Travels: Guangxi Province, Guilin, China

Eroded landscape along Li River
The eroded landscapes around Guilin is one of those sceneries that one would think about when China comes to mind. The picture of many little karst hills in the countryside, and a calm river in the foreground with a lone fisherman. This is one of those areas I wanted to go before leaving China, and as famous as it is (meaning many tourists) I guess this is one of those places that has to be seen to be believed. So then it is, I have managed to organize a trip to Guanxi province just after the Sichuan trip on the way back to Shanghai just to see it with my own eyes. Will be flying into Guilin directly from Chengdu.

20 November 2008: Landed in Guilin at 9 pm after an hour and a half from Chengdu. Small airport, obviously so compared to Chengdu and probably not a good comparison at all. Slept during the landing and since it was late at night, it was probably impossible to see anything. Temperature is a nice 13C at night. Balmy compared to Chengdu in the single digits.

Film used during the trip, including Sichuan Province

My luggage is one of the first to appear, good considering I was the last to check in! In 1 minute I was out of Guilin Liangjiang airport (yup, the official name) and into a Golden Dragon brand bus bound downtown. I’m not a guide book so I have no idea where this bus ends but it does go to Guilin Train Station and its where I am going. Dumped my backpack into the luggage hold and its time to wait 30 minutes. The cost of the bus to the train station from airport is 20 RMB. According to what people tell me, as long there is a flight arriving, there will be an airport bus.

Within 30 minutes the bus dropped me at Shanghai Road with a finger pointing to the direction of the train station, quite obvious it requires a bit of a walk. Looking at the GPS maps on my E71, I managed to find a signboard leading to the Flowers Youth Hostel in Guilin. I will have to walk through little alleys and small restaurants selling dodgy food (i’m sure it tastes good though) and mini travel agents. Hostel is on the second floor of a maze of buildings. No fanfare, I’d arrive, get the room, get a shower and do a little blogging and sleep to prepare for the next day to Yangshuo.

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Travels: Sichuan Province Part 2, Mount Siguniang, China

View of the tallest of 4 Siguniangs from Rilong's Changping Gou village
The plan for this trip is a week long trip, including a 3 day trek up to see Siguniang Shan and a day in one other valley in the area around the town of Rilong. Then on the way back to Chengdu, it’s a night over at Danba to see the old villages on the mountain side. Expecting to spend 6 days for this leg, and the backpack is full to the brim, including a full camelbak filled with day long supply of Nongfu spring water, which seems to be on sale everywhere in this country.

Siguniang shan is surrounded by 3 valleys. The most accessible one is Shuangqiao gou where there is a tourist bus herding tourists, the next would be Changping gou where most treks up the mountain start but Changping gou also has its own trek path on the valley floor that requires a bus ride to get to, and Haizi gou, where you will have to trek its slopes to reach base camp for those who are planning to go up Siguniang shan.

9 November 2008, Chengdu to Rilong: The first bus from Chengdu to Xiaojing leaves at 6:25 am. From there, I will have to take a taxi to Rilong. From what I have heard, the direct bus to Rilong does not run anymore from Chadianzi Station here in Chengdu because the route passes by Wenchuan which was the place worst hit by this year’s large earthquake in this region. So longer trip. On the map, Xiaojing looks not further than 300 km but today’s bus trip is expected to take 8 hours. Gasp!

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Travels: Sichuan Province Part 1, Chengdu, China *Partial*

Its been a long time waiting and before I could even prepare for it, I got off MU5407 here in Chengdu (airport code: CTU) on a one week and a half trip. Total I will spend outside Shanghai will be 2 weeks and this includes Guilin which will be the subject of another post once I get to it. Flight was bearable, food was Crap as usual, and again full of oversized babies and their grandparents. Inflight meal consists of a paper box filled with an assortment of buns, crackers, pickles and strange mix of edible stuff. Thank god for ipods.
Chengdu Airport Bus queue

8 November 2008, Shanghai to Chengdu: From the airport, bus 303 seems to go to Chengdu city. Was reading about bus 300 but I did not see it. Bus trip cost 12 RMB and comes with insurance, although it seems lost in my mind how we will claim our own insurance should something untowardly happens along the way. As with any bus in china, this bus even comes with its own tour guide. In my half baked putong hua, sounds like its 30 minutes away. Good. Nap time.

Spent the afternoon walking around Chengdu and there is a nice street where everything is old and has a market. Naturally my leica came out to play there. Chengdu definitely looks more refined than other cities in China, other than Shanghai and Beijing of course. Its quite obvious this is not a poor place.

Transporting items by bicycle is common in the backstreets of Chengdu

Everywhere you go in Chengdu there are hotpot restaurant. I’m tempted to try them but I travelled alone so it will be wasteful to gobble down a whole load of soup with floating chilies. But I promised myself I need to try it or I have never been to Sichuan.

Waiting for the bus, China style...

Language: I swear I don’t have too much of an issue with the local Sichuanese dialect, at least I understand it as much as I do putonghua, which is not too bad, but people I meet here sometimes tell me its difficult to understand locals. The dialect sounds like a bastardized version of putonghua in a song singing way.

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Travels: Overnight in Hangzhou West Lake, China (26-27 October 2008)

This marks the first time I’m taking a train from the new Shanghai South train station. I have been here a couple of times but it is impossible to get train tickets to Hangzhou on the day itself, especially for weekend trains. When that happens go to the back of the station and take the long distance bus instead. It is a little more expensive and takes longer to get to Hangzhou. But what matters is that it’s the train today. Plan this trip is to spend a night at the west Lake in Hangzhou and shoot morning at the lake. Too bad weather will be bad this weekend but lets see what comes out of it.
Hangzhou should look better in spring and one of the equinox days, but I’ll treat this trip as a scouting trip. Found a hostel (Mingtown Garden Hostel) on the west bank of the lake, strategic for morning pictures on the lake. Lenses I brought goes from 12mm to 50mm on DX sensor, and a rangefinder for night shots. I’m rather self sufficient this trip. I have a towel, and change of clothes. Packs quite small into the backpack. Will be using primarily this E71 for GPS duties, but I just can’t leave the Garmin behind so that is in the bag as well. I really need to think about leaving things behind and not duplicate for the duties I will be performing during trips!

Packed quite heavily for a weekend trip. Normally I’ll just bring a small pack for a night, but I’m trying to simulate my next medium duration trip next month. Going with a 30 litre pack with external attachments. On the left side is attached a gitzo 1541T tripod and my mont bell jacket attached on the right. In a small bag inside the pack is a leica M2 with 35mm f1.2 Voigtlander and in the second think tank speed demon belt pack is a Nikon D300 with 2 lenses. This is quite a heavy setup. Will need to lighten up for the longer trip. The backpack balances quite well, but definitely no room for a sleeping back if I need one. Will be travelling with the ipod touch and just a phone/blog machine this time. No blackberry. That will stay home.

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