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Brian’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 24 Jan 2007

Location: Train to Guilin, China

MapThe tain from Guanzhou to Guilin was our first long one - about 11 hours and we got some pretty comfortable sleeper cars. Beau had the top bunk. I dont think they were designed to hold western men. It seemed a bit unsteady with just a couple of chains holding him up there with me just a few feet underneath. At first I was nervous sleeping under him but I knew that good ol fashion "Chinese Engineering" would save me from seemingly impending doom.

Getting off a train after 12 hours of riding at 6 in the morning will make you agreeable to just about anything. Including a large sign that says "Tourists" with a giant arrow pointing up some stairs. It looked official enough. Like lemmings off a cliff some other westerners followed us up the stairs and into the jaws of suckerville. We got the #1 good price for a boat ride to Yongshou (Backpackers Paradise) and a train ride from Guilin to Kunming, which would ultimately prove non-existent. At least now we were teamed up with some other westerners... 3 Belgians (beer was a hot topic). They just spent the last 5 months learning Mandarin so we leaned on them to guide us through some tricky conversations.

The van ride to the boat was a measure of how close you can get to a motor scooter without hitting it. This was also our first drive out of a major city and the scenery change was abrupt to say the least. Hard living. It appeared as though they would eat what they could find, which made for a curious show of villagers around a fresh road kill (you get to guess the animal). Beau and I are hoping to get a video of some of the car ride up here soon. The boat ride was nice. There were only 6 of us on it, including the driver, plodding down the river at a cool 6 knots an hour. I had my compass out and noticed that we were actually going north on the river...Yangshou was south. The ongoing joke was that we were being taken to a labor camp to help build the new roads. Our buddy at the tourist shop neglected to tell us that we were going to go north and then pull a U-turn and head south to Yangshou. I guess they wanted us to feel like we got our money's worth. After about an hour we pulled over to the bank of the river. No dock. No other boats. Just sand and rock. In "chinglish" we were informed to get off! We refused to get out till we knew exactly what "Out boat - Go road" meant. So Beau and the Belgians stayed on the boat to prevent it from leaving while I hopped out to explore this apparent road. Indeed there was a van on a road about 100 meters down a dirt path. Our boat ride was over.