29 days away
30 km / 19 miles since last post
22,427 km / 13,935 miles total
We had a fairly good night's sleep on the train - I think we are becoming more used to sleeping on the trains now. There were a few bumpy moments along the way, particularly when the train was making it's stops. This was probably the best night's sleep I've had on a train so far.
We arrived into Guilin around 9:30am and we got off the train to get a private bus to take us to Yangshuo - where would be staying for the best part of the next three days.
Ricky has told us that Yangshuo is supposed to be a very pretty town and quite Westernised. He said that there will be a lot of people in the town who can speak English which will makes things a lot easier for us to stay there. Apparently, the scenery of Yangshuo was used as a backdrop in the computer game Doom, and there is one scene around the Li River in Yangshuo which appears on the back of the 20 yuan note.
The bus into Yangshuo took around ninety minutes, and along the way we passed some lovely scenery including big mountain peaks and lots of farmland - very dramatic.
We finally got to our hotel around 11:30am. Our room is ok. It is nice and spacious and the beds are really comfortable. The only issue is that our shower leaks out onto the bathroom floor, but at least this one is fairly clean and no rats or cockroaches in sight!
We met the other guys at 1:30pm and then Ricky took us on a short orientation walk around the town. I think all of us decided we liked this place immediately. It feels a lot different to everywhere else we have been so far. It has a much more relaxed feel, people don't seem to be rude or rushing past you. The scenery is also beautiful, the whole town is surrounded by massive limestone peaks.
Ricky pointed out one of the main streets to do shopping, and then took us to a great place for lunch. They were playing western music, they had a pool table in the bar area which you could use for free, and all the people there spoke English.
Ricky ordered some dishes for us as usual, which included the speciality dish of the area - beer fish. Essentially, this is a white fish cooked in the local beer (as you might expect). It was ok, nothing special. The rest of the lunch was really nice though once again as we had a mixture of dishes with rice.
Ricky left us after lunch so that we could explore the area by ourselves. We made our way down the main road which had all the shops and stalls. There were some interesting shops, lots of clothes and souvenirs. Now and again people would try and sell you things, but it wasn't too bad. Although at one stage a woman stopped Stu and offered to shine his boots. Stu said he wasn't interested, but she continued to point at the marks on his boots and followed him all the way up the road and back again. It was quite funny! She eventually got the message though.
At the end of the market road we came to the river and saw a guy by the riverside with two cormorants. We also saw some boats going out with the cormorants for fishing. Here they use the cormorants to catch the fish for them - very clever.
We walked a little way along the river, admiring the nice view, and then headed back into town where we found a coffee shop and took a break. It was actually nice to just sit for a while and enjoy a break with the some of the other guys. We had a minor amount of hassle from some people selling watches and DVDs, but nothing too bad.
We briefly headed back to our hotel to get changed and ready for dinner. We decided to eat western tonight, and found an Italian restaurant in town. The pizzas here were actually really nice, and properly Italian style. We played a few drinking games around the table after dinner for a bit of fun.
After dinner we headed down the street where there were a strip of bars.
We found one place which looked nice and seemed fairly quiet. It had a balcony over the river and we thought we would be able to enjoy a quiet drink here. Suddenly some Chinese people spotted us and were shouting over and taking our pictures. All very bizarre - I can't quite understand why complete strangers would want to take our pictures!
We decided to move on after one round of drinks and stopped in one of the many loud and busy bars along the strip. It's very difficult to separate one bar from another, as they seem to all be playing the same loud trashy music, but decided to go into one of them.
We found some seats at the back and ordered a few beers. On the table they have some shot glasses and some dice. By looking at the other tables it seems a popular thing to play drinking games of dice and then doing shots of beer from the glasses.
A group of Chinese guys on the table next to us got Stu, Nick, Greg and Tyson involved in their game for a while. It was all harmless fun and they seemed very friendly.
After a few drinks in this place most of us decided to head back to the hotel. However, Nick and Tyson wanted to stay out later so we left them to it and headed to the hotel to bed.
A good time in Yangshuo so far, and the group is already in a agreement that this is our favourite place in China so far.
(Stu note: Sarah has missed out perhaps the funniest element of the evening which was discovering that the bar we were in is popular with the gay crowd and that the Chinese fellas are very forward with their intentions. I had one guy approach me and start rubbing my back and leaning in for a kiss! I pointed towards the table of girls and he suddenly realised his advances were in vain. He managed to pick up some guy and kept coming back to our table to prance about. In the end he had his photo taken with all of the men. Hilarious!)