We were picked up for the train station at 6am, bright and early on Monday morning by Konglin at Boutique Tours. The Beijing station is huge and the lounge we were assigned to was packed with people. (As an aside, there were far more foreigners there than ever before. This part of China is popular with backpackers.) We didn’t have too long a wait before we got to board our second class seats. There was plenty of leg room which was a good thing considering the bullet train (which can travel up to 338 kilometers per hour or 210 miles per hour) was going to take ten and a half hours to get us the 2,111km to Guilin.
A man in his sixties walked by at one point and smiled and spoke to us in Mandarin while pointing at the kids. We smiled back and said we didn’t speak Mandarin and he wandered away. An hour later, he came back with a handwritten note, on business letterhead, and presented it to me. I apologized for not being able to read Chinese and he smiled and passed the note to David who also told him he couldn’t read the note. We, of course, were 98% sure the note was asking to take a photo with the kids but we had to see how far this was going to go. He smiled again and paused before making the universal sign for camera. That was the clincher. The kids said, okay, and didn’t roll their eyes until he was off to get his camera. He came back with the largest camera known to mankind and, posing with the children, was delighted to have the twins’ photo.
I, jokingly, said to E and B that this is what it must be like for Taylor Swift and E gave a world weary sigh and said, “Yes” while B said, “Totally! Maybe we could be on a Chinese tv show or something. That would be cool!” Later, the same man came back and patted B’s cheek with a very cold and wet hand and that seems to have cured Bereket of any notions of Chinese stardom. Although he does swear that some elderly woman was asking for his autograph at the Forbidden City (it did seem like that was what she wanted. She was drawing on her palm with her other finger but Demi shooed her away).
We arrived in Guilin and were met by a “Wada” girl from our hostel of the same name. She walked us the ten minute walk through busy streets and stores with families having their evening meal outside, huddled around small, low tables. The Wada Hostel is a friendly place. We liked it immediately. Our private room was very basic but the one night was only $34 Canadian so that’s to be expected. Bereket and David played pool while Eskedar and I participated in Monday “Dumpling Making Night”.
Eskedar was sitting and eating pork dumplings with people from France, Montreal, Holland and Portugal. She had a great time. The young guy from France was very kind and asked her questions and helped her with the soy sauce. I sat off to the side a bit because it was crowded and because there is nothing Eskedar likes more than just making conversation. When I came over, everyone had lots of questions about our “trip around the world” and told David and I how well behaved the kids were which was nice to hear. We made Bereket put down the pool cue for two chopsticks and eat some dumplings before saying goodnight to everyone and going upstairs.
After a leisurely morning with a delicious Wada breakfast, we strapped on our backpacks and headed out for the bus depot. We knew it was five minutes or so past the train station. When ‘five minutes or so’ rolled around, we started to worry we missed it. If anyone could miss a Bus Depot, it would be us. Of course, all the foreign backpackers of the day before were nowhere to be seen and everyone we asked couldn’t understand us. Finally, I decided to draw a bus in my notebook with a building beside it and we showed a woman. Comprehension dawned on her face and she pointed…
We are idiots.
In our defense, there were no busses outside the building. They were all in the back, hidden. Luckily the bus was leaving in just eight minutes. We bought our tickets and hopped on board for Yangshuo.
When we were with Demi, she mentioned that Shanghai is building their own Disneyland to be opened next year. I would like to suggest that they base two of their simulation rides on trips we have taken:
- A taxi to the Terracotta Warriors in Xian
- The bus from Guilin to Yangshuo.
From Yangshuo, we needed a cab to get to our Inn. We were told by 2 different people that it should only cost 30 yuan. I hate bargaining but I psyched myself up for it and was adamant we were only paying 30 and, after some arguing, that’s all we paid, which was great. He seemed to drop us off in the middle of nowhere but, after showing some locals our brochure, we found the Outside Inn. They received us with smiles and freshly squeezed orange juice. After checking us in, they walked us a minute or so away to another building where our apartment is.
David just got home from walking into Yangshuo (45 minutes) to get his two pair of pants taken in and hemmed. The front desk person here wrote out directions and a little note for the seamstress. When he got there the seamstress said “3 hours” to David and he sat and waited with water and some oreos. A girl walked by and he said hello to her. She said hello back and then came back a little later. She told David her Chinese name, and said that it meant ‘Ocean’, and asked if she could speak with him to practice her English. She talked for an hour and a half. She talked about the family pressures of being single and of not going to college. She talked about not living up to her parents’ expectations. He said she was a very nice girl but that he felt like a priest.
Here are some photos that he took on the way. While he was away, we did lots of homeschooling and reading (the kids are reading The King Arthur Trilogy) and then the kids played MineCraft in Creative mode on their tablets (they are creating a resort area but E is mad that B has created too many villagers and feels ‘her precious world is being destroyed’...) We’re heading outside now that David is back.
p.s. So far, we have now travelled approximately 14,537 kms (9,033 miles)