The final stop on the mainland China leg of our tour.
The group started the morning with another excellent breakfast from The Minority Cafe. Having never had banana bread before or since, I can safely say without a doubt that this was the best banana bread I have had in my life.
A run through the rain and hop on the bus.
Departure was at about 1pm and it was a long bus journey to Longji/Longsheng. I looked out the window and spoke little, tired of company after being with the group for so many days and admiring the views which are quite breathtaking in the greater Guilin region. The drive from the airport to Yangshuo was the first time that I listened to my mp3 player on the trip, and I was now making it a habit. I enjoyed the drive and, combined with my tiredness and admiration for the scenery, wished that it would never end. It did.
From the car park at Longji, you have to leave your main luggage (unless you are foolish enough to carry it or swish enough to pay someone to carry it for you) and pack an overnight bag instead.
I am a very poor packer – I get it from my mother – and for this adventure holiday I had packed one large wheeled suitcase and one small wheeled suitcase, which had become a cumbersome pain throughout the holiday. But here, for once, it was of use! I loaded a towel, two days’ worth of clothes, my iPad, and the excessive amount of toiletries that I tend to lug around with me. The other half Chinese girl had a carry on-sized backpack as her only luggage for the entire trip. Apparently her dad was a pilot and in her youth her family often went on last-minute flights which had cancellations and could only bring carry on luggage for some reason. I wish I was more like her.
The coach to the village was rickety.
The walk to the hotel was more so. Even my “light” bag was decidedly heavier than what I should have brought. We spent some time admiring the markets as we walked up, then balking at the prices (which were still far below what you would pay in the UK), and trying to figure out if the hats that people were wearing was actually their hair (it was). The guide bought two jars of chilli which he would finish by the following day.
It took about half an hour in total to walk to the hotel, all of which was uphill. By the final two flights of stairs I overtook the guides, determined to finally be able to put my damn bag down.
The hotel was lovely. It reminded me of the Alps. There was that smokiness in the air that you get whenever you visit an Alpine resort, and wooden chalet style houses (and hotels). We were told that as this was so remote we may not get wifi. Instead what we got was the best wifi of our whole trip.
We were taken on a hike. The views of the rice terraces are quite astonishing, in an almost ethereal way. I thought about how tough for a rice picker must be and how I should be more thankful whenever I ate rice as it was a hard life, something that I forgot about as soon as I finished the hike.
None of us spoke much. I had a conversation with the 40 year old about the Kardashians, our one topic of commonality aside from both using three-pronged plugs.
Another bus from the end of the trail to the village. I thought I was going to throw up. Thankfully, I didn’t.
Back to the hotel to shower. Dinner would be served in an hour, and not a moment too soon. We opted for the banquet, at our guide’s suggestion. He did not partake in the banquet. Clearly as tired of being around people as we were, he ate some traditional food in silence with the owners of the hotel.
He missed out. I don’t know if it was because we were particularly hungry, the food was particularly good, or a mixture of both, but this was the first meal of the tour that we finished. Ordered seconds. Finished that too.
Best wifi. Best food. Best hotel (except the more luxurious Hong Kong). Most remote. Longji.
There is some sort of bamboo smoked pork that is a specialty of the region and most definitely worth ordering a lot of. In fact, this may go down as one of the great meals of my lifetime. Hell, I’ll say that it is.
The room was lovely and, again, Alpine-esque with a balcony looking over the terraces and the mountains which make you grateful for the majestic glory that is our fine planet.
Sleep came easily.
Another hike. I thought about how everyone that lived here must have really great butts and strong thighs.
Along the way we came across a Yao woman who asked us if we wanted a hair show. We thought we might as well.
The other Chinese girl wasn’t talking at all, which I took as a cue to mean that I could also get away with not talking. Others spoke, but much more briefly than before. Fatigue was setting in, as was, it turned out, an illness that would hit the group in succession over the next 24 hours.
Another sickly bus ride, another phenomenal meal.
The next day, some of us learned how to play Mahjong. Ah, to be an old Chinese woman (in a hat) just whiling away the days playing mahjong.
The long walk down to the bus. Down is easier than up, but a heavy bag is still a heavy bag.
Bus to Guilin. I was feeling better rested and spoke for the first time in a few days, demonstrating my passable talent for doing accents.
We passed a van that had a sole chicken strapped to its roof, one of my favourite images from life.
A free few hours in Guilin. The guy got a McDonalds. I am ashamed to say that I got a McDonalds when I was in Beijing as everywhere else was shut, but learned the error of my ways otherwise. The rest of the group got some cheap and tasty rice noodles from a vendor on a side street. Our guide took us, we wouldn’t have risked it otherwise.
I desperately needed the toilet so ran in as soon as I found one. It was a trough in the floor with no water stream, so as you looked down at this hole in the floor, all you could see was rotting excrement. It smelled terrible. I made a sound of disgust. On exiting, the other half Chinese girl was in hysterics that I had just used the men’s toilet. She was in flip flops and refused to enter either men’s or ladies’.
Supermarket. Bakery. Train station.
Farewell China. I will not miss the spitting.