So my last blog post left off with us getting onto the plane. It would have been a really good flight, but…I was definitely without a doubt sick by this point. I was so congested. By the time we were up in the air I could barely breathe. It was awful but bearable. Until we came down. My right ear wouldn’t/couldn’t pop. It was honestly more painful than having an ear infection. It also took a full day to get it to fully clear. Moral of the story: Don’t fly when you are really congested if you can help it.
We found the hostel pretty easily, checked in and then got food. What did we find as we were searching for food (a bit hard at 10pm) but the exact same Halal restaurannt that we eat all the time in Weifang. After food, Tia had just made it to the hostel and she joined our merry (tired) band of adventurers.
We got up right away on our first day in Guilin ate breakfast and then got in a van that took us to a bus which took us the hour or so to Yangdi Pier. At Yangdi Pier we got on small “bamboo rafts” (that were not made out of bamboo) that held 4 people apiece and floated down the Li River. Now I say bamboo rafts in quotation marks because that is what we were told…they had plastic bottoms (granted the plastic was shaped like bamboo) and then wooden tops with wooden chairs (none of which were made of bamboo). Oh! AND they had a motor. Something that most people don’t associate with rafts. Kudos on the marketing job! Granted they were better than the actual bamboo rafts because you could sit on the front and get wet, whereas the actual rafts had chairs and the guy would yell at you if you put your feet in the water.
It was gorgeous, relaxing, warm, and sunny. It was exactly what I needed on a sick day. We were able to sit in the front of the raft and let our feet get wet as water splashed over the bottom layer of the raft. When you have lived around water all your life, not having a lake to swim in or go out on for a whole summer (an especially hot one at that) is draining on the spirit. This so made up for it. You will see in the pictures later, but the landscape was breathtaking. It was a perfect day to be on the water and just relaxing, and the sun wasn’t too overwhelming. There were also water fights and people got really excited about getting the foreigners wet. There were water guns and the guys steering the boats would pull the motor up so it would spray us which felt really good on the warm day. We would also get wet when we would hit waves and the water would go over the first layer.
Now while the scenery was fantastic, we also saw a few goats in trees which was awesome. Less awesome was the water. People would throw their trash in the water rather than hold onto it or keep it on their boat. `There wasn’t as much trash as other places we’ve seen, but it was still sad that such a beautiful landscape was tainted by trash. The water was interesting though. When it was relatively shallow it was crystal clear, but as it got deeper it got to be a gross shade of green. We are hoping it looks that way because of the thick spots of seaweedish grass like stuff at the bottom of the river. Also less less awesome were the bathrooms at Yangdi Pier. At least they were male and female. Like any other bathroom here, they stunk something bad and were squatters (which really don’t phase me anymore) This one didn’t have doors though. There were stalls, but no doors. I had to squat and pee in front of 5 staring Asian women. I have never felt more awkward as I did then, they all had little amused smiles on. I hope I never have to repeat that experience.
Now after this tour we could have gone straight to Yangshuo on the bus, but we paid extra to go on another raft ride (a romantic one with only two people) on the Yulong river (or I think that’s what it is called. If not it is the river next to the Yulong Village). This village has been used in several movies and the Yulong bridge is really well known. Supposedly, the scenery their was one of the screensavers or background options on Windows XP. Since I don’t have XP I can’t verify that, but it did look a little familiar. Regardless, the city and scenery were gorgeous.
We all got on our boats in pairs (Alex and I, Mana and Tia, and Kevin and Hugo). These bamboo rafts were actually made out of bamboo! We floated a little ways down the river and got to see cormorant fishing. That was really cool. So a cormorant is a bird that they train to catch fish, not swallow them (they have a rope around their neck so they can’t swallow the big ones), bring them back to the fisherman, and le the fisherman take the fish out. The birds cost about 3000-4000 RMB (500-675 dollars) and take a couple years to train. Honestly, the birds made me think of dogs. They were so well trained, if the fisherman threw the fish the bird just caught back into the water, the bird would dive in after it and have it caught in a matter of seconds. It was like fetch with fish and wings.
Then we moved onto the water buffalo (EVERYBODY HAS A WATER BUFFALOOOOOOO YOURS IS FAST AND MINE IS SLOWW…if you don’t know this song from Veggie Tales this would be a good time to look it up. It was also why I was so excited to see a water buffalo) We didn’t just get to see them though, we got to feed them, pet them, and best of all RIDE THEM! I rode a water buffalo!!! It was weird. It was really weird. I figured it would be similar to riding a horse…no. It was nothing like that. The water buffalo swing their hips like a supermodel. One minute you are moving one direction and the next you are swaying (ungracefully mind you) to the other side.
Once back on the boats they took us a little further down the river. This is where it gets funny, they have a whole thing set up for tourists where they will take your picture and get all sorts of shots of you coming down, they even tell you its photo time…Alex and I had a little fun and made all sorts of poses for the camera guy. They ended up turning out really cute, but we weren’t going to pay 15 per picture. Wowsers was the camera man pissed at us. He was shooting us daggers when we were leaving. Seriously though, we didn’t go on the boat ride to have our picture taken. I never buy the picture on rides when I go to amusement parks, I’m not going to buy it when I’m floating down the river on vacation.
Our tour guide for everything was amazing! Her name was Trudy and she was the sweetest thing in the world. She spoke really good English and gave us all sorts of information on everything before we got there. She gave us a hand drawn map on how to get to our hostel in Yangshuo and a regular map of the town as we got off the bus. She even wrote her cell phone number down incase we ran into any problems.
We got into our hostel and they were great, online it wouldn’t let us book a 6 bed room for the second night so we were going to have to unpack and then move in the morning the next day. They moved stuff around so we could stay in the same room. It was so nice. We really appreciated that. It made life soooo much easier. They also informed us that the 13th was Chinese Valentines Day which makes the raft rides so much funnier. There is a really cute story telling why they celebrate “Valentines Day” really it is more along the lines of lovers day but same difference. Hopefully I remember to look up a link to the story before I post this, otherwise you should definitely look it up yourself.
This day was awesome! We went rock climbing. It was something that Tia and I had always wanted to do and Alex had only been a couple times before, Mana was also really excited. Hugo and Kevin both being afraid of heights decided that rock climbing was not for them. It was so fun and in the gorgeous mountains in the area! I have climbed indoor rock walls, but had never actually been rock climbing in the wild. IT WAS SO FUN!!!! We went to a place that they nicknamed little frog. It was also a lot harder than the indoor rock walls for a few reasons: you can’t see as clearly where to put your hands and feet, I also weigh more than I did the last time I went (I think when I was 14 was the last time I went on a rock wall), and I am less in shape than I was when I was younger.
They put up three different routes for us to climb. None of them went even close to all the way up, we went up maybe 1/2 way max…more around 1/3 of the way. Now when they put up the ropes it was amazing to watch. The main guide scaled up the wall like it was nothing. He made it look so easy. We were talking with him and he has been climbing for 7 years now. He takes people on tours (like us) for 1/2 the year and the other 1/2 he climbs for fun.
The left was easy until you got to what we named “The Bear” because the only way to really climb it was to bear hug it and shimmy up. I made it to the bear and gave up. I knew where I had to get my feet, but just couldn’t quite get there. The middle route was the easiest until the last 2 meters. 2 meters doesn’t sound like a hard climb. I did Insanity for a few weeks until I was too busy to do it and Insanity was easier than that climb. I made it to the top though! I had to take a few breaks and I know the guy helped me out quite a bit, but I made it up those last darned 2 meters. If those last 2 meters weren’t bad enough as is, they were made worse by my archnemisis: a spider. It just sat there. Right where I needed to go. It sat there and stared at me. It was laughing at my pain as I was summoning all the strength left in me as I kept trying to pull myself up the last meter (it took a few tries). UGH I hate spiders-we will come back to those in a minutes. The furthest right course was medium hard the entire way up, and then really hard the last meter or so. Once again I got to the last part and said ehhhh not worth it. I didn’t know where to go on this one. If I would have studied it a bit more I probably could have done it, but it was my first time up and I was feeling really tired and gave in. I made it up the hardest part out of all of them though and that is all that matters!!!
So while I am sitting down on the rock recovering from the really really really really hard climb, they are laughing about my reaction to the spider. Alex went up the same course and made it look ok. After he is down he says its ok because he ate the spider. Awesome, nothing else to worry about. All of the sudden I feel something land on my shoulder. I look and by god it was a black spider that had bright yellow on it. The body was about 1/2 the size of my ring finger nail. I froze in panic. I HATE spiders. Then it jumped closer to my face. *cue really loud screaming* Alex had to get it off of me…It was terrifying. I was mortified. Everyone else was laughing. Including the 3 guides who took us climbing.
So it was the 4 of us, Betsy (an mechanical engineering major from CO), and a French family with 3 REALLY cute girls. Betsy was really cool, she just graduated and she has family in China and so was visiting them and is now traveling on her own before she starts work in September. It was really interesting how much French came back to me listening to them speak. It was weird. I could understand what they were saying 1/2 the time, but I couldn’t have phrased a sentence if I wanted to. The cutest thing was when the middle daughter (maybe 5 years old) was climbing. She got to a point and let go and just held onto the rope. The poor thing was terrified, she was hanging there perfectly safe with a death grip on the rope screaming bloody murder. While I honestly feel bad for her, She was maybe 1 1/2 meters of the ground and her dad was standing right next to her trying to get her to face the rock again supporting her. I felt awful for laughing, but it was so cute and funny!
Slightly ironic was the fact that when we were finished we got in the van to go back to the hostel and “The Climb” by Miley Cirus was playing on the radio. We were so gross by the time we were done. It was warm out already that day and rock climbing is definitely hard work. Hurting and sore we got food and then went to a kissing fish spa. They are everywhere in Yangshuo and just ridiculous. You put your feet into an aquarium that has maybe 30-50 fish in it and they eat off the dead skin and bacteria and it feels like they are giving your feet little kisses. I am typically not very ticklish. Sometimes I am, but for the most part no. Mana, Tia, and I could not stop laughing and shrieking the first 5-7 minutes. It was unbearably tickly. After awhile you got a little more used to it, but man oh man, they would hit somewhere new between your toes or would go to town on the middle part of your foot and it would be tickly all over again. It was only 30 minutes long, but the first 10 minutes felt like an hour. After that the time went by at a normal speed. My feet did feel nicer after it even though it was just a really really weird experience. The worst was when a Chinese family came in (obviously tourists too) and they didn’t have any reaction to it. Do they not feel??? SERIOUSLY! They were falling asleep….I could not in a million years relaxed enough to fall asleep, it tickled WAY too much.
By the time that was done it was around 3 and we showered, organized in the room a little bit and relaxed before going for dinner. We tried the local beer fish and oh my was that good. My only regret is that there was not more. Everything was amazing, the fish, the sauce, the veggies, we were able to get rice and put the sauce just on rice which was also amazing. We also tried crispy roast duck which was ok, nothing special (especially after the oh so special fish). Then it was back to the hostel too rest a little before hitting the light show.
The light show was really cool. It was amazing to see how many people were there. It was packed. It was outside and they gave us ponchos incase it rained (that was nice-also handy later in the trip). The light show was gorgeous, the mountains were in the background and it was outstanding in size. They had over 600 actors, copious amounts of lights, and beautiful music. The problem was the beautiful music. It was gorgeous music. Gorgeous, beautiful, calm, relaxing music. So while the show itself was really cool, it was also too relaxing as I caught myself getting tired often during it. There were a few really cool wow moments, but all in all it moved at a steady pace. There was one bad part: walking in. It was all nice and lovely (tons of people, but other than that ok) until I kicked a brick. I was wearing flip flops and that hurt like hell. It actually punctured my big toe :( mean brick. Why would there be a brick on the middle of a paved path??? OWWWW!
The light show being outside and using the mountains in the show, really made me think of the Medora Musical (in ND). In fact, the entire town was really a Chinese version of Medora. Yanshuo is a really cute town that is made for tourism. That is their business. Much like Medora. It is in a beautiful area, doesn’t have many people that live there year round, and shops fill the streets for tourists to shop at. For example on a singular block, the block our hostel was on there were not one, not two, but three Mango Mango smoothie stores. You can sure believe I had a lot of smoothies. I had 5…each time I tried a new one. We were in town for 2 1/2 days. I totally believe that they helped me recover faster from being sick. By the time we went rock climbing on Day 2 I was already feeling a lot better. I wasn’t feeling 100% great, but better. I had been eating a TON of fruit and drinking a lot of water and smoothies to get the vitamins. And the mango smoothies were made with a bunch of fruit and ice (so much easier than eating an actual mango but just as tasty!
We were quite tired (and sore) from rock climbing and so we decided to make this a relaxing day. We didn’t set any alarms and just wandered around the town for the day. It was really fun browsing through all the shops until it started raining. Then it was still fun, just a little damp. Around 5ish we hopped on the bus to head back to Guilin and to our hostel there. Once arrived we got checked in, ate supper, and booked our trip to the Rice Terraces the next day.
So we really didn’t spend any time at all in Guilin. Like none. We got in late to the hostels both nights, slept, and then left early in the morning to go to other places. I honestly have no idea what you can do in Guilin. It is just the biggest city in the area and a good hub for going to other places. It also has an airport.
We had our own tour to the rice terraces (thankfully we have 6 of us-the minimum requirement for booking a tour through the hostel separate). We had a driver pick us up, take us there, and then take us to the airport when we were done. There was a bit of a miscommunication between us and the driver, he spoke no English, and between Hugo and I (mainly Hugo) we got the jist of what he was saying, but had no idea how to ask him the questions we needed to. There was a cable car that would save us time and go up and down that he could book us tickets for and so we decided to go up to save time and then walk from all the points there. He told us it would be 5 minutes, and then another 5 minutes, and then an hour later we still weren’t on the cable cars and had no idea what was going on. So like most times we are lost for whats going on, we called Franky. The driver told Franky everything we already knew. (Score 1 for our Chinese skills) and then when we asked how long he said another 5 minutes but didn’t explain why it was taking so long. After about another 10-15 minutes we called Franky again to explain we don’t want to take the cable cars and we want our money back. Which wasn’t a problem, but it is safe to say we were all pretty annoyed by this point. The driver was really nice though and we got our money back without a problem and he took us to where we would start our hike and explained which points are the best to go to.
The Longji Rice Terraces were beautiful. In fact, beautiful doesn’t even begin to explain them. They were gorgeous. They were majestic. They showed the innovative nature of people. The terraces are built into the side of mountains. They were everywhere and went on and on in every direction. The people in this area had completely deforested the mountains and had built terraces into them so they could farm and support themselves. It was incredible. Even in the rain they were breathtaking.
So speaking of the rain, there was a 10% chance of rain…It didn’t stop raining the entire 4 hours we were there. Thankfully we had gotten the ponchos from the light show. Now the word poncho is a bit of an exaggeration. It was shaped as a poncho, but I think a hefty bag would have worked better. Within 5 minutes I had to do some alterations (tie the left side together because it had split all the way up the side. After 15 minutes I had ripped the armpits open and part of the arms So then I just ripped the arms back and tied them behind me. By this point my umbrella was also doing little good and I just tied it to my purse. After an hour, I just put my hair down because it was so slicked down on top from the rain that it was all running into my face. By this point the only good the want-to-be poncho was doing was keeping my camera semidry . By the time we got back to the van, we were all soaked through all of our shoes and clothes. My hair looked like I had just gotten out of the shower. Once we found our driver and the van, we quickly changed clothes and headed to the airport. Man-o-man did it feel good to be in dry clothes. The ride to the airport was nice, although the roads were really really really bumpy. The driver had awesome techno music. It was all remixes of 90s music. He even let me copy it onto my netbook. HECK YES!
We arrived with plenty of time to the airport, and looked around for food (mind you we had breakfast, and had been eating snack food all day-of which we had very little). It was over 78 RMB per dish. HELL NO! Snickers bars which are normally 4 were 15. Needless to say, we were getting into Shanghai just after 9 and could wait a few hours. Little did we know we would be going hungry that night. I will give the full run down in my post about Shanghai, but we didn’t get into our hostel until after midnight.
Beautiful clouds on our flight
Storm clouds are amazing from above
That is pollution…Yuck
And we wonder why it is so polluted
Soaking wet and enjoying the terraces
Seriously…it was raining pretty hard and the ponchos did next to no good
Mango Mango in Yangshuo!!! So GOOD!
On the boat
Enjoying the river cruise
Mana and I at the Terracotta warriors
This is the background for where we went rock climbing at
Our Guide: AKA the spider monkey
Trudy, the most amazing tour guide ever
Taking wedding pictures on the river
On the actual bamboo raft
The nice little tourist trap for photos
It was a breathtaking day on the river
A Cormorant fisherman
Rice paddies (patties) at the Longji Rice Terraces