From Hong Kong to yangshou
Day 1 through 6
Days 1 through 3 "Hong Kong and Hospitals"
We flew American Airlines out of DFW, through Narita, Japan to Hong Kong.
We expected some issues at the AA counter and we were right, good thing
we got there early. It took two hours to get the tickets sorted out with
the result being mixed - Good news; business class upgrades went through,
Bad news; we didn't have seats together.
We made the best of it. We
spent the days in Hong Kong getting over our jet-lag while trying to see the city and the sights before meeting
the official tour group on the evening of day 2. It was extremely hot and
humid and this was the weather for most of the trip, as we had expected.
Luckily we only encountered rainy days a few times.
We walked around the city a bit and managed to take the bus to the harbor
and board the Star Ferry across to Hong Kong Island. Not many locals speak
English and we speak no Chinese but all in all Hong Kong is easy to get
around. All the signs are at least in Pinyin
and many things are in English as well. We visited Ocean
Park, where they
have an amazing aquarium and then took the tram up to Victoria's Peak for the
sunset on the harbor. It was crowded but the skies were clear and the view
was fantastic. The next day we wandered to Kowloon Park and visited some
other small city parks, went to the Temple Street Tinkau Temple and the Jade
Market. We headed back to the hotel for our group meeting as the Ladies
Market was setting up for business. Hong Kong seems very crowed and
anywhere there is any kind of "market" there were crowds of
The G.A.P. meeting took place in the hotel where we met our guide Puma
Wang and the people we would be traveling with for the next couple of
weeks. Besides us four, there was
Vivien and Colin from Canada,
the US, Ken from the US and Judy from the US. We all went next door to a
small local restaurant for some dinner and beers and then back to get packed for
the train into mainland China the next day.
Unbelievably as I was packing I tripped over Bill's suitcase and fell backward
into the raised metal window frame, hitting hard and sliding down to the
floor. I couldn't move. I lay there a long time until I convinced
myself some ibuprofen and a good nights sleep would make it all better and Bill
helped me to the bed. After a rough night, early the next morning, it was
obvious that I had managed to do some damage to my ribcage and we better find a
doctor. Bill hunted Puma down and he got us a taxi and went to Saint
Teresa's Hospital with us. It was early and not very many people were
there. It was a very clean, very large, very efficient hospital and in two
hours I had been seen by a doctor, gotten x-rays, gotten an injection for pain,
went over the x-rays with the doctor (hairline fracture of rib), picked up a
prescription and was back in a taxi heading back to the Hotel. It was
decided that I would try to tough out the trip rather than abort it before it
even started. I had a rough few days in the first week but managed the
trip only missing one day of activities. Of course Bill had to carry my
bag anytime we came to stairs and help me up steps to trains and buses.
hmmmmm wonder how long I can milk this?
Days 4 through 6 "Magical Karst Mountains of Guilin and Yangshou"
We took the train to Shenzhen on
the border of Hong Kong and mainland China. You still have to go through
customs/immigration here although now Hong Kong is suppose to be part of
China. No visa's are required for Hong Kong but US visitors are required
to obtain visa's for entry to mainland China. Bill's dad had some fruit in
a bag and he was pulled aside and questioned in another room. They kept
his fruit. We met back up with Puma on the other side after changing money
and headed to the overnight train to Guilin.
This was our first experience in an overnight train and it wasn't bad at all. We
were scheduled in Hard Sleeper Class and Puma made sure I had a bottom bunk due
to my injury. Bill took a top bunk. The bunks are all lined up, six
to a 'cabin', luggage is stowed under the bottom bunk or in the luggage rack
over the hallway. Sheets, pillows and a blanket were provided and were sort
The Chinese passengers found us quite interesting apparently
as they would sit right outside our 'cabin' and stare. Often for
hours. This is one thing that takes a bit of getting used to in
China. They really do stare openly. Though usually if you smile they
will smile in return, or walk away.
We also had some snorer's in the group and my injection of pain meds were long
gone. The prescription pain pills really didn't seem to do much and I was
eating Tylenol as well. By the time we got to Guilin and boarded our
chartered bus for Yangshou I was in a lot of pain. Bill was really helping
me a lot and I would have probably crumbled at this point without the
We had to walk a ways to the hotel, Lisa's Mountain View Lodge, though we had
guy with a bicycle cart brought all our luggage.
It was a nice place
and after a shower we met in town for lunch.
Yangshou has a great backpacker vibe and would be a great place to hang out for
a few days. If you didn't have a cracked rib that is. There are lots
of hiking and biking activities and cool little places to eat and the scenery
was breathtaking. The people here were very friendly and obviously used to
foreigners. Armed with some extra-strength, time-release Ibuprofen, that we figured out
how to buy from the all-Chinese pharmacy, I was going to be on my own for a day
while the rest of the lucky bunch went on a bike tour through the
mountains. I had so looked forward to this activity and was really
disappointed that I would miss it but I was in too much pain to think of getting
on a bike. So I walked around town, down by the river around the shops and
the bakery and read my book. Not a bad place to recover.
however the scene of the absolute worst laundry episode I have ever seen.
I had thought 'laundry in China should be great and cheap.....you know, the
stereotypical Chinese laundry' uhhhhh not so much. The laundry was
expensive all throughout China, in some cases you could buy new shirts cheaper
than the cost to have them laundered. And the service was not what we had received in
other parts of the world. South America had far better laundry
service. So part of my day was ironing the clothes that had obviously been
wadded up and stuffed in a plastic bag while still damp. Yes, I was on
vacation; in China; with a cracked rib; ironing. Sucked.
went on a bike ride across town and through the farmland on dirt packed roads to
a farm for lunch and then to the river for a bamboo raft ride. They loaded
the rafts with their bikes, got them settled into the little seats and pushed
the rafts down the river. Some of the group, Bill included, decided after that to go to the Big Buddha
Cave for a bit of Caving. I don't think they were prepared for all the
water and mud but looks like they had a lot of fun.
That evening after
everyone returned we all went to see the the big light show, Liu SanJie, that
is done on the river. This
is a major production with a cast of 500 singers, dancers, bamboo boats and
cormorant birds, even quite a few water buffalo. However, the stand out performer
is definitely the background scenery, the way the lighting played off the
beautiful Karst Mountains was impressive.
Bill and I spent the next morning together walking around the town, we did a
little shopping, had a nice lunch, walked the river front and prepared for our
evening on our second Hard Sleeper Class Overnight Train to Wuhan for the
beginning of the Yangtze River/Three Gorges Dam part of our trip. Another
thing about these sleeper trains; the Chinese businessmen passengers seem to
have no problem stripping down to their wife-beater tee shirts and boxers for
the duration. So you will often run into a few of them having a smoke
between cars or around the bathroom. If it is hot, as was the case during
our visit, they will usually have the tee shirt pulled up around their armpits
giving you a full view of their often ample belly. It's a little
disconcerting at first but after a few train rides I found myself fixing my hair
at the sink outside the bathroom right next to a few guys shaving in their
Just another train morning in China.