street where our hostel was, but a five minute walk away. We were pretty hysterical once we realised this, and the small girl backed away quite quickly cos I think she thought maybe we were high. That night, once we eventually got back to the hostel (which took about two minutes, what with our long laowai legs) we drank beer and ate BBQ food, and again, emma kicked our arses at pool.

Next day, I was dying and slept for most of the time. Isobel & Emma & her German friend went to Yangshuo, a place near Guilin that is apparently amazing. I'd considered going, but couldn't make the 9.30am start. (I barely would have made the 6pm start if I'm honest) But I went for food with some Americans and an English boy, whose name I still don't know. Me and the English boy had some drinks when everyone else went home (I'd recovered by then) and ended up in an Irish bar, even though he wanted desperately to go clubbing. We met two English boys who were cavers, and knew all the Man Uni Speleology club who me and Chris'd gone on that fucking weekend from hell with. (Louisa!) I stayed with them and drank their wallets dry, which was nice, and they tried to convince me to go caving again, which wasn't. I was the most sober one, which was mediocre at best, and reaffirmed my faith in alcohol. One of them had a dog that was amazing, and it was a puppy & it was huge. I loved it. Next day, I'd been planning to go shopping for souvenirs, but instead, I slept til 6pm on the cavers couch and everyone at the hostel thought I was dead. Which I wasn't. Then I had a mad mad rush for my train, and had to pack in seconds. I made the train though, with a mad rush entrance, and looked a bit crazy because everyone else was waiting for the train, but I didn't realise and ran up to the front and tried to climb a barrier because I thought i was going to miss it, and had to be stopped by security.

The train was ridiculous. From Guilin (very touristy- people make their children beg, but beg so that you get mad at them, and hit them, and their parents videocamera it and bribe you by trying to take you to the police. They were little shits) to Shenzhen, which is where you go to get to Hong Kong. My carriage had a load of Danish tourists in, tons of Germans, a few Auzzies, and 5 Chinese people. Three of which were in my compartment.

I arrived in Guangzhou at about 8am, and there were a lot of Arab looking people about, which was a shock. Five taxi drivers tried to scam me, so I started to walk to where I needed to be instead. Then I realised it was too far, but managed to get a reasonably honest fella. He drove me the long way, but at least he had the decency to pretend he was being honest, and put the meter on. I got the bus to Macau, which came with a free bottle of water. I appreciated that as I hadn't eaten or drank anything since the night before. I was starving, and had to break out the yak jerky I'd bought as a souvenir. We stopped at a petrol station, but I thought it was the border, and went looking for the customs man, and the driver had to come get me, lol. When we eventually got to the real border, I didn't know where to go and walked around aimlessly for a little while, thinking I was already in Macau and looking for a Portuguese sign. There weren't any, and I had to ask the really embarrassing question, "Is this Macau?" which confused the little old Chinese lady I asked, and she said no, but disappeared before I could ask the next most embarrassing question, "Where is Macau?" Fortunately, luck was with me, and I saw a white man, who I nearly pounced on and asked where Macau was. He pointed, (a little slowly, as though I was mentally disabled) to the huge Port Authority building behind me. I'd thought that was a shopping centre, and felt a bit mentally disabled. The customs process was fine, although there was that tension when my passport wouldn't go through the reader because it's a mess, but it worked out and I got 6 month stamped on it.

Managed to change some cash, but the girl looked baffled when I didn't know if I wanted Hong Kong dollars or Macau Patacas. I didn't know the answer and she gave me Macau because I told her I wanted to buy food, not clothes. (?) Got to my hostel, and met my two roomies, an English boy called Robbie and a weird German called, I dunno, Horrrible German Guy. Horrible German guy kept calling me beauty, and even used the line, "Do you have enough light over there? Apart from the light shining from your eyes?" RALF. Urgh, he was so pervy and weird and German, and if Robbie hadn't been there (and clearly a sight more normal) I'd have asked to switch rooms. I went for a walk to seek beans & Portugese food. Unfortunately, all the Portugese restaurants open on siesta timing, for lunch, then dinner, not just all day, so I didn't find them, and settled for Middle Eastern. Was still knackered that night, so just had some beers with Robbie and the other German who was here, Nice Pisshead German Guy.

Next day, went to shop and buy some much needed, but also much pricier on this side of the border, souvenirs. Didn't haggle, it was great. Went out with Robbie and his Danish mate (thought he was a bit of a twat at first, very Pete Doherty, but he was actually alright, and just a bit young) to the Casino. I was going to gamble, but at the last minute, decided to go see Zaia, a Cirque du Soleil show instead. It was pretty cool, and I'm glad I saw it, but probably wouldn't go see the Vegas one. There was a dead cool almost naked ice dance thing, and I could have spent the full night watching the trapeze men, but thought it was a bit overrated, generally.

Next day, I went and found an internet cafe so I could put my photos online (for your viewing pleasure, see Facebook, baby! Back on Facebook!) and tried to do skype, but failed. Had dinner at an authentic Portugese place (at last!!) and had some beans & sausage & pigs ear stew thing (feijioda?) which was awesome, and some very cheap wine that tasted lovely. Got hit on by the Portuguese owner, which was funny because his wife was doing the cooking, lol. Was considering going to a bar later, but got home and there was a new boy in my room, Rohan, an Auzzie. He was half Chinese and lived in Tazzy (!!). We were the only two in the whole hostel (the hostel is more of a small flat, with three teeny tiny rooms & too many beds) so we stayed up til late & he kept doing the beer run, which was nice because we live on the top floor of a very tall building. Without a lift. We had a mini party, and kept the night receptionist woman awake cos we were drunk and loud, but we had a good time.

Overall, Macau is expensive, compared to China, and a little non-descript. I wouldn't advise coming here, unless you're into gambling (like the crazy Polish girl I met tonight, i love crazy polackas, they are all insane), buying jewellery, will never get to Portugal or just unless you've been in China too long. The relief I felt coming over the border was palpable.

Now my trip to China is well and truly over (will it resume one day? I doubt it) here are my conclusions:

Things I've learned:

Things I'll miss

Things I won't miss

So there we go. China, in a nutshell. Tomorrow: Thailand!


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