El Nido Escapade (day2)

February 23, 2011

A lot of friends have said that the beauty of El Nido would be best appreciated if you go island hopping. We heeded their advice so that’s what we did!

The view from El Nido town

We checked out of Marikit so that we can stay in Entalula, they had 2 vacant rooms that morning. We (my cousin and I) really like the place and the fact that we’re being treated as family members helped sway us! Our fan room costs 1200php, if you’ll opt to use the air-conditioning unit, be ready to shell out another 600php. The boys were more practical. They decided to stay inland and shared a 700php room at El Nido Inn and Restaurant which included a breakfast  for two, not sure if they have wifi though as the 2 guys weren’t keen on it, good deal! However, do take note that there are a lot more options, just be patient and you’ll find one that will suit your taste.  After our breakfast, we quickly headed back to the beach to join other people for tour A. We booked with Entalula since theirs is 100php cheaper than the rest. It was supposed to start at 9am but they were waiting for us. It was already past 9, oops!

Tapsilog for breakfast at El Nido Inn & Restaurant

There are 2 options when doing island hoping. First is to join a tour, fixed price, then you’ll get to meet people and make new friends (hopefully) plus you won’t have to worry about anything like food, where to go, etc because they’ll take care of it but you might not like the people you end up traveling with and you’ll have to adjust to them. They have tours A, B, C and D, a mix of caves, hidden beaches, snorkel sites, etc. OR you can hire your own private boat then you’ll be your own boss, you go wherever you want, you won’t have to adjust to anyone but you have to haggle (boat rental prices start at 3500php)/ make lots of decisions, worry about food. It could be cheaper though if you know what you’re doing. Also, there’s an eco-tourism development fee (ETDF) of 200php that everyone has to pay. The money the municipality collected is meant to  maintain and protect the environment. You only have to pay it once and it’s valid for 10days. Local residents are exempted from it though. ;)

Cruisin' the whole day :)

I ‘m not exactly in a chatty mood during boat rides because 1. it’s too loud to start a conversation and 2. since I’m really interested at the sights, 3. I just want to absorb it all in. After a while though, it doesn’t matter that it’s loud so I start talking. Can’t keep quiet for so long. hehe

...and we're off for the islands!

Nick taking beautiful pictures :)

There were 9 of us (not counting our guides):  2 Pinoys, me & Charlie, 1 American, 1 British, 1 French, 1 Brazilian and 3 Estonian. They were all so nice!

us :)

Note: No pictures were taken when in “hidden/secret” beaches/ lagoons since my camera isn’t waterproof and I have no intention of getting it wet. ;)

Tour A, according to the tour operators, is the most popular choice. The small and big lagoons are a favorite amongst many visitors. I have several postcards of those places and it’s just so beautiful!

1st stop- Secret beach. :)

2nd stop- Shimizu Island. Very good for snorkeling. It’s just that the waves were a bit strong when we were there so I had a really hard time swimming, seriously thought I was going to drown and no one would have noticed it since they were all busy (sleeping by the beach, swimming, snorkeling, etc). I should have gotten a pair of fins and wore a life jacket! It would have helped a lot since I’m not exactly a good swimmer. Decided to stay on land after this. :)) Got busy taking pictures of the place and of my companions. Lunch was served here. :)

Our camera-shy Frenchie at Shimizu Island

Enjoying the island

Sleeping under the shade

Lunch was prepared by our guides

With my dear cousin :)

3rd stop- Small and big lagoon, Miniloc Island. Wanted to kayak (800php for a day’s rent) here with my cousin. But then we forgot to tell THAT to our guide so we missed our chance! Ugh! We were just too busy admiring the place and taking shots/videos. :D Even bought a rash guard so I won’t get any darker but then couldn’t find it when I was packing my stuff!

Everyone got taken in by the view at the big lagoon ;)

I couldn't capture the beauty of this place

Pic courtesy of Nick :)

4th stop- Secret lagoon. Had to get off the boat and swim to get inside the secret lagoon. After several minutes, I was just about to follow the others, when Charlie swam back and told me that he thought he saw a sea snake so the coward me didn’t follow the rest. :( Tried to enjoy swimming at the water before the secret lagoon but ended up scraping my foot. It wasn’t just me though. Another also got a wound, on his leg this time, when he was swimming back to the boat. Stones were sharp, be careful!

Sweet couple before the Secret Lagoon

:)

5th stop- Seven commando. Our last stop for the day. The rest enjoyed their buko juice while relaxing by the beach. My cousin and I kayaked ourselves all over. We had to do it somewhere, we’re paying for the kayak! :D

Next stop: Seven commando beach

We let the guys borrow our kayak in exchange for their buko drinks hehe

It felt that it ended all too soon. We’re back in town. Went our separate ways to freshen up and planned to meet by our place after to grab some food and hang out. As we’re walking about town, we (Leandro and I) spotted a fruit shake stand so we zeroed in on it! We’re thirsty and we wanted to drink something refreshing. As we were waiting for our drinks, other visitors passed us by. One of them, Ricardo,  started talking to us. He’s so friendly! He was happy to have met Leandro since he now has someone to talk Portuguese with (he’s  a Peruvian exchange student in Singapore). He got our numbers and he’d join us later.

Fruit shake stand

We can’t get enough of the water and it’s what we went there for so we hung out by the shore. Relaxation time after swimming all day. Watching the sun set wasn’t bad either. We then had dinner at Blue Azul. It’s located inland, they serve delicious foods plus they have wifi! haha My cousin and I were looking for wifi most of the time. The chicken we ordered was very good, yum! Afterwhich, we went back by the beach and hang out with the (tons of) people we met that day til it was time to go to bed. Good day. :)

El Nido buddies :)

El Nido Tour Package Infos (Standard rate):

  • Tour A/ Lagoon Tour: Lagoons, Beaches, Snorkeling – 700php/pax
  • Tour B/ Cave Tour: Snake Island, Caves, Snorkeling – 800php/pax
  • Tour C/ Secret Beach: Matinloc Island, Snorkeling – 900php/pax

*Tours usually start around 9-10am and lasts the whole day. Lunch are included in tours. Do bring plenty of water especially if you get thirsty easily. Besides, you don’t want to get dehydrated.  You have to bring your own mask, snorkel and fins, others are rented out for 100php a piece (snorkel set and fins) but try to bargain for 100php for the two. Don’t forget your sunblock and shades.

*There’s no need to book tours way in advance. You can do it once you’re in town so you can compare. We booked with Entalula coz theirs is 100php cheaper than the others. :)

Related posts:

Getting to El Nido

Lazy day in El Nido

2nd day of Island Hopping

Lagoon Tour

El Nido Escapade (day1)

February 22, 2011

My cousin and I can’t wait to get to El Nido coz we’re just psyched to go to the sea, chill and relax in a beautiful place and El Nido is IT. :)

Flying over Palawan

We’re going to travel with Charlie. Met up with him at the boarding gate. I’ve sort of planned for this trip but that morning, when I sent another sms to confirm my reservation with Marina Garden, they told me that they thought I made a reservation for the month of March and not February! They canceled my reservation which was really bad of them since it was done by me a month prior the trip and we’re now suddenly “homeless.” No worries though because friends came to the rescue. They gave me so many contact numbers and so many recommendations.

Charlie! My travel buddy! :D

We didn’t fly directly to El Nido because that would be really expensive. Upon arrival in Puerto Princesa, I still haven’t made up my mind on whether to stay in the capital, head to Sabang, or catch a shuttle to El Nido on the same day. We took a tricycle (50php) to head downtown to check for a room in Casa Linda Inn. I’ve stayed there before and it was really nice and relatively cheap. Unfortunately, they were fully booked. Someone also told me that it was already late to do the underground river tour (it was 10am) since we’d have to get permits first etc. That being the case, staying in Puerto Princesa as well as heading off to Sabang was nixed off our options leaving us with the decision to head straight to El Nido. The driver brought us to Fort Wally’s (09172762875)  main office downtown wherein we made reservations. We might have paid for more because from what I’ve read and from what some told us, it’s 600php to El Nido and 500php to PPC. We each shelled out 1300php (700 and 600php respectively). The reason we were given was that, it would have been cheaper if we went to the terminal and rode from there instead of being “picked up” downtown. Bummer. After paying for our seats, we made some last minute shopping for whatever necessities (bought a few snacks, withdrew money from ATMs coz there’s no ATM in EL Nido, bought sarongs and had breakfast).

Time to eat, we're hungry!

As we were about to eat breakfast, Ate Lea spotted a French guy we met in the airport the day before, Quentin. We were in the same flight from Bangkok to Manila. Also, he’s enroute to El Nido. Almost the same travel plans as us so I invited him to join us for a meal. He’s soooo adorable! He was going to head up also that same day but then his friends told him that they’d be arriving in PPC the next day that’s why he decided to wait for them. Soon it was 11am, time to board the shuttle, pick up other passengers and head over to paradise!

With Quentin in Puerto Princesa

The shuttle headed to the terminal to wait for more passengers. We had to wait long for one guy because according to the lady in charge, there were some misunderstanding about the pick up time and point. Took us about 30minutes. It turns out that we knew the guy we had to wait for, Nick! He was another travel mate visiting from Taipei. His original plan was to go to El Nido the next day but he decided to join us coz it’s his main destination anyways. :)

The drive took 5-6 hours which included a 20-30minutes lunch break at a Fort Wally eatery in Roxas, 2hours away from PPC; stopping by San Vicente to pick up some passengers; drop them off at  Taytay; and fix a broken tire. The last 2hours of the trip was kinda bumpy since the road has yet to be paved. It didn’t matter that much to me (and I believe, the others as well) since the view is more than making up for it, karst mountains, the sea, so many trees. Happy!

New tire. Flat tire. :(

Think positively: at least we got to stretch our legs and take pictures! :D

Enroute to El Nido :)

After getting off at El Nido’s terminal, we walked to town. When people say a place is small, it really is small. You can walk all over town in less than 30minutes if you pace yourself. It was around 5pm and that’s when it gets hard to look for a place. It’s easier in the morning because that’s the time that the vans filled with visitors head back to PPC. We found some alright places but it’s either we don’t like the place, found it too expensive or something else. I then decided to ask help from a friend’s mom. She looked a lot like Brenda, her daughter, that I already addressed her as Tita Emy before confirming it. My cousin and I liked her instantly coz she took us in and treated us as her own daughters. She looked like she wanted to scold us for not having planned more. haha Her place is called Entalula but they were fully booked that night with the possibility of having a vacant room or two the following morning. She made her son go to her sister’s place to check if they have room for us. They did! We stayed at Marikit for that night (800php/ room/ 2pax). Having solved the question of where to sleep at, we went out to find some food. :D

First sunset in El Nido

There were a lot of options on where to eat at in El Nido from affordable carinderias to the more heavy on the pocket places. We ate at Curry House. Not that cheap but the sizes of the servings made up for what we paid for. The place is sort of a cross between an art store and a restaurant. Pretty nice ambiance.

A large serving of vegetarian curry

The guys called it a night soon after dinner. We all went into our respective rooms but then my cousin and I can’t believe we’re in our room getting ready for bed when it was just about 10pm (or earlier). With that, we decided to head out again and to pass the time by the beach. We just want to be closer to the water. Went to bed after a couple of hours. :)

Relaxing by the beach :)

A glass of caipirinha to cap the night

Accommodation infos (as shared by friends):

beachfront

  • Rico’s – 09272588456/ 09294671632 (1000php)
  • Gloria’s cottages – 09191677870 (600php/ fan room)
  • The Entalula – www.entalula.com

for a detailed list, visit  this site

Related posts:

1st Day of Island Hopping

Lazy day in El Nido

2nd Day of Island Hopping

Swimming with Whalesharks in Donsol

May 28, 2010

A friend from Germany visited the country for 21 days. I took it as an excuse to tour the countryside! ;)

Why 21 days? Because that’s the maximum number of days he’s legally allowed to stay in this country without getting a visa. What to do with 21 days? Easy. Meet up with friends and tour the country! hehe

1st stop: Donsol, Sorsogon

Mission: Swim with butandings! :D

A butanding souvenir

Whalesharks are locally referred to as butandings. They are the world’s biggest fish and the funny thing about it is that they since they are filter-feeders they eat the smallest creature in the water, planktons, though that means they’d have to eat a lot! With five pair of gills, dorsal and pectoral fins, their blue-gray, spotted body reaching up to lengths of 40 feet, whalesharks are indeed a sight to behold. Despite their gigantic size though, they are gentle creatures so it’s possible to swim alongside them. It is because of them, whalesharks, that Donsol, used to be a level 5, is now a level 1 municipality which thrives on eco-tourism and and is famous worldwide as the whaleshark capital of the world. Butandings are sighted between the months of November and June with its peak from February to May.

To get there, we flew in to Legaspi, capital of Albay province. It was a one hour flight. I knew I was in Legaspi when I saw Mayon’s perfect volcano. They have a local saying that if you were able to see its perfect cone, then you’ll have a wonderful trip. I surely hope so! :)

Maon's perfect cone viewed from inside our plane

From the airport, we rode a tricycle towards the city terminal from which there are buses, jeepneys, vans and tricycles that will take you to various destination in the province. We were the first two passengers of the van bound for the town of Donsol in Sorsogon. We had to wait for at least 30 minutes before at least half was occupied.Fare was 65php per person if your van seats 14. Since my friend and I were in a bit of a hurry to get going (we’re worried we won’t see any whalesharks), the two of us along with another tourist, an American named Jeff, agreed to shoulder the cost of the last 5 vacant seats, we each shelled out 175php. It was approximately an hour before we reach Donsol’s town proper.

At the city terminal

To be able to swim with the whalesharks, we first had to register at the Visitor’s Center which is located in Barangay Dancalan. We got there by riding a tricycle (20php each) when we got off the van at the town proper. Registration fee for locals is 100php while it’s 300php for foreigners. From here, we had the choice to not wait for other tourists but then we’ll pay for the cost of the whole boat (3500php, with a maximum capacity of 6 pax) or wait so that we’d pay cheaper. We were sort of willing to wait but not for a long time. To keep us occupied, we went out to look for a place to stay at for the night.

Visitor's Center

Located just several meters away from the Visitor’s Center is Villa JoLee, a no frills inn that is not too hard on the pocket. We got an airconditioned room with two double bed for 1400php per night; 900 for one queen size bed. It wasn’t bad considering that others cost more than 1500php. Finding a room to settle in, we changed into our swimwear and headed back to the VC.

Villa JoLee

Unfortunately, there had been no other tourists who signed up to join us by the time we got back, we were out for probably only half an hour hehe. Too excited to wait longer, the three of us again agreed to share the whole cost. Having paid for the boat, a Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO) was assigned to us, Kuya Nognog (0918 4592646). We were made to enter a room wherein we watched a video presentation about the town of Donsol, its environment, whalesharks and how to interact with them. We were good to go after watching the vid! :D

Getting oriented :)

As it was almost June, I was seriously hoping that we’d still be able to swim with whalesharks. It turns out that the boat before us had no sighting after around 3 hours at sea. *sigh* It was a hot, sunny day. Our BIO wouldn’t guarantee to us that we’ll find some whalesharks to swim with but he’s also not saying otherwise. I was clinging on that. hehehe It was a quiet first half hour, we were cruising away from Dancalan; I was enjoying the view, my two companions were chatting with each other, our guide was busy trying to spot a whaleshark.

With newly met friend, Jeff

When all of a sudden everything came into action. Our guide saw something, told our boatman to get in a specific direction and he got animated and began instructing us. One question from him, “who isn’t a good swimmer?” I tentatively raised my hand. Gotta suck it up. I so want to swim with the whalesharks even if it meant having to admit to my (lack of) swimming prowess! ;) He told us to put on our snorkel gears (and fins), sit by the edge of the boat and jump into the water as soon as he says so. Once he did, we all jumped. In the water, it’s quite a different story, as bright as it was above water, down below, the water was a murky. Visibility was only several meters. I was just getting my bearings underwater when our guide pointed to something. Initially, I couldn’t see anything. Slowly though, you’ll spot a  shadow of a huge creature slowly moving towards you and as it gets nearer (it gets bigger too), you’ll see the gills, it’s spotted skin, its eyes looking at you. It was scary! But then you’ll get over your fear (attributed mostly coz of its size) and just be amaze at swimming with them! It then it swam beneath us and went on until we couldn’t see it.  Wow!!!! We actually swam with a butanding! :D

Having swam with one whaleshark, everyone got into such a good mood (I was ecstatic)! We spotted and swam with 3 more! I was hoping for at least one that when we got four, I felt blessed. ;) While the other whalesharks gently swam past us, one kept coming back and was playing with my companions. It swam so close to them that my friend, afraid of getting crushed, hold out his hands to ward it off and got to touch it! A big no-no. He later told us that it was purely a defensive reaction! I was starting to give him a lecture that’s why hehe

Gentle butanding :)

More than satisfied with our mission, we headed back to our room. Changed into dry clothes and went downtown to find somewhere to eat at and to explore the place. There are few choices of places to eat at in Dancalan, most are resaurants of the various inns/ hotels there. We prefer to eat in eateries around Donsol town. Foods are definitely cheaper and I found them more flavorful. :)

Donsol :)

Walking around Donsol town

Our BIO offered to take us on a firefly river tour (850php for the two of us with pick up from our room), with nothing much to do, we thought it’d be a good idea. People are brought to either Donsol or Ogod River. Donsol River is more popular but they say that there are more fireflies in Ogod River that’s why we chose to go to the latter. Around 6:30 in the evening, Kuya Nognog was by our door to fetch us with his tricycle. He drove us towards the river and guided us along the dark path. Another relative of his was waiting and all of us boarded a boat. They were to be our guides. The moon was very bright that night. I looked back a couple of times thinking there was a car behind us but it was just the moonlight shining past the trees and mangroves. It was a beautiful night but in terms of firefly watching, it was bad timing. We almost didn’t see any firefly. Good thing we came upon a tree that was well lit up by then, it looked like it had thousands of blinking lights. It was so pretty! I tried taking pictures but my camera’s settings wasn’t up to the task. After several more minutes, we went back to shore. Had dinner downtown with our guide and called it a night. It was a long but fun day! :D

Cruisin' down Ogod River

Kuya Nognog guiding us

If I try any sort of flash, no firefly would be seen

The moon was shining brightly

On the way back :)

China – Yangshuo (part 1)

April 12, 2010

It was time to go to Yangshuo, our last destination for my week long vacation in China. There is a bus terminal in Xingping and it’s just a short walk from our inn, come to think of it, everything’s just a short walk away in that town. ;) Minibuses leave regularly for Yangshuo. Travel time is around 2 hours and costs 15rmb. One was about to leave when we got there so we got in for the ride which was comfortable given the cold weather. I was enjoying looking at small Chinese villages, at the many orange orchard and the beautiful karst mountains surrounding the area when they said that we’ve already arrived at Yangshuo’s bus terminal.

Getting off the bus, there would be people approaching you to lead you to their hotel or to encourage you to book a tour with them etc. Since we had no plans on where to stay there (only what to do), we followed one lady. She brought us to one hostel just near the main street. There is one room at the 3rd floor there with a balcony and a view that I liked. We were told that a room would cost 150rmb especially for that kind of room (located at the higher floors and with a balcony) but we didn’t want to spend much and we’d agree to only 70rmb. They also have a room with no balcony that they offered for 50rmb. When they wouldn’t agree at first, we went back down to look for another place to stay at, not wanting to lose a customer, they gave in. We just have to give an extra 30rmb for key deposit. :)

TIP: Room rates are displayed by the lobby. They’re normally overpriced. Be sure to ask for a lower price. If you’re not satisfied with the amount, walk away. They will most probably come after you.  If they don’t, keep in mind that there are tons of other inns in the area.

The inn we stayed at (at right)

The view from our balcony

Securing a place to stay at, check! Next in the agenda was to fill our grumbling stomachs, we’re famished! We backtracked the path back to the terminal because there were lots of eateries and shops along the way. Since it was still a bit early, not all stalls were opened. However, there was an old man who was busy cooking on a claypot and the food looked appetizing so we ordered from him. I got chicken (why do I keep on ordering it in China?!!! It’s mostly just bones! Ugh! haha) *note to self: skip poultry dishes when on the mainland* while my companion had some pork,we had some tea to accompany it. Mmmm… Brunch! :)

He was busy cooking our meal on a claypot :D

First meal in Yangshuo

Yangshuo is definitely a beautiful place. Everywhere you look at, there are karst mountains that add mystique to the area, I never tire of admiring them. Chinese architecture is  seen on every building built. It doesn’t feel busy and has a relaxing atmosphere despite the many other tourists in the area. Walking around is a good way of discovering this place. We never got lost no matter if we took different streets nor went inside an alley or two. We even trekked another mountain there though we only got halfway up as the trail we were following didn’t lead all the way up.  Another option is to rent a bike and then head out of the village to do more explorations, that one we plan to do on the next day. ;)

We never ran out of food nor drinks to try out. I loved their (rice) noodles! I want mine with chilis to it though. Yummy! haha Eating or drinking while walking there is common. :D

Street food abounds :)

Lots of condiments to choose from to satisfy every taste

TIP: If you have the time to spare and would really love to live with the locals, a surefire way to save money while meeting tons of friends is to volunteer as an English teacher there for a couple of days. You only have to provide at least 2 hours of your time to talk to their students (they’ll practice their English skills with you) and you’ll be provided with a place to stay at, food, and they even organize trips for their volunteers. Sweet deal huh? ;)

Volunteer in Yangshuo

 

Related Posts:

DIY: Chinese Visa Application

First time in Mainland China

To Guilin By Train

Cruising the Li River

The Quaint Town of Xingping

Trekking a Karst Mountain

China – Xingping (part 2)

April 11, 2010

While we were cruising the Li River and admiring the views we were seeing, I asked my companion if it were possible to climb one of  those mountains and he said yes. Amazingly, the inn where we’re staying at was built on the foot of one of the karst mountains. Our inn owner built a walkway(!) to the top of the mountain; all 1,159 steps of it using his own money, time, and effort. One only has to follow the markers that he put up along the way. The climb can be slippery and steep at some point so it pays to always be cautious. It is a bit tiring but there is a pavilion halfway and at the top where you can rest and enjoy the view of the Li River,  Xingping and the surrounding area. It is recommended by our host to stay there for the sunset as the view is stunning but I didn’t want to risk going back down in the dark so we didn’t wait for it. The view was still beautiful. :)

The map of the climb :)

Just follow the arrow

The path on the right leads upward while the one on the left would lead you back to the Japanese garden

Halfway through the trek; inside the Peace Pavilion

Watch your step!

Viewing the Li River from above

The town of Xingping

Friendship Pavilion, a place to rest at while atop the mountain

Enjoying the breeze

Viewing the opposite bank of the river

It was almost dark when we got back to the inn. Our hostess had cooked a sumptuous meal for us and we joined their family for supper. She prepared four dishes, all of which I’ve tasted for the first time but enjoyed it all the same. If there’s one thing I noticed about Chinese cooking, it’s that when they serve poultry dishes, it’s mostly bones! What happened to all the chicken meat??? Guess they just love to chew and suck on chicken bones. hehe Another custom of theirs that’s different from us is the fact that they’d put their discarded food/ bones on the table itself and not on a small dish, bowl nor at the edge of their plate. I was just a bit surprised at first because it went against what I’ve been taught my whole life but no big deal there for me. Dinner lasted for more than 3 hours because of the conversation. We had to call it a night when it became too chilly to just hang out by the dining area.

Enjoying home cooked dinner

Picture with our hosts before leaving for Yangshuo

http://www.laozhaishan.com/

Room rate: 100rmb/ room/ night with internet cable

Related Posts:

DIY: Chinese Visa Application

First time in Mainland China

To Guilin By Train

Cruising the Li River

The Quaint Town of Xingping

Arrival in Yangshuo

China – Xingping (part 1)

April 11, 2010

After a lovely Li River cruise, our next goal was to find and check in at our guesthouse in Xingping.

Our boat unloaded the four of us to a small bank where a few vendors and minivans/multicabs where parked. We decided against riding coz we saw buildings just up ahead and thought that our inn would be somewhere along that area. We kept on walking and I didn’t mind it at all, the pretty landscape surrounding us was enough to keep me distracted.

However, as we walked the stretch of endless road, buildings were getting scarcer and scarcer in between (and with no cars nor people in sight), it got harder for me to keep moving forward because I didn’t know where we were nor do we have any idea of our proximity from our destination. I was thinking to myself  “please don’t let us get lost in the middle of nowhere!” Good thing I was traveling with a very patient person because I was getting irritable. He easily kept his cool. :) There were many fruit bearing shrubs and I was very tempted to take some from them coz I was getting hungry. I didn’t. I wouldn’t.  haha

A multicab filled with passengers would pass by at least every 20minutes, since I was beat, I made him agree to catch the next one, alas! It was also full. Lucky us, another one passed and the driver was able to squeeze us in. We were facing the rest of the passengers, mostly elementary school girls. Most of which were giggling a lot (hmmm… I wonder why) :D

Turns out we were still several kilometers away from our destination. Our destination was the port where the big boats dock for more sightseeing for their passengers. Our guesthouse was just by the riverside. We stayed at Laozhaishan Hotel, owned and operated by a Japanese man and his Chinese wife. The inn is right by the river. There is a Japanese garden outside and the view from their rooms is just superb! At first glance, the place looks cluttered. However, if you’ll look closely, you’ll see that each item is special for them. The stairs leading upstairs as well as the hallway on the 2nd floor was a bit dark. Linens used seemed a bit old and the bathroom wasn’t in perfect condition. It seemed like we were the only guest there though we did meet a few more. Despite all of these flaws, my companion wanted us to stay here because he has heard so much about the inn’s owner, Mr Hayashi, that he wanted to meet him.

The view of the river from our room

Inside the hostel

Looking around

The owners were very kind. They were  fussing over us, more so to my companion who is also Japanese. They were all speaking in Japanese, I didn’t understand a thing, though they’d translate some for me from time to time. They asked us what we’d like to have for dinner because they will cook for us (we were gonna cook for them too but it didn’t happen) so I said chicken, my fave. :)

After checking in our stuff, we decided to explore the area. Xingping is a small flat town along the Li River surrounded by beautiful karst mountains. Located between Guilin and  (27kms upstream from) Yangshuo, it doesn’t get that much visitors. It didn’t take us long to actually walk around town. There is one main road and there are many stores alongside it some of which were selling very cheap stuff (i was able to buy a toothpaste for 2rmb and some drinks for 2-4rmb), as well as many affordable eateries and a few hostel. Most of the buildings along the main street seemed new. There is a portion of the village wherein you’ll see the old streets though. They were very interesting, it felt like I was walking around ancient China. I met an old man who’s selling his paintings of the Li River along one of the old streets for around 30rmb (you can initially haggle it down to 20) but I got it for 5rmb. I wanted to buy around 10-15pcs for maybe 4rmb each as gifts for friends but he shooed me away coz he said the other tourists would buy his work for at least 20rmb! He said I was such a cheapskate! haha I liked his work but as I saw when I got to Yangshuo, his work was that of an amateur. I wanted t0 take a picture of him with his many paintings but then we would have to shell out some yuan so I didn’t.

Souvenir stalls

Old street

Related Posts:

DIY: Chinese Visa Application

First time in Mainland China

To Guilin By Train

Cruising the Li River

Trekking a Karst Mountain

Arrival in Yangshuo

China – Guilin (part 1)

April 11, 2010

Woke up when the train got to Guilin. I’m excited already!

It was cold and foggy when we got off the train. The next thing I noticed was a group of travelers (they were whites and they all had huge backpacks) looking clueless (I wonder if we seemed that way too ^_^). They were approached by an official looking guy and were led to a tourist information center. We followed suit. ;) Inside, they’ll brief you about their city: what to do, what to see, how to get around, they even gave us a map of the city. Very, very helpful people (not to mention kind too)!

What I wanted to do that day was to take the Li River cruise. We were booked that day for a guesthouse in Xingping. To save on time and money, we decided that it’s best for us to take the river cruise and then get off at Xing Ping. Hitting two birds with one stone. We just have to find someone who’ll give us a good deal. :)

Getting out of the train station, people offering various tours and packages swarmed us again. I was acting nonchalant and I was determined to ignore those who were quoting huge numbers for the Li river cruise (350 rmb is the standard rate). We got it down to 100rmb each! I was happy with that until I learned that the 2 locals we traveled with got theirs for 75rmb each. Oh well. ALWAYS always haggle! ;)

We were made to wait in a small, poorly lit lobby after paying for the trip. The lady we talked with then went back outside, probably to look for other tourists. We haven’t had our breakfast yet so we bought some foods sold along the street (freshly cooked rice cakes and breads). We were made to wait for around 30minutes, I was starting to get impatient and was thinking that she might have forgotten us already (or worse, that we fell for a scam!). hehe After x-minutes, she came back for us and led the way to a non-airconditioned (there was no need as it was very cold)  mini bus full of locals. We made another (not-so) quick stop downtown where one or two more got in and we were finally on our way.

Once outside the city proper, there were tons of strawberry fields along the way. The scenery didn’t bore me as I got a glimpse of several karst mountains every now and then. After almost an hour of land travel, we were at our destination (no idea where coz we’re not really able to communicate with them).

Guilin's karst mountains

Strawberry fields!

Luscious berries

Upon alighting from the bus, we made a beeline for the food vendors! hehe There were a lot to choose from: sweet potatoes of different varieties, nuts, breads, strawberries and other fruits, etc. Strawberries for me coz they look so delicious! One pack, probably around 500gms, costs 5rmb. I thought it was cheap :D

After a while, we weren’t done eating yet, the lady approached us and told us to follow her, again. Behind her were two Chinese tourists. We walked towards the river bank to where bamboo rafts were docked. One was made ready and we, the four of us, went in. My friend and I got the back seat. This is where we started our Li River Cruise. Yay!

Walking towards Li River

There are 3 options when doing the Li River cruise. You can go on a big airconditioned boat with Chinese & English speaking tourguides and lunch with lots of other tourists (most expensive); a big non airconditioned boat with Chinese speaking guide and a packed lunch with the tourists too; or you can ride a bamboo raft and enjoy having it to yourself (cheapest). ;)

Docked bamboo rafts

The big boats cruising the river

Our boatman also acted as our guide. He’d point out a mountain formation and would tell us something about it, about its history, how it got its name, what it’s supposed to look like I guess. Too bad that he only speaks Chinese. lol I was just taking a guess as to what he was saying hehehe I ended up trying to pinpoint spots he’d point out. ;)

Our boatman/guide

Some pics of the famous Li River

Having your own raft (yeah, so we shared it with two more :p), eating delicious foods while on a river cruise with very scenic views totally made my day! :D

Related Posts:

DIY: Chinese Visa Application

First time in Mainland China

To Guilin By Train

The Quaint Town of Xingping

Trekking a Karst Mountain

Arrival in Yangshuo