Sandra and I were picked up bright and early by Mr Wang our taxi driver. Chinese taxi drivers are punctual, well more keen than punctual, he rang us at 5.15am from outside for a 5.30 pick up. It is about an hours ride to Pudong Airport, pity it was too early for the 300 kph Maglev train.
We found out that some of Sandra's fellow Bilingual school teachers were going to the same hostel as we were, which was very helpful as Nancy and Poppy are awesome Chinese ladies. Plus there were also some teacher aides from the UK already in Guilin staying at the same hostel.
Here they are in a "Jumping photo"
I got to sit next to a karate practitioner/wise man/monk type on the plane in a blue woven Kung fu suit. Yep it's true. He even had that wispy chin beardy thing going on.
We got picked up by a lady taxi driver, it seems to be the norm in Guilin judging by the airport line up... Poppy and Nancy negotiated a driver to take us to a park that day and the rice terraces terraces the following day. The price was only a fraction of what hostels usually charge.
We checked into the Ming Palace then headed a few doors down for the signature Guilin beef rice noodles. Very tasty and at 80c a bowl.
Then the 7 of us loaded into a van and drove to Guilin's famous Reed Flute caves (Chinese: 芦笛岩; pinyin: Lúdí Yán) which have been attracting tourists since 792AD. They were briefly forgotten about for a while and rediscovered in the 1940's by refugees fleeing the Japanese troops ( there is some resentment still today- we saw a food stall that stated "Food not served to Japanese"). Btw I had to look up the cave info on Wikipedia as we were guided by a young Chinese lady with a good set of lungs aided by a speaker and a flag. I didn't understand anything. But the signs did help.
The caves were beautiful too.
They did have this strange goldfish release ceremony where everyone was invited to take a plastic orange saucepan with a live goldfish, have their photo taken with said saucepan, to release it into a pool. Now the story goes that the goldfish will swim downstream and repopulate the River Li. Umm are goldfish native? Do they live in caves? How will they swim from a pool into the River Li? These my friends are questions that won't be answered. I politely declined. But many of my tour group were keen.
The trip out of the caves was equally beautiful.
The fruit in the baskets grows on vines in the area. They kind of look like dried husks when they are broken up for tea. We were invited to taste the tea but unusually not given the hard sell.
Now for the stair part.
Well even though I do go to the gym I think a couple of years without proper fieldwork + jet lag + humidity made this climb difficult. But I did get to the top in 20 minutes, even though our taxi driver insisted it was going to take two hours, and the views were gorgeous. Better in real life than in pictures, but here they are.
The walk into Central Guilin after dinner to see the Moon and Sun pagodas was great. Did you know Guilin has the tallest copper pagoda in the world? It is the sun pagoda.