Friday 23 October 2015

Hong Kong to Yangshuo by Train

Hong Kong to Yangshuo by train

We had an awesome time in Yangshuo this October. Like many other Western families from HK, we stayed at The Giggling Tree, a wonderful little hotel run by a Dutch couple. The hotel was created from a courtyard of homes and farm buildings, and there's a lovely area in between all the buildings where you can eat and hang out. Josh and Felix made some friends, and they took turns on the pogo sticks!

We arrived on Sunday afternoon, and went for a quick swim in the pool.

On Monday morning we got ourselves bikes (from the hotel) and headed out for a ride. The Giggling Tree has several great photo guides in reception - each flip book shows you photos of the path you should take, and where to turn. Anyway, we rode all the way up to Dragon Bridge on the Yulong River, that took us about 2.5 hours. Once we got there, we handed over our bikes to the bamboo raft guy (pre-booked by The Giggling Tree) and the bikes were loaded onto a lorry and taken off down the road.

Ross and Josh went on one bamboo raft, and Felix and I went on another. It was fantastically relaxing, the weather was gorgeous and we sat and chatted while someone else did all the work! Just right after a long bike ride.

We picked up our bikes again after around an hour drifting down the Yulong, and then rode the 15 minutes or so home. Another quick swim, then we headed into Yangshuo town (by taxi) to explore West Street and get dinner.

We should have arranged a taxi back to The Giggling Tree, but we didn't so ended up going into a random hotel where the receptionist took pity on us and arranged a cab!

Tuesday was a very busy day - we started off heading to Moon Hill by taxi, as it was a bit far to cycle. There are about 800 steps to the top, and the view up there was stupendous.

There were a couple of climbers there too, although I think it's officially off limits. After Moon Hill (took us an hour to climb, look round at the top, and walk back down) our driver took us to the Water Caves, which was about a two minute drive away! We had to wait a few minutes to join a tour (which was entirely in Chinese) through the caves. There's no need to change your shoes unless you want to - they'll suggest it but it's not necessary. Two thirds of the way through the cave tour we came to the mud baths, which were pretty cold! There's a very rudimentary changing room - we had taken our swimming stuff and old towels from the hotel - and we spent a few happy minutes slopping around in the volcanic mud!

A little further on (just after the freezing cold shower) we reached the hot springs which were delicious. We all floated about in there for a while enjoying the warmth.

Around an hour after we arrived we left the caves and headed back to The Giggling Tree. We went for a bike ride after lunch, all the way up to one of the Yulong bridges and down the other bank. We were cycling down a tiny country lane with no traffic on it. I think the lane is sometimes used by the traucks that transfer bikes up and down the river, but we saw no traffic at all. It was a deadend, finishing at the river. On the way back we made a little detour through a village - fantastic to see, loads of kids walking home from school all shouting hello to us, cockerels and chickens flapping about the dirt roads, old men carving stuff, old ladies drawing water from pumps, and toddlers waddling about the courtyards chasing dogs.

In the evening we took the boys to Impressions of Liu Sanjie, an open air show directed by Zhang Yimou who planned the Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony. The show was held on a lake in front of a stunning backdrop of uplit karsts, and featured hundreds of cast members, and some really breathtaking tableaux. The audience was absolutely huge and pretty much everyone was videoing and photographing most of the show! It was kind of liberating that it was ok to chat through the performance (there was no dialogue) and although it ended really late it was well worth going to.

The next day, Wednesday, we were leaving so didn't have too much time. We went for The Giggling Tree's Nature Walk which was awesome. We walked through more rural communities, up over a little trail through the hills and past a little old lady carrying her shopping on a bamboo pole over her shoulders. I saw two kingfishers, the boys spotted pomelo groves, rice paddies, buffaloes and cotton fields.

Josh and I spent a couple of hours playing table football, Rummikub and Uno while Ross and Felix went for a last hike.

The details

Sunday 19th October
We left home about 8.30, and got a taxi to Hung Hom.

From Hung Hom, we took the MTR at about 8.50 all the way to Lok Ma Chau, then went straight down to the Shenzhen metro and transferred to Shenzhen North. It took about an hour between arriving at Lok Ma Chau until we arrived at Shenzhen North. The station was not bad, a few fast food options, Starbucks etc.

We had time for a quick coffee, then got the 1148 bullet train towards Guilin; we got off at Gongcheng.

The bullet train, as expected, was fast and clean. We went 2nd class, and the carriage was very spacious and comfortable. I was worried it'd be a bit of a free for all, but actually everyone was sitting in the right seats. We arrived at Gongcheng about 2.40pm and the hotel had arranged a taxi to meet us. The transfer to The Giggling Tree was about 1 hour 10 mins.

Wednesday 22nd October
Our taxi picked us up from The Giggling Tree at 3pm, and we arrived at Gongcheng about 4.15. Our train wasn't till 4.48, so we had some time to kill. There is NOTHING at Gongcheng station - it just opened in January 2015 and it is a huuuuge empty building.

We got the bullet train back to Guangzhou South, which took 2 and a bit hours. Then we transferred by metro (took a while, maybe 50 minutes) to Guangzhou East which is a sh*thole. Literally. Probably the worst toilets I've ever seen inside a building. the slow train from Guangzhou East to Hung Hom. It was painfully slow rattling through HK and we finally arrived at 11.30pm. Jumped in a cab, in bed by midnight!

Total cost for the return train tickets for all four of us was about HK$2,500, which was less than the cost of one return air fare to Guilin.

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