Twenty-six hours on a train. A hard-seat due to my stubborn frugality.
From Chengdu the train was packed, every seat occupied plus dozens of people standing in the aisles or trying to make their luggage as suitable for sitting as possible. I'd made that mistake before, by paying an absurdly large price for a no-seat ticket on a 12 hour ride--now I know better to ensure I at least have a seat number when I pay for my tickets.
By midnight a lot of the passengers had gotten off at various stops along the way, and I found myself able to stretch out on my stiff brown cushion of a seat that can hold anywhere between 1-3 people depending on the necessity.
Upon arriving in Guelin, it was already late in the evening and dark outside so I quickly found my hostel, some spicy tofu veggies, and went in to rest.
I expected to spend the next day recovering and walking about the city, but a Chinese traveler in my hostel dorm convinced me to join her onto Yangshuo--it was my next planned destination anyway, so I thought it might not be a bad idea to travel with someone who could actually communicate properly with the locals.
The landscape of Yangshuo was amazing, layer upon layer of small steep mountains coated in lush greenery. They call this type of distinctive geography "Karst" which apparently means that there are systems of underground caves with acidic water that reacts with the limestone rock to create this kind of jagged landscape. Magnific!
My friend managed to arrange a local adventure of biking along the Li River, riding in a bamboo raft down a couple hours, and then biking back to town. It was a popular little trip where we saw many other tourists along the way, but still fun.
While the nature was amazing, the town itself had become quite overdone in my opinion-- riddled with tourist shops & funky hippie garments imported from places like Tibet -Mongolia-Thailand. Everything & everyone seemed like a moneymaker, which was no surprise since the streets were packed with foreigners. And even though the town was still pretty small, obnoxious fast food joints like KFC and McDonalds had been instituted.
The next day we went to a smaller town I'd heard about called Xingping. This town, only an hour away, was quite comparable in its' natural beauty, but had much much less development and fewer tourist crowds. It seemed like a good place to stay tucked away for countless days or weeks--only a couple nights for me though (I need to return to city life before the big October holiday to arrange my visa for Vietnam).
We rented bikes for the day and cruised around to see some other nearby villages & caves. On the return trip we took a long, muddy way back and stopped at a local beekeeper’s home where my friend purchased some about 10 ounces of pure honey. Along the way we could not resist stopping every few minutes to photograph of our surroundings, but unfortunately the weather has been overcast and drizzly for the entire week so the scenery has not been quite up to its' potential. Either way, it's a wonderland—