29.12.2006 - 30.12.2006
So that was that, after only 2 nights, 6 meals, 428 photos, 3 pints of larger, 2 approaches from local prostitutes and $1720, I was leaving Hong Kong and heading for main land, China. Only thing was, I never had any means of getting to my next destination, Yangshou. I enquired at the local Chinese travel centre who, for some reason, couldn't book the train for me and suggested I made the 2 hour trip across the border and into China to a place called Guangzhou, on the chance I could purchase a ticket at the station. From there it would be an overnight train to Guilin, then another 80k trip south by bus to Yangshou. I didn't quite fancy taking the chance of heading across the border to Guangzhou, as if there were no seats available on the train, I would be forced to seek accomodation and wasn't sure on how the locals would take to a westerner, walking about like a tortoise, with a hugh shell on his back to house his belongings, not speaking a word of Chinese looking for somewhere to stay. "Bed??? Bed???", holding my clapped hands up against my tilted cheek as if to indicate a pillow. I also never fancied going via Guilin, although I wan't aware of any other way. Guilin is a large city, right on the outskirts of one of the most buitefull parts of China and has had many years booming from the tourist industry (mainly Chinese tourists). River trips were a big highlight of Guilin, where passangers would snake their way down stream, amidst the towering limestone peaks that are dotted eitherside of the slow moving river allowing you to witness one of China's best natural beauties. Trips like these terminate at a small village called Yaungshou, 80k south. Over time, people started to cotton on that they no longer had to stay in the built up city areas of Guilin to witness such beauty and turned their sights to Yangshou, that could offer cheap, quiet guesthouses along the old cobbled streets only minutes away from the rivers. Guilin obviously didn't take to kindly too this, seeing its little brother take away most of its tourist trade that they had come to rely on for so many years. Stay with me readers, my point is coming, so when passing through, especially as a westerner that stands out, you find it hard to get from the train station to the nearby bus station as you are greeted by the local touts, angry at Yangshou, and are reluctant to allow yet another tourist slip through the net to their, now hated little brother.
"Accomodation Sir?", "Big fire , Yangshou?" "You stay here, Guilin better" "Yangshou out of season - no boats"
Bla bla bla, the excuses go on and on as the highly trained touts, taxi drivers, tourist help desk assistant, who don't speak English, and police offercers, who all share the same aggresive stance towards Yangshou, try their upmost to get you to stay as if their life dependant on it, which is possibly does.
So at the minute, that seemed to be my only option on getting to Yangshou. I had another 2 days accomodation paid for in Hong Kong and could of quite easily of stayed, planing my ongoing route a bit better, but I didn't want to. I'm a pretty, spare of the moment kind of guy and was going to go for it. No travel arrangements made nor was there any accomodation sorted; The joys of travelling, not knowing where your journey is going to take you or where you will next rest your head. I've been in tricky situations over my times travelling where I have turned up in towns, isolated from major cities with only 40 quid to my name, not even enough to get me a bus to another town and I managed - so what, if I picked grapes for the next month, but I managed. I've always had the motto of - "Whats the worst that is going to happen to me - I'm not going to die." It hasn't failed me yet - 4 days later, breaking news, "A 28 year old traveller from Newcastle Upon Tyne has been found, frozen to death as he sheltered in a barn house on the outskirts of Guangzhou, China."
Ha Ha - You's should be so lucky.........