Hello Mr Lu.....
18.12.2009 - 20.12.2009 2 °C
It was a Friday and not surprisingly the train to Guilin was packed. Luckily for us all train seats in China are allocated and so without too much fuss we found our seats and we were enjoying the 5 hour trip north to Guilin.
We had booked our hotel online this time as it was a weekend. We thought this would be easy as we had a name and an address for the hotel all which was written in Chinese - making it easy for any taxi driver and everything had been paid up front. Of course this would have been too easy.
We arrived into Guilin and as soon as we exited the station we were hounded by people trying to get us onto buses to Yangshuo. Guilin is the first scenic stop for most travellers and tourists who are going onto Yangshuo but we had decided to stick around in Guilin for a couple of days before we would move on.
Before we had the chance to move any further we were approached by a local man who introduced himself as Mike - an English guide. He asked us about hotels and tours and we explained that we had everything booked and that we needed a taxi. From this point on he was our saviour.
Trying to communicate with the taxi drivers was difficult enough as they all took one look at our hotel details and shook their heads. We had also forgotten to write down the contact number for the hotel and so we couldn’t call to get directions. Taking one look at the name and address, Mike also had no idea where it was and so led us to an internet café which was close by. We managed to get the number and then Mike took over. He talked to the receptionist who explained that it was a new hotel and gave him directions. He then led us to the taxis. As we made our way over, he explained that he worked for a tour company who organised tours and transportation to Yangshuo (our next stop after Guilin). We got talking and after much debating decided to book the bus and boat with him - one less thing to worry about. As we had booked the transport with him he said he would look after us and before long he had hailed a cab and as he got in with us he explained that he would pay. He explained to the taxi driver in Chinese where our hotel was. Once we arrived at the hotel, the receptionist didn’t speak a word of English and so Mike got us checked in and even led us to our room. Of course, we were doubting him the whole time as we had heard stories of scam artists and people who would rob you once they got the chance. But luck was on our side.
Mr Mike Lu happened to be a genuinely nice person. He even turned up at our hotel the next morning to wake us up as he mistakenly thought we were going to Yangshuo then. Realising his mistake he walked away.
After checking in we decided we would take it easy and so hailed a cab to take us to the main shopping area - of course we didn’t attempt this without first buying a Chinese map which we bought from our hotel.
The first thing we did was buy ourselves some thermal underwear!!! The weather had dropped down to around freezing and our thin layers were no longer keeping us warm. We had some dinner and spent the rest of the evening shopping in the huge malls and night market which looked like a huge German market. This together with the Christmas songs blaring from the malls made it feel very Christmassy!
Whilst in Guilin we visited the various sites around the city. Guilin is a very built-up modern city but it is built in an area known for its beauty. There are huge Karst limestone hills everywhere and it was amazing to be wondering around a city were both the natural beauty and modern malls co-exist in harmony.
We wondered around the central park in the city which housed both the Cedar Lake and Banyan Lake - this place was magical at night when it was all lit up as well as the gold and silver pagodas.
In the day we visited a couple of the karst peaks in the city. We spent a day at the Seven Star Park which is named after the Seven Star Cave in the park. As well as the cave - which had more limestone formations - there was a zoo where we got to see our first Panda as well as other animals.
After a few days wondering around the city in the cold and taking in as much of the shopping and natural beauty as we could, it was time to move on again.
We are going to be picked up at our hotel tomorrow morning so its off to bed early … fingers crossed that the money we handed over to Mike was actually for the boat to Yangshuo and not for his own pockets…
…we’ll soon find out....