I am not known for my willingness to just do it like everyone else does it. That goes for life, love, work, and leisure. I want to do it MY way. I have a highly tuned independent streak that runs through just about anything I do. My failure to enjoy a vacation is often tied to not having any control of what is going on. I have learned that I don’t enjoy being told what to do and when to do it without know why it is supposed to be that way. I can “go along” if it will make someone happy but deep inside I am not enjoying the moment.
My desire to see much of China’s uniqueness has required me to plan to see it. I know from previous experiences that it won’t happen otherwise. I missed some really neat things in my life because I didn’t actively plan to go there. Life just happened and I missed the chance because it was time to do something else somewhere else. I came to China knowing that I didn’t want that to happen.
Now that my wife is back in China after her extended stay and rehabilitation in the US, I am ready to go and see the China that is recognized for something spectacular. The trip we have planned is one of UNESCO’s List of World Heritage Sites. There are now 43 sites listed for China and my goal is to get all of them (they added 3 this year so I have more to see than I had originally planned). This site is listed as the South China Karsts, http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1248.
This location is also close to one of the other unique Chinese locations I am interested in. The Chinese are predominately of the Han ethnic “variety” but there are over 50 other ethnic groups in the country. There is one group that is known as the Yao and they live near the Karsts area so I am going to visit that location also. The Yao are known for their excessively long hair and the area they live in has numerous terraces that are carved into the sides of mountains. Both of these locations are of interest to me.
The tourists to the Guilin area have changed it from an agrarian culture to one that is geared to entertaining and supporting the tourists. Sure farming still occurs but tourism certainly infuses more money into the area than anything else. The key season for tours in this area is April to October so we going in the off-season. There are many reasons for that but I am not unhappy about being in the area when there are fewer tourists.
The weather in Guangxi province is much warmer than my ‘home’ of Shandong province. My Shandong highs are the lows in Guangxi; I am happy to be seeing this location when it is not too hot and humid. I actually prefer the cooler climates. It is also really nice knowing that I don’t have to worry about the mosquito threat either.
We are fortunate that we have contact information for a guide that works in that area. We got that information from one of the LDS church members that used to live there teaching English this past year. Her parents used the guide when they came to the country to visit. We found the guide to be quite helpful in refining the itinerary from my list of 100s of things to do to what we should actually do. The Guide’s name is Annie, she is an independent tour operator.
This is her card. She is a licensed tour guide in the area (very important since this will allow her to escort you through the local attractions without having to pay entrance fees to be with you all of the tours we went on were entirely in Chinese; we actually had the police inspect our bamboo raft float trip on the Li River to check the raft operator license and the tour guides license – they were doing it to everyone.). She is from one of the small villages in Yanshuo. This is convenient and economical since the guide normally requires additional costs for food and lodging, but since she is local we only had to pay for those expenses on the 2 days that we were in Ping’an.
We paid 100 RMB per day for the guide’s services and whatever the entrance fees or rental fees were. The car and driver cost us 350 RMB for the days that we used them. She ate lunch with us, this meant we might have ordered one extra Chinese dish for the meal, but two dishes aren’t really enough variety anyway so we actually ended up not wasting as much food as we normally would have.
We flew on a one-stop direct flight from Qingdao arriving in Guilin. We spent the afternoon and that night in Guilin and really had enough time to see everything that was in most of the travel guidebooks I reviewed.
We spent two nights in Yangshuo. The morning we departed from Guilin, Annie had arranged for a driver to take us from the hotel to the Li River bamboo raft launch point and then to take us from there to Yangshuo. We also attended the night show that occurs in Yangshou. The hotel was arranged when we arrived. Annie took us to the various hotels to negotiate a rate and to preview the room before we rented. Don’t know if we could have gotten them at a lower rate than what we might have on CTrip, but it was nice to go to the rooms and see what we were getting. Since it is off-season we had no problem finding a place. I don’t know if I would try this from April to October but off-season was no problem. We stayed in 4 star with English breakfast for 400 RMB and saw many vacancy signs for lodging that was “traditional Chinese” for a little as 60 RMB. Rented a scooter to wander in the countryside for 120 RMB including helmet.
She arranged a driver and car to take us to see the minority village (Ping’an) and rice terraces and stayed two nights in Ping’an. The big luggage we brought to collect souvenirs was left in the car and was not packed to the top of the mountain village we stayed in. We paid 60 RMB round trip for the luggage to be “portered” to the mountain lodging we experienced. Lodging in a 3 star hotel was negotiated for 450 RMB with complete access to the kitchen and an English breakfast. We were the only people in the hotel the first night we were there.
The only firm arrangements that I made prior to departure was the roundtrip flight from Qingdao to Guilin and the first night’s stay at a hotel in Guilin: EVERYTHING else was on the fly.
Thought I would attach a couple of photos from the trip to let you see what we saw and at least give you a photo introduction to Annie. Highly recommended for your trip there, she is an independent tour operator. I asked her about how busy she is and she says she guides about 10 days a month in the busy season and rarely in the off-season. I was her only business so far this off season. Work is through word of mouth and she doesn’t pay the street hawks to pitch her so you get a good guide for the price. She is competent with a camera so you also get the added advantage of being in the pictures together. She is the one in the yellow jacket.