A trip to Hong Kong III

Beijing, March 07

Hong Kong subwayOne of the most impressive things about my trip was the Hong Kong Island to Kowloon (jiu3 long2, nine dragons) ferry service. This was cheap and ran frequently from early morning till late at night. I love the water and being on boats, so I really enjoyed the bumpy trip across the river.In Kowloon, I tried out the famous Hong Kong subway system and was impressed by how clean (gan1 jing4) and modern it was. Although buying a ticket from the vendor machines was a bit counter-intuitive and I wasn't the only foreigner who had to ask for assistance. I spent the day exploring Kowloon and then on my last night took a late night boat cruise along the harbour (gang3). Although the neon lights along the harbour at night made for a beautiful backdrop, I was disheartened by the fact that all of them were advertisements for the 'usual suspects' in terms of global brands which made the harbour seem like just a massive billboard.

Helpless tourist

On the way back to Beijing, I decided to first take a flight to Guilin. I was a little apprehensive as I had no hotel booked beforehand and my flight was at night, which meant that I would be getting into Guilin after 11pm. I had visions of sleeping out on the roadside, and prepared myself for the worst.On arrival, as I got through customs (hai3 guan1, sea check) and was heading out of the airport, I was hailed in English by a woman behind a desk near the exit. I looked at the desk and was relieved to see a sign above it read 'Guilin Tourist Service'. Though I hate to admit it, at this vulnerable point in my journey I was never happier to be treated like a helpless tourist (you2 ke4, travel visitor)!The tour agent was not only really friendly but also a great help. I was able to book a hotel, get a bus ticket to my hotel and even booked a trip for a five-hour cruise down the famous Lijiang River the next morning. My hotel was not spectacular, but my room was clean and functional, and I was more than satisfied with the price and condition - it was better than the roadside!

Misty mountains

Guilin boat cruiseIn the morning, I was collected early from the hotel by mini-bus and we picked up several other passengers of various nationalities for the tour. It rained heavily that morning to our dismay but as we boarded the cruise boat the rain began to subside, leaving a wonderful mist which only added to the splendour of the surroundings.On either side of the Li Jiang river were wonderfully shaped-hills and mist-covered mountains. These mysterious mountains formed fantastic shapes and gave me such a feeling of peace and serenity; it is no surprise this part of China is the subject of countless paintings and postcards. The journey was punctuated by rain, although I was happy to stand on the deck under shelter, savouring the scenery.

Native Americans

Ethnic group nativeThe cruise ended in the town of Yang Shuo, which was a lovely, friendly place, full of markets, restaurants and parks. Here I visited a park dedicated to one of China's ethnic groups (shao3 shu4 ming2 zu2). On seeing their traditional costumes and dances I was struck by how similar these people were to Native Americans. The resemblance stretched to not only their clothes and art, but also to their physical appearance. They were certainly distinguishable from Han (han4 zu2), which is the ethnic group that makes up the majority of Chinese people.The sad part for me was that the park seemed to be like a kind of human zoo where these people were on show and were seemingly made to perform and smile on cue. I was told by the guide (dao3 you2) that they were happy for the work, but I promised myself that in the future I would try to go to a genuine village and steer clear of parks like this.

YangshuoNevertheless, I left Guilin feeling very positive. People there were so unbelievably friendly and the beautiful landscape was just what I needed as a break from my life in the city. This was my first trip to the South of China and it left me wanting more.

Editor's note: Chris is writing Chinese words in 'Pinyin', Latin script, using numbers that indicate the tone of the word. Find out more with our course Real Chinese.

Sent by: Chris

Comments

Jennifer 2008-06-04

I am from Guilin and thank you for the beautiful description of my hometown. You are lucky to tour Guilin after the rain but the scenery are beautiful all four seasons. A poem for you all: Guilin Shanshui Jia Tianxia. The scenery in Guilin is second to none in the world.

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Ariane 2007-09-18

Thank you Chris so much for letting us follow your travels. I love travelling however I have not yet had the opportunity. XieXie

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