Next stop, Guilin. We caught TWO taxis to the airport. We needed two because of all the luggage my travel partners brought. You know, SOME people don't go carry on. But I won't mention any names.
The first taxi Bill and Lynn caught. It was a 2.00 taxi, that means it cost 2 yuan per minute. We caught a 1.60 taxi. When we got out at the airport we discovered that their taxi didn't have a meter and their driver charged them 90 yuan for a 15 minute ride! That has got to be the most expensive fare any of us has paid since coming to Beijing. Our taxi driver had our bags on the curb and asked the other driver what they paid, thinking I'd pay the same. "Fapiao, fapiao, qin ni gei wo NI de fapiao." I told him. (Receipt, receipt, please give me YOUR receipt. ) He wouldn't move so I walked over to his car, opened the passenger door and pulled the receipt. It was 42 yuan. So that's what I paid. He wasn't too pleased. The hotel gave us a paper before we left with the taxi's ID and a phone number to report them should we be unsatisfied. I guess this is a problem.
Everything, everywhere is Chinese characters (What did I think it would be?). The Airport looks very organized. If only I could read the characters I'd know where to go. Of course, I hadn't a clue. I was trying to match the Chinese characters on my ticket to some sign, any sign, somewhere. I've got to learn these characters. Lynn wasn't too embarrassed to ask directions and we found our way.
When we got to the counter the ticket agent told me we were too early. Imagine being too early to check in? Our flight leaves in an hour and 45 minutes. She wrote the check-in time on my ticket. It was just 30 minutes away. So we found some coffee and hung out for a half an hour and came back.
When we got back there were three lines open. We found one and waited for the ticket agent to finish up with the man in front of us. Unlike ticket agents in the U.S. she sat down behind the counter, we couldn't see her face.
Just as the man in front of us walked away, her hand reached up from behind and slapped a plastic CLOSED sign on the counter. So we wheeled our carts to another line (Remember the travelers I'm with didn't do carry-on so we had mounds of luggage on two carts.) No sooner had we maneuvered to another line when a hand come up with the pink closed sign. Soon every line was closed. So there we stood obediently at 8:10 a.m. without anyone to check us in.
Our flight was uneventful. Lynn switch seats so she could play Scrabble with Ruth. They wanted to finished their game from the Great Wall. Bill showed pictures on his PC of Brison and Brandon, his grandsons, to the Chinese guy next to him. I read.
The plan was to arrive in Guilin and take a luxury bus to our hotel about an hour away. Yangshuo is less crowded and more beautiful. But how to catch the bus, which bus, what direction? These are questions the inquisitive mind needs to know.
We found an Information Counter that pointed us in the direction of a shuttle. We boarded the small shuttle bus, loading the suitcases into it's front seats. (All the other travelers had carry-ons that they held in their laps.) Bill reminded us that we could have just rented a car for 300 yuan and saved the trouble.
After about 15 minutes the shuttle stopped to let us off. There were no busses in sight, just shops and restaurants. "Gonggongchi che zai nali?" (Where's the bus?) We asked. She responded with a pointing finger. So we headed off pulling our roller bags behind us. Bill trailing behind pulling two rollerbags. I've seen him happier. We were the only weiguoren (foreigners) around. I take that back, there was an English guy traveling with a Chinese girl who were just as lost. They were going to the same place, so we stuck together.
Our bags rattled over bumpy sidewalks and through streets cracked, patched and potholed. Bill trailed behind us yanking his two rollerbags over curbs threading his way through slow rolling traffic. We found a bunch of private busses in a huge parking lot about two city blocks away. Several drivers approached us offering rides. We wanted a 13 yuan non-stop ride. Impossible. Was this the place with the luxury bus? Who knew? How do you say "luxury" in Chinese? We wondered aimlessly, accosted by 10 or more drivers. No one seemed to know anything about the bus we wanted. Finally, the Chinese girl got us headed in another direction. We left the private drivers behind. We could hear them drop a yuan from their price with each step away. We walked three city blocks and discovered the bus station we were looking for.
The bus was beautiful and cheap. Just 13 yuan. We rode in comfort and watched the unique Guilin mountains reach up from behind pools and farmlands just off the side of the road. Oxen pulled at plows stuck in the land guided by Chinese as has been done for centuries. I fell back into a contemplative mood, awed by the unusual landscape. We passed motorbikes with cages of chickens strapped to their back fenders. We passed three wheeled trucks hauling yellow bags of stuff. The trucks have no front hood or fenders. The engine block sits on one one single front wheel and runs three belts looped back to the drive shaft.
The bus pulled up into yet another lot with mini-bus taxis parked in rows to the side. Now what? We unloaded our bags from the bottom of the bus, it rolled on and left us standing alone with a mountain of bags. The rest of the bus riders scattered in every direction. The English guy and his Chinese girlfriend wished us well.
The Chinese are very curious, so soon a crowd gathered to peer at the paper Lynn pulled out with the contact information of the hotel. At first I was apprehensive about everyone crowing so close, but soon there were smiles all around. They were trying to be helpful. They'd look at the paper, talk among themselves and then gesture in two different directions. There was no hiding that we didn't know where we were going. Once I embraced my lostness, I became one with my vacation. We called the hotel and soon rented another taxi to take us a few blocks down the street. Bill pulled out a calculator to add up all the busses, taxis, and shuttles we took to save 300 yuan it would have cost for a private car direct to the hotel. We saved $20. That's only $5 each. But hey, that's enough to buy three silk ties! Which I did.
We found our rooms clean and Asian simple. Our two windows look out over the busy street of vendors and a Guilin mountain peak. I flipped open my iBook which immediatly sensed the free wireless provided by the hotel. Who would have thought, way out here, in the middle of China, I'd have wireless? Cool!
The town of Yangshou has narrow streets like some of the European towns. There are all kinds of shops. Much of the same stuff we saw in Pearl Market I saw here. We ate at the corner China Cafe recommended by the Hotel and discovered later that it's run by the same owner. The food was great. I had hot steamed vegetables in a clay pot. Ruth ordered chicken satay (the outside kind). But Bill, being the adventurous kind, ordered Schnitzel. The restaurant got him back. They delivered it with chopsticks.
We walked through the streets but I was out by 8:45, dead to the noisy street sounds below.
One joy scatters a hundred griefs.-Chinese proverb