Written by kylebarber on 17 Jul, 2001
The tour representative hired a minibike with trailer attached as a coach for me and my skipper and off we went down muddy back roads. We stopped at a gravel pit along the river’s shore where we boarded a long flat boat that seemed…Read More
The tour representative hired a minibike with trailer attached as a coach for me and my skipper and off we went down muddy back roads. We stopped at a gravel pit along the river’s shore where we boarded a long flat boat that seemed more suited for commercial uses like fishing. My seat was apparently going to be a short stool which he placed unceremoniously on the bow of the boat. He didn’t speak a word of English so I had to signal to give me one of the preschool chairs from inside the cabin. Though ridiculously small it was still higher than the munchkin footstool.
Taking off I was surprised to find the river much calmer than I expected. I wasn’t immediately wowed by the hills as I had been observing them all day on the drive from Guilin to Yangshuo and then on to Xingping. But it was serene being on the water, and there was a nice sensation knowing that I was out here alone in a strange part of the world. We passed cattle that were actually swimming across the river rather than wading across the shallow parts.
As we passed by the banks I thought that the plant life looked similar to what I might expect to see in Southeast Asia. It was so nice to have that dreadful ever present cooking smell not hanging in the air. We rounded the bend at painted Hill Rock, which was pretty spectacular up close. It’s odd seeing these hills after viewing countless paintings of them back at home. We saw a boat of the famous cormorants float by, but none of these fishing birds with rings around their necks were put into action.
I knew the driver wanted to abbreviate the trip, but I was surprised when he claimed a deserted bank was a "village", our point of turning around. He dropped me off at the shore and indicated that I should be back in a half…Read More
I knew the driver wanted to abbreviate the trip, but I was surprised when he claimed a deserted bank was a "village", our point of turning around. He dropped me off at the shore and indicated that I should be back in a half hour. I didn’t know where to head, so I started climbing the steepest path up. Five minutes later I had a great view of the rice fields and river below. Fifteen minutes later and the view was nearly panoramic. The Guangxi countryside is amazing with its dramatic scenery, and the absence of other folks made it easy to soak up the unusual yet peaceful sounds of exotic bird calls and the steady breeze whistling between the towering peaks.
A few minutes later in the climb and pine trees, or so they appeared, popped up along the trail and the view was diminished. But I reached an odd narrow tunnel which, after some reasonable hesitation, I decided to walk through. On the other side was an amazingly peaceful farm, or rice field, which looked like it had been untouched for 100-150 years. I waved to one farmer who seemed only mildly surprised by the intrusion. I had to start heading back down the hill to make it to the boat on time. While I was worried about being two minutes late the skipper hadn’t yet returned from chatting with friends, which I guess is why we stopped here.
We headed back down the river, which was only a 45 minute trip. I knew the driver had only taken me half the way Jerry promised when selling the trip, which was significantly less already than the standard Li River cruise. It was all confusing, because I felt upset taken advantage of, and yet had enjoyed the river cruise. I tried to stop thinking about it and enjoy the rolling scenery. Despite my frustrations, I couldn't deny that I was excited by being in such an exotic and thrilling corner of the world.
When we landed at the same gravel pit we left from there no one was there to meet us, and the skipper bluntly stated "walk." I started the long hike back to the village, and my frustration began to morph into anger. After about ten minutes or so I was intercepted by the Xingping tour guide. She was all smiles and said, "Oh, you must have wanted to walk back." I told her I was not happy, was told I’d be picked up, didn’t travel the whole route detailed by Jerry, and generally felt tricked. She tried to say everything was as promised and claimed I had left at 2PM when I knew that I had left after 3PM. But I still felt bad when she looked dejected from my comments and said that she was sad.
I’m torn about this whole thing. It’s not that much money for me, but I hate to be taken advantage of just because I have no recourse and they can get away with it. I walked quietly with the girl back to the village and got on a bus back to Yangshuo. The ride back was extremely bumpy, but not crowded and mercifully not that smoky.
During my stay in Guilin I had planned on embarking on a cruise down the Li River, the major attraction in the Guangxi region of China. But perhaps due to the low season or the heavy rains there was only one trip planned for…Read More
During my stay in Guilin I had planned on embarking on a cruise down the Li River, the major attraction in the Guangxi region of China. But perhaps due to the low season or the heavy rains there was only one trip planned for the day, and it had already embarked on its journey. The travel desk worker at the Holiday Inn said she might be able to help me find an alternate solution, so I went to pack.
When I came down fifteen minutes later she had found Jerry, who said he’d work out a deal for obtaining a private boat for $70 American cash. That amount seemed out of the question, particularly since there was to be no English speaking guide, no lunch, and the proposed trip was one fourth of the length of the normal route traversed for twice the cost. But as I had no choice if I wanted to sail that day I went ahead bargained the price down to $55 and resolved to feel good about it.
Jerry and I then took a taxi to the "bus depot," a gravel pit full of old mini vans waiting to pull out. Our bus was very full, with half the group already smoking. I grabbed a window seat and prepared myself for the long haul. A woman sat next to me and after a minute wanted the window shut. I tried miming "smoking = me coughing", but she was thoroughly unimpressed. I tried shutting it part way and then finally all the way, but the person behind me who cheered immediately then lit up a cigarette, so I opened it again to frowning faces. So much for making nice with locals.
The Karst scenery we passed on our road trip was more dramatic and up close than the hills surrounding Guilin. The closer we got the more the hills tapered in around us. After multiple stops along the road to let folks on and off the bus we made it to Yangshuo. No one was there waiting for me as promised, but someone from the Happy Hotel who works with Jerry said he’d figure out the arrangements. I was skeptical but then he called Jerry on the cell phone and I was appeased. We went to drop my bags off at the Happy Hotel, where I ate at their "Paris Café" before catching my next bus to Xingping, the boat's point of departure.
I headed straight to the back of this second bus where I wouldn’t offend anyone with my open window. There was a nice Taiwanese couple in the back as well who made conversation with me. The ride was very pleasant, as we passed even more spectacular scenery this time. When we arrived in Xingping there was no one waiting for me, and I began to feel tricked. The Taiwanese couple encouraged me to come with them on their cruise, so I did. But on the way down to the water's edge we ran into the local tour representative and she said we had to go the other way for the water. The couple looked suspicious. They had said before that I should have paid only 100 yen rather than 500 yen for such a simple cruise so I was leery as the tour guide led me away from them.