Thursday, November 16, 2006

Seven Days in China

A stolen wallet, a stolen camera, a stolen cell phone, a flat tyre, and one broken bicycle. All during a period of seven days... Where I've been? To China, of course!

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Seven days away from school and studies, to mainland China, divided into two trips - one with friends and one with family. A lot of text to ply I'm afraid, but I promise you it's worth the effort.

Leg One - Lóngshèng and Yángshuò, Thursday til Sunday

Jonas (that's me)
Likes: My cell phone
Dislikes: The person who stole my cell phone

Jens - friend from Sweden
Likes: Western food
Dislikes: Chinese food

Tobias - friend from Sweden and my study mate
Likes: His camera
Dislikes: The person who stole... - you know what

Andrea - A really fun Italian, resembles a bit Luigi from Nintendo's Mario bro's
Likes: Italian food
Dislikes: Italian flavoured ice cream

Fabrizio - Another fun Italian, he was my room mate for the first week here
Likes: Italian food
Dislikes: Italian flavoured ice cream

Sunny - The girl with Koreas cutest smile
Likes: Italian flavoured ice cream
Dislikes: Lying ladies with long hair who try to cheat themselves to money

We started out with a bus from Shēnzhèn to Guìlín. Speed bus, it was. Kuaiche. Or, rather supposed to be. I bought the tickets myself, in broken Chinese, and was very proud of it until the promised ten hours rounded up to eleven, then thirteen, and finally fifteen. One of the extra hours was spent on the circumstances of one of the Chinese guys stealing Andrea's wallet, and after being caught wanting a reward for 'finding' it. Andrea finally gave him 50 yuan in order to calm down the hostile atmosphere.

After we got to Guìlín, we hurried onwards to
Pīng'ān, Lóngshèng, a place famous for its beautiful rice terraces. After a small hike with only one small mishap - we lost Sunny and the Italians for a while - we overnighted at a place with a great view of the terraces. Oh, and one more thing! Tobias left his camera at our dinner restaurant, and of course when he went back to look for it the camera was no more. No one at the restaurant had even noticed he had a camera before... Very suspicious, but we were unable to prove anything. 2-0 to China.

Ok, so anyway, the next morning we decided to hike through the terraces to another village and take the bus back from there. A Mission Impossible hadn't it been for Sunny, our life savior and Chinese knower. Every 500 metres the path split into two equally chosable paths. And not only so, but add to this an irritating mass of short, long haired ladies in traditional dresses trying to act guides (and of course wanting money for it), and one particular lady who would not let us go no matter how hard we tried. She even tried to persuade the people we met to lie about the way. While we others did our best to distract the lady our divine Sunny asked our way through the maze. Yes! 2-1.

Done with Pīng'ān and the rice terraces we speeded on towards Yángshuò. After two dusty bus rides, we finally arrived in the evening. We checked in to a youth hostel at Xījie, the main street of Yangshuo, and this was when unlucky number three occured. I, in my humble stupidity, left my cell phone at the counter when we checked in, and a few moments later it was gone and no one had seen it... Of course. Shit!!! Two major thefts and almost one stolen Italian wallet in only two days! Damn! 3-1 to China.

'Well, well, do not let this #¤$%#¤# stupidity go out over the others,' I thought, recalling the wisdom of the Taoism, which was invented somewhere in this neighbourhood. I can hopefully get something out from my insurance. I cried silently, kicked the wall a few times, and then went down again with Sunny, lovely girl, who helped me to ask in Chinese. No phone. Shit! #¤#$£$"!

'Tao,' I thought, 'Tao,' and calmed myself enough to go eat. We went for dinner at the same place where I went last time I was there, Twin Peaks Café. Really cool for me, though I don't think the others bothered so much. Anyway, it set me in a better mood.

After dinner Sunny found a new love: Italian flavoured ice cream. Of course this was a big blow to the pride of our two Italians. 'Italian?! How can they call it Italian!? There is no such thing as Italian flavoured ice cream,' they quickly decided and forbade anyone of us to ever try it again.

Next morning we went on a river cruise and bike trip before lunch. After lunch the others headed for a sight at the Big Banyan Tree, but my tyre was flat, so me and Sunny went back for a stroll in the town instead. A really nice stroll, and it became even nicer after the others came back with news about a really boring Big Banyan Tree. The only seeworthy had been the herds of Chinese exciting themselves over and posing around the - to them obviously very interesting - tree.

After this the others had to leave. Back to Hong Kong and studies. Not me. I stayed in Yángshuò over the night and went to Guilin the day after for the second part of my trip.

Leg two - Yángshuò and Guǎngzhōu, Monday til Thursday

Me - again
Svante, my dad - a lot like me, only older, taller, and he has grey hair
Pontus, my older brother - also a lot like me, only older

The hardest part of this one was the initial arrangements. I had bought dad's and brother's tickets ahead and set up a pretty advanced schedule for a pick up in Hong Kong and instructions of where to meet in Guìlín. 'By ticket booth no. 1,' I had said and crossed my fingers for there being a ticket booth no. 1 at Guìlín train station.

Of course there was a ticket booth no. 1. Every train station has a ticket booth no. 1. Arriving in Guilin a bit after scheduled time I found it, but no dad or brother in sight. Big sigh of relief that I had thought of this in advance (very uncommon for an unorganized guy like me, so give me some cred for that) I headed over to the meeting site for plan B. And yes, after only a few minutes, there they were! One point to Sweden.

So, the first hard part of the journey was settled. Now for the second part. We wanted to go back to Yángshuò, but by boat on a river cruise. Piece of cake with the Sunshine around, but with her back in Hong Kong I had to rely on my own Chinese skills. After some bargaining back and forth (in Chinese!) I actually managed to get us on a boat in the right direction. I only got us to Xīngpīn, but whatahell, it was the right direction! And Xīngpīn was actually seeworthy too.

From Xīngpīn we reached Yángshuò by bus, and there we checked in to a fairly much fancier hostel than the one where my phone got stolen. Dinner for the evening was mud snails, fried rice, and chilli beef. Mud snails were delicious, no kidding! Tastes a bit like clamps. Oh, and Andrea and Fabri: Svante and Pontus tried the Italian ice cream, and they said they loved it and wondered if you could give them the recipe?

Next day was scenery and cultural day. We went to see the Silver Cave, an enormous cave lit in modern Chinese style. Beautiful, but a bit hard to follow what the all-Chinese compulsory guide told us. I think I understood that two of the stalactites were married and that the cave was 48 metres high at one place.

After scenery we had some snake hot pot, and then we had to rush off to the culture. What the snake tasted like? I honestly don't know, it was mixed with pork and chicken and I could not tell the difference. I don't even know if I actually had snake that night.

Culture though was really impressing. We had been cheap and booked 60 yuan tickets instead of the 188 ones for Yangshuo's big pride: the 600 actors river show. 60 yuan tickets meant sitting with a somewhat bad view of the happenings and a bit too far away from it to fully appreciate it. But 60 yuan was a good price, so we sat down and rented some binoculars. The show started and it was - beautiful. Like an autumn sunset or like falling in love. No kidding! I know it sounds PR, fake, and too poetical to be true, but it really was an amazing show! If we'd known that before we'd definitely have gone for the expensive tickets instead.

Ok, enough about that, I can't give words to its beauty, and since I was a cheap-ass I don't have any good pictures of it. Anyway, the next day was spent on a bike tour through Yángshuò county up to Yúlóng bridge, and at eight o'clock the sleeper bus for Guǎngzhōu, our next stop, left. During the bike ride my apparently ultra-strong brother managed to break the cogwheel of his bike, but with a stick and some brute force we managed to keep it bikable all the way back.

Guǎngzhōu was not too impressing, actually, much like any given million city of China, only that it has an old colonial style island from the old trading days, and an interesting museum of the revolution.

Back in Hong Kong now, it's been a good week of traveling (despite the phone), but I don't think I can do much more of that til after finals now. I have some catching up to do in school.

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