Showered and bags filled with our picnic- thanks Jessie and Steve for a lovely home made dinner all packed in tinfoil, almost as good as Helen’s packed lunches for Cork airport, we headed to Guilin train station. The journey would be in 3 parts, a taxi from Stonebridge to the bus station , or so we thought, then a bus to Guilin before boarding the 17 hour train to Hangzhou.
The journey part 1 was all going well until the taxi driver stopped on the highway, he spoke as much English as we did Chinese as we tried to explain to the bus station. A few charades later the mystery was resolved. He had pulled in at the side of the highway where the buses to Guilin pass. He jumped out flagged a bus and soon we were on our way.
Arriving in Guilin we were greeted by little old ladies trying to take us to their hotels. We managed to make our way through the crowds and into the train station. There were several floors and departure rooms, Karen finally spotted T78 – our train number , so we parked ourselves on some chairs on the waiting area. John went on a search for cold drinks, a harder task than you would think.
Soon it was time to follow the crowds to board the train. We struck it lucky this time, we were only sharing our berth with 1 other- a Chinese girl. We read our book, wrote some more of the blog while enjoying our picnic. We both actually slept the full night, this made it a quick journey.
As Karen brushed her teeth in the washroom she was standing next to a man who decided to shampoo his whole hair. So funny!
Fresh faced, we pulled in Hangzhou at 12.42pm and navigated our way to the metro. Our bags had to be scanned, John’s bag was stopped. The lady started ranting in Chinese, we just looked. What followed was a game of charades…we worked out she wanted his shaving foam!! Apparently it was flammable and can’t be taken on the tube. As John opened his wash bag, a strong smell of coconut hit, the shower gel had leaked everywhere. After accepting some tissues to clean it up we were on our way.
(John: “I still had both pen-knives and an aerosol can that could be used as a flamethrower with a lighter – so much for Chinese Security!!”)
The metro was very modern with signs and announcements in English. Leaving the station we followed the detailed directions from the hostel, down an alley we reached the YHA.
The main attractions here were the pedestrian streets (Old Town) lined with stalls and the west lake. We wandered through the streets, navigating our way to the noodle bar in the trusted LP. A few wrong turns later we reached it. A small noodle place, we pointed to a fellow diner’s dinner and asked for 2.
We then headed to the famous lake. The fashions here were amazing, even the street sweeper was wearing beaded wedged sandals.
A full day of sightseeing of the temple and other parts of the huge lake would follow in the next few days.
Although this was a tourist destination, it was very much for the Chinese – this meant little was in English. This proved challenging when ordering food. Karen thought she had mastered it, selecting numbers from the photos…it transpired the numbers were in fact the price! Oops, after some more charades we placed an order. The food kept coming and thankfully it was very tasty even the chicken we had to carve.
Evenings were spent people watching including the local aerobics class, where China’s very own Louis Spence partook. We would then stroll along the local street market and sample some food.
Back at the hostel, which was teeming with Chinese youths, we were enjoying a beer when a random Irish girl (Cork of course!) approached us. She seemed nervous and was catching quick glances over her shoulder before she lowered her face and moved in close to conspiratorially remark “There’s an awful lot of Chinese here… Isn’t there?” Before glancing back again. She needn’t have been worried, not that many Chinese ears can penetrate the lilting tone of the cork accent.
Afterwards we were killing ourselves laughing as she wasn’t some paddy fresh out of the boat but she was living out here and on holiday for the weekend. Her catch phrase has been used many times to comedic effect.