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Cara & Imouto’s World Adventure – Part 4 China: Guilin, Yangshou & Shanghai

March 18, 2013

Shanghai - The Bund

Right-oh~! Let’s finish up talking about our trip through China shall we?  By this stage we’d been constantly travelling for 3 weeks – not really staying in one place for more than a couple of days, so we were pretty exhausted and managed to get sick.  Not the nicest way to spend the remainder of our trip through China.

Guilin - Elephant Trunk Hill

We were left to our own devises for our first day in Guilin, since originally we were supposed to on a train for the whole day (changed to flying from Xi’an at the last moment). First impressions of Guilin were good as it is a bit more relaxed than Beijing or Xi’an – its primary industry is tourism so the people also seem much friendlier and less likely to push you over.  In general it’s just less crowded and claustrophobic.  Since I had developed a head cold that was driving me nuts, we found a pharmacy & after I mimed some of my symptoms I was handed a red box of tablets covered in Chinese writing (Google later told me it was flu medication – success!).  The rest of the day was spent wandering about laughing at the “style” in Chinese department stores, having a nice quiet lunch by the river and admiring the street artists selling beautiful wall scrolls for a pittance (had to buy one).  That evening we spied a nice looking restaurant on the 2nd floor of a building and went in to take a look.  It was a lovely looking place, but when we looked at the menu we soon scampered out of there – not quite ready to sample the wonders of braised cat, crocodile, snake or turtle

Next day it was back to our guide but I was feeling rather feverish and congested so wasn’t really up for all the hiking up peaks that was on offer.  First up was Elephant Trunk Hill – a famous landmark that resembles an elephant drinking from the river.  It was a pretty interesting shape, but I was more interested in seeing how many elephant shaped things I could spot in the park – bridges, lights, statues, etc.  Then it was off to Seven Star Park, so named for the seven peaks in the park.  The highlight of this was the Panda House, which unfortunately only has two pandas (rest of them were in Beijing apparently).  Still it was pretty cool to see the panda’s sitting out in the open just chilling – not much in the way of service~! service~! going on.  Imouto and I both fell in love with the Red Panda’s though – they are the cutest things, I so want one!  The mini zoo also had monkeys, flamingos, emus and kangaroos – it was pretty fun.

Next was Fubo Hill, with its cave temple at the base of it.  The temple I could handle, even with its tiny twisty stairs & corridors, but one look at the hill with its hundreds of stairs and I knew I wasn’t going up there.  I elected to stay at the base and read (well attempt to read, ended up posing for photos and fending off people trying to sell me crap) while Imouto & the guide scaled the peak.  After Fubo Hill it was off to the Reed Flute Cave – a beautiful system of caverns full of wonderful limestone formations.  The cave was really nicely illuminated – if there is one thing we’ve noticed about Guilin, it’s that they know how to show off the natural beauty of their city.

Next day I woke up with full blown fever and started to worry about my ability to keep up with the itinerary – we were off to the Long-gi rice terraces after all.  It was quite an experience just getting to the rice terraces – the road went from nice dual carriageways to bumpy back roads pretty damn quick, and that was well before we hit the helter-skelter narrow ribbon of a trail that wound up the mountains.  The sheer drop over the side was pretty terrifying – you’d be dead well before you stopped falling!  We eventually got as high as the car could go, and just looking up at where we were meant to go had me panicking – there was no way I was getting up that far given how rough I was feeling.  The winding trail up was pretty steep and stepped the entire way.  Before too long I was utterly exhausted and about to either faint or have a panic attack – being unable to take a full breath because of the fecking head cold just compounded things.  I made it to the halfway point before deciding enough was enough – I was stumbling on the stairs and didn’t feel like dying up a Chinese mountain.

Long gi - Rice terraces

Imouto & the guide continued on since neither were particularly winded, while I sat and tried to calm myself down a bit with a large pot of jasmine tea.  Even at the halfway point the views were stunning, so I wasn’t too disappointed I didn’t make it to the top to see the entire vista.  Imouto took some amazing pictures – because it was just about time for the rice harvest, all the fields looked like gold; it’s really pretty.  After having a lunch of some local dishes, we headed down which was much easier.  We passed some interesting sights – a horse going down the stairs, a man selling a bag of frogs, another with a turtle, loads of women selling local cloth & silver jewellery and there were chickens running about the place too.

Upon reaching the bottom, we were both feeling pretty damn rough so attempted to sleep most of the way back.  We stopped at a tea farm on the way, and were guided about the place & instructed on the tea making process before getting to sample some of the locally produced tea.  I’ve taken a real liking to proper Chinese tea – it’s pretty tasty!  By the time we got back to the hotel, Imouto had a terrible pain in her stomach & had a fever – food poisoning yay!  We had already arranged with the guide to go out on the night-time boat cruise around the city’s lakes, but Imouto really wasn’t up to that so I ended up going on my own.  The cruise was really interesting – Guilin is really brilliant at using different coloured lighting to show off their waterways, trees, bridges & mountains.  They even had musicians & a drum show on along the banks for the boats going past.  Even though I was feeling a touch queasy (mild food poisoning on top of a cold – yay!) I was glad I went.

Next morning we had a 4hr cruise along the River Li to Yangshou…..which was interesting considering both of us had food poisoning.  We were sharing our table with a nice family from California who had been travelling for the past few weeks through different countries.  Imouto spent most of the trip playing cards, hangman or rock, paper, scissors with their young son, while I enjoyed the stunning scenery & fended off the questions of our guide (I was entirely sick of “using my imagination” to see shapes in the weird rock formations).  We reached Yangshou in the early afternoon, and after checking into the hotel my stomach decided to get worse sending me straight to bed, which scuppered plans of exploring the lively street outside packed with stalls.

Yangshou - fisherman

I had come round a bit by that night so we did go to the evening river show put on by the locals.  The show was amazingly well choreographed, being by the same person who directed the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.  It was entirely on the river, making use of the peaks as a backdrop & the water as a stage – I really enjoyed it.  Well, apart from the singing – neither of us can really listen to that caterwauling for very long without developing a migraine.  Imouto started to feel really ill again towards the end, so when we got out and our guide tried to find transportation back to the hotel, we were somewhat dismayed to discover he could only get a motorcycle rickshaw thing.  Well, it was an experience anyway…..of the near death kind!

Next day saw us still suffering, but went wandering about the town anyway.  Yangshou is a very pretty, but quite small town with not a whole lot to do when you are most definitely not up to biking or hiking.  We mostly spent the day browsing through the multitude of stalls and shops aimed at tourists that make up the main street.  So many bargains to be had, but we only bought a few small things since we don’t really have much room in our bags.  You would spend a small fortune on stuff though – some things were really pretty!

Next day we were taking the overnight train from Guilin to Shanghai, so spent the morning trying to sort out our bags and scrubbing ourselves clean in preparation for feeling grimy on the train that night.  Thankfully Guilin train stations waiting room was nowhere near as mental as Beijing’s, so we managed to get seats with little bother.  Getting to the train was an adventure through – place seems to completely lack elevators or escalators, so we had to haul our bags up and down three sets of stairs via very steep ramps……which was fun.  Once we finally got on the train (which was another adventure since it involved more hauling up stairs) we discovered that we were sharing our room with two American girls – and much rejoicing followed.  Getting four peoples luggage into the fecking room was like playing tetris – there seriously is no bloody room in those things!  We spent a good while sharing stories of China (and generally bitching about people) which made the journey go a bit faster anyway.

Sleeping is exceptionally difficult to do on a train, think we managed a few hours each on and off – if that.  When we reached Shanghai, we didn’t actually know we had – it was 20mins ahead of schedule and there was no announcement.  It was only once the cleaning staff started bustling about that we managed to find out that, yes this was Shanghai, so it was off the train and away to the exit we went.  Latest guide met us and we went straight to the hotel and got checked in – it’s a pretty nice looking hotel, although it is located down a smelly back alley!  Considering we were both knackered from spending 20 hours on a Chinese train, we were only fit for dinner, shower & bed.

Shanghai - Yuyuan Market

Guide picked us up early next morning and took us to the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre first.  As dull as the name is, the exhibits were actually pretty interesting – the highlight being a huge scale model of downtown Shanghai.  Shanghai really is a modern city – much of the skyline was only built in the last 20 years; which explains why so far everything seems well organised and clean when compared to the other Chinese cities we’ve been in.  Next we went to the Bund to take some daytime pictures – the skyline and contrasting architecture is really interesting and pretty; we quickly decided to come back to the area in the evening to see the night-time illuminations.

After a quick wander round the Bund, we went to Yuyuan Gardens & Market – an area filled with lovingly restored traditional buildings and beautiful Chinese gardens filled with koi ponds.  The gardens were so peaceful it was hard to believe that the heaving market was only a stone’s throw away!  We had lunch in the middle of the market in a very nice restaurant.  Food was nice, but neither of us was really up for eating much unfortunately.  After lunch we were taken to the French Concession area of the city – the buildings in the area have been restored to their former glory and the entire area is now an upmarket shopping area filled with boutiques and expensive restaurants.  It was interesting to see such European styled buildings in the middle of a bustling Chinese metropolis, but we really didn’t get why the Shanghaiese make such a big deal about the area.

Our guide had run through his entire itinerary at this point so we were dropped off at the hugely busy pedestrian shopping area close to our hotel & the Bund area.  We decided to head to the other side of the river and the skyscraper observatories, so we took the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel under the river.  It was a pretty cool thing – very trippy with lots of strobe lights and music, we enjoyed it!

We opted to head for the tallest current observatory – the Shanghai World Trade Centre with its skywalk on the 100th floor.  The views were spectacular – Shanghai really has a fantastic skyline.   We were also accosted by a Chinese tour group who had clearly come out of the boonies, because we had to pose for photos with the entire group.  Individually.  Repeatedly.  Such a surreal experience.  Also there was a giant Pikachu wandering about…..we don’t know why.

Next day after taking a much needed lie in, we decided to take one of the sightseeing buses around the city to see what else was on offer.  The red line turned out to be mostly stuff we had seen the day before, but it was interesting to hear a bit more about things.  We changed onto the green line which went further out of downtown to take in some temples, so we jumped off at the Jade Buddha Temple.  It was a pretty nice Buddhist temple, but what we liked best was the chance to feed the shoal of koi carp in the decorative pond.  There were loads of them, in a whole rainbow of colours, and they had absolutely no fear of humans – even nipping at Imouto’s fingers in their haste to get the food!

It was fairly late in the evening when we finished viewing the temple grounds and we weren’t sure if the bus was coming back so not really want to hang around since the place was swarming with extremely demanding beggars, we elected to try to find the metro.  After wandering about a bit and asking for directions once, we eventually found it and got back to People’s Square in the city centre.  Spent the evening having a leisurely dinner and chatting with three very friendly Chinese students who wanted to practise their English on us.

Shanghai - Koi @ Jade Buddha Temple

For our last day in China we decided to head out to see some of Shanghai’s museums.  We knew the museum in People’s Square was free entry & fairly close by so we went there first.  Gotta say we’re entirely sick of security checks by now – my god do the Chinese love their metal detectors & x-ray scanners!  Once in the museum we quickly realised it was pretty small and crap – mostly shards of jade, bronze pots of varying sizes, scrolls of scribbley calligraphy and stone statues of Buddha in various states of disrepair……pretty boring.  We left soon after and decided after much deliberation to give the Museum of Science & Technology a whirl instead.  So it off to the subway again and over the river.  This museum was much, much better, but we were really pressed for time so we only saw a small portion of it.  Dinosaur skeletons, loads of stuffed animals & robots were what we had time for before having to head back to the hotel to await our lift to the airport.

The drive to the airport was uneventful – thankfully this guide isn’t the talkative type and was content to leave us alone.  However he did accompany us to the check-in desk, which kind of threw me off – I’d have preferred to do that on my own really.  Randomly they wanted to see inside Imouto’s case for no apparent reason, but after they seen that we weren’t smuggling fireworks or drugs we got checked in & through security……and away from our guide at last.  Must say Shanghai airport is quite modern & spacious, but there isn’t a whole lot in it and good luck to you if you want an ATM!

And then we were on our way to Australia.  Have to say Imouto and I really let out a sigh of relief to be leaving China – it was an exhausting experience!  Still I would definitely never say I regret going (Imouto might though – my god she really did not like China) as we saw some absolutely wonderful things; but yeah, the culture shock was rather intense.

My god this was a long post…….next time I’ll fire up something about what we’ve been up to in Australia – not all that exciting though, it’s mostly been panicking about having enough money for rent and food!

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 19, 2013 12:49 am

    Is that u in the photo of the bund? I kept wondering thoughout this series of tour photos around the world.

    • March 19, 2013 3:23 pm

      Yes tis I~

      • March 19, 2013 4:05 pm

        Ahhhh! So the mysterious cara is revealed!

        • March 19, 2013 4:21 pm

          Goodbye mysterious aura, hello crushing reality! XD
          I thought I’d be subtle about it and slip a few pics in here & there.

        • March 19, 2013 4:44 pm

          lols, and I was wondering if that is photo of your imouto-san! But then I start to wonder why post photos of imouto-san in almost every posts? and that made me ask. 😛

  2. March 19, 2013 10:54 am

    Always such wonderful pictures! 😀

    • March 19, 2013 3:24 pm

      Thanks Fosh~! Imouto really enjoys snapping away at everything, as do I, but I don’t have quite the same eye for pictures she does.

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