Green Guilin and yummy Yangshuo.

Hello there! So we meet again eh? Thanks for coming back and reading our blog, it means the world to us that you guys are following our trip around China. Soooo, we left you last on board our 20/21hr train journey from Chongqing to Guilin. I think I gained around 7 mozzy bites alone from one bastard mozzy on that train, so when we rolled into a very muggy Guilin at 4.45pm, I was itchy as well as sweating my arse off.

We had only been here 5 mins and already I preferred it to Chongqing. In my eyes, Chongqing can ‘DO ONE’! I had fun there with Andy, but wouldn’t ever want to go back. Here the roads were wider, the traffic seemed quieter, the background scenery was beautiful with tall green peaked mountains and the sky seemed clearer. Also, not everyone stopped to stare at us, which was a welcome break.  It was however incredibly hot, especially for late afternoon. My pale face soon turned purple and I started to worry about becoming my usual classic berry head 🙂 After a while of searching, we finally found our hostel and checked in. We received a free beer each – ‘LIQ nature beer’ no less, and started to unwind. It actually felt like we were on holiday! After the sun set, we ventured out on the town to find the famous night market they have there every night. Here I bought a jade bracelet (after bartering the guy down by almost half, woo hoo!), a Buddha necklace (which lots of ladies seem to wear in China) and some freshly made coconut milk. Gorgeous! When we returned to the hostel, unbeknownst to me, I had also acquired 5 more mossy bites, on my feet and back of my arms. Andy was covered too. Great, nice one ‘95% DEET mossy repellent’ (which is sooo f’ing strong, it is banned in most countries!).

The next day, after a wicked huge breakfast and a bottle of Milk Tea in hand (I have no idea what it is, but it tastes so damn good, like rice pudding, I’m addicted to it), we visited the Seven Stars Park, a place which used to be one of China’s famous tourists attractions. It was pretty empty which was nice and there was a slight breeze blowing, helping my berry head to not come out in full. I was just semi-pink . There were lots of walks to high pagodas, where you could view the city in its entirety. I noted that every bit of land was built on except the tall green peaks poking through the concrete, making a stark contrast in colour. Next we went inside the deep dark caves which was a huge relief from the heat outside. An old Chinese lady, who couldn’t speak much English took a liking to me and became my new best friend for the next half an hour. She eagerly clung on, pointing out all the different rock formations that looked like trees and animals inside. It was breathtaking, but at the same time it was lit like a Disney show with ‘buy a photo’ photographers stood in front of every sight, trying to persuade you to buy a professional pic. At one turn, there was a huge living tortoise plonked on a chair that you could have your photo taken with. They claimed he was over a thousand years old (yea right! Bollocks!). People were rushing forward and picking him up, swinging him around their heads and nearly dropping him. I just had to walk away, it was crazy! I walked into the darkness and to my surprise another section of the cave was suddenly lit up before my eyes and a waterfall was turned on behind yet another sales man trying to get me to have a professional photo taken. I thought to myself, hang on, did I just imagine that? Did he really just turn on that waterfall, beautifully cascading over the bulging stalagmites and stalactites? Nope, I didn’t imagine it. After the uninterested people filed by, he switched it off and sat in darkness, waiting for the next tour to turn up. Classic. It was fake and I started to wonder if any of the cave was real at all.

The next day, on a half empty coach, we left Guilin for Yangshuo, which would be our home for the next 4 days. On the way, we passed paddy fields, water buffalo, old woman carrying fruit and veg for sale on their backs and yet more green mountains. We turned up in town just an hour and a half after setting off and was startled by how big and busy Yangshuo was. We were expecting a quiet village with a few people, but no, there was a Mc Donalds, masses of nightclubs and bars, and of course tons of tourists. We quickly jumped into a taxi (something me and Andy generally don’t do too often as we like to find our hostels by foot, getting to know the area better) as we didnt know how far out of town we were staying. Well I thought we were staying nearby but actually it was a 10 minute taxi ride into farmland. When we stepped out of the taxi, all we could hear around us were chickens and cockerels, exotic sounding birds and a slight breeze in the trees. We were in heaven! The place we were staying at, the Outside Inn, was gorgeous. We had a massive outbuilding as our room with double doors opening up onto the courtyard. As soon as i opened them up, a baby chicken wondered in. Hee hee! Run by Dutch owners, the food and drink here was also incredible. It was the first time in ages that I saw cheese on the menu and I almost jumped when I spotted chocolate milkshake, so I ordered two! It was while we were scoffing our faces on some home comforts that we met a nice German couple from Cologne called Stefan and Kristina. They had just arrived too and were discussing what to do for the rest of their stay. Well they had so many good ideas, that for the next 3 days, we just stuck together and did what they did 🙂

Firstly, we all hired bikes and went down to the Yulong river to have a go at rafting. The way it works is that you leave your bikes with the people there, jump aboard a bamboo raft big enough for only two people and the driver, float downstream for a couple of hours (going down some pretty steep waterfalls – OMG so much fun!) and when you get to your destination – voila, your bikes are sat there waiting for you. Incredible! We rode out to a hill with a massive hole in the center called Moon Hill and it was here that we bumped into our Canadian friends we had made back in Chengdu. Small world eh! We arranged to meet up the next night in town for a few beers. After conquering Moon Hill with the Germans, we cycled back which took an hour and a half, by which point it was getting really dark. It was also at this point that we saw a firefly! Yay!

The next morning, me and Andy got back on our bikes (which was pretty hard since our arses hurt so much from the cycling we did the day before) and ventured out into the paddy fields and other farmland surrounding our accommodation. We were headed towards a place called Baisha where there was a monthly farmers market taking place. We got lost in the wild a few times, but every time we stopped to look at the map, a local would walk up to us and help us out. The people there were so nice, always smiling and saying ‘Ni hao’ (hello) to us as we rode past. I was in love with Yangshuo now, it was a truly beautiful place! Finally we found the farmers market and bumped into our German friends who wanted to show us the chickens that were for sale. Well, I’ve never seen anything like it. If you have a weak stomach, READ NO FURTHER! People could go up to the vendor, choose the chicken they wanted from the bulging baskets sat on the side of the street, at which point the vendor slit the chickens throat, draining its blood. The creature would then be chucked into a pot for a few seconds while it kicked around for a bit, loosing its grip on life. Then it was pulled out and lowered, still moving, into boiling water for about a minute, then removed and plucked. The whole process took less than 5 mins, and the happy buyer would go home with a fresh chicken in a plastic bag. We were only stood there for 15 mins and I reckon I saw 10 chickens dispatched this way. It was nasty to see, but it is the reality of it – something us in the UK forget when we are shopping in Tesco’s for our clingfilm-wrapped, de-boned, de-skinned chicken breasts. Anyway, on a lighter note, we continued our bike ride to Dragon bridge, over the Yulong river and saw a fisherman on a bamboo raft, using black cormorant birds to catch his fish. This scene is so famous, that it made it onto the Chinese 20 Yuan note and was something that me and Andy had dreamed of seeing after watching the BBC’s Wild China program. Later that night, we met our Canadian friends Shahan and Donna-Lee in a crazy rooftop bar called Monkey Jane’s in town. We had a fantastic night catching up on all the cool things we had been getting up to in China and got quite drunk, staying out until 2:30am 🙂

With not a lot of sleep and a hangover, we woke up early the next morning and remembered that we had agreed to take a Tai Chi lesson with Stefan and Kristina! Doh!!!! We were driven to a little mud hut studio with the Ying and Yang sign painted on the floor and met our instructor Ping. The next hour flew past as we tried to learn two basic routines. It was very slow and controlled, we had to breathe deeply and keep our stance low and relaxed. It was actually very challenging but looked brilliant (well from what I saw of us from the mirrors that surrounded the room), like slow-mo Kung Fu. While we were all moving in sequence on the cold dusty floor of this little mud hut, listening to the rain outside, I forgot about my hangover and smiled.

The next two days in Yangshuo were spent walking, chilling out next to the beautiful river, and listening to the birds singing and the breeze blowing through the trees. We had also witnessed the most awesome thunder storms and torrential rain too. No wonder this place was so green! Our stay had gone sooooooo fast, we knew this dream had to end and we would have to make our final leg through China to our last stop – Shenzhen, before hopping over to Hong Kong. I wondered to myself if the mozzies in Hong Kong would be as bad as they had been in China, because after getting eaten alive (acquiring over 37 bites, mostly around my ankles, making me look like I had elephantitis), I couldn’t take anymore!!! Arrrggghhhh!

Anyway, swollen, lumpy and itchy Emmy over and out xxxx

P.S – when you are travelling, you meet the most inspiring people. In Guilin, on a rainy day, we were stuck inside our hotel bar and got chatting to a lady and her son. The son, a fantastic photographer called Sean Gallagher who lived in Beijing was showing his near 60 year old mother around China while she was on holiday. Turns out that she recently lost her husband quite suddenly, and instead of giving up her dreams, she is sailing round the world for a year in 2013 as part of a big race!!! She’s never sailed before and will be part of a small crew on a yacht, working everyday in some of the hardest environments known to man. One word – amazing. Nope, here’s another – inspiring. Oh god knows, all I know is that I want to have her courage and lust for life when I’m that old.

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