We got to Guilin in the afternoon after a nice ride in the Landrover and even nicer lunch bought by its drivers. Our new couchsurfer, Zach, waited for us in Guilin, one of our last stops in China. Although we shared the studio flat we had definitely much more privacy than in memorable Kunming. As a single man he needed a bit of female hand so the broom and mop came into play. Although in the beginning he seemed quiet and not very easy going we quickly found out how wrong the first impression can be. He showed us his secret rooftop that absolutely stole my heart and the first night his friend Cole joined us for a huge drunken darts competition. Although Callum tried really hard (making up for my mistakes…) we couldn’t win with the American team that had much experience beating its couchsurfers. After we moved to the rooftop we talked for hours enjoying the city lights and the Tsingao beer. That night I realized how much I missed company and speaking English… 🙂 Couchsurfing is a really great thing if you have a good host. I don’t mean only a free couch but, most of all, being able to see the place from “the inside”. Although there wasn’t too much to see in the city, Zach took time to show us the best of it and took us to the places which we would never find on our own. I really enjoyed the local streets, food markets and a delicious roasted duck which was probably one of the best meals I’ve had for months. When you backpack you normally don’t have access to the kitchen and that’s another thing I love about couchsurfing. I can cook. The real art is to cook something out of nothing and I’m an absolute master of it so when Zach came back after hours of looking for bread (not a “Chinese” bread, a REAL bread!) we shared dinner together. As Callum and Zach happened to have similar interests and ideas in the evening, when it came to choosing a film to watch I was quickly outvoted by my two anime fans. Although I’m not the biggest fantasy enthusiast, I must admit “The Wolf children” wasn’t that bad at all, actually it was pretty good…. 🙂
It was the weekend and Yangshuo was definitely better option than Guilin. Although we tried to hitch in the end we took a bus as the area started to be more touristy and people expected money for the ride. Quick look around and we found a great room for Y70 near the centre where we chilled before Saturday night. Together with Zach and his girlfriend we crashed a few pubs that were especially beloved by the foreigners. Many of them worked in China (teaching English, of course) coming to Yangshuo once in a while to have a taste of “home”. That night we discovered “Monkey Jane” rooftop where we were about to spend the rest of our week. It was purely international place, with beer pong, football table and Euro 2016 played on the TV. Besides Chinese and few Indians it was a favourite place of British and Americans who run the party and entertained the rest by being completely drunk and occasionally getting naked. We had to come back there. Although Yangshuo is really touristy there is a good thing about it: the food. In the centre you can find many restaurants serving international cuisine that aren’t actually much more expensive than the Chinese ones. For Sunday lunch together with Zach we chose “the Brew” with its delicious American steaks. For most of the afternoon I tried to have any kind of conversation with Zach’s friend but she was probably the shyiest girl I’ve ever met in my life. I can’t even imagine what could bring her to tatoo “The real world sucks” on her hand…but although I don’t think it was the smartest move I could kind of understand her. If I lived in China I would be probably depressed as well. The pressure of the society, work and lack of freedom is really abundant and even if you do realize you can’t live like this… what can you do? I guess you can only leave the country…
In the next few days I understood why so many foreigners come to Yangshuo. It’s simply gorgeous. The area reminds me of Vang Vieng in Laos with the only difference that you are surrounded by the karst mountains from every side literally in the city. Like usual, we couldn’t miss the People’s Park full of local seniors playing cards, dancing and gathering in their social clubs. Cursed by Callum (he doesn’t share my love for hiking) we also climbed Antenna Hill where we had the best views of the Li river, Yangshuo and surrounding mountains. There wasn’t much of street food in the city. Trying to find some local market we landed in a local cheap restaurant where they honoured us with a huge plate of snails. China definitely taught me that everything is edible;) Hungry for some international company after a few days we moved to Monkey Jane hostel. The smell of mould welcomed us by the treshold. “Well, you pay for the experience…”, I thought unpacking my stuff. We stayed. Although the hostel was quite old we had everything we needed: wifi, free dinners and cheap beer. After renting the bicycles we went for a trip around Yulong river. Yangshuo is really small and you need only 10 minutes to find yourself in the countryside surrounded by nature. While the way to XiaTangZhai from the eastern side was a piece of cake the challenge started when we crossed the bridge. The western side of the river was very remote and after 1 hour of cycling we found ourselves in the paradise. We were surrounded only by the mountains, pure greenery and complete silence. Once again I understood that going off beaten track, although tiring can be really rewarding as right after we left our secret spot and got to the main road we were back in the tourist trap.
Another time I prepared a route to get to Xing Ping. Like usual, I slightly underestimated the difficulty of the trip and overeadtimated our cycling skills. The way to PuBuTan, on the left side of Li river was easy and picturesque, surrounded by the beautiful scenenery of the countryside I forgot about the rest of the world. And then the road disappeared. The path full of stones made cycling impossible so there was only one choice- getting to Xing Ping by boat. A local boat man for some reason decided to take us only to the other side of the river which happened to be completely different than the western one. It was covered with endless hills and there was no living creature there. Maybe we would survive pushing our city bikes without much hassle if the temperature didn’t touch 40 degrees and we had no water (I accidentally spilled it out in my backpack…). For the first time in my life I understood what thirst means. After an hour we got back to the civilisation and after getting a water supply from the local shop we found out it was all worth it. The local road to Xing Ping led through a literal paradise. It was one of these moments when you just wanna leave everything and move there in order to wake up having such views through the window. In XingPing we found a great spot to relax and after our marathon I could cool myself a little in the water of Li river. I would gladly take a bus back home but we couldn’t leave our bikes. We got back home in the evening after doing probably 60 km in total. Our legs were fucked.
Fortunately we had also plenty of time to relax in our Monkey Jane rooftop. Having a few drunken nights we got on quite well with a group of guys studying in China. We had free barbeques for the guests and unlimited beer for Y50 so the rooftop bar was always full in the evenings. Although I really missed my friends and tried to separate myself from the “small talks” of my surroundings I found out that the people there were actually really cool. Trying to find a local specialty (a dog…) we landed in a local restaurant sharing a bowl of noodles with the pieces of meat that reminded me of hard beef. Worth a try… The last day we were so tired and dehydrated that for most of the evening we drunk only water. After the whole week of chilling in Yangshuo we felt much refreshed, though, it was a perfect spot to rest before our 600 km route to Hong Kong. After saying goodbye to the guys we didn’t expect we were about to drink with them again soon… 🙂
“This is the last time, the last…” I kept repeating when I heard the alarm at 6 in the morning. I didn’t believe we could get to Hong Kong in one day but we had to try. The morning was really hard but the hope appeared in the afternoon as most of the people were going long distance. We travelled with a lovely family that gave us whatever they had in the car plus forced Y300 into our hand. One day I will be like them, I won’t let the hitchhikers starve 😉 We would actually get to Shenzen by the afternoon with one driver if he wasn’t so annoyed that we didn’t speak Chinese. When he started to hit the wheel with anger we knew it was time to leave, it was definitely not normal. Fortunately we were quite lucky and with the help of local policeman in the evening we got to Shenzen train station where we took subway directly to Hong Kong. I thought finding couchsurfing in one of the biggest metropolises in the world was supposed to be easy. Wrong. After sending about 30 requests we managed to find a Chinese girl who was ready to host us. Once we entered her little studio my OCD turned on again. She lived there alone, unemployed and depressed after breaking up with her boyfriend half a year before. After hearing her completely exaggerated story we thought we would spend the next few days on sharing her mourning and trying to find an excuse to leave. But, as always, it was only the first impression. Although during the day we were mostly out we had a chance to get to know her a little more in the evenings. Although she had a really depressive and introvert personality she was one of “these” Chinese people who were simply not happy in their society. She was quite open-minded, travelled before and, in contrast to most of the Chinese, she was listening to good music. Society and the family expected a lot, she simply couldn’t satisfy their expectations. I hope that our honest conversation helped her a bit to understand that it’s not worth wasting the life for depression…
Hong Kong was really impressive. 3 days weren’t enough to explore the city properly but we tried hardly from the first day. Alex, a Texas girl who stayed with us in Yangshuo joined us for a trip to Victoria Peak when I had a chance to get to know her story. Although I hesitated opening myself up, her cheerfulness and honesty reminded me of my beloved Slovakian friend and she quickly convinced me to herself. The Avenue of stars and the night Light show were really dissapointing but the city skyline seen in the evening from the shore was more than I expected. Hong Kong has probably the best museums I’ve seen in my life. Although the collection maybe isn’t that impressive, the design and approach to the visitors is admirable. In the history museum we could really have a close look to not only the history of Hong Kong, but the whole country. The best part was walking around the busy streets and local markets. Maybe it wasn’t as authentic as 50 years ago but the spirit of Bruce Lee was still there. The last day we went to the other side of the island, Stanley town. It was completely different from the metropolitan area- it was green, hilly and there was a nice beach nearby as well.
Walking around the promenade I noticed a blue shirt with a characteristic hammer sharks. “Richard?!”. Ye, our American friend from Yangshuo managed to get to Hong Kong after missing his train through the persuasion of Monkey Jane’s family. Good people always come back to you, haha. We had a nice afternoon chilling in the bar with him and his friend but unfortunately thing that I was always afraid of happened- I broke my camera. It was acting weirdly for a while but that day when I dropped it, it wouldn’t open again. Service time. Fortunately we bought a cheap GoPro camera the day before for filming in Philippines so there was a plan B. Richard convinced us to join an organized club hoping and as it was a really great deal ($100 for free drinks and transportation) we couldn’t say no. After having a pre-party in his hostel we went with the rest of our drunken school trip to the first bar where we found ourselves in the middle of a giant Jenga game. There were people from literally everywhere and it felt like one big international family. Although we left after 1 am (metro was shutting then) I can tell it was one of the best parties I’ve had, great music and great people!
Unfortunately the morning after wasn’t that great. Mixing gin, red wine and shots was definitely a mistake. I think after travelling in Asia my liver wasn’t used to huge amounts of alcohol that’s why I wasn’t surprised when I puked everything that I drunk and ate for the past few days… But that day we had a flight to Philippines. What to do? We had to get to Guangzhou and I was dying. After the last goodbye puke in the toilet I felt a little better and was kind of ready to go. Liz looked content from our visit and I hope it gave her a bit of energy for the future. Hitchhiking that day was out of question, we decided to take a train from Shenzen to Guangzhou and we got to the airport right on time. The flight was at 10pm so I spent most of the afternoon laying on the lap of my boyfriend standing his mocking look. He felt great like always and I hate him for that.