Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Li River’

Firstly, those of you following me on Twitter may be a bit confused with all the New Zealand images. Well, that’s because I fell behind in my blog posts and as I write this I am travelling around New Zealand. But I do have a few more blogs to write on my China experiences including this crazy story. So keep reading and if you have something to say just leave a comment at the end.

So for our last day we had nothing planned and chose to just relax. It was a late start with a leisurely walk into town for some breakfast before returning to the hostel to play Risk and Scrabble out on the deck. I was soundly beaten several times at Scrabble so proposed Risk which took as long to figure out the rules as it did to play. We also made several mistakes along the way which may have affected the outcome but I would argue that my victory was deserved after all the defeat at Scrabble.

Glee at having won our 2 person Risk game

After that we went in search of the secret swimming spot that the hostel staff had told us about down a windy road where we encountered this water buffalo who looked friendly enough but got quite skittish when you approached him. Anyway I got quite close trying to remove the grass stuck on his horn but he didn’t like that. Sense prevailed and we let him be.

a Water Buffalo on the side of the road

We searched for the secret swimming spot but didn’t find anything that looked right so we gave up and I went form a swim where all the other locals were swimming which was on the way into town. The water was beautifully warm and very refreshing.

The swimming spot where all the locals go

Having some fun and giving the locals something to talk about

Having worked up an appetite it was into town for dinner and then back via Rory at Nature’s Cup for another delicious Malibu Dom Pedro. The next morning we had a relaxed breakfast at the hostel overlooking the valley before getting a taxi to the bus station having bought our tickets on the Yangshuo-Guilin express bus for a mere 18 Yuan. On time and like clockwork the bus departed and an hour later we were back in Guilin where first order of business was to find lunch and then report to the travel agent where we had paid for our sleeper bus tickets 5 days previously.

To my relief the guy we bought the tickets from was in the office, just a prefab room in the train station parking lot, but my relief was short-lived as he looked at us as if he’d never seen us before. I handed over the hand written receipt he’d given us the previous week and he looked more confused which is when I started to worry. He then leaned back in his chair and said “Now there is no bus.” What do you mean no bus? The bus apparently had problems with its air conditioner and because it was summer it was too hot to run it without air-conditioning so it was canceled. Of course, the only other bus later that evening was sold out and if the train was sold out the week before we were stuck but he said he could give us train tickets for the train, same price as the bus, in 4 hours time. They were hard sleeper tickets though which we were determined to avoid. Not thrilled with being messed around, having to wait 4 hours and the prospect of 18 hours on a hard sleeper bunk, Margaurita went in search of another agent who said they had space on a bus leaving in 20 minutes so we got our money back from the first guy and went next door only for them to change their story and now also say they could only get us on the bus the following day. Tired of being messed around and with planes to catch back in Shanghai  we really wanted to get home that day so reluctantly we went back to the first guy and said we would take the train tickets but I knew hard sleepers didn’t cost 400 Yuan so I we started bargaining and I said I wanted to see the tickets so he said “wait a moment” and disappeared into the car park. Five minutes later he returned with 2 train tickets with the price of 270 Yuan printed on them. He then proceeded to explain that they were black market tickets so we had to pay 60 Yuan commission for each ticket. This is when we got angry saying he sold us bus tickets and now he wanted us to pay extra for train tickets but he said that was just the way it worked. I was irate, and began to wonder if there ever was a bus or if his plan all along was to cheat us. Selling us bus tickets for a bus that never existed and then palming train tickets off to us when we were stuck and without options for the same price. We haggled with him and got the commission down to 35 Yuan each and when I asked for a receipt he gave me a hand written receipt for 70 Yuan (the commission on both tickets) and not the ticket prices because they were black market and illegal. Feeling like our hands were tied and we didn’t have many options I then asked what would happen if I took this receipt and the tickets to the police station across the road at which point he got very defensive and reached to grab the tickets out of my hand. Evidently I had hit a nerve and he did look worried. I wasn’t going to go to the police because we wanted to go home but I did get some satisfaction out of seeing him squirm a little. He then proceeded to tell us that this was just how it worked and that they didn’t like the system either. So we left with train tickets in hand and had a few hours to kill so we went back into town to try to shop for some snacks for the train but finding a supermarket proved easier said then done. Eventually we found one and then had to rush back to the station and we only just made it onto the platform as the whistle was sounding for the train to leave and we were on board nervously searching for our hard sleeper compartment, anxious as to what we might find, who our bunk mates would be and how dirty it would be? And there it was, our 6 sleeper compartment and we were on the top bunks on either side having to climb over two others to get to them. This was the view from the top looking down into our compartment.

each compartment has 3 bunks on each side and no door

There was some space thankfully for our luggage but not much room to stretch my legs.

leg room and luggage storage

 More than at the other end of the bed though…

not much head room on the top bunk

Luckily for us the people in our compartment weren’t too bad, no-one snored loudly or ate stinky tofu and the one young child was kept occupied by his father’s iPhone. What I didn’t tell you earlier was that the tickets this agent had arranged for us on the black market weren’t in fact back to Hangzhou South where we wanted to go but only to Jinhua, two stops before our station. When we challenged the agent he said that it was no problem we could speak to one of the waitresses on the train and just upgrade the ticket by paying for the extra sections. We were not convinced that this would be as easy as he suggested with us not being able to speak Chinese but he was adamant and even wrote us a note in Chinese. He was also adamant that it would only cost 20/30 yuan. So the next morning when we got to Jinhua we simply stayed in our bunks and waited. Sure enough an official made his way through the car asking people where they were going and printing new tickets with the correct destination and taking payment via either cash or card. When he came to us we said Hangzhou South and he understood and then said our new tickets would be 80 Yuan each which was a surprise and far too expensive we thought. So we mimed that a seat, as opposed to the sleeper bunk, would be alright for the rest of the journey as we knew that would be cheaper. He then reprocessed the tickets and they were only 3o odd Yuan but he then basically frog marched us out of the sleeper car making sure we weren’t going to just stay where we were, through the dining car and into the seated car section. Well, not quite into the seated section as it was so full there were already people standing and squatting in the aisle.

no standing room even

We looked at this and looked back at the official who was still motioning for us to go into the car so she could shut the door and keep us separate from the sleeper cars but we just stood our ground blocking the door with my suitcase and refused to move. Eventually she gave up and left so we moved back into the corridor along the kitchen of the dining car and stood for the rest of the journey which was only another 40 minutes. We arrived at Hangzhou South Railway Station and had to exit through the car (see above) which was just disgusting. Despite no smoking signs I told 3 guys to stop smoking as I walked through and the floor was just covered in plastic bags, rubbish, chicken bones and nut shells. Perhaps the hard sleeper wasn’t so bad after all. I couldn’t imagine spending 18 hours on a hard seat in an overcrowded car like that. Back in our apartments, and showered, we were so relieved to be home in Xiaoshan after this crazy journey that had started 26 hours earlier, back in Yangshuo.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

We arrived in Yangshuo and caught an illegal taxi to our hostel but I had to give him credit as he had a stack of business cards from all the hostels which he handed to me and said “which hostel?” I simply found the card for Tripper’s Carpe Diem and we were off. Our welcome wasn’t the best at the hostel but it was completely out of their control. There was no electricity from 8am-7pm (the government was putting in new pylons), there was construction on the property behind (the farmer building a new house) and a terrible drumming racket coming from across the valley (an 88-year-old women had died and funerals here go all night with intermittent fireworks). This didn’t really matter as we were planning to do lots of activities over the coming days. This hostel also has an unbelievably comprehensive activities guide so we didn’t waste time and booked a horse ride for the following morning.

Margaurita on the white horse

our guide did a good job to getting this angle

lovely day for a ride

thirsty work for the horses

beautiful place for a horse ride

this coordination wasn't easy

trying to coax the horses out of the water

Looks like the horse has done this before

"good horse, good horse"

posing with our guides cowboy hat

check out the white horse smiling

In the afternoon we walked into town to catch a bus to Xingping where we were booked to go “Drifting” which is a form of white water rafting. Having rafted in Victoria Falls I was sceptical as to how good this would be but I was pleasantly surprised. They have taken a river and created weirs strategically at various points down the valley. and in some parts they have built up the river to create channels. This is all necessary because there are no guides as such, it’s just two people per raft and you hold on while you drift down the gorge. We didn’t take cameras and the souvenir photos were expensive so here are some photos I found on the net to give you an idea of what it was like.

Drifting in Xingping - photo by Dan Ouyang

the river was quite rough in places

crowded weir while drifting

Despite the crowds it was a lot of fun and rougher than you would think with some big drops on some of the weirs and a great way to spend 2 hours in the summer heat.

Read Full Post »

Or at least something that looked like a bamboo raft. They are actually made from PVC tubing but they look similar. We got collected from our hostel at 10:00am and taken by bus to Yangdi Pier. Along the way the tour guide who spoke reasonable English gave us some info on the area and the things of interest to look out for during the cruise on the river. We lucked out and got the front seat on our raft which was 1 of 6 in our group. It was nice to be on the water, despite being the middle of the day a breeze kept us cool and the scenery was just what I expected and hoped for.

Our flotilla leaving Yangdi Pier

Lots of rafts up ahead approaching the first bend

Interesting peak all on its own HDR

enjoying our front row seat

sheer rock face beside the Li River

and then the sun came out HDR panorama

The famous section seen on the Chinese 20 Yuan bank-note

short pit stop at riverside curio sellers

supposedly you can see 9 horses in the side of this peak, I'm not so sure

a Cormorant on a stick

Water Buffalo in the water

"You get the view and I'll get you."

One of the large cruise boats that don't look very nice

Two Karst peaks watching over the Li River HDR

cruising in style on a raft down the Li River

The bamboo raft cruise from Yangdi Pier to Xingping (where another bus took us to Yangshuo) lasted about 2 hours and was one of the highlights of my trip.

Read Full Post »

We don’t seem to have much luck with trains and despite leaving the apartment early we waited for more than 20 minutes for a bus to the station and so were cutting it fine. When we arrived at the station we went to the normal entrance only to discover the we had to go to waiting room 2 which was one building down and predictably had a massive queue outside. With 15 minutes to our scheduled departure we became Chinese and ignored the line pushing, and I mean pushing, to the front of the line and into the building. We found our boarding gate with a mass of people all standing and waiting but as the time ticked by they didn’t open they gate. Not being able to read Chinese characters we could only guess our train was delayed and while we stood waiting for some 30 minutes we had a chance to breath and take in just how many people were in the station whose air conditioning wasn’t coping at all in the 35°C heat. All you could see was people’s heads from wall to wall.

Wall to wall people in Waiting Room 2 at Hangzhou South Train Station

The train itself wasn’t so bad, not quite as spacious as I remembered the Soft Sleeper to Beijing being but it was decent and we seemed to get quite lucky as the father and son we shared our compartment were nice and most importantly didn’t snore or eat stinky food.

Corridor of the Soft Sleeper car of the T77 train from Shanghai to Guilin

Our side of the slightly cramped Soft Sleeper compartment

Eighteen hours later [including an hour of accumulated delays] we pulled into Guilin after the scenery had noticeably changed with limestone peaks in the distance and clean rivers, which you just don’t see in the big cities of China anymore.

Crossing a clean river on the way into Guilin

We followed the directions and caught a bus easily enough to our Ming Palace Youth Hostel. It was a fairly new hostel having only been open for 5 months but it was adequate and in a fairly nice situation, away from the city centre but close to some major attractions. As the name would suggest, turning left they are 100m from the Ming Palace (which we didn’t visit) and turning right 100m from the Li River. After checking in and dumping our bags we set off to see the river and explore the city while we tried to plan our next few days.

Panorama of the Li River in Guilin

(more…)

Read Full Post »