Tuesday, December 30, 2008
China Trip Day 8: The road to Guilin
I didn't have the greatest night's sleep as I kept being too cold/hot throughout the night due to having to use a heated blanket, but eventually 6 rolled around and it was time to catch our shuttle to the airport. When we got downstairs there was another guest who asked to be part of our shuttle to the airport. We were more than happy to let her ride with us as more people = cheaper ride. Going outside to put our luggage in the van, we found it was raining. Thank goodness it wasn't the day we arrived cause all the rocks are really slippery when wet.

Once we got to the airport we checked in and made our way through security. This time we ran into a snag. They threw away my hairspray and moose that I'd taken with me on all my flights since Japan! The also made me take out my almond milk that had made in onto 2 planes. Extra strict security in Lijang I guess. The flight was fast and I slept through most of it, only waking up to grab a bottle of water. When we got to Kunming, we had quite a wait ahead of us. Our first stop was to check in and we went into a bit of a panic because on the flight board it said the flight was leaving at 12:25 while our flight itinerary said 13:55. Not a huge deal as it was 8 and we were already at the airport, but the travel company we had book the tickets should have contacted us about the schedule change. While we got our boarding pass though, it stated the original flight time on the ticket. Apparently the board was wrong. Afterward we looked around for some food. All we spotted were a KFC (no good in this case as we weren't eating any chicken in China due to SARs scares) and what looked to be a fancy and expensive Chinese food place.

Janet wasn't too keen on going there, so we decided to try our luck once past security. That turned out to be a bad idea as our gate was in the new part of the airport, which, while really nice and new, had like nothing in it. Even most of the shops were under construction or just plain empty. We eventually found a very sparsely stocked convenience store and grabbed some cup noodles and beef flavored crackers. The airports in China all seemed to have hot water taps so that you could conveniently fill up your cup noodles. After eating we still had plenty of wait time left so we decided to wander around. We took the escalators to the top floor. The escalators were really cool. They would go up really slow, but once you stepped on them, they sped up!

On the top floor there was pretty much nothing but a flower shop, fruits shop, tea shop, and a book store. When we first arrived at the airport, we passed a fruits shop and spotted some crazy fruit that we had not idea what it was. So, as we had nothing better to do, we decided to try it out. The sales people also said the skin of the plant is good for colds. The fruit was called something that sounded like 'the many hands god' in Chinese. We also picked up a pomegranate to snack on as well. The fruit was really interesting, it smelt like something in between a lemon and an orange, but tasted like a hard pear. It was kind of hard to eat without a knife though so we ended up throwing most of it out. We also ate the pomegranate, which was my first time ever eating one. It was really good. Apparently the Chinese ones are less bitter and more pink than the American ones, which was fine with me as I don't like bitter tasting things very much. After that, I busted out my DS and played final fantasy until it was flight time.

At some point during our wait for the flight, the flight that was supposed to leave before outs was delayed and the airlines passed out a buffet lunch to all the people who had to wait. I was sad they were checking tickets cause I would have gotten in line. The food looked really good. Once again, I slept for most of the flight. When we arrived we took a 70 RMB shuttle to the middle of the city and tried to call the hostel for a pick up. They said to catch a cab, but that always proves to be more difficult that it sounds. And by this point I was sick of hostels that offer a pick up service giving us the run around and saying just get a cab....why offer the service if you don't let anyone use it? The fare should have been around 8 RMB but the first taxi said he would only take us for 15. The next one said he would use the meter, but once we got into the cab and had our luggage in the trunk, he tried saying that our hostel was full and we should go elsewhere. To bad for him, I had already read about this scam online and knew that our hostel was not full as I had just gotten off the phone with them and that he would try to take us to an expensive hotel that gave him a commission for dropping us off. Then we had to argue with him over the fare. Eventually he started driving to where we wanted to go and we he dropped us off we were both a bit worried as we didn't see the hostel anywhere. But it turns out that the hostel was in a little alley a few steps away.

The hostel is apparently a renovated business hotel, so it looked more like a hotel than a hostel and it was difficult to spot. The room was okay. Just a simple set up. Unlike some of the other hostels we've stayed at thus far, this one was not pretty at all, just functional. We asked the girls at the front desk about river tours and such. I also checked my email and the Shanghai hostel had sent an email saying they had transferred many into my bank account. Hopefully I'll see it show up in my account soon. Then we headed into town to search for some food. We ended up at a noodle shop, which is one of the dishes Guilin is famous for, for only 5 RMB. Then we ran into a bread shop and I went a bit crazy with buying bread. When we went to check out, because we spent over 15 RMB, we got a free bread! We had to go back to the hostel at that point because I had too much bread to carry around.

On our way back, we ran into a, what can only be described as a tourist box in the middle of the sidewalk. We asked about river tours and they lady was very helpful and had maps and everything, which our hostel didn't have. The lady was an official tourist booker and Janet and myself felt safe booking a tour with her. She explained the difference between the Chinese tour and the English one. Because the English one is so expensive (400 RMB) compared to the Chinese one, which is only 225 RMB, we went with the Chinese one. It's just a scenery cruise so hearing and understanding stuff isn't necessary. The only difference between the tours is that the Chinese boat is smaller and the menu for lunch is a set menu while the English one is buffet style. The lady said that the Chinese cruise food tends to be better than the English boat cruise anyway. The shuttle was scheduled to pick us up a 8 the next morning, so I guess we'll find out about the food soon enough. She also had an awesome English map of Guilin for 6 RMB as well. It is the map mentioned in the lonely planet, and was totally worth it. Another thing that makes the Chiense tour cheaper is that there is no bus from where the river tour ends in Yangshou, back to Guilin. This was not a problem, as we wanted to spend time in Yangshou anyway, and there is a cheap bus that goes from one to the other several times a day. The prices she quoted were also cheaper than the ones given to us by the hostel, so we booked then and there. We went back to the hostel, watched some Chinese TV, and hit the sack.

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