Posts Tagged ‘ China ’

China 1 Week Itinerary

Great wall. Terra cotta warriors. Dumplings. Maglev. Beijing. These (are just some of the many) things come to mind when I think of China.

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I’ve been to China before but visited Yangshuo and Guilin for its scenic beauty. It was alright because I was already planning a trip back. Due to various reasons, it didn’t happen despite the fact that I’ve already booked my plane ticket, I had my visa, and itinerary and accommodations were sorted. Fast forward to 2015. It finally happened! I was able to travel to China! And this time around, Beijing (and other cities) it is! :D

Michael and I flew to China last May 2015 and went around the country for a week before continuing the journey to Japan.

Arrival in Beijing
Since I prefer not to be holed up in a chain-hotel, we’ve decided to stay in a traditional courtyard in a hutong. Hutongs are “alleys formed by lines of traditional courtyard residences joined together.” The fact that they are  a destination in themselves was a big plus. It’d be quiet and serene within the courtyard but as soon as you step outside, you have numerous choices of shops, eateries and sights to choose from.  We arrived late at night. No problem. My luggage was one of the last to appear in the carousel baggage that the public transport I had read and planned for was already closed. Plan B: take a cab- after figuring out where to get a cab and having them call our courtyard for directions.

Day 1: Beijing
It was a warm and sunny day. We had a “tourist map” of the city. We were ready to explore. And because of that, we decided to walk. First stop was the Bell and Drum Tower. They were pretty close to the courtyard we were staying at and saw it from the night before. The climb up the Drum Tower was pretty steep that when we saw  it was the same for the Bell Tower, we passed the latter -he had a bad sprain from playing football just days before our trip! Outside was this eatery where we were happy to find that all the food and drink we ordered costs less than 2GBP. More walking led to Jingshan Park with a beautiful view of the Forbidden City – our next stop. We walked the perimeter of the Forbidden City and ended up in Tian’amen Square. We took a cab back home. We had a business card with our courtyard’s name written in Mandarin on it (this really helps!).

Sunset in Tian'amen Square

Sunset in Tian’amen Square

Day 2: Beijing
Since we’ve realised that eventhough sights look close together on our map they’re still (really) far apart, we got on a cab to take us to the Temple of Heaven. It seems that the place is a popular choice for pre-nuptial photo session. There were at least 5 couple when we got there. I was checking out the gowns of the ladies. The bf thought the whole thing was too over-the-top. Looks like we won’t have any of that then T_T.  After more walking, and lunch break of course, onward to the Summer Palace it is! He didn’t want to backtrack when it was time for us to head home so we just kept on walking. He admitted that we might have gotten a bit lost after we found ourselves on a dead end under a bridge, beside a river or was it a stream, can never really tell with cars whizzing past overhead!

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The Temple of Heaven in the background

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Day 3: Great Wall of China
We opted to do a DIY trip and away from the crowd of Badaling. We started early, relatively speaking, so we can head to Mutianyu and comeback before sunset.

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The Bird’s Nest in the backgound

The fact that there were so few other tourists there definitely added to its charm! After a fun-filled daytrip to the Great Wall, next stop was the Olympic Stadium, more popularly known as the Bird’s Nest, that was the venue of 2008’s summer games. Then off to Wangfujing Street Market to sample more Chinese food (or in this case, snacks)!

Day 4: Enroute to Xi’an from Beijing

We haven’t been inside the Forbidden Palace so this was our must-do for today before we leave for Xi’an. I was hoping to take a sleeper train from Beijing to Xi’an to save on hotel and train costs but Mike didn’t want to sleep on a train for 2 consecutive nights so we got on a high speed train so we can sleep on a proper bed. We were averaging 300km/hour on our effectively cutting the usual 12hour journey to almost 5hours! It was a comfortable journey with me sleeping half of it away -we ate on the other half. :D

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Day 5: Terra Cotta Army
Terra Cotta Warriors: check!
I’ve read about them in history books from when I was a little girl. Seeing our generation’s greatest architectural find was something I wouldn’t pass up! Even if that meant getting on a 4-hour bullet train ride from Beijing to Xi’an just to see them (and trying the sleeper train from Xi’an to Shanghai)!

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Day 6: Water village of Zhujiajiao

We only really had a full day in China’s biggest city. I should have visited its many beautiful sights but after seeing a picture of the country’s best preserved ancient water town (Zhujiajiao aka Pearl Stream) and I knew that it’s the place I would love to see most! Following online instructions, we still got a bit lost but everything worked out in the end after a young Chinese couple helped us find our way eventhough we couldn’t understand each other. :D My only regret was we couldn’t stay the night here – it’d have been amazing!

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Day 7: Enroute to Kyoto

Our last day in China was drizzly. We did get to see the Bund as it was just a few mins walk from where we stayed at. We wanted to ride the world’s fastest train enroute to the airport. There were lots of people with the same idea coz when we got to the platform, there were tour groups having their pictures taken.  It was a great end to an unforgettable trip ! :D

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I’d love to go back to see other parts of the country! <3

DIY: Visiting the Terra Cotta Warriors

We included a visit to Xi’an for one goal and that is to see the terra cotta warriors! The greatest archeological find of our generation. They were discovered by some farmers who were trying to dig up a well back in the 1960s.

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The terracotta army in Pit 1

 

The Terracotta Army or the “Terracotta Warriors and Horses” is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife. -wikipedia

There are several options on how you go about seeing them. Joining a group tour or hiring your private guide would always be the more convenient way. I find them pricey though and not to my liking. Or you can do it on your own. This one would require some bits of research – which is maybe why you’re on this page; and asking around. I find this more my style as I’ll save some money (though not as much time) and I think it’s the more exciting way to go about doing things.

I’ve read that if one rode the high speed train to get to Xi’an, they’re entitled for a free shuttle ride straight to the site on the same day. But we arrived around 11pm and wanted to visit the next morning. So instead of hoping our tickets were still valid, we decided to just not do it. We then went to Xi’an Railway station the next day. On the eastern side of the square is a bus terminal. We found a very long queue and thought it’s the one leading to the famed warriors and we were right after double checking with those in charge of the line.

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Take bus 5(306), 7RMB, 1hr travel time, last stop: Museum of Xin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horse

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I’ll finally get to see the terracotta army! :D

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Entrance fee is 150RMB

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Pit 1

The sheer scale of this sculpture army makes it impressive. Also, no two warrior look the same. The museum is divided into 3 pit (excavation): Pit No. 1, No.2, and No.3. Pit 1 was the first to be opened to public visits. It is the largest amongst the 3 and is the most impressive too. This is the pit that you’d I thought to myself  “that’s what I’ve seen in print countless of times before!”

Some pictures of Pit 1:

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Pit 2 is said to be the most spectacular owing to more complex combat formation. Also, the units here are said to be more complete as compared to those in the other pits. That may be the case but unfortunately, I got sidetracked by a display in the corner where you can have pictures taken with the terracotta army. If you don’t want to shell out for those souvenir photos, you can opt to pay a minimal fee to be able to use your own camera instead. The bf laughingly remarked that I seemed to have been more excited with the photo-op session over seeing the terracotta army in the pits! hehe

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Pit 2

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Pit 3 though the tiniest is said to be the headquarter/ command centre of the army in the other pits. Unfortunately, most of the warriors here are endless which could be attributed to vandalism but it’s still a guess.

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Pit 3

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Pit 3

There’s also a museum there. From which we learned that the terracotta warriors were originally meant to be colourful! It’s just that time and natural elements eroded most of the colours away.

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The terracotta warriors were originally full of colours.

I would recommend for history buffs to see the terracotta warriors. However, I wish we had a full day and night to explore Xi’an too! Guess it’s another reason to go back then? :)

Best of Travel Photos: My 7 Super Shots

Aleah of Solitary Wanderer a.k.a. the infamous writer of “Date A Girl Who Travels” kindly included me in this online tagging that’s been going on that was started by HostelBookers 7 Super Shots. You’re supposed to choose seven pictures from the ones you’ve already taken that you think best corresponds to the theme that they’re looking for. Then choose 5 more bloggers to continue the cycle.

When she asked me if I’d like to participate, I told her that my photos can’t compare to theirs coz I looked at what they have and I was just blown away! She encouraged me to do it and I’m happy I did! It was very nice looking back at some (I have tons of photos that it’d be impossible to do so ;)) of my travel pictures. Definitely brought back wonderful memories with friends and loved ones from the crazy adventures to those chill out moments.

Takes  My Breath Away

Iligan’s Tinago Falls

Iligan is known as the city of majestic waterfalls and they’re totally right! I cajoled my buddies into going there so that we could see this waterfall and the long trip was definitely worth it. Tinago (meaning hidden in English) Falls is appropriately named coz it took us a flight to Cagayan de Oro from Manila, an almost 3 hours bus ride to Iligan, a multicab and a motorbike ride afterwards to get there plus not to forget the almost 400+ steps that would lead you down to it!

Makes Me Dream

The Peak view at night

The view from the peak is one of Hong Kong’s major touristic attraction. At anytime, the view is amazing. However, you would be squeezing yourself against the hundreds and hundreds of tourists who go there for it. On one of my trips to HK, I met this guy and we went to the Peak quite late at night and we had the place to ourself! We were enjoying this wonderful view that we weren’t sharing with anyone else (alright, with maybe a handul but they’re nowhere near us hehehe) while having some drinks. It’s such a bustling city but it looks calm from up here. Makes me dream of the many possibilities ahead of us. =)

Makes Me Think

The garden of Versailles

On my first trip to mainland Europe, France was my destination. Two French friends accompanied me for a daytrip to Versailles to stroll in its gardens and to check out the palace. I’ve heard that both are big and wonderful so I was sort of expecting it. But when I got there and saw the garden.. Oh dear! It was just HUGE! Basically, as far as I can see, THAT is the garden! It is just too much grandeur and splendour for a few people.  I know they were for the royalties, built just for then even, but still! How could… Why would… Ah.. Uhmm.. Too much! Hehe I was overwhelmed!

Makes Me Smile

Early morning in Camiguin’s White Island

When I went on a trip with 2 of my travel buddies to Mindanao, my first on this very beautiful part of the Philippines, we went to the island of Camiguin. One really early morning, we hired a boat to take us to White Island. It’s such a beautiful place right smack in the middle of the sea and we were there all sleepy waiting for the sun to rise. We were all so tired coz it was the 4th day of our trip and it was our fourth province, it was too much in too little time! The beauty there just gave us back our energy and made the trip worth it. Thinking back about that place and this trip still brings a smile to my face. :)

Makes My Mouth Water

Currently, I’m living in London. What I miss most from home aside from my loved ones are its food and (fantastic) beaches! If there’s one thing I crave the most for, it has got to be Philippines’ ripe yellow mangoes. The more fragrant, the sweeter it will be! Mmmm! And mangoes made into shakes are, for me, the perfect accompaniment to every meal! I’d always tell my mom when we’re talking, “Mommy, make sure you have mangoes when you’ll fetch me at the airport!” :D

Tells A Story

Sunset in Boracay

Boracay Island is a famous party beach place. Amidst all that partying though, people also do go there to have a nice quiet time. One sunset as I was by the beachfront with a friend, I saw them all cozy up. This just goes to show that Boracay’s beauty is for everyone.

I’m Most Proud Of: My Worthy of National Geographic Shot

Karst splendour in Guilin :)

I don’t really know what constitutes a NatGeo shot. I do know that it’s something really cool! This is where I found it most hard to choose coz this category may mean differently for each person. For my first trip to mainland China, a good friend and I went to Guilin province because of its natural beauty. We stayed at a hostel owned by a Japanese and Chinese couple. The owner’splace is just beside a karst mountain and he spent many laborious hours buidling steps to reach the top and had a pavilion built there named, Friendship Pavilion. The view from the top is simply amazing and from there you can view the small town of Xingping and surrounding places. This may be one of the reasons as to why I’m partial to karst mountains! ;)

Hope you guys liked those photos!

Now I’m going to tag Chichi of We Are Sole Sisters; Renz of The Traveling Nomad; Ron of Flip Travels; Mica of Senyorita and Marky of Nomadic Experiences. Happy choosing guys! :D

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