A Travellerspoint blog

A few days in the Chinese countryside...

sunny 30 °C

Sept 4th

( Jenn )

When last we saw our merry band of intrepid travellers, they were at the Shenzhen airport waiting for their 11 pm flight to Guilin...

The flight left on time, albeit from a completely different gate than the one on their boarding passes, flew through a lightning storm, and landed early at the Guilin Airport where a very nice gentleman was waiting (sign in hand) to take them to their hotel.

The trio had decided to book a place in advance after stumbling (online) on the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, a good distance outside the actual town of Yangshuo (they were seeking something a little more country-like after their time in Hong Kong). And thanks to their friend Denise calling for them, they managed to hold on to their reservation through the whole lost-baggage-and-missed-plane-crisis /and/ reschedule their ride.

The 90 minute ride to the retreat was - as usual - completely harrowing, but Anica was so tired she still fell asleep and Jenn and Rob actually enjoyed the craziness, the cool wind whipping into the car and the shadows of looming karsts keeping them wide awake.

Arriving at the retreat, we could hear the river rushing along at the front of the building but couldn't see a thing. As late as we arrived, the young woman at reception showed us to the third floor and our huge triple room overlooking the river (we still couldn't see it but we could hear it and it sounded lovely) and told us we could actually check in formally in the morning. We gratefully unpacked, threw on our pajamas and passed out.

We slept in a little (9 am), leaping out of our beds to fling back the curtains and see not only the river, the rain and the gorgeous green grounds but karsts, dozens of them, shooting up from the landscape surrounding the retreat. We gazed in awe. The air felt cool, smelled fresh and the idea of spending a rainy day inside was not necessarily a disappointing one.

The view from our room

Freshly showered and clothed, we made our way downstairs for breakfast and to properly check in, at which point we were asked "What are you going to do now?" Now? Not a whole hell of a lot, we were all thinking, still completely exhausted from the day before. Will it rain all day, we tentatively enquired, feeling like maybe we should do something after all. We were informed it would likely brighten up in the afternoon and were pointed towards a three ring binder with dozens of pages detailing all the many things we could do in the region.

We /were/ interested in a short boat tour down the Li River (as opposed to the six hour one from Guilin to Yangshuo) but were told that the Guilin operators now have a monopoly and all the other tours are illegal and can be stopped at any time. So much for that. After yesterday, we weren't prepared to test our luck.

What about a cave, we asked. Was there one which would be suitable for a child? They frowned. Was a cave really suitable at all for a girl came the response. Rob and I looked at each other. Anica, when told of the exchange later (since she was running in and out of the building at the time), laughed her butt off. We settled on the nearby Dragon Cave, determining it to be untaxing and a nice walk back to the retreat after the recommended taxi there.

We went back up to our room, napped for a bit, spent some time reading and relaxing, then had lunch. After lunch, we changed, doused ourselves in bug repellent, watched a bunch of bamboo rafts floating down the river in front of the retreat, the passengers waving at us like crazy and trying to spray us (in fun) with water using these sort of water plunger darts.


At three pm, our taxi driver showed up. There was a woman with him and we had no idea who she was. He drove but she took the money and when we arrived at the caves, went to the ticket booth with us. For a bit, we wondered whether she was our guide, but no, she finally disappeared without a word.

We headed up the stairs and into the entrance for the caves where a gentleman waved at the flashlights and bullhorns in front of him. Intrepid Canadians that we are, we were well prepared to pick them up and head in ourselves but apparently all the waving just meant sit your butts down, your guide will be with you in a minute.

Our guide finally turned up, a young woman who spoke a litte English - enough to tell us what the various formations were supposed to resemble and to answer our questions.

The caves themselves were very interesting, our favourite part the two boat rides through underground caverns at the end.

We walked home from the caves, our guide asking if she could accompany us to the Big Banyan Tree, for which we had asked directions. It was only after we said yes that we wondered if she was expecting to continue as our guide and whether we would need to tip her.

The Big Banyan Tree is exactly what it sounds like. 1500 years old, it is 55 feet wide and 28 feet tall. A very impressive sight.

roots of the Big Banyan Tree

Leaving there, we told our guide, who seemed to want to lead us in more activities, that we were going to head back to our hotel. We asked if we could give her a small gift for helping us and gave her a small tip. We're still not sure if she was expecting it or not.

Our walk back to the hotel was great. Muddy but cool, the karst-filled landscape still blew us away again and again as we walked along the pot-hole filled gravel road back to the retreat.



Sept 5th

( Anica )

Today we woke up and went to Yangshao town and people tried to sell us stuff like postcards, books, DVDs, t shirts, coloured balls, food, bambo rafts, flutes, and lots more.

Look how far we've come!
- sign in front of restaurant on West Street in Yangshuo

we had dinner at drifters. we used playground excirsie things.

Making use of the public exercise equipment in Yangshuo

It was SO FUN. We also got a mouse in our house, yes it escaped out of the trap.

( Rob )

Anica's described the hawkers on Yangshuo's West Street, probably named for all the Westerners who have long made it backpackers' central in China. It's still a nice town, though, with marble pavement and bridges.

View of Yangshuo from West Street

At Drifters, I enjoyed the famous Yangshuo "beer fish" that's on everyone's menu, a whole fish cooked in beer with vegetables.

Sept 6th

( Jenn )

Anica's turn... to be sick :(

She's picked up a little bug and is feeling really crummy today. We took a local bus 40 minutes to a small town called Xingping and looked around the market (only there in days ending in 2, 4 and 6) but she started acting funny and very soon basically begged to go back to the retreat. We climbed back on the bus (although we were basically the only Westerners there, there were some locals who pointed out which bus) and one of the locals (who helps arrange small tours onwards to this fishing village we'd hoped to visit) actually called the Retreat, although we didn't know it at the time, told them Anica was sick and we were coming back. So... when we got to the bus station, our usual taxi couple were waiting to take us back to the Retreat. Yay!

We checked Anica's temp (38.5 C), gave her some Motrin and she slept for a while. Then since she seemed to feel a little better she had some plain rice for lunch and some white grape juice while Rob and I had Yangshuo noodles and hot & sour soup (full of red peppers at the bottom).

Apparently her lunch was not such a good idea as it all came back up about 20 minutes later *pets her*

Now she's in her pajamas and trying to sleep again. Her fever's down and we're pretty sure this was nothing more than a yucky little flu bug. Hopefully she'll be mostly right as rain tomorrow and luckily our travel plans (we move on to Chengdu) involve one taxi ride, a plane ride and another taxi drive with a pick-up at the airport - and we don't move until the afternoon.


Jenn's asked me to write more about Xingping and the market because this was more off-the-beaten-path, even if only for a couple of hours. Though we went with Eric and Norma, an American couple staying at our retreat, we only saw two other Westerners in all of our trip to Xingping. The market sold everything. Really. First, though, we saw an interesting peanut wholesaler. I dug out my Mandarin phrase book and found the word for peanut, saying it like a question to the men standing around. That got me lots of smiles and nods, and a fresh, tasty peanut to eat!

Peanut for you!

We also saw more gruesome things, like monkey skulls (as mascots? talismans?) with a man selling roots, and dead snakes and turtles to illustrate some sort of miracle cure. The butcher's section had pigs' heads and hooves, and then there was all the live chickens, ducks, chicks, etc. in baskets. In the same aisle, men were getting their hair cut. Another aisle was for seafood, including live frogs and eels. Anica was only bothered by her own illness, not these sights. She said she would have enjoyed the market more if she was feeling okay. The local people were very friendly, especially in pointing out our daughter to their children. Very few demured at having their picture taken, but we still felt very self-conscious after doing so.

Tobacco: sold loose or by leaf

Is it still called poultry when it's alive?

Dried roots being sold at the market in Xingping

Posted by jennrob 03:45 Archived in China

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I'm so sorry to hear that Anica isn't feeling well ~ hopefully she's better today. Lots of hugs Anica. It does sound like the people where you are staying are very helpful.

The market was so interesting! Lots of great photo opts. The scenery, especially the karsts, is fantastic.

Take care, hugs to all.

by Mom-Momma

Hope Anica is back to normal--not fun feeling yucky! The retreat looked absolutely awesome & the market so unique. We'll need days & weeks to talk about the sites when we finally see you! Love & Hugs to get you better, Anica. H&D
PS Did Rob really eat a peanut?!

by hdbutters

Well,it took awhile but I finally logged on. We hope Anica will feel better soon. Absolutely breathtaking scenery and a real feel of life over there. Keep it coming. Love to all!

by JBRobinson

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