22.09.2013 - 25.09.2013
We left Guilin train station on a coach showing back-to-back episodes of Chinese 'Take Me Out'. I'm happy to report all the usual characters were there (kooky girls, twins, fat guys with cool glasses) and Chinese Paddy McGuinness looks like Yul Brynner in The King and I.
It's a great place for courses and activities and on our first afternoon we had a cooking lesson, which started with a trip to the local market; a few of the girls were a little perturbed to discover the cage of cats was not a pet shop (look away now if prone to squealing at cute things)
We made braised aubergine, gong bao chicken and pork dumplings, then ate the lot and rolled back to the hotel.
On our full day in Yangshuo it was raining (the effects of Typhoon Usagi perhaps) but we persisted with a bicycle tour of the local area, which included a bamboo raft trip down the river, climbing a local hill and a tasty country lunch.
It also involved the single most surreal experience of my China trip so far. The Water Cave contains a natural mud bath and hot spring that one reaches by walking through 10 minutes of garishly lit stalactites via a Buddhist shrine (which had a resident giant tortoise) in your bikini, whilst being watched by fully clothed Chinese tourists. Bizarre. Luckily the baths were worth it. Sadly you couldn't take your camera in so I have no photos of the creatively named rock formations ('fantastic food' and 'elephant or horse rock' were highlights) but I did buy one of the souvenir photos they took in the mud bath for posterity.
We returned to Guilin to meet the sleeper train to the border at Shenzhen and there left China for the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong. This country is enormous and bonkers and I've had an incredible time. It's no wonder they are conquering the world, these are some of the most resourceful people I have ever encountered and I, for one, welcome our new Eastern overlords.