Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Trip to Guilin

Our day started early today – we had to leave the hotel in Nanning at 7:30 to catch our train. And since I basically had to repack everything to squeeze in all of the presents the girls have acquired over the last few days, I had a VERY early start! Still, we made it to the train station in plenty of time. It’s a good thing that we were there early, though, since we carried all our luggage with us. Our guide explained that if we checked any of our bags there was no telling when we’d get them. They might even be sent to Guilin on a later train. And we took over just about all of the overhead shelves in our train car. If we’d arrived later, we would never have found room for it all. (We’ve packed (relatively) light, but the other family traveling with us came from the States and will continue on to Xian and Beijing after we return home to Xiamen, so they have more luggage).

We were in a hard seat compartment. Trains in China don’t have first class and economy – they have soft and hard. I thought our hard seats were pretty comfortable, and didn’t fit my expectations of hard seat. I thought we’d be on wooden benches! Our guide says that was what hard seat looked like years ago, but not now. The train was also double decker, with a duplicate compartment above us. There was a bathroom in our car, and of course it was a squat potty. It’s a bit more challenging to use a squat potty when it’s a moving target!

The ride was a little over 4 hours, which was a bit challenging for the girls. We managed to keep them cheerful by eating our way to Guiling – after all, we had tons of peanuts, lychees and bananas with us! The scenery outside the window was much like the landscape on the way to Guiping. But as we got closer to Guilin we started to see signs of the flooding that has been reported in Guangxi Province. We saw fields completely under water, and houses that peeped no more than two feet above the water line. We’d periodically see people poling small bamboo rafts in the flood water.

As we approached Guilin, we started to see the famous karst mountains. The girls started to perk up as we saw more and more water buffalo along the way. And soon we started to see high-rise buildings and we pulled into the station at Guilin.

A local guide met us on the platform, and she brought a porter from the hotel with her. He came on the train to help with all our luggage, and then piled it all on his two-wheeler to roll it about 10 feet to the down staircase. He then unloaded it all and carried it down stairs. Again, it gets piled on the cart. He wheels it about 150 feet to the exit gate, which is too narrow for the cart to fit through with the luggage on it. So again he unloads the cart and carries the luggage through the gate. Then the bags were loaded back on the cart for the trip through the parking lot to the bus. Whew! I’m glad I didn’t have his job today!

We checked into the Bravo Hotel, which is very nice. We have a corner room with wonderful views of the mountains. We ate lunch at the hotel, and then headed out for our first sightseeing excursion to see Elephant Rock. (OK, use your imagination – that’s the elephant’s trunk drinking from the river water!)
Our guide tells us we were really lucky to be able to get into the park to see Elephant Rock – it was closed due to the flooding yesterday. (Elephant Rock is at the junction of two rivers – the Peach Blossom River and the Li River. That’s why the Chinese say the elephant is male – rivers in China are female, and this handsome fellow has two females following him.) Even if you're not convinced it's an elephant, it's still pretty amazing to think of how the action of the river water can make such a formation.
Our local guide is a real hoot -- she keeps telling us how lucky we are to be in Guilin during the floods because it is so beautiful here when in floods! We definitely saw evidence of the flooding today:

After visiting Elephant Rock, we were taken to the ubiquitous silk factory to learn about silkworms and silk making. It was very interesting, and even the hard sell to buy, buy, buy was pretty amusing. We didn’t buy, buy, buy, and when they directed us to the exit, it turned out to be another shop with enticing items on display! We finally made our way to a real exit, and headed back to the hotel.

It’s been a little rainy and cool in Guilin today, but the girls really wanted to go swimming. So we took a quick dip before dinner, and I ended up with two teeth-chattering ice cubes to defrost before dinner! Our group ate dinner at the hotel, and blessedly we’re having an early night.
We’ll do more sight-seeing tomorrow. So far Guilin is proving as beautiful as promised. We can’t wait to see more.


mimifrancoise said...

Since it is raining, I guess it is not as hot as it could be. Glad you are able to do a lot of sightseeing. What do the girls say about all they see? What do they like best? Besides having lytchees, I mean ;.). As always I am enjoying the pictures.

Anonymous said...

Boy, I'm glad that train ride was only 4 hours. It seems to me that I was told it was 6 hours (and then it would take another 2 hours by car to get to Guigang), which is why I opted to take the bus from Guilin to Guigang (about 4-5 hours, I'm told).