Saturday, 24 May 2008


So, as you'll gather, I'm in Guilin (google earth it) which is kind of a nice city. It reminds me a little of a northern city in Thailand called Chiang Mai (let me know if any of you have been there) as it's surrounded by water (except these are rivers, not moats).

But, as usual I'm going to have to back track a bit again.
Duncan and Yieyung decided to come to the station to see me off and let me fend for myself! That started out as a mare as I'd been given duff information about train departures (I was told they were regular to Shaoguan). It was midday and the next one didn't leave until 17.58! Not waiting that long, we checked out the bus route, but the weather was lousy, I don't really trust the roads and I'd have to go to Guangzhou (the county capital) and change there. Decided I'd rather travel there by train so I managed to get on the next 2hr express there. Said a hurried goodbye to my hosts for the last week which was too quick to be sad, but I missed them instantly.

Then in Guangzhou, I arrived at a station across town from where I needed to depart from... I managed the underground across town myself with no real difficulties, but owing to the duff info I'd received before, decided to call in at CTS. By the time I'd finished there, it was gone 6, so I decided to stay the night and explored a little of the capital. There's a really cool Island on the river to the south which was an old colonial (French had the east, we had the west) place. Grabbed a disappointing 'very hot' (said the menu) chilli con carne, which was not hot and rather too sweet for my liking. The weather was pissing down, so I grabbed a sherbert home. Not lots to report on Guangzhou.

Up early doors for the 07.40 (it's just like being at work!) train to Shaoguan, with the intention of arriving at 10.00 and getting the 16.00 to the next town, leaving th bag in left luggate. We arrived at 11.00...

The train journey was entertaining though, as the official 'touts' complete with tie and epaulettes try their hardest to sell their wares. I bought a gyroscope for Y10 (70p!). I nearly bought three pairs of 100% polyester socks off him too as his practical and hilarious demonstration would have even the most cynical punter thinking they were designed for NASA. He got one of the passengers to hold the toe end, he the other, and then violently attacked said outstretched sock with a wire brush before demonstrating in just how perfect condition they were afterwards too. I can now swear in chinese (well, swear at a sock) but thought I'd better stick with my own instead.

So, after a round of applause for having bought a "U.F.O." which was "Oh, Velly Good! Velly Good!", I became quite the attraction on the train and three people started talking to me to practice their english, including the guy oposite me 'John'.

Turns out John's a Shaoguan born and bred and he phones a mate to help me find the church where the escape party stayed. It's still there, and as luck would have it, we also met a lady letting herself into the church. She put me in touch with the english speaking Pastor Agnes, who tells me it's been on the same site since the 1920s, became an amalgamation of the American, Canadian and English (amongst others) Missions, stopped in the cultural revolution of 1960-80 (roughly) and was rebuilt in 1995. They've a congregation of 1000+ and do services in Cantonese and Mandarin. Fantastic stuff! I've succumbed to the fact that nothing is going to look as it did then. China has moved on and rebuilt so much after their wars and then internal revolution. I know the churches in the UK are very old and most of them probably pre-date 1940, but that's just not the case here sadly. Then I grabbed lunch with John - proper Shaoguan dishes. I had no idea what I was eating, but i didn't really take to the pork ribs (more bone, less meat) dusted in coconut... Bit of an explore around the city, and I didn't find the floating brothel they all stayed in (after it was cleared out of it's normal residents of course!) but did find a floating restaurant along the river - Rich, I bet it's the same site...

Then it was back to the staition for the 19.00 sleeper that I'd decided to book in stead of try and rush around Shaoguan in just 3 hours.

4 berth cabin with a bloke that spoke about as much English as I did Mandarin, but it turns out he's in steel. Not much else happening, the buffet car was shut from 21.00 to 22.00 when I was hungry, so it's crackers, pate, bovril (thanks for the tip jenny!) and a banana for dinner and was knackered, so just crashed instead.

Rolled in to Guilin at 07.00 and straight off the platform and into the CITS (China International Travel Service) which is funny, because most of them don't speak english... This one did however and 'David' sorted me out with a hotel before trying to sell me a trip. It was too early to buy a trip, and I only booked for one night, then we also grabbed breakfast - the Guilin speciality - rice noodles - quite tasty, completely non-nutricious (sp?) as they've been blanched in water so long, there's not much left!

I've got to update you Guilin, but I'll do that in a new post - this one's rambled on long enough already.

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