From Beijing, it was time to fly south to Guangzhou for some (hopefully) warmer weather. We flew in the morning so landed in Guangzhou before 1pm, it was just about the scariest landing we have ever had, windy and very foggy so you couldn’t see the ground until seconds before touching the runway, but we survived, and Guangzhou was warmer, if a little rainy.
We had three days here in Guangzhou in a decent hostel, but didn’t do too much other than eat the local food (Dim Sum) and walk around the city. The Dim Sum we had was amazing, and quite similar to what can be found in Dim Sum restaurants at home, although here you have to wait for a table for a while along with hundreds of other people waiting for the best restaurants. These places are usually huge, on multiple floors with 100 or more tables, they must get through so many dumplings each day.
We had been a little underwhelmed when visiting some temples in the last couple of weeks after the amazing experiences of Japan before that, but Guangzhou was thankfully different, we went to the temple of the six banyan trees and it’s beautiful, well maintained and has a very nice 1500-year-old pagoda in the centre. Definitely a nice respite from this very busy city. Overall we liked Guangzhou but were grateful to get away from big cities, the last 5 cities we have been in (Shanghai, Shenyang, Harbin, Beijing, Guangzhou) have a combined population of around 85 million people, that’s just crazy.
From Guangzhou, it was time to head in to the countryside to Yangshuo (Guilin), made famous by its karst scenery, we were excited to get away from the big cities and in to the quieter countryside, the only thing was, it appeared that every other person in China had the same idea, so this small town was just completely over run with people on holidays. Our fault for travelling during spring festival really but we still managed to get away from people and in to nature a little. The train journey and bus journey here was quite hilarious, rural china is as amusing as it is strange. Think people walking their cows, chickens wandering the streets and the occasional family of 5 or 6 on one scooter.
The summary of the next five days here in Yangshuo is as follows;
We somehow ended up walking, with all our bags, in a South Korean tourist train, we found it hilarious, they just looked confused.
We stayed in a hostel that was far nicer than anything we have stayed in so far, but the only people staying at the hostel were Chinese, French and us, not sure how we managed that.
We got mountain bikes from a good bike shop after getting two ‘death-trap’ bicycles from the hostel then taking them back and arguing for our money back, we rode through the countryside and small villages and along the banks of the Yulong river, this was such an amazing day, 40km completed and we wished we could do it again, but it was getting dark soon.
We went to a bar popular with foreigners two nights in a row, ate with the amazing people there, made some great friends and became Yangshuo beer-pong champions by somehow repeatedly beating everybody else in the bar whilst they all paid for the beer and we got T-shirts to prove it.
We then climbed a mountain , and when I say climbed I mean it, the stairs that were there were slippery and uneven and part of the time it was just climbing over rocks fearing for our lives many times, it wasn’t the smartest thing to do with a hangover but we survived and the views were worth it. We also saw the scene that made the place famous, an image of the countryside here on the 20 Yuan note, the reason why everybody in China knows about here.
We ate at the same place five times in five days, the owner Lucy was so nice and the food was so good we kept going back, when we went for breakfast before the bike ride she even sent us away with some bananas for energy for the day.
After Yangshuo it was just one night in Guilin as a stop-off before an early train to Guangzhou and then Hong Kong the next morning. We went and got some food at the local street-food market, walked around the lake and met some really friendly locals, they didn’t seem to see that many foreigners here and all the children wanted to practice their English, it was really nice to speak to so many friendly people. The ‘hotel’ although cheap, was terrible, in a construction site, nearby to nothing and had a back-breaking hard bed, thankfully just the one night was spent here.