This time Maja here. As you already know Andrej left to Madrid some days ago (for the greater good as he says :)) and I will be finishing Into the Wild adventure by myself. It was really hard and sad to leave Andrej behind, wish so much we could finish the trip together!! Last months were like a dream, thank you Andrej for that!
But let’s get started…this week’s post covers roughly 800 km. I left Andrej in Guilin (point A) and took a 1 hour bus to Yangshuo (point B) then tracked back to Guilin to take a 13 h train to Shenzhen (point C) and finally finish with a metro ride further on to Hong Kong (point D) from where I took a flight to the net destination, Taiwan.
Yangshuo is a small (for Chinese standards) town just 1 hour south from Guilin and is usually chosen by the travelers as their base for exploring the region. Many complain that the town lacks authenticity – ‘too many tourists’, they say. And they’re right: the town, once peaceful, is now a messy, smoggy collage of Chinese tour groups, discos, pole-dancing bars and bad traffic.
Outside of town however, Yangshuo’s dramatic karst landscape is surreal, it’s actually the most often painted Chinese landscape and now I know why…
I stayed in Yangshuo 3 days which I think was just the time you need there. There’s plenty of things you can do around the town and all the hotels and tour agencies offer a wide range of different activities (some being a tourist trap, some really worth it). Here are the ones I decided for:
Cycling around Yulong River – definitely a must do!
You can rent a bike practically at any hotel or agency and a simple one costs only 2 € per day. I took one in my hostel (btw, great place to stay in with cheap and very decent rooms and amazing view from the roof top bar – Show Biz Inn) and headed for the ride.. For the next 6 hours (don’t be scared it’s not that far I just took it slowly, stopped every now and then to enjoy the scenery and of course take some photos) I was soaking up rural charms of the region. The scenery was amazing, I drove along the Yulong river and the surrounding breathtaking karts mountains, drove past rice paddies, fish farms, water buffalos until I reached the Dragon Bridge (600 year old brick bridge) from where I took the main road and headed further to Shangri La, a replica of a traditional Chinese village (this one sincerely can be skipped).
Bamboo rafting on Li River
Different way of exploring Yangshuo’s scenery is on a bamboo raft. You can take a cruise on both Yulong and Li rivers and since I already saw Yulong river on the previous day the choice was easy.. Although the river gets full of the rafts I still think it’s worth it, just enjoy the really stunning views and forget about the crowds.. Start (or finish) the cruise in Xinping – the landscape of a 20 Yuan note.
TV tower mountain
Yet another completely Into the Wild spot, not mentioned in any guides and theoretically forbidden to climb…
I heard about it from my friend (Jeremie, thanks for a great tip!!) and together with some other guys from the hostel we decided to give it a try. It was quite a steep 30 – 40 minutes hike and required bribing the caretaker of the tower (guess that’s how he earns his second salary, either way 1 € per head did the trick and we even got a free bottle of water ;)) but let the pictures speak for themselves… Definitely the best view of the town and the surroundings (even though the smog makes it pretty hazy).
Other than that I just strolled around the town, the river, night markets, restaurants, roof top bars, shops, temples, park… Just try to get out of West Street (main street with bars and hotels) and you can witness more authentic life of the people of Yangshuo.
From Yangshuo I took a bus back to Guilin. I stayed there just one night which in my opinion is enough. The city’s complete reliance on tourism means that it’s well managed and clean, but you’ll have to share it with the crowds, and there are touts and really high admission fees to all the sites. Since I heard from other travelers that the sights are not really worth the money I decided for a budget-friendly alternative…
I started along the Li River and headed towards the Ming Price Mansion and Beaty Peak Park. The girl from my hotel told me a trick how to get there for free. You just need to tell and the entrance gate that you’re going to a restaurant (she wrote me the name in Chinese) that is inside the University campus connected to the park. They let you through a side entrance and a bit further on you can easily enter the park… nice one, heh ?! Saved me 88 Yuan’s (11 € ) 🙂 It’s true you get nice views of the town from the peak but if I had to actually pay the entrance I guess I wouldn’t have…
After the park I just continued walking along the pedestrianized Zhengyang street full of bars, shops and restaurants to get at the end of the street to a quite picturesque Shan Lake with its beautiful twin Pagodas. I strolled around the lake and continued to the next one – Rong Lake (Guilin has quite a few of them). Again walked all the way around it until the South Gate, the only remaining part of the original city wall, where you can watch locals practicing tai-chi, calligraphy, dancing and playing chess, quite a busy place. Finally headed back to Zhengyang street for night markets and some snacks. All in all a really nice walk, which I think makes it worthwhile to stop in Guilin for a day…
Oh,forgot to say that the Chinese even managed to squeeze copies of Tower Bridge and Golden Gate in between the lakes 🙂
From Guilin you can also take similar tours as from Yangshuo (Yulong River, Li River, Rice terraces and so on) but they are much more expensive.. another reason to make Yangshuo, not Guilin, your exploration base!
As i said before from Guilin I took a night train to Shenzhen and then headed directly with metro to Hong Kong. Since we visited Hong Kong already at the beginning of our Chinese adventure this time I just stayed there one night before catching the flight to Taipei. Had just enough time to go back to Victoria Peak for the night view of the city (last time as you might remember we got the day view).
Well with this almost 5 weeks in China and Hong Kong came to an end. Was a great adventure and we both got very positively surprised with both the country and the people. I also have to say I was quite anxious at the beginning to continue the trip by myself but, although I miss Andrej a lot and I know it would be more fun with him, everything went easily… in reality there’s so many solo travelers around here that in the end you’re almost never alone 😉
Now as usual time for facts and +/-
– more or less 6300 km of railways tracks, roads, walking, rivers … (95 % made by the train)
– 6 days in Hong Kong and 28 days in China
– 300 €/person in Hong Kong & 850 €/person in China
– 10 different hotels
– the world’s most populous country (more tan 1.35 BIO)
– 3rd biggest country in the world
– biggest city Shanghái (24 MIO)
– more tan 160 cities with at least 1 MIO people
– 292 living languages
– approx 50 % of population leaves in the cities
– world’s 2nd biggest economy
– really bad beer but reasonable price (the worst in Asia by far) – exception Tsingtao
– everybody is driving electrical bikes (dangerous since you don’t hear them 🙂 )
– a new skyscraper is build in china every 5 days
– fortune cookies are not from China 🙂
– rich people in China hire body doubles to serve their prison sentence
– an estimated 10,000 cats are eaten per day in China’s Guangdong province
– some places easy to bargain in some places not really (fixed prices)
– really good food (one of the best in Asia) and very cheap
– kids don’t wear diapers 🙂 – you need to see to understand what I mean
– amazing nature
– very friendly although a bit nasty (spitting all the time) people
– very cheap tabaco
1. The great Wall + Beijing (Hutong district especially)
3. Food (especially night market in Beijing)
1. People´s habits (especially spitting)
2. Almost nobody speaks english
3. Smog in big cities
4. Crowded places everywhere (well it is China after all :))
5. Andrej finishing the trip earlier than planned 🙂 😦
Kisses Maja & Andrej (from Madrid 😦 )