Nanning, China

Not much to report here really, just a stopover so we could organise our Vietnamese visas. Stayed at ‘Lotusland Hostel’ and they organised our visa for us in one working day. So my first Asian hostel…yes I have done the whole hostelling scene before and it’s grand. Grand. Until you end up with four Chinese guys…including a 95 year old with his own washing line on the bottom bunk, rightly set up he was! My God the Chinese are loud – I think it’s just their way though – it’s  just so loud here all the time, cars beeping constantly, people shouting at each other just so they can hear the other person standing right next to them!! And we were well quiet – tip-toeing around the place and whispering. So we moved to a double room the next night…
 
Spent our first evening wandering from air-conditioned shopping centre to air-conditioned shopping centre. Yes, this was absolutely necessary. Went for food and the owners came running over to us…to practice their English! Turns out the couple who owned the place studied English in Southampton. Tried to persuade John to try some of their specialities but he was having NONE of it. I tried some what I hope was chicken and it was actually really good. Also strolled down this market-type food street. Pigeons, snakes, crocodile, anything you can imagine they’ll cook up in front of you. Thanks lads but full belly and all that…
 
Spent the night in the hostel playing cards with a couple from Birmingham. Ah the backpacking lifestyle.
 
Biggest ‘excitement’ in Nanning: Probably spent an hour or so just watching the top of this building where there were two people thinking of jumping off. Awful so it was. The fire brigade were there with their blow-up mattress type thingy…there was NO way anybody was landing on it mind – must have been about 2 foot by 2 foot and the two people were about 20 floors up. Don’t think they did it but there was nobody there the following morning…
 
Nanning photos: There are no Nanning photos, don’t go there!
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Yangshuo, China

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.
Rice paddies in Yangshuo

Rice paddies in Yangshuo

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!!
Yes, that's a McDonalds

Yes, that’s a McDonalds

Ah, serenity

Ah, serenity

Keeping out of the sun

Keeping out of the sun

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!

Hong Kong

Howdy all – so here’s an attempt at a blog – hope I don’t bore everyone to death!!
Pretty tearful goodbye in Cork airport but slept a lot of the way to London then so not so bad 🙂 Heathrow then for 5 hours but totally flew – they had a Harrods Food Hall so that helped!!
Qantas then for the 11 hour flight to Hong Kong. Of course John’s TV screen didn’t work so that wasn’t the greatest start. Option 1: Move next to a crying bambino. Option 2: Sit in the middle of 2 other people and ruin their lovely comfy space… Option 3:  Talk to the Aussie guy next to you. A really lovely Aussie guy moved so John could watch his TV – so nice. Great for me too as I had 2 seats to sleep on – slept 7 hours!! Those sleeping tablets are the business, thanks Mum! My god Qantas feed you A LOT too. I think maybe the sleeping was food coma + sleeping tablet actually. Thoroughly recommend both on a long flight!
Arrived at Hong Kong airport via a ‘temperature check’ stand. Imagine being turned around there! Immigration was super fast and bags out waiting for us. Bit of an air of German efficiency here!!
I sent us to the wrong MTR (metro) station then of course. Had to walk about 20 minutes in searing heat with that damn backpack AND I packed so lightly!! Finally found the hotel (Langham Place – definitely recommend) – 4th floor of a shopping centre and then our room was on the 29th floor. Absolutely amazing views at night. Hotel was beautiful – plenty of supplies for the rest of the trip – toothbrushes and sewing kits galore 🙂
Hong Kong skyline

Hong Kong skyline

Madness in Mongkok

Madness in Mongkok

We did all the regular touristy things in Hong Kong, Avenue of Stars, Symphony of Lights (buildings along the Tsim Sha Tsui light up to music in a 14 minute light show), computer/gadget shops for John, Victoria Peak (via a god damn tram I nearly had a heart attack on – about a 45 degree angle – could not look down), Flower Market, Bird Market (have a video of a mighty little bird saying ‘Hello’. Oh it’s the little things), Goldfish Market (not what I was expecting. Does one expect a pet shop with little puppies in cages? Should not have gone in there – one little puppy reminded me of Ben. Been thinking I should have taken him ever since!), Night Market, Mid-levels escalator… Story now with this mid-levels escalator – it’s the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator system (thank you wikipedia). It runs downhill in the morning and uphill in the evening. We went up about 4pm I’d say – John’s question: Can you go all the way to the top of this and get to Victoria Peak? Ciara’s answer: No, John. John’s next question: Are you sure? Ciara’s answer: Yes, John 140%. John’s next statement: Ah sure we’re passed the rubicon, we may as well continue (trying to prove me wrong – he’s thinking ‘This is totally bringing us to Victoria Peak, she hasn’t a clue’). At the top: A road going nowhere. Point of this story: Ciara’s always right. Full stop. Men. I suppose we have to let them make their mistakes!!
On top of Victoria Peak

On top of Victoria Peak

Avenue of the Stars

Avenue of the Stars

All the little fish!!

All the little fish!!

Oh went for dim sum also – found this place in come book in the hotel – Tim Ho Wan restaurant in the Mongkok area (very close to hotel) – it’s like the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant. Went there twice and massive queues – 2 hour wait – no thanks, can’t be that bloody good. Went back on Sunday morning – thought it was opening at 8am – we were second there – queuing with a lovely group from Taiwan. This lovely lady went through the entire Chinese menu with us – telling us what we should order etc. – then along comes an Australian couple (directly off their flight!!) and we’re all queuing until 10am!!! Massive queue by then and some little pups cut in – and take a table of 10 – little buggers trying to say they were there all morning. Some people. The next people in line had to wait another hour then. Epic dim sum mind.
Best statement John made in Hong Kong: ‘The women are pretty much of a standard design aren’t they?’ WHAT do you say to that??!!!!
Funny names of places so far…Yu Rong Supermarket, Man Kee Foods restaurant…
Hong Kong at night

Hong Kong at night