Diary 2 (or how to invalidate your travel insurance policy)8/7/2001
One quick mention, that I forgot to say in the last note. Cheers to Scott and Julie, I hope that the wedding went smoothly and you are both enjoying married bliss. BIG HUGS!
It's Monday the 2nd, another day in Hong Kong before I meet the tour group that I will be travelling around China with. Went to the HK Museum of Art this morning and then ventured onto the extremely modern subway system (or MTR) upto Northen Kowloon. Visited a beautiful Taoist temple, the smell of incense sticks and murmurs of the prayers were really peaceful. After a quick stop at an old burial site nearby I stopped off at the huge computer shopping centre. It was very crowded, but the prices were amazing, top of the range desktops would have been a damn site cheaper than in the UK. I 'd read about another shopping centre called the Dragon that had a roller coaster on the roof. Well it was actually inside the roof & wove its way about 6 feet above the shoppers, and then over the central atrium of 8 storeys. I had to have a go!
Met the tour group in the hotel, they're all really nice and the tour leader Jane.
Tuesday evening we are flying into China to Guilin. Before that I had time to take a ferry across to Lantau Island where I hired a bike for a couple of hours. I wanted to cycle upto a Trappist Monastry where the monks have taken a vow of silence but when I met a yank ex-pat at the bottom of the steep steps upto the monastry he told me that there were 1125 steps. Not exactly feasible with a mountain bike on your shoulder! Got v hot cycling round the town and a bit sunburnt too. The town and surrounding villages were quiet, apart from the commotion when a procession of 3 chinese dragons came by. They were amazing, the dancing and drums were sooo cool.
We flew into Guilin last night, and my late evening walk meant that I was propositioned over 30 times in an hour. The hotel was right on the edge of the red light district! We had an early start down to the Li River for a 4 hour cruise down to Yangshuo. The landscape is amazing. It's all limestone crags. Saw cormorant fishermen, kids swimming in the river and loads of gorgeous scenery.
Yangshuo is a backpacker's paradise. Everyone is so friendly here, so I'll just namecheck a few of those I met:
Ian, another Imaginative Traveller tour guide
; Daniel from the West Street Hotel where I stayed
; Lillian from Drifters who makes fabulous sheperd's pie
; William who owns the Seventh Heaven bar
; Betty Boo, one of the waitresses
; Simon and Forrest, completely barking!
; and last but not least, Henry who taught us Tai Chi.
This being Wednesday, I fell in the river, had a lovely dinner, drank lots at 7th heaven and played pool with Henry and Ian until 3am. Yangshuo is brilliant!
Thursday: A day of many forms of transport.
We hired bikes as a group this morning and cycled between paddy fields and water buffalo to Moon Hill. There were water-sellers everywhere on all the little tracks and villages. After hiking up Moon Hill, the views of the karst landscape and paddy fields were fantastic. A quick lunch at the Riverside Retreat where I went swimming. Floating in a big inner tube, with a couple of Chinese kids for company in the middle of this landscape. Are you jealous yet ? ;-)
Dropped off the bikes, and William took us out in Kayaks to do 8-9 km downriver. Saw the empty skins of dragon-fly larvae where they had climbed out of the river and left the empty husks clinging to the rocks after they emerged! Took ages to figure out what they were.
The kayaks went back in a truck, so we hopped on the back of a motorbike each for the ride home. Dried off pretty quickly riding pillion at 30mph.
We had dinner at 7th Heaven (gorgeous Chinese food, with excellent beef and sweet and sour pork), then went shopping for CDs, Chinese scrolls, and bought 2 pairs of bright stripy trousers for travelling in.
After a couple more beers I went to a local night club with Ian, Daniel, Daniel's brother and their friend. Ian and I were the only 2 westerners there, it was very cool. We stayed up all night. Favourite activity: playing "Pass the Pigs" with Ian and the others. We scored in both Mandarin and English so that we could all learn the numbers. After seeing the sunrise I crept off to bed for a quick hours kip.
Henry taught us Tai Chi this morning at 9am. It's a great hangover cure! I also met an english teacher and his two students. We had a good chat, and I gave them my last English coins that I hadn't managed to spend in Heathrow.
After lunch at Drifters, we caught a bus back to Guilin and visited the Reed Flute Caves. They were lovely, but spoilt by the flourescent lights and amplified (Mandarin speaking) guides. The Chinese just don't know how to talk quietly! Then a quick internal flight to Kunming which I slept right thru :-) The hotel here is really posh (4 star). We walked out to the Muslim street market for a late tea, really spicy beek chunks on a skewer, boiled corn-on-the-cob and sweet honey cakes. Jane had said that the food was a highlight of this trip and it really is!
After noodles for breakfast we took a bus along part of the Burma Road to the Stone Forest, again very commercial cause its a tourist spot for lots of Chinese too. On the way back we stopped at Seven Star Village, where the minority Sani people live. The kids were really cute, and the village was all made from wattle and daub.
And finally, for Sunday morning we went upto a Buddist temple in the hills above the city - the sculptures where really fine and detailed, over 70 buddhas surfing in one of the shrines!!! So now I'm writing to you all before we catch the overnight train out of Kunming. Sorry if it's a bit detailed, but this is for my memories too ;-) Missing you all.
 Whilst I waited for my laundry to be done ;-)
 it's gone brown now tho :-)
 called karst
 the company who run the China tour.
 with no helmets of anything (if you are with my insurance company I didn't just write that ;-)
 I got 3. That's quite restrained compared to some people on the tour;-)
 or practise for Ian & Daniel
 who was Chinese