We spent a day looking around Guilin, another day on the rice terraces, then took the bus down to Yangshuo. Guilin was nice enough, and interesting to see (we spent most of the day in a natural amusement park of sorts, including the sad zoo, where we did get to see a panda), but the terraces and Yangshuo were spectacular.
Up in the mountains with the rice terraces, we saw the a show by the indigenous women (they have long hair, which they tie in buns atop their heads and wear like a turban), then climbed the peaks and even went a bit off the normal tourist-clogged hilltop onto the narrow trails between stepped paddies. Here again, the lie was put to Chinese Communism, as these people were both poor and opportunistically capitalist, hawking their souvenirs aggressively in the villages and along the trails (not that we could blame them for preferring that to working the fields, and we did buy this and that). But the sights were gorgeous, and I’d love to see more of it.
Then down to Yangshuo. This is the area of China with the striking narrow mountains, shrouded in mist. The first day there, having started a bit late, we biked out to the river and took a bamboo raft back down, then climbed to the top of a small mountain called Moon Hill, a striking peak we’d unknowingly seen from the raft, with a semicircular arch through its middle. At first, we got to the arch, where there was a scenic view. But then we followed an unmarked, unpaved trail further out, and eventually up, to the top of the “hill”. Up there, the sky and the mountains were even more spectacular. The climb was a doozy, but it was worth it.
That night, we stayed in a place appropriately named Fawlty Towers; it was cheap, but we found out why, with a dubious bathroom, no topsheets or duvet covers for the musty and questionable blankets, and, worst of all, some bizarre wiring problem that caused the ceiling lamp to suddenly start flashing erratically (though it was turned off) at 3 AM. When I stumbled downstairs to complain, they made us move rooms. Don’t stay there.
The next day, we rented bikes again, and hired a guide to show us around on a bike tour of the local villages. It rained most of the day, and I was covered in mud by the end. We stopped at one of the villages for lunch, whereupon our guide tried to convert us… to Christianity! I asked him to tell us about the countryside and the villages instead, but he kept coming back to religion, until I had to insist he stop it. Truth to tell, he wasn’t much of a tour guide, showing us the path but not pointing out or explaining any of the sites unless we asked, and not even much then. But we still had a good ride over bumpy country roads, and we cought a shower and a plane out to Shanghai.
… Where M promptly fell ill. Luckily, we’re staying with the mother of a friend, who had their driver take us to a clinic. Gastroenteritis, apparently, and a nasty case of it, so we are taking it easy today.