Guilin & Yangshuo

March 15, 2010 - Guilin, China

There is a saying in China which goes along the lines of 'The best scenery in China is in Guilin. The best scenery in Guilin is in Yangshuo'. Obviously they say it in Chinese likes. On hearing aboot this Jacs and I thought 'We'll have some o that' and set aboot making plans tae get tae Guilin. Mountains is what we're talking here. Lots of them.

We book oorsels ontae a train bound for Guilin City, which is in Guangxi province in the South, and haul oor stuff owr tae Shanghai train station. Noo...Guilin is a fair distance away fae Shanghai, aboot twenty-four hours by train, so the deal is ye book a 'soft-sleeper' berth which guarantees ye a bed in a four-bed carriage for the duration. Unfortunately there is nae two-bed carriage option so, the likelihood is, ye'll be sharing wi somebody. The train has a restaurant car as well as hot-water urns so we load up on pot-noodles and other snacks and fire on. Has to be said the train is ever-so-slightly grubby. Initially, we have the carriage tae oorsels but a young, well-dressed, Chinese fella gets on a few stops doon the line and bursts intae oor carriage amid a hail of invective aimed at the guard. Seems this fella wis no expecting tae be sharing a carriage and, we can work oot fae his gestures, isny that impressed with the softness of his 'soft-sleeper' bed. Tae be fair they are a bit...sturdy. He calms doon eftir a bit though, mucks aboot on his mobile phone for a bit and then, without really acknowledging us at all, goes tae his bed. We figure he disny speak much English. The journey passes uneventfully and is pleasant enough although the toilets are disgusting. When I say 'toilet' I mean 'hole in the floor' - no the best. I actually get a decent night's sleep up on my top bunk and soon enough we are rolling intae Guilin train station. This is actually where oor room-mate comes intae his own. Guilin isny the last stop on the train-route and, since all the signs in most of the stops are in Chinese and the train is running slightly late, we are a bit worried aboot getting off at the right stop. Figuring this oot fae oor conversation and concerned expressions, the fella manages tae explain tae me, by pointing at my watch, that the train will arrive in Guilin at ten past 6. Guid lad Tam. It dis aswell.

We hike it wi oor bags through Guilin, which is quite a busy wee place, tae oor hotel. Smashing room wi a balcony and great view across a wee river. We dinny bother going out and just get some munchies in and sit and watch telly until bed-time. I know, I know - party animals eh?

Onyway next day we spend wandering aroond Guilin which is a smashing wee place situated on the Li river and right in the middle o these karst mountains. Dinny ask me what 'karst' means likes - I'm getting this fae the guide books - big lumpy hills covered in trees is what they are. The draw of Guilin is this - cruises up the Li river through these spectacular mountains all start from Guilin and terminate in Yangshuo Village aboot 60km to the South. We've booked intae a hotel in Yangshuo for three nights from tomorrow so need tae arrange one o these trips tae take us there. We manage tae sort this oot withoot much difficulty and then spend the rest of the day sight-seeing. So they have this hill called 'Elephant Rock' in the middle o town, by the river, which is famous for having a big hole in it (which makes it look like an elephant - somehow!). Onyway ye can climb up this and ye get some braw views o the city. So we do. Back on the ground we wander roond tae a miniature, walled city and hae a look at this. Noo back in the days of Ming (800-500 years ago), Guilin was called Guizhou and was a provincial capital where the Jinjiang Princes used tae hang oot. There is a hill in the middle which a reasonably hairy scramble up some steep steps gets ye tae the top o and, again, ye get some braw views o the city. Back doon on the groond there is an examination hall where potential civil-servants used tae hae tae take a written exam lasting days while locked in a tiny wee booth. They had tae eat and go tae the bog in there anaw. Man - aw I had tae dae tae get intae the Scottish Office was be able tae write my name. Even then I think a thumb-print woulda done it. Onyway this lot takes us most of the day and we go for a Sichuanese meal at night which is very tasty indeed and costs us all of £7! Remember how I was saying I wisny sure if Shanghai prices were representative o the rest o the country? They werny. Things here are aboot half the price they were in Shanghai. Crazy. I actually feel pretty bad, somehow, having a delicious and filling meal for £7. Ye feel like yer ripping somebody off. Och well. So that wraps up Guilin, anyways.

Next morning we get picked up at the back o 8 and taken tae the boat-terminal tae start oor trip doon the Li. We get chucked on a flat-bottomed boat wi aboot 50 other tourists, mostly Chinese, though the tour company have paired us up wi a Chinese-American couple from Texas. It is a relief tae be able tae chat tae folk in English. We set off doon the river in a flotilla of aboot a dozen other boats and aboot an hour intae the journey - woo! - ye are suddenly among these giant, beautiful hills either side o the river. Oor tour guide keeps coming over and telling us that this particular mountain is called such-and-such because that is what it looks like. Some o them ye can see but others are just ridiculous. 'Aye...this one is called "Duck Eating Daffodil Mountain"...ye need tae use yer imagination'. Ye wonder what these wee Chinese guys were on when they came up wi these names. Anyway it's all very lovely. There are wee fishermen dudes on bamboo rafts punting up and doon, farmers plodding their water-buffalo roond their fields. It's pretty much a hand-to-mouth existence doon here I reckon. Some o the rest o the folk on the boat are getting on my flipping nerves though. There is this one family of about a dozen or so who are a little too lively, possibly due to the beer they are chugging (bear in mind it is only aboot 10am), and are barging people oot the way so they can get their photaes taken and making a little too much noise. It's supposed tae be tranquil. Then when I try tae go for a pee I am shoulder-charged oot the way twice in a row when the toilet is vacated in front of me. The quaint, western concept of queueing is apparently anathema to some Chinese. As are things like 'knocking on closed doors' and 'eating with one's mouth closed'. Similarly - directives such as 'No Smoking', 'No Spitting' and 'Drive on the Right' appear to be mere suggestions rather than hard-and-fast rules of conduct.

Anyway, we get a bit of scran on the boat aboot 12ish and then soon enough we roll intae Yangshuo. Oor tour guide has made a phone call tae an English-speaking pal o hers in Yangshuo who meets us off the boat and shows us how tae get tae oor hotel. She offers her services as a tour-guide while we are in Yangshuo and we politely decline, which I feel a bit bad aboot but - there ye go. And that's us in Yangshuo then.

Fair to say we do very little in Yangshuo over the next couple of days. There isny really that much to do. Unfortunately, it's a bit misty the whole time we are there so we dinny really get a chance tae appreciate the scenery aroond the place properly. We wander around a bit. Walk round the markets etc but that's aboot it. Some quite persistent touts in Yangshuo. They come up and shove a wee book with a picture of the river in it in yer face and you say 'No thanks' and walk on and so they follow you and try to get in-front of you and shove this wee picture at ye shouting at ye in Chinese. What it is they are selling Christ knows but ye do have tae gie them a pretty stern 'GO AWAY!' before they take the hint. Pretty annoying. We have a couple of nice meals but, unfortunately, one of them gives Jacs food-poisoning she reckons (as she has eloquently relayed in a previous entry). This is from a, well-recommended, restaurant (best food in Yangshuo according tae oor guidebook) which has some quite exotic dishes on the menu eg duck tongues, dog meat, pig brains, wolf nipples, ocelot spleen etc. We dinny have any o that though. In fact we both have the same so I cannae figure oot why she gets it and I dinny. We hae a lamb dish, a pork dish, noodles, rice and some dumplings between us. Jacs reckons it wis the dumplings. I'm no so sure. Anyway the next night we hae a pizza just tae be on the safe side. It is rotten.

So on Monday we jump on the bus back tae Guilin, which is actually a really nice wee journey through the mountains and from Guilin we have booked another sleeper train tae take us tae Xi'an up North near the Yellow River in Shaanxi province. Xi'an is up the road fae the site o The Terracotta Army. Cannae wait tae see that....

All the best folks.


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3 Comments

sabrina:
March 17, 2010
Hi guys, Just a quick hi and glad your still enjoying your travels. Unfortunately you'll be home soon but fortunately we get to see your lovely wee faces again. Take care both. Lots of love Sabrina and Olivia(who is looking forward to meeting you) sorry I know my comment has nothing to do with your journal but I just wanted to say hi:-) xx
Ron:
March 18, 2010
The terracotta army. I remember when, as a bairn, I was taken to see that in Edinburgh. The queue was all the way round waverly and my Dad said 'baws' to it. I didn't argue, being as lazy then as I am now. All this by way of saying...enjoy! Love this blog, by the way.
alison:
March 19, 2010
hi loving the blog sounds amazing poor jaxs she normally has the stomach of an elephant too!!! Anyway enjoy the rest of your travels love to you both Axx
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