Jun 5, 2010
Prior to leaving Canada we had read many things about getting a Visa to China and they all seemed negative for people in our situation, that of applying for a visa in a third country. The official China Embassy site even indicated that Visa’s would not be issued from Hong Kong. Because of this we planned our trip to have us in Hong Kong a long time (2.5 weeks) to give us time to get the visa, and China for only 3 weeks so we would not have to apply for the more difficult long term visa. Now, way back in Calgary I went to the China embassy to look into this they told me not to worry…but still the internet said it would be difficult so we were worried a bit. As it turns out, we don’t even go to the China Embassy in Hong Kong, we just give our passports to any travel agent and in 2-3 days it is done.
Our first stop is Guilin. All of those standard Chinese paintings showing crazy steep mountains covered in trees…this is the place they were painted. I, Bob, have wanted to see this area since well before I even met Lydia. I wanted to see it for myself.
Outside our hotel was a small square where people did Tai Chi, waltz lessons and badminton in the late evening and early morning. The daytime was for vendors to sell things to tourist on their way to Wave-Subduing Hill. I went to buy some fruit from the vendors and was shocked at the price so I went away. They did some yelling at me for not bargaining but I refuse to bargain with a thief. Three blocks away from the tourist strip I found a local grocer and paid 80% less for the fruit. Likewise, Lydia made the mistake of pausing at a stall at a tourist site, the price of the bracelet being offered fell from 380 Yuan to 70 Yuan, without Lydia even saying a word (she was just waiting for the guide to buy our tickets).
THE BOAT RIDE
In typical Bob and Lydia style we chose not to take the cruise ship but went for the bamboo raft. This was done without a lot of thought, it was just an option presented to us by the first tour guide we met at the airport. Unlike the Egypt trip, his time we did not tell the boys that there was an option. The “bamboo raft” was really PVC pipes strapped together wide enough to hold a few bamboo chairs on it, with cloth sun protector and a captain on a stool with a motor. The views were quite spectacular…but not quite as the paintings show, mainly because of the fog. Truthfully the boys were a bit bored; they just have no appreciation of karsts topography.
CYCLING IN YAN????
We knew that this was a tourist town but wow…this was Banff without the style. One of the MUST DO things is to rent a bike so we did that. Of course we got a bit lost and the most lovely path became a tourist trinket trap. Eventually we got to the main road and it was too busy for Simon’s comfort, so we did not do the usual bike tour, but we found a nice park to go around and through. Fussing about getting lost was not fun, but the overall biking trip was fun enough.
Not what we intended to use, but seemed necessary to get on the type of boat we wanted and not have to try to negotiate with a local our selves. Problem was that when the tour was done, she just didn’t want to let us go. We had intended to do the cycling and leave when we were ready. The local bus apparently left very often and was almost cheap enough to be considered free. Only us and one other traveler were heading back to the larger town that night, so she finally worked out that she and the driver would wait until 6:30 to drive us back. Originally she had wanted us to return with her at 4:00. Our best guess is that once someone was left behind because they were late, and she got into big trouble over it.
This tour and the one the next day (which only involved the four of us) both started 45 minutes later than booked. We are mentally trying to accept that this might be the standard in China (or it was just a really crummy tour company).