Nanning and Yangshuo...
I had a good overnight trip from Kunming (Yunnan province) to Nanning (Guangxi province) on a hard bed. The car was quite clean, there was no spitting, limited smoking, and the squat toilet was actually usable! The only disturbance was at 4:00AM when two guys got up and started to play music loudly on their phone, and speak loudly in Cantonese. I guess I wasn't the only one who was annoyed because a lady got up and told them in Mandarin to be quiet because we were trying to sleep.
Nanning was quite a nice city, despite the province generally being considered a backwater. It was warm, clean, the streets were lined with palm trees, and there was almost no spitting. I decided to check out the Provincial Museum, since I had a few hours to kill before my train to Guilin. It was actually a nice museum, which holds the worlds largest collection of brass drums. They also had some reconstructions of buildings by ethnic minorities, and an exact copy of the Sultan of Brunei's carriage (in the photo). I also got to watch a few girls practise some dancing for an ethnic minority thing they would do in the evening.
I made it to Guilin after only 5 hours on hard seat, chatting in Putonghua with a few nice people (I find it hard to understand the local spoken language, which is a bit like Mandarin, but quite different).I promptly got ripped off 10RMB in Guilin on the bus ticket, which is better than the 20RMB that the lady tried to get. After I agreed to pay for the ticket, she changed the price, then said she didn't change the price. When I gave the ticket and the change back, she agreed on the lower/original (but still higher by 10RMB) ticket price.
Yangshuo, where I am now, is quite beautiful. The city itself is swarming with tourists and tourist touts -I don't think anyone actually lives here! But the scenery around the area is amazing.
I rented a bike today, and biked for the first time in almost 3 years. I went to one of the 'hills', and paid the entry fee to climb up and look over the peaks. It really takes your breathe away, and I couldn't stop saying 'wow'. Of course, along the way we saw unused rice paddies, bamboo, little bridges, and water buffaloes. My rear tire made a great pop, and started to deflate in a matter of seconds. Luckily it happens quite often, so there are people all along the paths that can repair it for 5RMB ($0.75 CDN). The 'old man' who fixed my wheel, who looked to be at least 70 or 80, was actually 56. I guess it's the sun and all the hard work. It's amazing to see the people here carry such heavy loads on their backs.
I'm not sure what I'll see in the next few days, but there are lots of peaks around here to climb, and it's nice to just relax a bit in a warm city where I don't freeze no matter how many layers of clothes I put on!