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Karst II

CHINA | Wednesday, 22 October 2008 | Views [2119] | Comments [2]

I woke up early to take the boat from Guilin to Yangshuo. First I needed to find chinese directions to my Hotel. I failed at that, so when I was picked up by a bus at 7:30, I still did not know anything other than the english name of my Hotel, its phone number and english address. I was hoping to find an information stand when I arrived to help me.

The trip started bad. It was raining. The bus made a number of stopps, and then drove out of town. We had already driven an hour and I had no idea why I was not on a boat yet (no one spoke english). Eventually we stopped at a store for 30 minutes of shopping. Along the way, you could see the haunting shadows of the karst mountains in the background. It was other worldly.

Finally, at 10 AM, we arrived at the water. I was told to go with some guy, seperately from the rest of the group. We walked up the marina (with all my stuff on my back), past 20 boats, then turned around and walked past them all again, until the guy found one with an empty seat. I was put at a table, where my legs did not really fit underneath, with 7 other people. I tried to go out on deck, but I was not allowed. Again, no one spoke english, and I was really unhappy. After we pulled out of dock, they tried to sell everyone special meals, as I did not know what they were and I was supposed to get a free meal with the cruise, I didn't bother. Evertially things improved, we came to the first site, and people were allowed on deck. I tried taking photos, but it was overcast, so I took photo after photo hoping for some good ones. Eventially the sun came out, and the scenery became spectacular. Over the course of the 5 hour cruise I took 500 photos, and had to replace both my camera battery and the memory card. The variation in shapes and in the light made the views of the karst hills incredible. This is the landscape that makes chinese scroll painting come alive.

Now having said all that, I have some advice. Skip the cruise. Its a waste of money, just take the bus directly to Yangshuo (2 hours, $2). The reason is simple, Yangshuo is the most beautiful town in the world. I don't think its close. Not Prague. Not Paris. Not Bruge. Its a picture perfect town, with the karst hill scattered among the streets, in the background everywhere and along the river. the countryside nearbye (and the rivers nearbye) might even be more beautiful. So just head directly to Yangshuo, its far nicer there than along the cruise, and just take a boat near there.

Anyway, when I arrived, I first walked up the hill from the docks, but almost got stopped by a women who chainlocked a door closed. Luckly someone people convinced her to open it for them, and many more of us, just pushed through. I did not find any toursit office. But eventially I found an english guy with a map, that happend to have my hotel on it. Then, a local women came bye and started to wlak with me toward the hotel (although she thought it was some place else, since she did not know the english world lily, and thought it was li, the name of the river). She convinced me to pay her for a tour the next day of the countryside. Anyway, we got close to the hotel, then she called them on her cell phone, and I arrived.

the hotel was on a quiet side street about 5 minutes from the main tourist drag. It was filled with hotels (I was staying at a clean 1 star hotel this time for $10) and massage parlors. Or maybe I should say massage parlors by day, "chinese massage parlors" by night. At least I think the business for legit during the day...

The following day I overslept. I was suppossed to be down stairs at 9 AM for my bycycle tour. I woke up at 6, wasn't feeling that well (travelers direhea), and took some anti-biotics. By the time I made it down stairs it was almost 10, but I was feeling better. Of course my tourguide was still there (I was told I had agreed to twice the normal rate, which was still cheap to me). Anyway, I decided to change fro ma bicycle trip to go by motorbike. So I got a private tour for about $20, that lasted 8 hours. The scenery in the countryside and my the river was breathtaking. With great scenery everywhere, and also interesting views of the poor farmers working the land by hand (they need some machinery in china's farms) and with the help of water buffalo. But the best view of all was when I hiked to the top of moon hill, with the most incredible 360 degree views. I should also note that an old lady followed me up the whole way fanning me while trying to sell me water and other items. I broke down and bought some water from her, even though I already had some, and had a big thing of tea which came with my lunch (fried eggplant!). Its a sign of how poor a place is when people will walk with you for hours, just hoping to sell you something (a women walked with me for 2 hours along the great wall trying to sell a book or some postcards).

After returning to town, I went to dinner on the main street. After having a good dinner of the local beer fish, and chatting a while with a couple from london who were traveling for 18 months, the most remarkable thing happened. A chinese guy with an erhu, started playing hebrew/isreali songs and this huge table of israeli's starting singing. What was truely remarkable was that the erhu player (and an accordin player) played 6 songs (and I did not know them all), the isreali's were having a blast, then a chinese women was dragged up and sang one of them in a perfect operatic voice, then a few isreali guys (in there 50's and 60's) dragged up some chinese women from another table and started waltzing. What a scene. the chinese tourists walking down the street all stopped and took photos and the staff of the resturant was cracking up (as was I).

What a place. Wow.

BTW, I should mention that so far about 40% of the westerners I have met traveling have been israeli. There are a few reasons for this:

1. they isreali's love to travel (they were about 10% of the travelers in new zealand when I was there 8 years ago)

2. they like china

3. This month is jewish holidays

Tags: yangshuo




a travel blog! cool. i'll catch up on your life before you visit.

  paul kim Oct 23, 2008 11:46 PM


JOsh, my Friend!
Finally I found your blog address. It is wonderful! Please continue writing, by reading it, I'm taking part in your trip...
What is your email?

  Ricardo Horowicz Oct 28, 2008 1:41 AM

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