We did not have to sleep in turns and went out together to see the sights, whenever we could stand the hassle of Indian watch sellers (try to say "copy watch" with an Indian accent)and massage ladies lingering (not what you think!) in front of our apartment block in downtown Kowloon. The neon lighted streets were always full of shoppers, unless they sat in food courts, where there are elaborate plastic models of the meals on offer. Very practical for novices to the Chinese cuisine.
We enjoyed four nights in our suite before we picked up our half year China Visa. Visa in hand, we made our way across the border to Shenzen, where we knew was a train and bus stations for travel to Guilin. It took us an hour to find the correct bus station (there are three) and discard the train station. By constantly saying "Guilin" I was finally taken to the right place and bought a couple of tickets. Lilian had waited and bravely fought off anyone coming too close for her comfort.
A sleeper bus in South America is a bus with seats that are reclining, until they are almost horizontal. A sleeper bus in China is a dormitory on wheels, full of proper beds. It really looks like a rolling youth hostel, the beds are a bit short for us, but essentially it is a comfortable way to travel, as long as the road is decent, which it was not.
Guilin is China as you imagine it. Steep, green hills, rice fields, rivers and temples. Yangshou, a smaller city nearby is also very beautiful and extremely touristy. The main street (called "foreigner street") is overflowing with shops.
Our expectations of China were still high, when we reached Chongking to start our Yangtse river tour. I definitely have to warn everyone from taking the cheap Yangtse Tours. The boats are full of noisy Chinese holidaymakers, leaving a mess wherever they settle for a while. And there is always somebody talking over a megaphone, making sure that you do not get any mental rest. Nonetheless, although the river has already risen by 120 meters, the Three Gorges are still impressive.
The city of Xi'an is close to the site where the Terracotta Army was unearthed. In typical Chines fashion the whole experience is drowned in a funfair atmosphere with everyone else trying to sell a little extra tour or model. If you cut through that, the 2000 year old warriors, all with individual faces, are worth the journey. The other highlight is the city wall of Xi'an, which is now completely reconstructed and you can walk 14km around the city while seeing maybe a dozen tourists.
Beijing is getting ready for the 2008 Olympics, which will probably the most gigantic Olympics the world has seen. In the meantime, the city is loud and busy with construction work. We had other things to do, like trying to railway tickets for the Transsiberian trip to Mongolia and a visa for that country. I had to go to the embassy four times and that was an easy embassy to deal with. The real nightmare will strike in Ulan Bator...tbc!
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