A Paradise in such a busy city
Guangzhou is a busy and polluted city. But not far from central Guangzhou, there's a small Island which is just like paradise. Shamian Island is so peaceful. You won't see heavy traffic there. Houses there are from late 19th century and early 20th century. I think I love those old houses the most.
Don't trust at all for the direction information. Because the line 2 yet still on progress without any notice but already show on in the ticketing where if you go to buy the ticket and you will never get it untill you asking the other.
Shamian Island is probably the best attraction of all in Guangzhou. Back in early 1900s, this part of Guangzhou was under European rule and thus there are many Euro-style buildings in this area. Here, coffee shops, restaurants, bars and roadside cafes are all around to give you an enjoyment time-out.
"Guliin and Yangshou"
After paying the statutory 50RMB per person for airport construction fees we boarded the plane for a two-hour flight south to Guilin (pronounced 'gwayleen'). We were met by Lily and Mr Gui. Guilin derives its name from Gui (Osmanthus) and Lin(Wood) but Lily gave us a much longer and more romantic description of its naming. We were taken, at our request for food, to the Asian Pacific restaurant where Lily selected our meal with help from us from the all-Chinese menu. We selected our fish and shrimps from tanks which, after they were cooked, we ate with fresh vegetables, pork, and chicken and mushroom soup washed down with Osmanthus wine, which was our first taste of Chinese wine. It was 18% alcohol and slightly sweet. We turned down the opportunity to eat snake and turtles.
After struggling through the meal we were taken to a wharf by the river Li, close to the Liberty bridge, and onto a boat to watch the cormorant fishing. A lone fisherman stands with a long bamboo pole on a 20 x 2 ft bamboo raft with 4 cormorants sitting at its edge and 2 paraffin lamps at the bow. The birds dive off the raft, swim around and catch a fish which they cannot swallow because there is a tie around their necks. They swim back to the raft and clamber aboard. The fisherman extracts the big fish and gives a reward of a smaller fish to the ormorant. The cormorant washes out its mouth and dives back into the water to catch another fish. Apparently one cormorant can catch enough fish to feed five people per day. The cormorant is lucky, along with the water buffalo and Chinese people because they are the only animals the Chinese do not eat. After the fishing we were taken to the Park Hotel where we were glad to get to bed.
Wednesday, October 10th - Guilin to Yangshou
Another 6:30am call, breakfast and a long drive through the countryside with mother pigs and piglets walking in the road, bicycles, small farming areas and buffalo ploughing strips of fields. Lily told us that four most important features of Guilin are its caves, its green hills, its pretty rocks and its clear water. Lily also told us that the four most important features of the Li River are its crystal beauty, its fantastic scenery, its green world and its dreamy mirages. We found we had to agree with her. Eventually we arrived at the wharf to find about 20 cruise boats moored on the Li River. At 9:30 we untied and had a truly enjoyable journey for about 4 hours down the river. The limestone pinnacles (created when India crashed into Asia), water buffalo, terraced farms, and general river life were all quite enchanting. Lunch, prepared at the rear of the boat, was served on board and was very good. We had been encouraged to buy a local so we bought the cheapest (a rip-off at 50RMB) - toffee water chestnuts. They were really excellent and enough for us to share with the other 6 English travellers seated at our table. We saw some magnificent
scenery and this being China, everything has its name. 4 rocks have the shape of bats in flight and they are called the Bat Rock and welcome tourists. Another is notable for its light and dark cliffs and it is the 'famous' Nine Horses Rock. When you visit China don't forget to take an extra dose of imagination.
On arrival at the the docking place at Yangshou we were met by Yuan, a 28 year old lady and her nephew. We walked for about 10 minutes carrying all our luggage and arrived at our hotel, the Paradise Resort. It was very hot but the room was pretty good and as it had air-conditioning we were happy.
After a short rest we had a shower and went for a walk around the streets of Yangshou. We walked though the street market looking at sugar cane, fish, snakes, frogs, all for sale together with lovely fresh green vegetable and fruit. Jane bought an umbrella for 15RMB (after bargaining) on the assumption that it might rain again before we left China. It didn't.
We finally returned to the hotel and watched the sunset and drank the free welcome drink beer at the bar. A wedding was taking place in the main restaurant. As the guest arrived they were given a cigarette by the groom and lit by the bride. Why does the bride in China always stand on the right? Because the women is always right. The guests give fire-crackers and money. The fire-crackers are fixed together and are set off before the start of the meal.
We wandered around and found another eating room so we went in. There seemed to be a little problem but we did not understand. Finally someone came who could speak English. They said there was to be a show of traditional Chinese dancing and if we wanted to stay it would cost us 120MB in cash. We are not on here for a rehearsal so we stayed having been told it would be better than Peking Opera. We had the wonderful food vegetables and Guilin noodles all washed down by beer and lit by candles that kept blowing out because of the strong air-conditioning. It was great and only cost 67RMB for the two of us. During the meal the dancing took place on the small dance floor at the front of the room, one table away from us. It consisted of dancing, juggling, unicycling and a young Chinese acrobat who could double up and fit completely inside a 1ft x 3ft cylinder. Towards the end of the meal all the other diners
sang Happy Birthday in Chinese followed by a rendition in English. A man blew out the many candles and the cake was cut. We were the first to be given two large pieces. After the cake distribution the Karaoke began as did a small amount of dancing. As no English songs were chosen we left and retired to bed as we have to get up at 6am again.
Thursday, October 11th - Cycling through the countryside to Yangshou
Up at 6am, breakfast and out at 7:30. We were met by Yuan and picked up 12-geared mountain bikes (6 less gears than we have at home but the same make). We drove through the town to a bank on the Li River. The small motorized sampan arrived and we put our bikes on its rear deck. It is illegal for foreigners to travel on the river on anything other than a tourist cruise boat but our trip had been arranged by the tourist office. We then proceeded down the Li River for about 3 hours to Puli. At one point we had to hide inside the sampan to make sure we were not spotted by the river police. On the way we saw more magnificent scenery, wonderful
reflections and river life in detail. We stopped at one small village where we wandered around admiring the buildings and the men playing cards but the cards were blue and about 3in x 1in covered with Chinese characters. Yuan was a bit upset that they were playing cards at that time of the morning as she said they'd probably been playing all night.
We docked close to a floating bridge at Puli. We unloaded the bikes and set off through Puli. At the edge of the town Jane and Yuan wanted the loo so Yuan took Jane off into a primary school whilst Graham stood like a lemon guarding the bikes. The pupils were all having a lecture in the school yard. The loos out the back were in a brick building which provided cover over a pit divided into 3 stalls. As the queue of small girls was quite long and the loos were a bit smelly the two cyclists relieved themselves behind a tree. We then spent a couple of hours cycling 15km, much on a dirt track, through amazing countryside - rice paddies, osmanthus trees, views of limestone pinnacles. We saw the Moon Hill, a very large hole through a pinnacle but we did not climb it. Shortly after we arrived at Yuan's house and sat down for about an hour while she cooked us lunch with her mother. Graham tried to amuse Yuan's nephew. A Chinese couple arrived led by Yuan's sister and they dined outside. Yuan lives with 7 of her relatives in a building in front of which they have built a 3 storey building containing 12 ensuite double bedrooms and a ground floor where we ate. The building was started in February this year and is not quite finished. When complete it will be another guest house in the small village. The
lunch was worth waiting for - chicken with Chinese asparagus, green vegetables, rice and about 20 tiny omelettes stuffed with some pork mixture.
The sun was now out and the temperature was rising. A women took her water buffalo and calf for a stroll. The view from the top of the extension was magnificent. It was quite hot cycling the 8km back to Yangshou passed a Buddhist monastery. On returning to the hotel we had a large beer before going to our room for a well earned rest. We had a repeat of the set menu in the Chinese restaurant at the hotel where we were astonished to see and hear a group of Chinese all speaking English. They were from New Zealand and could not speak Chinese.
Friday, October 12th - Yangshou to Shanghai
Another early 6am call and we thought holidays were meant to be relaxing. We packed and had breakfast where we pointed out to the New Zealand Chinese what should make them feel at home - Anchor butter. A minibus driven by Mr Gui and Lily arrived from Guilin. Yuan was there to wave us off at 7:30. The drive to Guilin airport for our 11am flight was very interesting. Lily gave us a present of candied tiny golden tangerines - a Guilin speciality. She regaled us with lots of Chinese fairy tales and gave us the recipe for oil tea. We drove through Guilin and it became apparent that Mr Gui had problems with his vehicle. The clutch had gone or maybe it
was something similar but we did make it to the airport with time to spare, despite driving very slowly. It was sad to say goodbye to Lily who asked to call us her brother and sister and invited us to stay with her and her husband the next time we visit Guilin.