Guilin, Yangshou and Chengdu

Oh. Now it was a long time since I wrote my blog. Some of you might have gotten an e-mail or two about what I've been doing and if you've been checking my pictures you know a bit as well, but I'll try and retell those days a bit here as well.

Ok, so after writing the last blog entry we went for a nice dinner in a Chinese restaurant. It felt a bit like a upper-class place, but the prices were good so we decided to eat there anyway. It was kinda late, so there weren't very many left in the restaurant. After we've ordered rice porridge - the only vegetarian food they could offer a Singaporian guy starts talking to us and he seems especially interested in talking to Rachel. He buys us some beers and then go back to his table and leaves us alone. After a while he gets back though and explains that he's working in Guilin at the moment and that at the other table is the boss and the big-big-boss for his company. They would like Rachel to come over and talk to them, they were appearantly interested in talking to foreigners (but only Rachel). The whole thing seemed kinda dodgy and wrong, but she couldn't really say no (and he was very clear all the time with the fact that they didn't want anything from her, just talk for a while). So she went to the next table and we kept a close eye on them all the time. When she gets back it turns out the big-big-boss is like really owning more or less the whole town and that he wants to give us stuff, especially pearls to Rachel. He wants to give her one tonight and if we call them tomorrow he'd give her many more. Very dodgy indeed, so we leave the place after a few mishaps. We're not sure what he wanted really - most likely someone that could smuggle pearls into England... No, we didn't call them the day after and no - so far no troubles with the mafia... In hindsight it was a interesting experience though...

After having a really nice night at our somewhat dodgy hotel (see the picture "please pull in case of security when you go to bed") we left to Yangshou. We did plan to take the bus to Yangshou, which would have been 10 yuan, but after haggling down the price for a boat ride from 500 yuan to 80 yuan each we took the boat. The boat was really cold, but there we're some really nice views and it was well worth the extra time it took.

The cold is a problem though. Arriving in Yangshou we realized that it was like 6 degrees and raining, which made us spend the evening in the warmest restaurants drinking hot chocolate and eating really good mexican food. I have bought a warm jacket (North Face - good winter jacket with fleece inside) for 250 yuan (less than 230 SEK) and some mittons - so now the cold isn't that big a problem anymore. They told us that one week ago (before the rain came) they had 27 degrees in Yangshou though, so we're still a bit disappointed that we missed out on the nice summer weather.

Yangshou is supposed to have some really good views and it must be amazing when you get here when it's warm enough to do stuff. All the places in town have bikes for rent so you can bike around by yourself, there are loads of tours to caves, peaks and mudbaths - of we ended up doing nothing. We saw a few of the peaks that are actually in the town, but we never went up to them. It simply was too cold! Instead we spent the days wandering around town, trying out more than a couple of bars and cafes and having a good time. At night time we had our dorm room with five beds all by ourselves. The first night it was soo cold and we wanted to watch a movie (you rent a DVD player and then buy a movie for 10 yuan), so we moved together two beds into one large one and just huddled up to keep warm. That was a great idea - warmest nights ever!

Yangshou was great in many ways. It was really nice to see, the town had some charm even though it was a bit too touristy (I'm glad we were there on off-season - otherwise it would have been mad I reckon). But the cold drove us crazy! The last night we did a cooking course which was really nice, we learned how to do pork dumplings, sweet and sour-chicken and ginger, garlic and chili beef. Really good and the lady showing us the things were very nice.

On the next day we took the bus to Guilin which took us one hour and from there we took the bus leading to Chengdu. We had soft-sleepers, which means you have a small bunk (literally to small in all directions - you can't really sit up, I was too tall and my shoulders are too broad to fit in) where you spend all the time. At night they would have the bus dark and quiet, which was really nice, but as soon as they thought it was someone awake they would play loud Chinese karaoke, play some action movies in Chinese or blast away with semi-Western music and videos with gogo-dancers. Very surreal experience... The bus ride was supposed to be 22 hours long, but turned out to be 24 hours, so we came to Chengdu at around 4 pm.

After succeding to find a cab that knew how to get to our hostel (we had the name in Chinese and a map - none which seemed to help very much) we checked into a small dorm (four beds), booked a panda tour for the following day and went out to see town. I mailed some friends that I met in Vang Vieng, Laos, who lives in Chengdu and said that I was here. One hour later or so, just when we were looking for a bar to go to they called and told us about a good bar to start at. After some troubles with finding the place (same things - name and map doesn't seem to help really) we met up with Eoin (pronounced Owen) and Megan and some of their friends. It was a nice bar, full of westerners and expats gathered to see the rugby game between Ireland and Scotland. He told us some interesting facts about Chengdu, for example that there are only like 600 expats in the whole Chengdu, while the population is close to 11 million now. My guidebook says 4.5 million - but that was 3 years ago and it was probably a bit unupdated already then. The cities here grow with immense speed - they say that Beijing went from 7 million to 14 million in less than five years. I can't believe that speed - it's just... unbelievable how a city can grow that much.

Anyways, we had a good night out. We started at this small bar, drinking a bit of beer, playing pool and eating some reaaaaally good pub food (best one I've ever had I think) and after that we went to the Babi Club which is full of Chinese people dancing and partying and we were more or less the only Westerners (together with two Dutch guys who joined us). We decidsed that this was my birthday party - I will probably be somewhere with the monks or on a horseback on my birthday so this was the last chance to party. It was great! Babi Club sold bottles of whiskey really cheap and then you got tea to blend it with. At first I was skeptical, but tea really hides all the wiskey taste more or less. Interesting and a bit dangerous - it was easy to drink a bit too much. After being in Babi Club for quite a while I followed Eoin and Megan to their home together with a few others and we ended up sitting there playing Nintendo (8 bit - the original!) and table soccer the whole night.

At half six I took the cab back to the guesthouse to get on the panda tour with the girls that started at seven. No sleep tonight, but after 24 hours of sleeping and resting on a bus that doesn't feel like a problem really.

The panda tour was great! We went to a zoo/breeding ground for pandas and saw lots of them. They are really beautiful, like teddybears but with something human in them as well. The way they use their hands, the way they look at you and the way they just sit and eat makes them feel very intelligent and ... humanlike in some way. It was really amazing and I've uploaded loads of pictures from this (and the party night as well).

Anyways, now I'm heading for lunch and some sightseeing in town! My plans are a bit blurry right now, but I'll probably be away for a couple of days doing tours around here, so don't expect any updates on the blog. First I'll probably try to go to Emei Shan which is a mountain area nearby where you can do some trekking and sleep in monastaries with the monks. After this I might go on a horse-riding trek for a couple of days in a place that is on the border to Tibet and that people say is more or less like Tibet (but closer). I don't know if I have the time to do both though, so I'm not sure what I'll end up doing...

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