Kunming - Dali - Lijiang - Tiger Leaping Gorge - Kunming - Guilin - Dragons Backbone Rice Terraces
We arrived in Kunming at around 12pm with the hope of possibly jumping straight on to a bus to Dali. As Kunming is just another big city, we were eager to move on to the real reason we have came to the Yunnan province and experience some Chinese countyside. Once off the train we made our way to various different bus stations near by that had been recomended by our Lonely Planet book to pick up a long distance bus to Dali. After some very long exchanges with Local Chinese and bus ticket employees we discovered that this is now not the case and we would have to make are way to the other side of town to take a bus to Dali. With this in mind and with the fact that it was now 1pm we decided to head for a hostel we had marked in Lonely Planet. After an hours walk, taking the odd detour to avoid huge building works going on right throught the centre of the city (one thing I have noticed in China, the City’s are already huge, with massive impressive buildings, sky scrapers, not just in Beijing but every City we have ventured through. Yet there still adding to them, everywhere you look, you can not help but be taken back by just how powerfull this counrty is and how much more powerful it will be in years to come! Every angle they are making money, much to our detriment!) So once we had finally made it to our chosen hostle, we checked in and made our way to our room. That afternoon we caught up with our blog and then went to a local Chinese restaraunt for some grub, we chose to first have a salad that went down really well! We’re missing are greens! We then shared two dishes of noodles and a chicken curry, which we both picked out the chicken and eat the rest of the curry! Ha - It did not resemble the chicken I eat so much of at home, one bit! Ha On the way back to our hostel we stopped off at a local bar for a beer, where I read a few books as Kay started her Birthday blog entry! Ha - I knew I would be on my own for some time, as she normally has loads to say on a normal day, but her birthday entry was going to be a long one! Once we had finished our beers we headed back to the hostel where Kay continued to write her blog and I where I was challenged by a Chinese man to a game of pool. Now being in his backyard and not wanting to be an un-polite guest I let him take a 3-0 lead against me. Before I came storming back to take the next two games, but once again being the polite guest that I am. I left it at that! - So China 3, England 2! Ha Kay and myself then retreated to our rooms for a cuppa and a few Oreo’s, which is the mainstay in our diet lately! Ha Before hitting the sack, ready for our ealry start to head to Dali!
We had to move on to our next destination today - we had booked a bus to Dali through our hostel last night - which was due to leave at 9am, arriving in Dali 5hours later. The bus station was on the other side of town - which meant that we had to get a couple of different buses to it - worried that this could potentially go horribly wrong and we could miss our bus - as this particular hostel were not very helpful at giving us good directions - we were up at 7am to leave us as much time as possible to make the supposed 1hr 15min journey across town. Whilst checking out - we luckily got chatting to two women who told us that they had just come from the bus station and it only cost £2.70 in a taxi (we had been previously told it would be £6 and therefore decided it would have to be a bus journey to it). £2.70 was much more affordable - and avoiding the chance of missing the bus - we decided to hop in a taxi instead which got us straight there for £2.40 as the women correctly advised us - much easier morning than we had anticipated!! We arrived a bit early but found our gate and waitied by it ready for our bus to arrive. The girl working at the station kindly let us know when we were able to board (nothing here is in English - no bus numbers or anything - so very glad the girl was so helpful) and we climbed on with our big bag of snacks that we had purchased at the bus station - settled in for the jouney ahead. Traffic here in China is not as bad as India - but it is not far off - they rush around pretty fast - zipping infront of each other without much room to spare - everyone seems to be in a rush to get somewhere / or they don’t seem to offer any politeness to other drivers by letting them in - each for their own! Ha! Along a bit of a duel carridgeway, this became evident when a huge lorry behind our coach misjudged his pushing in efforts and hit into us, scratching all along the back end of the bus. It wasn’t an accident or anything really - we didn’t particularly feel it - just heard it! Ha! They both stopped in the middle of the roads while they seemed to argue over somthing - what we don’t know - it had to be the other guys fault as we were stationary - held up by another accident that had happened up ahead. After 5 or 10 mins they seemed to have settled what they were discussing and we continued on our way - passing another 3 or 4 accidents on that particular strip of road - none of them serious, just bumps - but it must be a particularly bad spot for it! Half way through our journey we stopped off for the loo etc. Ollie went, I made an attempt to - but the public loos here in China have no doors and the wall are only half height, in which you need to squat over a hole in the floor. I decided I could wait until our hostel!!!! Ha! (We have come to terms with the squatting - but doing so with no door and almost no walls - I’m not quite there yet! Ha!) We snacked on some stall food - a nice bit of fresh pineapple & some potatoes on a stick with some sort of spiced powder dusted on them - nice snack for 20p each! They did have some meals they were selling which looked really good - me and Ollie wanted to try as they seemed to offer alot of veg dishes to choose from (rare in China - EVERYTHING is meat - and not like the meat you get at home!!!) - but we just weren’t hungry enough to be able to. In India we would eat alot of stall food - but here in China we will get odd bits and bobs - but it is difficult to get stuck into all the local delicacies as you can’t totally enjoy them - through fear of what it is you are actually eating - it all looks and tastes so alien to anything we have at home! We tend to stick to trying it in restaurants - bit more expensive (tea is about £5 for both of us) - but if it means we feel we can safely enjoy it - it’s worth the extra pennies! Anyway, back on board we continued the rest of our journey - passing our time just gazing out the window at everything we were passing - again, beautiful mountain scenery (but this unfortunutely means you spend alot of time in tunnels passing through the mountains! Ha!). We arrived at “Dali” at 2pm. I say “Dali” as we weren’t actually in Dali - we were in a place called Xiaguan - which was Dali City, not “Old Dali” that we needed to get to. We needed to get another bus, a minibus this time for the half an hour journey to our intended destination. Having no idea where to get this from - having to follow the kind, yet useless direction from locals we just wandered off in the vague direction they pointed in - really to try and get out of view to find our own way on a map. We turned a corner and lingured for a little while we decided which way to head - when we heard some shouting from behind us - it came from a lady on a minibus - Ollie shouted back “Old Dali?”. She contined to talk in Chinese, so we went over pointing to our LP book to try and ensure they understood we needed to get to the old part of the city - they didn’t seem to acknowledge what we were saying to them - just trying to usher us onto the bus as quickly as possible. Ollie trying to make sure we weren’t carted off to any old place persisted to try and get confirmation of where they bus was actually going - “Dali Old City” - pointing to book - “YES!!!!” the bus driver sternly shouted. We were literally pulled onto the bus and pushed into a corner as there were no seats available. Me & Ollie just looked at each other - unsure if we had got this right or not - the bus driver did say it was that way - so we just had to go with it and hope for the best. We got reshuffled around the bus a few times - me mainly - to hide the overcrowding from the police & to allow the driver to see - both very good reasons for us to move - but being proded, pulled and pushed (LITERALLY) without any direction as to what they would like us to do - just being shouted at in their aggressive Chinese manner - I didn’t feel was neccessary!!! I hate feeling in the way - I get really uncomfortable - Ollie would have reacted better to this - but I didn’t like it at all - from that point I felt totally fed up with being here - nobody appreciates that you don’t understand - they don’t even bother to try and see if you can understand - it simply takes too long for them to do so and they can’t be bothered - so they simply act in their own way, which I appreciate is just their way and they don’t mean anything by it, which we need to accommodate as we are in their country - but still I can’t help that I receive them as being very impolite & aggressive people who have no time for anybody but themselves. In the same way as it is just their way - I cannot help my way - being brought up in England I have learned to be a certain way and cannot help but feel offended when I am in the company of people who act in a way against everything I know! To date we have relied on games of scharades, back and forth to get us over the language barriers - but no - not here - they don’t have time for it. I sat looking at the ground for the rest of the journey - which luckily wasn’t long - trying to avoid eye contact in my discomfort. We thought we had spotted the city walls - but were not sure if this is where we needed to get off - the driver overhearing our conversation (obvoiusly understanding English to some level) just shouted “YES”, again abruptly - Ollie tried to ask which gete we had been dropped at so we could get our bearings on our map - but his English seemed to switch off again, and we could not get him to even acknowledge us. We jumped off with our bags and headed off in search of a hostel. We had earmarked one from our LP book - luckily by chance we had been dropped right next to the hostel - rates were still cheap for the area (£8per night) so we checked in and headed out to see Dali & grab some food as it was now 4pm ish. Dali was VERY beautiful - with streams running through the entire city walls - lots of traditional Chinese buildings - beautiful - BUT massively touristy (chinese tourists)!!!! There were crowds and crowds of people everywhere!!! This doesn’t really bother us - but I can see why some travellers will have been put off from the area in recent years as it has become more and more popular. We headed to a restaurant noted in the LP book as being famous for Lasagne - Ollie stuck with Chinese food, but I needed home comfort western food today - I was not having a good day in China - just exhausted with how hard work it is - being fed up of being round such unfriendly people. Lasagne was good - my mood still was not - headed back for an early night hoping to wake up in a more travellerish mood tomorrow ready for our bike ride. (Boo Hoo - I miss home!)
Woke up today - not really any more ready for the bike ride than I was yesterday. My own fault but I just could not lift myself from a sulking state - feeling like I am going more and more inside myself. I didn’t want to go on the bike ride as I am now just anticipating being shouted at by locals for doing somthing wrong and again to be left feeling in the way. Ollie said that we should do the bike ride to get up and get on with it. I wanted to dig my heels in and say no - but I knew he was right - so we hired the bikes from our hostel (£2 each) and headed off in what we thought was the right direction. You know the saying - “It’s just like riding a bike” i.e. somthing you never forget - not true! Ha! Me & Ollie got on the bikes suprised how shaky we were on it - I couldn’t even steer properly! Ha! After a bit of practice it seemed to come back to us and we headed to the lake. We managed to find our way (wahoo! LP maps of China not good - leave alot out / things have changed so much since it was written) and enjoyed some potatoes for some energy before we set off. We tried to go into the lake through the ticket desk (you have to pay to do EVERYTHING here) but we were told we were not allowed to take bikes in here..!? We were confused - as LP says there are loads of tracks along the river to ride along!? We tried to find out where we could enter with the bikes - but again - the lack of help was so frustrating that we gave up and went to see if we could find out ourselves. We dicorvered we couldn’t - we had no idea where to go!? (Again - no signs anywhere to help! Good old China! Ha!) I suggested going back to ask around more - but Ollie didn’t want to as he thought we would only get more frustrated when nobody would help us. We then spotted 2 Chinese lads on bikes who looked like tourists (Ollie very impressed with his detective skills to identify this!) heading towards the lake, so we followed them in the hope they would be able to get directions as they obv speak Chinese and we could then follow them to the entrance. We did this and asked them where we needed to go - they could speak a little English and they explained they didn’t know really either - they were going to try this little lane. We did too - we found ourselves winding around a local little village - with the odd lane leading us to the edge of the lake - but with no path to follow around the edge. We enjoyed cycling round the maze like roads - making a wrong turn pretty much every turn we took - but then we would find a path allowing us to make progress further along - result!! We were really enjoying ourselves - it was so nice to be in such a quiet area - no tourists - only the odd locals we would pass who would all be delighted to see us - their faces lighting us to welcome us with a “Nihao” - or the children desperate to practice the chance of a “Hello” - which they would immediately shyly retreat as soon as we would say hello back. The sun was shining, we were enjoying our bike ride, in absolute peace & quiet, having the chance to smile at people we meet - who would return the same. THIS IS THE CHINA I HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR!!!!! Brilliant!!! Yesterdays feelings were wiped out in a second of getting into the village. The village only seemed to have young children or very old, wrinkly, ancient looking chinese living here - both of which are the best to people watch!!! I really can’t tell you how nice it is to be here right now!!! We eventually found our way to the edge of the village - hitting a blanket of fields where men and women were working very hard to harvest the crops. Again - the perfect china we have been looking for!!! The greens of the fields allowed us the odd peep at the lake shore - we knew we were getting close! We made our way through the fields, and another village - winding our way through the same labrynth to be met by the friendliest people! We passed by a house that was being built - it looked like the whole community had chipped in to help each other - with women and men doing all of the labouring & building work! The women here really do get stuck in! Very much a “can do” attitude - much the same as India - very unlike England! We continued and found a dust road lining the edge of the lake! It was worth every wrong turn - it was beautiful!!! Green trees straddled the edges, the calm waters only disturbed by the odd bird diving in to fish for it’s tea, with huge black mountains in the backdrop, the tips of which partially hidden by cloud. We stopped at various picturesque points, taking time to enjoy the view. After about and hour of cycling along the lake - we decided that we had better head back as we had taken so many turns we had no idea where we were and if we would be able to easily find the way back. On our cycle back the scenery looked completely different again - the light had changed, rain clouds were on its way, which had transformed everything into various bluey / purpley shades - just as lovely!! (It reminded me of Mums living room at home - thought, oh they would like it here! Ha!). The road we had taken along the lake edge on the way - hadn’t actualy been completed in parts, we had to climb over huge mounds of rocks and buiding materials at several points whilst carrying our bikes - not the easiest - so we decided to try and avoid this on the way back. We took a different road which luckily brought us to a point we recognised - and enjoyed our last hellos and goodbyes with the smiley locals. Luckily just as we left the last village it began to rain - we cycled the final 45min to our hostel as quickly as possible - the rain got heavier and heavier but our trusty rain macks kept our clothes dry - even if everything else was dripping wet!! We dropped the bikes off - dried off - headed out for tea back at Cafe De Jacks, the same as yesterday, as the food was to good to pass on! After being introduced to what I feel is the real China - I felt it was only right to order local food tonight - so me and Ollie shared a couple of dishes - all of which were delicious - really enjoyed them!! Needless to say we slept well after our 7 hour bike trip (even if our bums were pretty sore! Ha!).
Much better day today - today I like China - I don’t want to go home anymore! Ha!
After a day on the bikes yesterday both Kay & myslef woke up feeling a little sore, but that was not going to detere us from tackling the Cang Shan mountains! We set off from our hostel fairly early to start the climb as in Lonely Planet it advised that to reach our eventuall destination, the Zonghe Temple it would take us a sweaty 2-3 hours! As we passed out through the city walls we could see our challenge ahead of us, the long road leading up towards the mountains seemed steep and far enough, let alone the huge mountains rising up amongst the clouds! Sure enough that long, steep road seemed to last for ages, but once we reached the top it was more then worth it! We were greeted with a Chinese market! Since being in China we have passed through small markets, mostly selling food, but this was the real deal! Not like the markets we get at home, nothing like the market at Portland Bill near Weymouth where my Gramps loves to collect useless junk as my Gran calls it! Ha This was Chinese medicines, Chinese foods, good luck charms and animal skins! We entered through the Chinese medicines section first, much to our horror yet still slightly intrigued we came across animal skins and bones, a monkeys foot, what looked like a large cat paw, possibly a leopard and even a tortoise shell. The stalls went on and on, with more and more crazy and to be honest cruel animal parts. Once we came to the end of the stalls displaying the animal parts, we came to a large group of people sat around on stalls, focussing on one man. He clearly was a charismatic man as these people seemed to be hanging on to his every word, every now and again bursting into laughter. The man had something special about him, either a great doctor or an even greater salesman as these Chinese people were handing over big wads of cash for just one small bottle containing those horrendous broken down animal parts. We stopped and watched for a while trying to count up the amount of money each person was handing over, these people did not seem wealthy at all, yet the money they were handing over could possibly feed them for a few weeks! After talking with a couple from New Zealand since then who teach in China, they informed us that they believe the Chinese use these medicines as they believe they will then take on the strengths that animal posseses in turn helping them to fight any eventual disesase. Sounds like pure madness and absolute cruelty if this is the case! Once pass the medicine sections we continued through to the food section, first the vegetables and fruit and then on to the dreaded meat! Ha - To be honest it was no where near as bad as we anticipated, yeah there were pigs heads and trotters, full cows bodies and chicken feet (which we are so custom to seeing in China it doesnt bother us one bit now, they eat them as a snack on the train! Kay & myself have crisps & crackers, they have chicken feet!Ha) but the meat section was fine, no where near as bad as having to walk past the butchers in Bedminster! As Kay reminisced being little and her mum taking her and Lauren past it, whilst they would hold their nose or even there breath to avoid the back of the throat meat smell! Ha Once again just like the medicine stalls, the meat stalls went on and on! This market was huge! Yet it clearly warranted being such a huge market as there were massive groups of people down every aisle you would turn to walk down! Each with their custom basket attached to their back full to the brim with their week’s and more shopping! With the time getting on a little and with are sweaty 2-3 hours mountain climb still ahead of us Kay & myslef decided to leave the market and continue with are trek towards the foot of the mountain. Unfortunatly with no map and with no clear road signs, we took a few detours, went around in a few circles and wasted a little energy before finding the foot of the mountain! Still I was determined to climb the 2500 metres to the Zonghe Temple despite Kay’s desire to take the chair lift! Ha - No way, we are travellers on a travellers budget! Ha As expected, I soon regretted that statement and decision! The climb was extremely steep, extremely difficult and extremely sweaty! Ha To make matters worse we had to follow the ‘path’ to the top, right beneath the beautiful, perfect, clearly a great deal chair lift! Ha With every now and again some Chinese tourists shouting gleefully and I reckon smuggly Ni Hao and Hello! Still Kay & myself persevered with our steep task ahead and slowly made it to our Zonghe Temple destination! We had climbed 2500 metres and more we reckon, we were filled with a great sence of achievement! I was proud of us and Kay more in particular, she had done really well! Only once did she pull out the famous ‘Im sulking’, when she declared that she did not know why we were doing this, she is not having fun, even when she gets to the top, she won’t enjoy it as she would be too puffed out! But this moan only lasted a few minutes and Kay soon filled herself with her usual determination and got on with it! She done brilliantly! It was a very difficult climb that easily warranted a chair lift yet she still did it and whilst wearing her Roman Sandles as she keeps proudly telling me! Ha Once at the top we could easily see why people make their way here, the views were amazing! We could see right across Dali, the three Pagodas, the huge mountains across the other side and the huge Erhai Lake that we cycled along yesterday! It was breath taking and that was not just because we were puffed out from the climb, it really was that impressive! There was a long walk that went from either side of the Zonghe Temple, but first we needed to stock up on some grub for energy to tackle another walk. We went further up the mountain to The Highland Inn, this was a hostel perched high up on the mountain designed for those who just love to trek and climb, I dont think I can include Kay & me in that bracket just yet! Ha We went in and had a curry with rice, there was no one staying there just two workers. One local and an American bloke who we got talking to, he was working his way through China, he said he had been there for 13 days and that he too was eventually making his way to Lijiang and Tiger Leaping Gorge. After pollishing off our rice and curry we took to yet another walk, deciding to go west of the temple! Walking along we were greeted to yet more stunning scenery, not just looking on to the town below us but also within the mountain itself. There was so much green around us, a perfect place to take the dogs for a walk if it was not for the steep un-barriered edges! Our walk continued with more and more green trees, the odd small waterfall, with us every now and again looking up and seeing the tips of the mountains amongst the clouds and realising just how high we were up! We had agreed that at a certain time we would head back to give us enough time to catch the last chair lift to the bottom, thats right I had agreed to take the chair lift back down. Well its the least I could do as Kay had done extremely well, plus more to the point I was KNACKERED!! Ha Once we got back to the chair lift we luckily stumbled across a local who offered us a deal on a chair lift back down, worked out half price! Result! On the way down we had definetly made the right choice as the view was excellent, much more worth it as you have your back to all this when your going up on one! Though we did have the odd scary moment as the chair lift was a slightly old, creaky one! Still the biggest obstacle Kay was facing was how to get off it, as the chair just contiues round and goes back up! She did not know whether to just get off and run, at what point does she get off and run, whether to jump to the left or jump to the right! I was finding her over thinking amusing, yet when we did actually come to getting off it, she did have a point! It was not the easiest to escape! Ha I think this is a sure sign that we are slowly getting old! Ha - As a kid you would never worry about such things! Ha Once safely off the chair lift we made are way back to our hostel, quickly got changed and went to Cafe De Jacks for the third time in a row. Now both me and kay agree it is good to try different places, but Cafe De Jacks has been so good on the previous two nights that we just felt it right to reward ourselves with what we know will be a great meal! As we had deserved it and we were extremely hungry! In true Cafe De Jacks fashion the food was excellent! Kay had a huge salad with garlic bread and I had a huge beef chilli with rice! Exactly what the doctor ordered! Thankfully not a Chinese one, who knows what we would have got!!!!
We were up and out early this morning ready for our 8.30am bus to Lijiang! Luckily we did not have to walk far as the bus stop was just a few yards from our hostel! Once on the bus we made our way to Lijiang, along the way trying to record and take as many pictures as we could, the scenry was amazing! With the ultimate picture being the snow topped mountain that greeted us as we arrived in Lijiang some 5 hours after departing Dali. We enquired at the bus station which bus we needed to get to the old part of town, the lady helpfully informed us the number 11 bus. Once off the bus we made our way to the old part of the town, though it looks like the word 'old’ may not be the best way to describe it. With out trying to sound like a pretentious traveller the place looks completely set up for Chinese tourists, everything looks freshly built with them in mind. We compared it to what you would find at Alton Towers, or more like a particular land at Disney World Florida Kay pointed out. Not what we were expecting at all, everyone we have met has said to make your way to Lijiang. With that in mind we were not deterred by what we had experienced at the start of the old town, instead still glancing at the huge snow topped mountain that we could see behind us as we made our way to some hopefully cheap and cheerfull guest houses! After enquiring about a good dozen different guest houses, each time struggling to get across what we were after and how much was it, we stumbled acorss a westerner who was staying at Mama Naxi’s. This was a hostel we had marked out from our Lonely Planet guide book, we followed the westerner down a few winding roads until we came to Mama’s Naxis. Once inside we took a fairly basic yet clean room for 80 yuan (£8). Whilst checking in I knew we had made the right choice, as the English guy John who worked there was so helpful and had so much useful information on our eventual trek along Tiger Leaping Gorge. Once bags had been sorted in our rooms, we made our way to have more of a look of the old town we were staying in. There were hundreds of boutiques all selling similiar stuff, its hard to believe they can all make a profit, then again there are so many Chinese tourists here! About 4 million a year visit Lijiang, so we are certainly not on our own! After wandering around the town, we then made our way to a near by bar / nightclub / restaraunt! I would describe it as all those things just because as we tucked into our local delicacy a ‘Naxi Sandwich’ (Local bread, goats cheese, egg & vegetables) we were treated to first a man and woman on a guitar singing to full base dance & hip hop music complete with disco lights and kids disco smoke machine!! All at the rather early time of 4pm! Still me & Kay enjoyed it, we have not been out on a night out for some time, so it was good to have something to tap our foot to as we played American Rummy! Ha Once sandwhich and toe tapping finished we made our way to the near by park and stumbled across the Dragon Pool, this is a lake with the snow top mountain behind it, this sight is a very famous image used by the Chinese tourism board. Luckily by stumbling on it later on in the evening we avoided the unnecessary entrance fee, as there was no one on the gate to take our Yuen! After our park trespassing we then made our way back to the hostel, first stopping off at the centre to watch some traditional Chinese dancing, looked like their version of our Oke-Koke! And then at some food stalls to have noodles and vegetables.
Second day in Lijiang - meant to go and see the dragon pool today - that we accidentally stumbled upon yesterday. Didn’t manage this - not too much of a disappointment seeing as we have now already seen it anyway - as me and Ollie had a massive row - that lasted all day - leaving us nothing to do but wander around this plastic town on our own - pretending that we are enjoying this mickey mouse place, faking it’s ancient heritage on the outskirts - to cover the KFC & Pizza Hut chains lurking beneath - without any attempt of being discreet. Wasting hard earned money that we spent twice as long being miserable to save - being blown in half the time in a theme park. Should have just gone to Alton Towers and saved all the hassle. I don’t care that Ollie doesn’t want me to say this - I am not enjoying China - I am not enjoying myself at all!!
OVER & OUT FROM A VERY SAD - VERY HOMESICK GIRL!!!
(..... Me & Ollie made up an hour after my entry - we went for another traditional Naxi sandwich - and enjoyed a a few games of cards - when later in the evening the bar turned into a bar that you would find on a strip - blasting Hip-Hop music!!! Ha! It is too expensive to party here - so we headed back fairly early still - but at least in a better mood - amused at how our expectations of this place were totally wrong!!!
.... Perhaps I was a bit harsh earlier - I still say that I am not enjoying day to day China at the moment - but have really enjoyed day trips that we have done.)
In an effort to raise our spirits - we decided on a bike ride to a nearby village today - seeing as we enjoyed the last one so much (one of my favourite things we hve done in China!) - off to Baisha we go!!! We rented bikes from Mama’s for 15Yuen each, and headed off in the directions provided by John. An hour of cycling on the roads of China - including a dual carridgeway, which I was very scared about at first, as the Chinese drive almost as crazy as the Indians!!! We eventually reached the village, in one piece, and we began to explore the lanes - the best part!! We headed off round the back of the village - taking us past the odd houses on the outskirts, which were guarded by dogs, wolfish types, kinda like Kobe, they all seem to look like that round here! Ollie has been joking that dogs don’t like me in China as they seem to keep barking at me - which was backed up when one of the guard dogs got all of its shackles up and came over towards me barking... I peddled as hard as I could to get away from it as quickly as possible (here all houses have guard dogs to protect houses and also all of the live stock they keep in their gardens). Escaping unharmed - I decided that it was time for us to get back to the village to have a look round there - I didn’t want to risk any other encounters of that kind! Ha! (Plus I could see Ollie was getting too tired cycling up the hill - even though he would not admit it! Ha!). We got back to the village - ignoring the request for money to enter the village (pretending it hadn’t happened as otherwise it would frustrate you - they want you to pay for EVERYTHING here - it is ridiculous!!) and settled at a nice little cafe for a hot drink to warm us up - the weather isn’t that great today, it’s on the edge of rain - but is just managing to hold out for us so far!!! We enjoyed our rest and coffee & decided to do a bit more exploring while we could - before heading back to hopefully make it back in time for Mama Naxi’s group supper. We went off exploring the outskirts of the other side of the village - finding perfect photo opportunities to caputure the beautiful countryside, dotted with farmers (or peasants as they call them here - how mean is that! Ha!), led beneath the huge snowy mountain. We spent time capturing pics (can really see how easy it is to get into photography!) and just enjoying being in the peace and quiet. After a while we headed back in the direction we came from - knowing we had done all the hard work on the ride here as it was uphill, so we could just take our feet off the pedels on the way back and just drift home! We luckily managed to make it back to Mama’s just in time for food - perfect!!! We sat with an Australian girl & an American girl and got chatting over food (well actually - we only started talking after food - we couldn’t bring ourselves to waste precious eating moments during the meal - all of the food was simply too delicious!! My favourite was the spicy mince dish & the lotus root which I hadn’t tried until now! Yummy!). The girls were both really cool - and really funny - got on really well chatting about a whole heap of things and ended up staying up later than we should have done really seeing as we planned to get an early night ready for the gorge walk tomorrow - oh well - we were having fun - and we definately deserve that!! As always with travelling - you can feel like you have hit rock bottom with the place sometimes - and then somthings happens which changes it all around - you have the best day ever and completely forget that you could’t stand the place just the day before! Ha! Strange like that - but good!
29/04/2011 - 30/04/2011
We woke up today really excited (if a little sleepy) to join our fellow trekkers from Mama Naxi Hostel on our mini bus ride to Tiger Leaping Gorge. The morning didn’t begin as smoothly as we thought - the minibus had been overbooked and we didn’t have a place - along with 4 others. Mama blamed our new friend John (the friendly - if a little dull - bless him - odd job helper) for the overbooking - shouting at him - making a scene in front of everyone!! Poor John disappeared out the back to get away from her - I don’t blame him - nobody wants to get on the wrong side of Mama! Ha! After a big song and dance we headed for the bus station to catch a bus instead - we found out that the bus didn’t leave until 10am (another hour and a half away) and cost 40Yuen - so we decided as a group to chip in for a mini bus of our own - which actually worked out cheaper and meant we could get on the road straight away. We thought that it was only going to be a short journey to get there - but it ended up taking us a couple of hours - meaning that we arrived at Tiger Leaping Gorge about 11.45am. (After paying our entrance fee of 50Yuen each) The others headed off to start the trek together - but we had already decided to leave one of our backpacks at Janes Guest House at the beginning of the trail, only taking the essentials that we may need - we also decided to get a good breakfast in us while we were here to give us some energy for the trip ahead. 1 tuna sandwich & 1 veg omelette later we started on our trek. The scenery at the beginning of the trek was stunning - a great way to stir up enthusiasim for the challenging trek ahead (to be completed yet again in sandals on my part! Ha!). After a little confusion over where the trail actually began - we finally found the beginning of our red arrows and set off. At this point we were at the bottom of the gorge - but it was still wide - so you could see the hills covered in rice terraces for ages, all drentched in hot sun, with the exception of a few shadows cast by fluffy white clouds on parts of the hills. The sun made every colour stand out so brightly. To be honest the views from this point alone would have been worth the trip - I could have happily sat right there at that spot with a picnic and stayed there all day. A short time after we moved on from that spot - I was wishing that was exactly what we did. The walk was pretty tough pretty quick (mother nature obviously not consider our lack of fitness at time of creation) and my few minutes of sulking (as Ollie likes to call it! Ha!) came in pretty quick. The walk was steep - but not anything we would have a problem with back home - but here - the sun was hot which takes it out of you straight away, and you get out of breath really quickly - I assume because we are so far above sea level - the air is thinner here - making the simplist things much more difficult!!! ( I have a new found respect for moutaineers climbing Everest - they can have my sponsorship anyday! Ha!). To console ourselves we decided that if we are finding it tough - we would slow down and only do the 2 hour walk that day, stay that night and continue the next day, stopping off once more for a night before reaching the end - meaning that we would have more time to take in the sights and enjoy it, without having to worry about making the hostel 5hours away before nightfall. Feeling better with this new plan - we adopted a more comfortable pace and enjoyed everything around us - in beautiful peace and quiet - lovely!! We ended up reaching the 2hour point a little early - we stopped for a drink and a short rest - realising that we had caught up the people from our group originally. Realising that we had made good time, we were confident that we would be able make the next hostel & spend the night there - however still very aware that we found this first part of the trek really tough - and it is the next part called “28 bends” which is notouriously difficult, even for experienced trekkers!! We continued on our way - again - joined by the most beautiful scenery! I can’t describe it - I will have to let the photos do all the talking!! The path began to get really steep and zig zag again and again - after crashing at a stopping point to catch our breath after a few turns - we realised we were wrong to thing that we had began the 28 bends and made progress on it - oh no - we hadn’t even started it!!! Ha!! The saying ignorance is bliss comes to mind!! Disappointed that we have MUCH further to go - and there was no turning back - we continued on. To be honest - I ended up finding this part of the walk much easier than the first part - despite the fact that we were climbing 2500 meters in a short distance. Ollie however, found the first part OK, but this bit was getting to him!! Gutted that he wasn’t able to recover as quickly as he thought he could - he accepted that his fitnesss level are not as they were back in his youthful sportsman days! Ha! I knew he hated the fact that we had to stop for him to catch his breath - but I reminded him that he had carried our backpack the whole way (oh the joys of travelling with your boyfriend! Ha!) which weighed a fair bit - which cheered him up as he then decided “he was a bit like a marine - hiking the gorge with his weighted backpack” - I obviously agreed (anything to perk him up to continue on & avoid me taking over the carrying! Ha!). The whole of the walk so far we hadn’t seen a sole - but on the 28 bends we bumped into red faced people at every place where the path is wide enough for you to stop. Reassuring to know we were not the only ones! Ha! We actually managed to overtake a few & Ollie powered throught the final 7 bends in one go to reach the top!!! Wahoo - we made it - to the top of the no 1 trekking experience in China according to LP & everyone we have met!!!!!! It lived up to the expectations - and as soon as we got up there - I was definately glad I didn’t settle for the picnic at the bottom - it really was amazing!!! The snow capped mountain that we had looked up at earlier - and photographed the previous day - we had just climbed so high that you felt so close to the snowy peak it was unreal - we were literally up in the misty clouds!!! We contined to follow the edges of the gorge - enjoying the view from all angles - even braving stepping out onto a small ledge that sticks out into the gorge for fantastic views!! (Unfortunutely - we could not take pics at this point at a random Chinese man has decided to park himself blocking the entrance demanding 8yuen to take a picture - as he supposedly built the path to the edge of the ledge - we refused to pay out of principle and agreed with many others nearby who were pretty angry towards him that he had the cheek to just decide that he wanted to charge for this!! - But we didn’t dwell on it as we nothing could ruin the achievement of getting up here for these views!!). Stood at the top of the huge mountain we had just climbed - you felt so tiny and insignificant stood amoungst it all - that may be the one thing the pics may not show as well, the sheer scale and size of the gorge - you always felt as though you were the only ones there as others seemed to by swallowed up by the place. After taking it all in - we headed back down the other side of the peak of the gorge (I now HATE walking downhill anywhere - as I know it will always lead me to an uphill at some point - and this downhill was undoing all that hard work of gettin up here just half an hour ago! Ha) which was a task in itself - as our shaky legs were telling us they were ready for a rest - not for supporting our body weight whilst we balanced down the loose rocky path. Finally - hostel in sight (5hours in) - we reached our lodgings for the night!! Wahoo!! We checked in - had to dorm it for the first time - but we expected that - and it was only 3 to a room so no problem at all. The hostel rooms were set in a number of wooden buildings - they looked beautiful set within the scenic hills!! Desperate for a shower upon arrival - we headed straight to the shower block, hoping that they were bearable... luckily the showers were - unfortunutely they toilets were not - a proper chinese toilet - a hole in the floor, no flush, with half height walls and no door - with the mens just on the other side - with nothing to stop someone accidentally wandering round!! Gross - but in the middle of a 2 day trek - no choice!! Showered & changed (thanks again to Ollie for carrying the bag all this way!!!) we ordered food which was cheap & decent value & rewarded ourselves with a nice beer to end the day - all of which was enjoyed sat outside in a courtyard surrounded by lovely wooden lodges, green hills & a snow mountain as centre piece - not a bad way to spend an evening eh!!!! We relaxed - not needing to make much conversation - we were both pretty tired - and didn’t need to know what the other was thinking - it was obvious - lucky us - I cannot believe we are here doing this!!!! Unsuprisingly we had an early night ready to get up early tomorrow & start off early again - can’t wait!!!
Up, dressed, breakfast and on the trail by 8am. We were feeling pretty good today - glad that we were not sore as we thought we might have been from the climb the day before. Luckily we knew that this last part of the trek (remaining 3 hours) didn’t involve any climbs as steep as yesterday so we should be able to make it no problem. We set off earlier than others seemed to - which we liked as most people had stayed at this hostel - we wanted to enjoy the walk to ourselves. The same stunning scenery contines again today - and the weather was just as bright and sunny!! We walked for an hour and came accross our next point on our map - a hostel - so we stopped for a refreshing cold Sprite!!! I took advantage of the loos again - this time they had a door - so they were better - but the back wall of the loo was half height meaning that you had a view of the whole gorge whilst doing your business!! I told Ollie and had to get a pic - we later found out that this is the infamous spot that goies round on emails about the loo with the best view in the world - and I have been in it - wahoo!! ha!!! We relaxed up on a sun deck on a swing chair until the Sprite was all gone!! The sun had started to heat up alot now - I decided my factor 30 was not enough and changed into some combats to protect my poor little pale legs! Ha! We continued along our way - and in the remaning 2 hours the scenery was only improved by the many waterfalls we passed on the way - taking time to be splashed by the ice cold water as we walked through to be cooled from the sun. I can’t go on and on about it - we were so happy - how can you not be when you are in a place that is SO beautiful!!!! The walk had started to come to an end - our bodies were ready to give up - but our eyes weren’t!!! We spotted a painted sign on a rock saying that we were 30mins away from the end of the trail - but at this point - we were relieved - the sun had got really hot - no amount of sunblock was working for me now - my one arm facing the sun & nose was getting burnt to a crisp, I could feel it - but there was nothing I could do to get out of it!! I prayed for one of the white fluffy clouds to cover the sun - just for 10mins to give my skin a break. I didn’t quite get what I wished for - I got a grey cloud instead - meaning that we were boiling hot - skin being burnt to a crisp by the bright sun - whilst being rained on - looking at a snow mountain - very strange to have this all at once we thought!!! 45mins later - me knew this sign had lied to us!!! We could see the hostel - but as soon as we thought we were gettin close - the path would take us off in the other direction!! Aghhh! Ha!!! The end of the trail was the most dangerous yet - so far we had gotton used to walking along the edge of a cliff via a crumbling, slippery path (again - all in sandals! Ha!) - but here, the decent was so steep and out couldn’t find a sturdy rocky anywhere to get your footing on - and any you did manage to find were shiny slippery ones that were impossible to grip on anyway. After some hands and feet bum sliding down, we finally made it - and we both just dived for shade!!! The hostel was silent & empty - we knew we were not sat in the bar area - but we could not move - we just needed 5mins out of the sun! Having recovered I had a snoop around - but after walking into what seemed to be a backgarden, housing animals from baby chicks (cute!) - to a caged monkey (aw - poor thing!) we decided were were in the wrong place and found the owners who pointed us to the correct hostel just a few steps away! Again we crashed here - ordered a nice bit of food. We had originally planned to go on from this point to walk to the exact point which the gorge was names after (apparently a tiger leaped from one side of the river to the other - hence the name) but we happily decided that we had seen it from the top of the gorge, this was enough, we had got everthing we had wanted from the trip & didn’t need to go any further meaning that we wouldn’t need to stay another night (I don’t think our bodies would have carried us even if we wanted to anyway!Ha). We booked onto a minibus back to Lijiang leaving an hour later and enjoyed the restful couple of hours home.
Unfortunutely this peaceful trip was interrupted by us having another crash on the journey home! We are not bad luck - their driving is just as dodgy as India!! Ha! Again not a serious accident - just a bump - but we had to wait for another bus to come and collect us to complete the journey. The rain had already meant that we had taken longer to get back than we should have - on top of waiting an hour for another bus - we definately would not be able to get back to Mama Naxis in time for her group supper!! Damn it!! This masses of food is just what we needed to repleish ourselves!!
When we got back it was tipping down with rain. The rest of the people on the bus had also stayed at our hostel before - and were planning to go back there tonight - it had dawned on us that we might have to hunt round for somewhere else to stay now!!! Ollie - determined that after such a hard couple of days - we were going to get there first - stomped ahead through the crowds racing to get to the hostel and check in first - leaving me to try and keep up behind him whilst chatting away to a lovely Canadian couple. Ollie achieved his goal (although we later found out the others didn’t go straight to the hostel anyway - they went for food! Ha! So no need for the rush afterall!) and we managed to get our same room back. We dropped off our bags and decided that as Mama Naxis food was out of the window - there was only one thing for it - PIZZA HUT!!!!! (Yes I am well aware that I slagged this place off for having one - but I will eat my words now - I have been fancing a pizza for ages and I can’t bring myself to miss out now!! So Lijiang - I apologise for being so mean - you are fake - but sometimes fake is good! Ha!) Disgusted at the price of a pizza (£7 on a meal - this really is a treat for us - it hurt Ollie a little - but I didn’t care - I was having it!) we ignored our budget and splashed out on the biggest popcorn chicken one - and it was worth EVERY penny!!!!! Very full - and completely satisfied - we waddled back to the hostel and crashed again - after one very busy day!!!
VERY PROUD OF OURSELVES OVER THE PAST FEW DAYS!!! Knowing all of you at home - we know each and every one of you would have loved to walk along the gorge - it really was stunning - a brilliant way to spend 2 days - so pleased we did it - we hadn’t originlly planned to come here in China - but wouldnt have missed it for the world!!!! Really seeing a different side to China - I think I am much more suited to life down south!!!
I was woken by a pinch punch first of the month - Ollie winning this months ongoing battle! We had a bit of a nothing day planned in Lijiang today - just before we set off to the next part of our trip. We headed out and tried to get into Black Dragon Pool Park that we accidentally stumbled on the other night - but this time there were sharp attendants at the gate waiting to pounce on us for our 60 Yuen fee for each of us to enter. We had already decided that we wouldn’t pay to go in - would have been a nice place to sit and watch the day go by - but we can’t afford to pay that price - especially as we have already seen it - so we headed back to the centre of Lijiang having a little moan about how you have to pay for EVERYTHING in China, along the way. We decided to stop off and have our 3rd Naxi sandwich since we have been in Lijiang - they are so good we can’t help ourselved. A flatbread filled with salad, goats cheese & egg - all fried / grilled to melt together - delicious - big enough for both of us to share. We then decided to head back to the hostel to catch up on our blog etc. Lucky we did - as whilst paying for our train tickets to Kunming that we had ordered earlier that morning - we were told that our room price had gone up as it was a chinese holiday!!! From 80Yuen to 130!!! We decided that this was too much - so we switched to a dorm room (50 Yuen) just for our last night. Rooms all moved - we sat back in relaxing in the communal area in the hostel - chatting away to John. We had been looking forward to staying here for food again since our last meal. As prompt as ever, Mama dished up her conveyor belt of plates piled with all different types of food - and we tucked in as quickly as possible making sure we didn’t miss out on trying any of it!! Delicious!!! Sat round the table, we got chatting to an American girl who told us all about her travels so far - and we were relieved to find another person who finds the chinese so different for the same reasons as we do. After hours of chatting we remembered that we actually had a train to catch at 9am the next morning - so we headed out to stock up on our food supplies. (I think Ollie was relieved for the break in the conversation). Whilst heading to the supermarket we walked past the many shops lining the tiny streets - where I spotted the very beautiful dresses that I had been eyeing up since we got here - which I happended to mention in passing to Ollie. Well - that was it - Ollie had me in the shop trying it on immediately!! I hadn’t mentioned it for this reason at all...... (Ha!) After much persuation & haggling from 38Yuen to 25 - it was in the bag!!! Chuffed to bits with my new purchase - however impractical it is - I skipped home - desperate to try it on again - gutted when I remembered we had switched to a dorm with no mirror for me to twirl in front of! Ha! Will have to wait until Kunmin before I can try it on again! Look out for it in the pice - it is a blue dress with flowers all over, which have hand stitched bead detail - it really is lovely - but VERY heavy because of the bead detailing - oh well - its worth it!!! When we got back we packed our bags so they were ready in the morning - enjoyed a nice cup of tea before bed and then hit the sack ready to get up early for our train tomorrow.
- P.S - We have managed to find Ped a girlfiriend!!!!
Travelled from Lijiang to Kunming by train today - all day train so bit of a boring day ahead - but good chance to catch up on blog & see all the countryside views out of the window. We found our seats on our 9am train - again we weren’t meant to be sat together. We sat together anyway in the hope that we could swap with another person - but when everyone got settled there didn’t seem to be the need to swap as people didn’t seem to mind that it was a little crowded. But me being me - I felt pretty uncomfortable as I knew we shouldn’t be sat there, and it meant that a lady with a sick baby didn ‘t have the room she should have had really. A bit of time passed on the train - an old man and girl kept trying to ask us questions and talk to us - but they could not speak English so we couldn’t really understand them - which was a shame. Ollie did his best to understand them - and try to provide some sort of reply - if in doubt in these sorts of situations, we always pull out the LP book and give them that to look at - everyone it always really interested & takes the pressure off of us for a little! Ha! It turned out that the two guys sat next to Ollie could speak pretty good English, quiet at first they hadn’t joined in the conversation so we hadn’t realised - but when he did speak to us - it meant that all 8 of us could chat pretty easily (with the poor guy having to translate all!). They were really interested to know the make of our laptop, our phones etc - typical China obsessed with technology - and also wages etc in England - the usual stuff. To give the poor translator a break - Ollie thought of playing cards with them - Chinese love their card games - and felt chase the ace, or in this case chase the joker would be the easiest game to teach. Ollie explained the game to the translator (who is actually a 27 year old university lecturer named Daniel - can’t remember chinese version) who then explained the game to the group in our booth, which was now full with young people around our age. One of the girls who was pretty excitable was thrilled as she already knew this game, and took over explaining the rules to the group. The cards were dealt and we all had an absolute scream playing the game - enjoying having fun without the hard work of needing to speak. After quite a few games - we realised the time had passed so quickly and it was almost time to get off. We packed up our things, got our bags ready and said our goodbyes, getting a picture of us with our new freiends - exchanging emails with all of them (even thought we know we won’t speak to any of them again - as we can’t speak to most of them now!!! Ha!). Even though travelling through the day is considered a waste of a day - I don’t feel that this one was at all!!! I have seen a whole different side to the Chinese people again today - the mother with the sick child, everyone around helped her when they could to care for him, they all wanted to talk with us, smiling and laughing making us feel welcome, it really was a nice refreshing experience of being in Chinese company. Leaving the train with a spring in our step we headed to a different hostel, cheaper than last time, checked in and headed to a western bar we had seen from our previous trip and enjoyed food here - me managing to find my healthy salad I have been craving - it was the best salad I have ever had!! Ollie opting for Chinese - which is unusual for him as he is more so any excuse for western food usually - but his was just as good and please with his choice.
Up early this morning & headed to the Thai embassy we had spotted from our previous trip. We hoped to be able to obtain an extended visa for Thailand here - but unfortunutely we needed to have proof of planned entry (flight ticket etc), and as it is too far away yet to book this - we just decided to get the visa at a later point in our trip. We headed on to Peoples Park, which turned out to be a pretty far walk to the other side of the city. We walked through the pretty area people watching as we strolled along. China has such big cities - it is good that they reserve some very pretty areas that you can escape to - just unfortunate that they charge for almost all of them! We had some chinese spiced potates for a snack, purchased from a small area containing a cluster of stalls. We searched through the stalls for our Chinese souvenier purchase - a waving cat - but no luck I’m afraid. We did see small plastic balls hanging on a string - I looked to see what they were as I have seen children carrying them - it contained tiny fish, or a tiny baby tortoise - SO CRUEL - I shook my head and walked off - not wanting them to mistake my looking as a good way to attract potential customers. The weather is a bit hit and miss today - but by this point the sun is out in full force, allowing the huge lakes to act as a giant mirror. We stopped to watch the children feeding the fish, and found a group of people gathered under a pagoda playing music and singing chinese opera - brilliant to hear in the background and remind you just where you are!! We enjoyed this for a while and then contined our walk round the park, on our way to the exit - when we then came across a huge group of mainly women, all dancing to music, they were taking part in their regular aerobic exercises. There were several groups of people of different ages dancing to different paced music - it was so cute - I liked watching the older group at the slowest pace the best - watching them give it all they have!! They looked like they were really enjoying themselves!! Ollie was suprised to see young lads joining in!!! We watched them all for quite a while - you couldn’t help but let it bring a smile to your face - so sweet and innocent!! Got a quick clip of them - I had been looking forward to bumping into this when we were planning our trip to China! We eventually thought we would leave them to it - and made our way back to the other side of town. On the way - it began to rain pretty heavily - yes China seems to be just as unpredictable as England - we hid under trees until it stopped a little - not wanting to have to spend a night on a train after getting soaking wet. We managed to get back to the hostel without getting to wet & got out our rain jackets. The western bar where we were heading for tea was only round the corner - so we dashed round and collapsed inside with all our bags ready for our next delicious meal. Not disappointed - the food was just as good - and shortly after we set off for the train. On the way to the station - we passed a number of shops and could smell a delicious small - like freshly baked cakes - Yummm!!! Sure enough it was - some bread / cake type things being tipped onto a counter - with a huge queue of people gathered round buying bags and bags of them!! We got in on the action and nabbed ourselves one each for 10p - they tasted as good as they smelt!!! Finishing this, we had to walk past more and more street stalls as we got outside the train station - we gave in and enjoyed jacket potatoes & fresh melon (huge slices) for 20p each!! Not bad to stock up before a long journey. We hopped on our train - no trouble at all and settled in for a hassle free night - but this time separated by a few berths!!!
We arrived in Guilin at around 1pm, once off the train we made our way to the front of the station. There we asked a local policeman how to get to the main centre, this was where we needed to go to reach our booked hostel. We had already looked up on the internet that we needed to get the number 1 bus, luckily for us the policeman could speak reletively good English and pointed out to us that we would need to cross to the other side of the road and take the number 11 bus. Once on the bus we were approached by yet another helpful chinese person, this time a nice lady who advised us in very broken English that we would need to get off in 4 stops time and that she would be getting off too, so she could show us where to go. At the 4th stop as she said, we all got off. The lady then walked with us, showed us where to go and then told us it was lovely to meet us. - Very nice of her! We headed for the Backstreet Youth Hostel and checked in. Once all unpacked and settled in we made our way around the centre of Guilin, first stopping off for some food at an Irish pub, we both just craved something Western and Healthy. So we opted to share a salad and some pasta. We then made our way around the Li River and on to a local park that surrounded yet another picturesque lake. This time though the main attraction was not the pretty lake but the two Pagoda’s placed on each of its very own very island. I say the Pagoda’s were the main attraction, they normally are but not today. It seemed the Chinese and mainly the tourist Chinese people on holiday did not want a picture of the Pagoda but a picture of Kay! Ha - much to Kay’s delight, we all know how much she loves to dive in front of the camera! Ha So after posing with a few Chinese girls who just love to be in the company of a western girl, holding a few babies and posing as part of the family and smiling for the odd old chap holding the phone no more then an inch away from Kay’s face we made are way back to our hostel. Once back I decided to have a few hours kip, as for some reason I was not feeling the best. This gave Kay some time to pamper herself, so whilst I was in the land of nod, Kay washed her hair, done her nails and all the other girly stuff they do! - Secretly I believe in the event of yet more photo exposure as a local Chinese celebrity! Ha So with Kay looking her best and me feeling a bit better we made are way back out for our evening meal. Stopping off at every other restaraunt to have a look at there menu and what they had to offer. This time both Kay & myslef fancied something Chinese, so after looking through a few menus I found it strange that we were in China yet all there was on offer was Pizza’s, Burrito’s and Burgers! All western food! Be carful what you wish for!! Ha As just before I was about to have a little moan to Kay we suddeny stumbled on a restaraunt that on the menu had (sorry mum) Horse meat. You could have had it deep fried, grilled, even with noodles. Slightly put off by the chance to eat Red Rum himself we quickly mooved on, this time stumbling on to a place that had cute fury animals in cages outside. The animal looked like a beaver or a big, better looking rat. Kay thought it was very cute as did the other on looking westerners. We have seen at other shops how they leave kittens or puppy’s outside to attract your attention in the hope you will then wander into their shop and purchase something, perhaps this was what the cute beaver/rat was for. Im affraid not, are nievety only lasted for a few seconds as a local man explained to a German bloke who passed on to us that this was not a ploy to attract you in the restaraunt, but that this was the main attraction itself with a 2000 Yuan price tag on its head. So its around £200 to have a freshly killed rat for dinner! As you can imagine are appetite was being seriously affected by what we kept stumbling across, so we quickly made the decision to retreat to the safe, no what you are going to get Irish bar! Once there we did stick to our plan of Chinese food and tried some Vegetable and we stressed vegetable dumplings along with some Guilin style noodles. Whilst there we realised we were slowly turning ourselves into Jacqui and Des, enjoying are time away sat in an Irish bar! Ha Still we had a good evening and we enjoyed the food. The waitress was really nice aswell, she loved talking to us and asking many questions about are travels. Its seems lately we keep meeting really nice Chinese people, who just want to help and get to know us, in particular the more South and away from the cities we go. I suppose that is as expected, but it certainly is a great addition to our China trip. Especually for Kay as at times China has proven difficult for her, she hates to feel in the way or un-welcome. The Chinese have suprised us with how aggressive they seem to be with each other and us, the way they are is never going to make you feel welcome. But we do understand it is just their way, they have no problem with being this way with each other, so nor should we. Just people from different cultures, we come from a country that only has 60 odd million and a city that has 600,000 so we can afford to smile, be polite and say sorry everytime we knock into someone. In a country with over 1 billion people it is a very much dog eat dog world, if you excuse the pun! Ha So after dumplings, noodles, a portion of chips and a couple of beers we attempted to make are way back to the hostel to call it a night, I say attempted as despite what we he had consumed and our food horrors early on in the evening, both Kay & myself were still hungry! We could not help but make a detour to first KFC, where can I just point out that I reckon my Grandad looks like the face of KFC! Next time you go past KFC have a look, its taken me a trip across the world and to China to suddenly notice it! Ha And then onto our local shop for a snickers before we felt satisfied! Ha - So no need to worry at home if we are eating or not! Ha We are doing just fine! Unless the restaraunt of our choice insists I have to eat with chopsticks, then im in trouble!! Ha
05/05/2011 & 06/05/2011
On the spur of the moment type of thought we decided today to head up to the perfectly named Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces! With this in mind we risen from our beds nice and early packed up our things, this time only taking the small man bag for me to carry (having learnt the hard way climbing Tiger Leaping Gorge!Ha) And went for a good fry up, well as good as your going to get in China! After speaking with the very helpful reception staff of our hostel, we discovered we would need to get a bus from the train station up to our eventual destination, Dahazi to start our walk. We left our backpacks in the luggage room of our hostel and made our way to the train station via the number 11 bus. Once at the train station we were approached by a tout called Charlie, who sold us two bus tickets to Dahazi aswell as trying to sell us everying else under the sun! Ha He was a good guy though and very enjoyable to speak to. He informed us that Bin Laden had been killed by American troops, me & Kay had no idea that this had happened, it is so strange to not know such massive worldwide news whilst your away. Anything could happen and we would have no clue! Whilst looking into this on the net I also found out that the old British boxer Henry Cooper had died, which is even more strange as a few nights ago I dreamt I went to watch a boxing fight between him and John Mcdermott, two very random people to dream about! This was the night before Henry Cooper died! Very strange! The twilight zone continues as once on the bus we got chatting to a really cool New Zealand couple who we later spent the whole evening talking with, Nick the Kiwi informed us later that he dreamt a couple of nights ago about an old school friend called Ollie, he has not heard that name in years, then suddenly he meets me and Kay! Do Do Do Doo! Ha Anyway once on the bus we enjoyed more great scenery travelling up to Dahazi, about an hour before we were due to arrive at our destination we were introduced to our first sight of the rice fields. We had stopped off at a roadside restaraunt that had such amazing views of the rice paddies and food to match it! Both Kay and myself had a good size bowl of rice, various different vegetables and spices all for the great value price of 10 Yuan! (£1 each, bargain!) Once bellies fool we continued with our coach trip to Dahazi, as we arrived we were greeted by the famous long haired women of that region. Here it is tradition for the women to continuously grow their hair, only cutting parts off every seven years. There talents did not stop there, as once we got off the bus they tried to sell us all kinds of stuff, offered themselves to be our guide and even carry our bags. Which we found quite amusing as Nick the Kiwi was well over 6 foot and this tiny, fairly old, long haired lady, who’s hair was probably longer then she was, was so determined to carry his huge backpack! Refusing the old ladys offer we made our way up the hill to the beginning of our 45 minute walk to our hotel we had chosen to stay at that night. One of the lady’s still chose to lead/follow us up the hill, which in the end did prove useful as without her we would have surely taken a wrong turn. We also managed to capture a photograph with her hair down in all its glory! Ha Once at the hotel and checked in we made our way down for our evening meal, as food was a bit pricey we opted to share a salad and vegetable noodles. Though that night we did contridict our food savings by enjoying a few beers with our new Kiwi friends, priorities eh! Ha After a good few hours sharing our various different stories we have captured on our travels we retreated to our room to call it a night, determined to get up early and witness sunrise on the rice fields!
8 hours and a missed sunrise later we awoke and left are room to tackle the rice fields, though as we got outside we soon realised that we had not missed much as the weather was pretty grey. The walk was a fairly difficult one, continuously up and down hill and proving even more challenging by the wet conditions. We were both pleasantly surprised that we were able to walk right through the paddies, so we were able to appreciate them up close aswell as from a far. The walk included 3 different villages and a town at the end with 4 different sets of rice paddies, are hotel was in the first village and looked out on the paddies. The view from our room window was great, we could look right out on the garden below that was being occupied by a horse and see the rice fields behind it. As we approached the second village we could see yet more impressive scenery, the rice fields really do look strange, nothing like you would ever expect to find at home. The mountanous hills are just as green as ours, but as the farmer with his trusty water buffalow has ploughed away over the years it has created this magnificent stair like impression running down the hills. Or probably the better way and as the Chinese prefer to see it, a Dragons Backbone! As we moved on to the next set of villages are views were improving more and more, as more and more rain would fall filling each step of the field. Creating this mirror, reflecting the sky and everything surrounding it, needless to say Kay and myself did not care that we were getting wet one bit! The only downside was once again are camera let us down as the battery ran out, though we have managed to capture some really good video footage. As we continued with are walk we passed through the final village that at the end of it had a really picturesque waterfall and stream running from it. Though our attention was easily distracted by a really cute puppy that had decided to stop and play with us, as expected Kay was smittened. It’s really good to see healthy, happy dogs in China. After are previous experiences in India were not such pleasant ones, seeing all the stray dogs and one in particular. Even the odd stray dog we see here looks healthy, suppose it is a bit ironic that a place famed for eating them, treat them so well. After the puppy had decided play time was over and had moved on, so did me and a dissapointed Kay continue on to our last destination, the town of Ping’an. Once there we were greeted with all the tourists that Lonely Planet had promised us and with the most impressive views of them all. The Chinese call these sets of fields the ‘Nine Dragons and Five Tigers’ due to the fields resembling 9 Dragon backbones and 5 Tiger skins. If you can imagine that then its probably the best way to describe it, I dont think I can better that apart from just to add, it looked amazing! By now the rain had stopped just leaving the water filled paddies and the mist to cross each hill, creating this real mythical and eerie image. Or Jurrasic Park as Kay described it! Ha We stopped and took everyhting in for some time before making are way down the hills to the town where we were due to catch a bus back to Guilin. After enquiring with great difficulty to quite a few different tour guides and drivers we soon realised that it was not going to be easy to find a bus back to Guilin. The local bus that runs to a town called Longsheng did not come for another 2 hours and even catching that one would mean we would have to transfer to a second bus and continue on to Guilin. Luckily by chance we got talking to some Chinese tourists who phoned the company we used to get to Dahazi, they managed to find out that the tour company had a car coming up to pick up 2 people that had pre-booked and that there would be space for 2 more. Well there were 4 of them and 2 of us, so there was no real decision to be made. Still as Kay and myself passed them in the car on our way to our 1 hour easy ride back to Guilin we could not help but feel a tad guilty! Ha Once back at Guilin we decided to check back in with the hostel we previously stayed at, have a nice hot shower (the best shower this whole trip!) and reward ourselves with a Macdonalds! Complete with Big Macs and Chicken Nuggets! Opting to take the bus to Yangshuo tomorrow morning!