Cruising down a windy road amongst huge karst limestone formations jutting out of the ground like stalagmites reaching hundreds of feet high. The bulging eyes of a chicken are staring straight at me as it is in an old lady’s iron-choke hold grip, possibly about to be cooked and served to me for my nightly meal, some of the best meals I am about to ever have. We are on our way to Xingping on a small, yet intimate bus. I will let the scenery speak for itself.
From Xi’an we hopped on a 元320 one-way flight (roughly $193) to the South China city of Guilin. Our fellow passengers provided great entertainment. They are proof that using cell phones during takeoff, en-route, and landing will not cause a crash. I have also never seen people crawl over other passengers so they can get a better look out the window, but it was fun to watch! Once we arrived in Guilin airport we caught the shuttle into the city for 元25, which was about 20 minutes away. Make sure you get off at the bus stop, otherwise you’ll end up in some random place in the city. From the bus stop we caught a 元30 non-express bus into Yangshuo.
Yangshuo had some pretty landscapes, but anything the town touched seemed to just ooze tourist trap in a real bad way. We rented bikes and rode out to Moon Hill which was very nice (and extremely humid), but after being pestered by super touts, we decided to head into Xingping for the remaining nights since we read it was nice and quite over there. Xingping was only a 元5.5 ride from Yangshuo bus station, which was a real bargain because it magically transported us back in time about 100 years.
Xingping was an entirely different world, a special place that I kind of feel guilty divulging such a gem to the Internet. The streets and buildings looked ancient, but they were very well kept. In the evening, there wasn’t a single car, truck, or motorcycle; about as tranquil as a town can get. We stayed at This Old Place youth hostel. If you are around in the evening, grab a beer and your camera and head to the upstairs deck for one of the most amazing sunsets you will ever see.
The owner was extremely nice, he even upgraded us for no reason after our first night. When it was raining, we spent time on the front porch facing the street sitting in rocking chairs, 55-200mm lens in hand watching the interesting passers by. For eats, head down one of the alleyway streets to This Old Place restaurant.. Try the sechuan beef in spicy oil… Some of the best and definitely the freshest food I have ever had. The Li River also happens to be a short walk down the street, although, I cannot recommend the raft cruises; slow, noisy, and loud. I would get a bike or hike along the banks instead for better views.
After Xingping, we ended up back in Guilin to catch a bus for the rice fields of Ping’an, but that is for another post.
Meet Karen Gao. She is a 35-year-old lady that has been living in Xingping for the last 10 years. She moved here because of the hard-core trike bike scene that is so prevalent amongst many Xingpingers. She enjoys riding her trike bike in all conditions, and preferrably with the back of it piled high with premium Magnum ice cream bars–her trike bike sponsor–which helps her beat the heat and humidity on her long trike bike journeys, not to mention, helps her make lots of new friends. She dislikes unicycles and despises the color green.
*This may or may not be a completely erroneous story filled entirely with fiction!
Our timing for our China trip was perfect if you like rain. We heard from fellow travelers that they had not come across rain for over a couple of months while in country. Most days it was okay since it would let up for most of the day. We had one day in Xingping, which is near the tourist trap of Guilin, that pretty much kept us inside or under an umbrella or awning all day. I took out my rarely used 55-200 lens and had a lot of fun taking pictures of the locals under the protection of our hostels’ porch.
Usually I am a bit timid when it comes to photographing strangers, but as a Westerner in China, everyone will stare, stop and take pictures, and all around be very excited to see you. That makes it a lot easier to reciprocate the curiosity with my own camera.