桂林 Guilin

Guilin, one of the most-visited Chinese cities, is located in the northeastern part of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. It has long been famous for its limestone karst hills. Formed more than 200 million years ago when the oceans receded from this area, the towers sprout from a patchwork of paddy fields and flowing streams, creating a dreamy, seductive landscape. Time and space meet here to produce a masterpiece of nature’s handiwork. I know I have some uber-nerds who read my blog, or at least I am hoping I do…the scenery here is so alien that the makers of Star Wars decided to film the scenes of Chewbacca’s home-world Kashykk among the karst columns.  
 
Now that I have introduced why I deviated from our original trip itinerary (also I received some necessary advice from John, Gareth, Chris, and Divvi), I first need to discuss our train journey. From Kunming to Guilin, our compartment was quite a buzz. Dee and I were not the only foreigners on our way to Guilin. While on the train, we met Betty. Betty, a German who for the past few months was interning in a small city an hour or so from Shanghai. I’m excited because she is still traveling, making her way to Xi’an towards the end of this month, so we will have a chance to meet up again, and I will be her tour guide of sorts in Xi’an. Betty, whilst on the train, stumbled upon another foreigner, a Czech guy named Peter. The four of us ended up galavanting around Guilin and Yangshuo together.
 
Upon our arrival in Guilin, the four of us spent some time at the train station, trying to buy tickets for our future travels. We were approached by a volunteer. Normally, I am very wary of anyone who approaches me, as there is usually some kind of fee involved, but Betty seemed to be familiar with this practice. The volunteer was a college age female, studying English and whom offered her services, free of charge, assisting foreigners in purchasing train tickets. Dee stood to the side and attended to our luggage while at least 3, sometimes 4 ticket officers, thoroughly enjoyed “helping” me buy train tickets. Again, I predominately spoke Chinese, with a little assistance from the volunteer. We were successful in some sense of the word; we obtained bullet train tickets for Nanjing to Shanghai and tickets for Shanghai to Beijing. Now, we paid quite a sum for our soft-sleeper tickets from Shanghai to Beijing: 689元 (about $109) for bottom bunk and 617元 (about $98) for top bunk. But, alas, as it was nearing the Chinese New Year, train tickets were in high demand, and if in fact, there were still hard-sleeper tickets available, the ticket officers were probably hoarding them for their own friends and family.
 
We stayed at the Backstreet Youth Hostel, again good location. I found this hostel’s flyer lying around at an earlier hostel. After checking in, and finding a place for dinner, as requested by Betty and Peter, we showered and settled in. In the evening, we met up with Betty and Peter for dinner and the night market. We ate hotpot, and then browsed the night market. We bought some necessities for the next day in Yangshuo. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens, the hotpot made us sick. Even Betty, who had touted having a extremely strong stomach was uneasy. I unfortunately had a nice time making friends with the toilet that evening. Dee didn’t have her traumatic experience until our final day in Guilin.
 
I will talk about Yangshuo separately, so let me move on to telling you about our final adventures in Guilin. We were both still recovering from our ailments, so we made it an extremely relaxing day. Dee had a very unique experience of getting ill in a public mall restroom. An older Chinese woman was horrified that this occurred. I really wish I knew how to say, “It’s nothing new (since it’s pretty common to see human waste on the sidewalk),” or something to that affect, because this woman looked as if the devil had suddenly appeared out of thin air! After Dee’s adventure, we backtracked and stayed at a cafe, drinking lemon & ginger tea for most of the afternoon. After, we departed for the airport for our next destination: Nanjing (南京).
 
Backstreet Youth Hostel lobby 
The cafe we spent most of our last day in Guilin in. Comfortable couches and very good ginger & lemon tea. 
The cafe, again.
Pagodas located on Cedar Lake (山湖)
Night market

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