So after a pretty quick and painless border crossing from Hong Kong in to Shenzhen (fake capital of the world, so I’m told – and no Australian government I didn’t buy anything so you don’t need to check me on the way in!!) we had our first taste of China. Not one English sign in the entire place. So how does one book a train ticket out of Shenzhen you might ask? You just ask a Serbian to help!!
Thankfully I had done some research before we left – I knew the train was called K952 and it left at 17.51. All cool as the Chinese use the same numbers as us. Mighty. Except it was a 13.5 hour train journey and they only had hard seats left. Ah sure we’ll be grand we decided (tickets were only 13 euro and we weren’t waiting 3 days for a soft sleeper). Ya, we should have waited. The seats are basically 3 and 3 on one side with a table in between that only extends to the second person, then an aisle and then 2 and 2 on the other side with a table which extends to one person. And we weren’t sitting together. And my do the Chinese like to stare. I solemnly vow never to complain about Iarnrod Eireann again. I literally thought we were going to go off the tracks every few minutes, really loud noises and screeching of breaks. Great introduction to China! So about 4 hours in the journey, this glass/plastic pane of the doorway which separates you from outside just falls out of the train and smacks against the ground. Haha, that wakes the Chinese – who could sleep upside down, inside out, on a bucket in a fridge. Good times! The rest of the journey was pretty uneventful – except John could hardly walk since he’s 6 foot and the trains are definitely not made for that!! Oh and I won’t mention the toilet situation on a train…
So we get to Guilin and are immediately accosted to get on another bus to Yangshuo which is another 1.5 hours away. Great. Took a little walk and hopped on the next bus. Finally get to Yangshuo and we’re dropped at a petrol station about a kilometre outside the town. Thanks lads, I probably needed to get used to that backpack anyway. Get in to Yangshuo and apparently our hotel is 6km outside the town. Not loving China at this stage I must say!! Get robbed by the Tourist Information Office and finally get to the hotel, think about 1pm. Slept ALL day!!
Day 1 in Yangshuo: Rented bicycles for half a day. N.B. Do NOT, under ANY circumstances rent a bicycle after a long train journey. Internal damage for sure. I guess my parents won’t be having any grand-kids from me!!! Found a hostel bar called ‘Monkey Janes’ and John went playing ‘Beer Pong’ (don’t ask) whilst we chatted to some English, Israelis and Swedish guys…oh ya, and a guy from Killarney. Of course.
Day 2: Rented bicycles for the day. I know, I know, learn your lesson Ciara. Ah well sure. Took a 1.5 hour cycle in to the middle of the Chinese countryside via rice paddies and random villages. That’s the way to see China. Beautiful. Cycled to a place called ‘Dragon River’ with a bridge which was quite high up and there were these Chinese guys having a right old time – jumping off – happiest guys ever. They were trying to make John jump in…I totally would have had I not just learned to swim (ya right). Got a bamboo raft for about 45 minutes, maybe a little longer, basically most of the journey back to Yangshuo (cheating I know but did I not mention the internal damage!!). Lovely bamboo raft ‘driver/steering man’ called Phi Phi who was also a great guide. He was telling us all the best pictures to take. Went down 3 slight waterfalls and sure who was at the end of each to meet us only a group of Chinese people on a raft-type floating photographer-printing-shop set-up. Would you be well though? I’m not kidding you, the Chinese would try to sell you their elbows. We were being hassled 24/7 out there. Ridiculous. I’m not going to say it ruined Yangshuo for us, but it seriously came close. You couldn’t stop for a millisecond to look at a map and you were being accosted. Ok back to the river. Ya, that was it!!
Day 3: Decided to check out of our hotel, Hidden Dragon Villa as the wifi was useless (dear God no!) AND the electricity was gone. Come on now lads like. Then we felt really bad because the girls that run the place are so friendly and they gave us these little red purses with 1 yuan note in them (I guess about quarter of a cent? I don’t know, John’s dealing with all this, I’m just providing the PIN number!) for Good Luck and Fortune. Really sweet. Until their credit card machine wasn’t working so they had to drop us into Yangshuo – your man drops us about 2 km away from the centre in this random bank – John’s one mighty man though – put the money in his pocket and got back in to the taxi until he brought us smack bang in to the middle of the town. The taxi driver went calling the hotel on his mobile when we got back in to the taxi and everything!! We said we had to catch a bus – it’s not as if it was our fault their credit card machine was out of action. Cheeky pups.
Off we popped down the main thoroughfare ‘West Street’ (haha) to the Bamboo House Inn which has hands-down the most amazing banana bread I have ever tasted…and I hate bananas! Really nice receptionist dude called Mickey too. Went to the sister hotel of the Bamboo House, called the Yulange Hotel for dinner. Once we told the waitress/receptionist/talkaholic Annie that we were staying in the Bamboo House she had to take us upstairs to show us 4 different room types. This is a brand new hotel. Unbelievable rooms and they work out at €40 a night. Electric toilets!! The interior designer was French and has just done such an amazing job merging the two cultures – like a boutique Chinese modern hotel. Only thing…the bathrooms are in the rooms…like no doors or anything…not sure that would work for me!! Wow I’m harping on about bathrooms a lot.
Final morning in Yangshuo spent dodging touts and stocking up on banana bread after my lovely breakfast in the Festina Lente cafe run by a lovely Dutch couple. Then off on a 6 hour bus journey to Nanning close enough to the Vietnamese border so we can get out Vietnamese visa. Staying in a hostel…let’s see how that goes!