Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 5 – Guilin to Yangshuo: The one that got my Dad

Today was an intensive day as we had to take the 5-hour Li River cruise to Yangshuo, so it was our last day in Guilin and Eva Inn (can imagine the packing I had to do the night before). As the bus was coming to pick us up at 8am, I was up by 6:45am, and had to wake Rosabelle up at 7:40am – she was still all smiley even though she was roused from her beauty sleep.

By the time we got to the lobby area, it was 8am, and the reception needed to first check all the rooms. I was rushing them and telling them that we’d taken nothing except all our belongings, and to please speed up with the cancellation of my authorization of credit card charges I had signed on my first day upon check-in. Imagine my red face when they asked if I still wanted the big box I’d left at the shoe rack. Haha… that was the box of things for my parents and brother to bring back to Singapore (photos, baby clothes/toys, my brother’s tea leaves etc). So up I went and got the box, phew! However, there was another hitch – they claimed that the battery cover of the wireless keyboard in my room was missing. I had never used it, though Rosabelle might have played with it and misplaced it, so of course I vehemently denied, saying I’d rather pay for whatever lousy charges they dared to charge me for the lousy cover, if they were willing to reimburse all losses for me missing my boat to Yangshuo!

At last they called the manager, who of course said it was ok, and let me have my cancellation slip. Sheesh! By this time, it was already 8:20am, and we quickly all boarded a big bus that went on to other hotels to pick other passengers, mainly all laowais.

I let my girl drink her yogurt and eat her breakfast in the bus, and when we were picking up passengers at one stop, even brought her down to pee by the roadside, haha! You can see the panda sticker on her – we were all given one, part of the Panda Team that had to stick to the tour guide, Yang Yang.

And then she said she needed to poo… oh dear… so I could only carry her in a pooing position as she went in her diaper (thank goodness for the diaper!). Yang Yang probably thought she had no diaper on and when he saw her in that position, and quickly slipped a dustbin under her butt, haha! And this was with him still cracking lame jokes with the rest of the folks on the bus! I quickly asked for Mum’s help to get a diaper change (and wrapped the foul diaper up speedily).

It was a quick, uneventful ride for the rest of the journey to the pier, which was really teeming with a lot of people and groups.
We finally boarded, and got seats at a supposedly more ‘classy’ and expensive deck, with the buffet table just next to us. It wasn’t long before we started going to the deck to take in the view and camwhore…
The Li River is the heart and soul of Guilin, cutting right through the city and providing a lifeline to the rest of China. As we went on the five-hour journey, we toured past limestone karsts, gigantic bamboo stands, and picturesque villages.
This was one of the ‘cheaper’ versions of the Li River cruise boats, where folks of course pay much lesser…
When it got boring upstairs, we would head down, and we actually saw a butterfly outside the window. However, our girl got too enchanted by it and as she was following its view as it continued flying, she lost her balance and hit her right cheek against the window frame – I could see a deep line and an immediate red/blue-black. Ouch! Of course she cried for awhile, but was easily placated…
On the deck, she and Simon were playing catch quite dangerously, and she decided she wanted to lie on the floor – first day of wearing new clothes; I swear children know when their clothes are too clean for them…
She’s so sticky to Simon Ge Ge, heh! We met a pair of fellow Singaporeans on deck, the husband was a mute, so the wife was signing to him throughout. There was a German living in Hong Kong who brought his parents on this trip, and we also started chatting as well.
My mother and I were gossiping that the view is actually nothing breath-taking, especially in comparison to the New Zealand and Switzerland mountains, heh! But there were interesting parts as the guide pointed out mountains resembling different formations (like a big apple, the Journey to the West, a monk and a nun etc…).
This had an old man riding a horse on the side…
We also saw motorized bamboo rafts like these…
And even a brave couple taking wedding pictures.
This was a famed nine horses picture, where normal people can only spot 8, whilst those very learned can spot 9 (Me? I could not be bothered…)
We also spotted buffalos grazing by the river.
It sure can get idyllic and sleepy in these spots, and after awhile, the scenery all seemed the same to me…
My brother caught these shots for me (that of the famous 20-yuan-bill scene) because I could not be bothered to head upstairs as the buffet had started. There was a long queue and food/utensils were running out, so my father and I stood in line, with Boa/my brother joining us to take food to the table as we scooped, heh!
Lunch was pretty much canteen food, and Rosabelle ate potato, egg and rice, their pasty fishball, and enjoyed the yam we’d ordered and paid extra for (amongst a fish with loads of bones, and crunchy water chestnuts).
After lunch, we headed on upstairs again for more photos – told you it really all looks the same to me, won’t be surprised if we were going in circles, haha!
I like this series of close-ups I took of Rosabelle being very amused at Simon…
And this is not a posed shot – my Dad was really sleeping; he actually went on deck in just this T-shirt (a 10-year-old one I got from Nice in France for him!), and as you will read later, this senseless move cost him dearly… ('It’s cold, I like the cold, like the aircon in my office, I’m not afraid of the cold, it’s alright.’ – quoted from a Singaporean old man who is clueless about WINTER cold…)
We then reached the Yangshuo pier, which was berthed quite a distance away as it was low-tide – the cruise would normally stop nearer the road for our category of tickets. It was hell of a long walk from the pier, and I had to wave a white flag and ask my brother to take over in carrying Rosabelle. Luckily she was most cooperative when I said that I was tired and my arms painful. Yang Yang led the whole group of us and showed us where our hotel was.

We reached Magnolia Hotel, which was really nice and quaint, and our girl helped herself to the wooden bed at the reception area, pretending to sleep… (check out the blue-black on her right cheek from hitting on the window frame in the ship...).
My brother had actually booked a family room for us all, with he and Boa in a suite, but my mum and I decided that between the 3 adults and 2 kids, only one bathroom wasn’t enough, so we booked two separate deluxe rooms instead. We unloaded all our things in my brother’s room first and hastily went out as we had booked a Yulong Village tour with Yang Yang that afternoon.
It was quite a distance to the meeting place, more so because I was carrying Rosabelle, but luckily we were on time, and joined the group of about 20 people heading to the Dragon River. When we first got there, Yang Yang took us on a quick tour of a few house facades in the village and their meanings/context.
Many people believe the spectacular scenery of the Dragon River valley rivals the most beautiful section of the Li River.
I thought it all looked very beautiful as well.
No?
Our girl was feasting on a box of biscuits on the ancient stone Dragon Bridge, dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 AD).
More camwhoring from shameless Singaporeans…
And then we started our favourite part of this tour, or in my case, the whole Guilin/Yangshuo trip – the serene bamboo raft ride. Mum and I sat in one with Rosabelle, whilst Simon sat on my Dad’s lap as he needed to share the raft with one lone traveler.
These were the fellow Singaporeans we’d met on the cruise, and I’d actually sent the photos across to an email they’d provided me (but have no reply from them – strange…).
The sun was setting and it was getting chilly…
We got down at one point to get close to and feed the water buffalos. We saw a mother-and-baby buffalo pair in the background, so sweet!
Now I don’t normally post unflattering photos of myself, but that’s my petrified face when Yang Yang pushed some corn leaves in my face – my motherly defenses and guard were on red alert, just in case the buffalo decided to start charging at or gnawing us, and he suddenly shoved the leaves in my face – ewwww, ugly! Even the buffalo could not bear to look...
Our girl decided it wasn’t so scary after all and decided to come down and venture around herself – thank goodness there wasn’t much dung around… Simon was brave enough to even ride one (buffalo, not dung); yeeha cowboy!
Then Yang Yang suggested we take some photos at this spot – one of the laowai ladies even waded into the waters to capture some shots, much to Yang Yang’s dismay and worry.
We then continued onto our journey for some more feeding – to watch the cormorants fishing.
Their owners would tie a rope around their necks before letting them fly free to dip into the chilly waters for some fishing – to prevent them from swallowing their catch. Quite cruel, I think, but if it works…
I really loved this ride for its tranquility and peaceful, slow pace…
Then we came to a mini thrill – going down a slope; if the boatman purposely goes up with a fast speed, coming down at a great height, there will a big splash. However, our boatman knew we had a kid on boat, so he purposely went really slow, and even though we were all told to hold on tight, lift up our legs, and hold onto our cameras, there wasn’t much of a splash. Can’t say the same for the fellow Singaporean couple; their boatman was a newbie and had to make a U-turn to gather more momentum before he could go up, haha!
That’s me with our bravest and youngest adventurer…
We then ended our bamboo raft tour and headed back to Guilin on the bus. My brother carried Rosabelle on the walk back to the hotel as the bus had to stop at the main road instead. As he was carrying her, he said he felt her getting heavier and heavier – she had already fallen asleep, haha! And so, he laid her down on our bed as she slept in the same position for the next two hours till 8 pm! That sure gave me ample time to unpack in our new room, and to even take a bath. The room was all very quaint and nice.

When she woke up, she wasn’t in the best of moods, and we all decided to eat at the vegetarian restaurant, Pure Lotus, just downstairs. This place is supposedly quite famous as well. Seeing that we were all waiting for the food to be ordered and to be prepared, I went upstairs with Mum again to bathe Rosabelle, since it would be really late by the time we got back later.

The thing with this hotel is that the water is heated by a solar system, so it can get quite cold suddenly, and our poor girl had a burst of cold water on her as she got it, poor thing! The shower wasn't long enough to reach her as well, so it wasn't exactly the most comfortable a bath. But maybe that woke/perked her up slightly, and after the bath, she was in a much more good mood… maybe also because the food at the restaurant was really very good (we ended up eating here a lot more times)!
They didn’t have a high chair, so I could only stack slippery/silky pillows under her, whilst she fed herself. Even the small tangerines they brought were so fresh and sweet, our girl walloped off 7 by herself before I had to stop her! Poor Dad could not join us for dinner – when Mum and I came down with Rosabelle, he was looking very sick, and wearing Brother’s thick down jacket, saying he had a flu. From the room, I heard him sneeze at least 10 times in a row, and my mum said that’s impossible. True enough, he was really looking very bad, and did not even have the strength to talk.

My mum was quite angry with him for not taking better care of himself, venturing to the deck in just a T-shirt, and was afraid that he would pass the flu to herself and Simon, so she asked my Brother to book another single room for him to quarantine him, heh! At least that made sure everybody had a good night’s rest…

After our dinner, the rest of us, sans Dad, headed out to West Street just behind our hotel for a walk.
There were a lot of bars and restaurants, and of course stalls littered all over selling knick-knacks. Rosabelle loved to dance to the music in the bars, swaying as I carried her, and coming down to jive on the street, heh! However, I did not dare to let her venture around on her own since there were many people, and I had to carry her around instead. She liked the walk down the street, stopping to stomp on some disco lights, then looking on to see that we were all looking on amusedly at her before she got quite embarrassed, running over to hug me. So cute! I even let her try some milk pudding from a store, and some nut cake that my brother bought – like my mum and brother said, it’s good that she is game to try new foods all the time!

That night, by the time we headed back to get into bed, it was already close to 1am (she even pooed another time when we got back to the hotel)– tres exhausting!

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