Saturday, May 26, 2012

Setting off on our bikes for Guilin and a few first in Yangshuo

Bikes, panniers, tent, and other crap we probably won't use but every says its need for a long haul by bicycle. Our first destination will be the bus station, haha. We don't have the time to bike the 500 plus km's to Guilin. Its a 10 hour bus ride on a sleeper bus first time and hopefully our last one. Somebody was smoking, and the bed was tight and short plus someones feet stunk, overall was not the best experience and it cost us $25 each including our bikes. We arrived 5am it was dark, raining and to top it off our hostel wasn't even open yet. We spent a total of 4 days in Guilin, checking out the most popular sites, enjoying the stunning back drops but what stole the show for me was seeing the giant pandas at the Seven Stars Park they are the cutest adult wild animals I have ever seen, totally worth the extra admission fee.

waiting at the bus station in Jiangmen
visited the ancient town of Daxu
riding around the old Qin Dynasty 2000 year old streets, not too bumpy
checked out the Reed flute cave 
240 meter long cave is lite with wonderful colors 

lucky thousand year old turtle

drunken master 

elephant trunk hill
famous birds that do the fishing 

enjoying cheap korean food in Guilin

camel hump hill in 7 star park
giant panda, great to see these amazing animals, so few remain 

not as famous but just a cute the red panda
check out the baby getting in our photo
famous Guilin noodles
After the 4 days we biked to Yangshuo, our first time riding any distance with our bikes loaded up. It was a total of 75 km's and a perfect riding day, cloudy and flat idea condition for our first ride. It took us just over 5 hours that included a stop for lunch. We had set up a couch surfing host in Yangshuo, and would meet our host at the park infront of the bus stop. Zooey, is a rock climber, full time student that was nice enough to share her home and take us. She took us around town showing us her life in Yangshuo. Couch surfing for the  first time has been a enjoyable experience and hope to have more. Thanks Zooey! 

loaded up on our first stretch of payment 75km's to Yangshuo
Yangshuo back drop of hills, ponds and streams
we had this delicious stone bowl of rice and veggies almost everyday for lunch
having a beer with Zooey our first couch surf host 
this is the picture on the 20 RMB minus Jieun

climbing one of the hills
over 200 meters straight up 
made it up to the top and we were the only ones, nice peaceful view
inside the town of Yangshuo
The famous Liu Sanjie Show used the hill and lake backdrops as the stage for this huge production 
check out this mobile police station cool
Yangshuo, is a nice town that seems tourism has helped, the centre of town has loads of great restaurants, shops and cafes for all budgets. Its also a place for biking, trekking and of course rock-climbing. Next we are off to Nanning city, to get our Vietnam visa's.   

Saturday, May 5, 2012

張家界, zhang jia jie, tour and we met an amazing couple that saved the trip

We decided to take a tour to Zhang Jia Jie national park, supposedly the inspiration for the floating mountains of the movie Avatar. We joined a tour because its a difficult place to find if you don't speak Chinese plus its located in a remote part of Hunan province.  We jointed the CTS tour company out of Jiangmen, it cost us about $250 each for a 4 day tour. It included transport, hotels, some meals and entrance to the park we ended up spending another $100 each for shows, cable car, elevators and other stuff.

thats our tour group easily recognized with the same red hats and bags
congee at KFC you won't find this anywhere else but China, plus its not even chicken 
china's speed train, modern fast and cheap and safe I hope 
Day 1 we left early from Jiangmen, we were the only 2 on the bus not counting the driver and the tour guide the rest of the group was picked up at the next town a total of 26. We than proceeded to the Guangzhou east station to take the high speed train to the southern tip of Hunan province. There we took a 6 hour bus ride to the ancient town of Fenghuang meaning phoenix. We arrived at night and everyone was too tired from the long journey to go out but Jieun and I ventured into town to see the night life and it was well worth the effort. The views are breath taking will all the lights, a river running through, narrow winding stone paths and young kids playing music and singing on the streets as we continue the music turns to dance and hip hop, with dance clubs and karaoke bars.  

the taxi dropped us off at the main door to the ancient phoenix city

bars and dance clubs line this narrow alley

it was pretty chilly night but worth seeing 
I wonder if Mao ever thought his China would turn out like this
dried pig heads for what I don't know but would be cool for halloween 
Day 2 tour guides took us into Phoenix city gates and told us to walk around ourselves with out explaining anything about the ancient city. It gave us a chance to compare the day and night views and it was a lot more charming at night in our opinion. After a short walk around town we got to know a couple on the tour that was around our age the Chao's, a restaurant own near Jiangmen, that closed for 4 days and took all there 15 employees on the tour. What nice bosses, after talking some more I found out they do this every year with their co-works. Again we are all back on the bus for another 6 hours to Zhang jia jie city after dinner everyones tired and sleep early because we will visit the famous national park tomorrow.

ancient city of fenghuang, at day light

the Chao's and all 15 staff members
 chinese girl dress before marriage
after marriage the colors change and the head dressing is tone down
Day 3 dark, wet and really early everyone heads to the park entrance a 10 minute walk from the hotel and all everyone was taking about was the fog and how thick it was. We all had to pay extra for a high speed lift up, again "I heard was what can you see?" a man replied "a lot of white" everyone got a laugh, except Jieun, she was really disappointed with the tour guides lack of effort plus to top it off the bad weather. We did get to visit a traditional folk village in the park and it was extra again but interesting to see. 

main entrance to the park
Jieun's face says it all 
best view of the Zhang Jia Jie for me was watching the movie Avatar
love and wish locks on the heaven on earth bridge

Day 4 final day early and poor viability again we went to another part of the park but this time we didn't pay the extra fee to join the ride up to the top because would have been a waste money. We stayed at the bottom and hiked around. At about the 10:00 am the group meets up and we start the long trip back to Jiangmen. 

We visited the famous mountains of Zhang Jia Jie, but we couldn't see anything it was pretty much a waste of money if not for meeting the Chao's, over the last 4 days we got to know them and how much people could learn from them, from how to treat their employees to how they go about their daily lives. Everyone on the tour had nothing but kind words of them and I only wish someday everyone could be a generous as they are including myself. Our hats are off to you both and hope we cross paths again.  

next day after the tour Mr Chao, invited us to his restaurant 

great tasty Cantonese snacks that would put most HK places out of business
I still dreaming of this chewy salty pancake
having tea with Mr Chao at his home
having a huge pan of chicken at another restaurant in town