Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Shanghai to the Laos border

We landed in Shanghai on the 4th April. It was good to be back in China where everything was cheap again! Eddie's friend Si has moved out to Shanghai so we spent a few days there. It was a well developed city with lots of impressive skyscrapers that looked amazing at night.

After a few days we headed down to Yangshuo in the South of China, which involved a 24 hour train journey. It was a much more comfortable experience than the Indian trains but a lot more expensive! We met up with Si and stayed in a village 27km out of Yangshuo (which is pretty full of tourists) called XingPing. It was very beautiful scenery around there as there are lots of limestone karsts and a big river which made for some good views, especially from the top of a limestone hill close to our hostel, which we ended up climbing 3 times in the hope of a good sunrise and sunset. We also visited a local fishing village a little way down the river. It was good to travel with Si, especially because he spoke Mandarin which meant that we could order the food we wanted!

We got a night train from there to Kunming in the Yunnan province. By this time we had both got sick again, but made it from Kunming up to Lijiang (a pretty old town, despite all the tourists) where we spent a couple of days recovering before heading off to do the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek with 3 other travellers we had met in our guesthouse. The Tiger Leaping Gorge is a pretty deep gorge (apparently one of the biggest in the world!) and it made for some spectacular scenery. Not many people actually trek all the way along it (it seems to be a Western tourist rather than a Chinese tourist thing to do!) so it was nice and quiet when we were walking. We got dropped off at the start and walked for 7 hours before reaching the guesthouse we were aiming for, which was nearly at the other end of the gorge. We had a good evening after the long day's walking with some local beer and good cheap food. The next morning we climbed down the gorge to the rock onto which a tiger allegedly once leapt, although the sheer rock face on the other side made this seem pretty dubious! Also the river at the bottom of the gorge was fairly wide, even for a tiger!

Back in Lijiang we headed down to Dali, another pretty but less touristy old town where we hired bikes and cycled round the local villages. We got a night bus from here South to Jinghong in the tropical Xishuangbanna region. Jinghong was our hottest place on the trip so far. It was once covered in rainforest but unfortunately most of this has now been chopped down to make way for rubber farms. Luckily we found a hotel with a swimming pool that non guests could pay to use (we were staying in some less fancy cockroach infested bamboo huts). From Jinghong we travelled to Mengla where we stayed overnight before crossing the border into Laos.

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