By now I was sick and tired of being cold and one day later I arrived in the southern Guanxi province. I was greeted by 10°C and rain. Good enough. Guilin was my first stop, and to be honest I didn’t really know what to do there. Happened to have chosen the quite fantastic Wada hostel, and there I got to know a few travelers who became my company for the following three days.
The city of Guilin proved to be a rather boring place during rainy weather as the main attractions were the surrounding landscape, cliffs and rice terraces, neither is very interesting when you can’t see anything. I spent two lazy days with Laura, trying out Guilin’s special rice noodle soup and Starbucks signature hot chocolate, while discussing everything from politics to photography and yoga. After four days of speaking Chinese I was delighted to be able to express the more complex of my thoughts in a more or less comprehensible way. Language is so important to how we treat others, I have to constantly remind myself that just because you’re not able to come across with your ideas does not mean they don’t exist. If I dismiss someone as dumb because of the language barrier, then it’s rather me who is the fool.
As we got to know more people at the hostel, sharing a beer over a game of pool, it turned out that pretty much everyone had the same plans. I had decided to accompany Laura to Yangshuo and it turned out that in total we were 8 people leaving on the same day. We all went to the Wada hostel so we pretty much moved our group form one city to another. Because of this Yangshuo provided a great time, as the initial lonely-finding-friends-time was eliminated and we could go straight to having fun together. Yangshuo showed us the landscape Guilin had kept hidden from view, and it was magnificent. Hundred of small tree-covered mountains shooting up from the ground around the city, and the blue river flowing peacefully between rice fields.
Our first day we spent biking along the river just enjoying this magical landscape. We set out on a journey to an old bridge, the hostel staff had told us it was too far for an afternoon-trip, but who are we to listen to advice from locals..? After quite a few detours and dead ends between water buffalos and orange plantations we actually got there. The bridge itself was not such a sight, but we had a fun time chatting with a group of locals after having confronted a man who had been shooting candid photos of us from far away. They actually invited our party of six to dinner, but as it was already getting dark and we had 10 km to bike back without lights, we politely declined. After racing home, including a downhill part where we reached speeds much higher than I was comfortable with on a 15 Yuan (~20 SEK) rental bike, I felt in my legs how long it had been since I’d been biking.
So naturally I got on the bike again the next day. This time in a party of four, heading for Xingping, a town rumored to be “what Yangshuo was before it became well-known”. A backpacker’s paradise. Can’t deny that my legs were hurting a bit during the 25 km journey, but after having spoke loudly about how much I like biking I decided to keep those feeling to myself. And it was good fun, too. We reached Xingping in just under 2 hours, and after having acquired some postcards from a gentleman (bike trail guide) in the old town we headed for the main attraction, one of the mountain peaks. For the first time I was really happy for both my trekking shoes and pants, as the climb was steep and the sun was hot (yay!). Fortunately the karst mountains aren’t that tall, so we managed to reach the top even after our bicycle endeavor. The view was stunning, and I soaked in the sunlight like a dry sponge, not having known anything but rain and cold during my first weeks of travelling.