White people are famous in China! I feel like a celebrity here. Chinese people take photos of us as we walk around and even stop us to take photos with us. I think we'll have to start charging for every photo to finance our travels.
We crossed the Chinese border from Hong Kong to Shenzhen with hopes of catching a train to the city of Guilin. No luck. All the tickets were sold out with availability for the next day. Now we had to find a place to crash for the night.
We went to a travel agency and asked for the nearest hotel. This is where the fun begins: we were offered a five-star hotel and they were having a promotion, only $50 for the night. We decided to indulge! When we arrived at the hotel we got a free room upgrade.
The next 24 hours involved swimming, parading our room in bathrobes and getting full body massages. We only left the hotel to eat. We went to a restaurant that had pigeon on the menu and we were curious. The plate came beautifully presented with its little head displayed in the middle, eyes and beak intact. And yes, the little buggers are very tasty.
It was time to leave luxury behind and return to backpacker mode. Guilin has beautiful scenery with the Li river and incredible mountains that just rise straight from the ground. Many of the mountains have fascinating shapes including one that looks like a camel and more famously, one that looks like an elephant dipping its trunk into the water.
We spent our days exploring the various parks and caves. We were exploring Seven-Star Scenic park when we came upon a stairway going up a mountain. We climbed and climbed when all of a sudden we were surrounded by wild monkeys. There were so many and lots of babies. They were too cute playing with each other.
Guilin is a gateway to see many scenic areas and we chose to go to a town called Yangzhuo. Immediately upon arrival we hopped onto bicycles to explore the area. We took a wrong turn and found a small courtyard just as it started to rain. We parked the bikes and took refuge under a tree. Two small boys from one of the houses came out to "play" in the rain (really, they came to see us). When it started pouring one of the kids ran to grab us an umbrella. Then the kids started picking some small fruits off a tree and came to offer us some. Even though we couldn't communicate with the boys, their kindness was very heatwarming.
The same night we boarded a small bamboo raft to watch cormorant fishing. It's amazing to see how fishermen use these birds to catch fish. The end was a little "touristy" when we each posed for pictures with the birds and the old fisherman. Nevertheless, pretty cool.
The highlight of the trip was catching a bamboo raft on the Li river. The scenery is amazing and we even saw the view that is on the back of the 20 yuan bill.
The only bad thing is that the tour wasn't very organized and in the end we had to provide some of our own transportation. One of the buses we had to take didn't have any more seats but that's not a problem in China. Instead we had to sit on little plastic stools in the middle of the aisle.
Anyways, for all those booking a tour in China get as much information as possible! Oh, and make sure to know the name of the place you booked the tour from, it could help.