The purpose of my time in Nanning was to get my Vietnamese visa sorted out, but it so happens that the Guangxi province, of which Nanning is the capital, is known to be extremely beautiful, so I was able to venture to some of its most noteworthy draws.
I got a bus into the city from the airport, and the bus dropped us off at what seemed to be a completely random location… it definitely wasn’t a bus station or even an actual bus stop. As I didn’t know how far I was from where I wanted to go, I took a taxi to my hostel. The taxi driver dropped me off in the vicinity of the hostel. He stopped the taxi and motioned that this was it, to which I asked and motioned “Where is it?” He shrugged. Luckily, he had dropped me off close by, but he had no idea where the hostel was, so it took me a few minutes to find it. When I arrived, I was happy to discover that the hostel offered a visa service at no cost. I handed over my passport and the fee, and was told that they would have it back to me within three days! It was all so simple!! I spent the rest of the day resting, because I don’t do so well when I have to leave at 6AM.
On Tuesday, I had planned to take a day trip to a waterfall, but when my alarm clock went off at 7AM, I decided that I wanted to sleep more than I wanted to get up right then, so I vowed to go to the waterfall the next day. Tuesday was a fairly lazy day, and I wandered around the markets and shops near to where I was staying. That night I had Peking duck at a restaurant that the guidebook recommended.
On Wednesday, I did wake up early to catch the bus to Detian Waterfall. The bus leaves to Detian only once a day from the local bus station. We left at 8AM, and I was told that the journey would take three hours (by the hostel, the guidebook, the bus station staff, and the bus driver), leaving plenty of time to see the waterfall before catching the 3PM return bus. I wasn’t thrilled when that three hour bus ride took five hours. We arrived at 1PM, which didn’t leave much time to explore and make it back with enough time to safely catch the bus home, but there anything that could be done about that!
Detian Waterfall was beautiful, and luckily it didn’t take long to get to the falls from the entrance. Detian Waterfall lies on the Vietnamese-Chinese border, so it was quite incredible to watch people on small bamboo rafts approach the boats to sell cigarettes, perfumes, and trinkets to the tourists. It was cheap to get on a bamboo boat that gets so close to the falls that you feel the spray, so I joined a boat filled with a group of Chinese businessmen. It was amusing to watch the little rafts approach ours and try and sell to everyone. It was typically women doing the selling, while men paddled. One boat was being steered by a young boy, and I was amazed by his strength. He caught me taking a picture and growled at me, pretending to be a tiger, which we both proceeded to giggle about. On the boat, the Chinese businessmen all wanted to get a picture with me, so I took pictures with seven of them before one of them asked me if I wanted a picture with the waterfall in the background too. I was happy to accept his offer. After the boat ride, I sat and enjoyed the serenity of the scene before heading back to catch the bus. Once again, the three hour bus ride took longer than described. This time it took six hours to get back!! Bed was a welcome friend by the time I finally got back to the hostel.
On Thursday I didn’t do anything all day, because I didn’t feel like it! I took an overnight bus to Guilin, which is known to be a very beautiful area of the Guangxi province.
The bus arrived at about 5AM, and luckily the hostel was remarkably easy to find. I hung out in reception until the receptionist showed up, and luckily, I was able to get a room right away. Despite bolder ambitions of getting an early start to the day, I decided to take a nap, and slept for a few hours. I got up and set off on foot to explore. I stopped first at one of the city’s better known sights, which is called Elephant Trunk Hill. A hill in the middle of the Li River is shaped in a way that looks like an elephant is drinking water from the river. It was cute, but busy with tourists and hardly worth what I had to pay to see it. Next I went to Seven Stars Park, which is beautiful park that is an excellent example of the area’s “karst topography.” I really enjoyed my time in the park, especially in Seven Star Cave, full of caves, stalactites, and stalagmites. Afterwards, I got some dinner and headed back to the hostel and spent the rest of the night reading.
On Saturday morning, I took a bus to Yangshuo, which is another area of Guangxi which is known for its scenery, more stunning karst topography, and the fact that a movie called “The Painted Veil” was filmed there. Upon arriving, I rented a bike and spent the next three or so hours pedaling around outside of the city. At one point, I’d stopped for a moment to have a drink of water, and I spied a snake slithering up the banked hill next to me. I got closer to take some pictures, and as it slithered further, it rose up a bit… enough that I could see its hooded neck. And that’s when I realized that it was a cobra and I should probably distance myself from it instead of getting close to take a picture (I still got some pictures though). After biking around and enjoying my surroundings, I returned the bike and wandered through the market filled streets. Then I got a coffee and talked to my boyfriend, who I was missing terribly (WHY did I think it would be a good idea to leave for so long making it so that the boy I love is thousands of miles away from me???). Then I got the bus back to Guilin to pick up my bag from the hostel, in order to get an overnight bus back to Nanning.
The bus dropped me off at four in the morning, at a bus station other than the one I wanted. I waited a few hours to avoid paying inflated night time taxi prices, then took a taxi to the bus station I needed to get a bus to Hanoi. Onto Vietnam!!!
One of the little rafts that approached our boat
The young boy who caught me taking a picture as he paddled his raft up to our boat
Elephant Trunk Hill
The inside of Seven Star cave is colorfully lit, which is kind of gimmicky, but still pretty.
The beautiful karst topography of Yangshuo. A great deal of what I saw of the Guangxi province looks like this; it’s an incredibly picturesque region.
So, that marked the end of my time in China, until I go back to fly home in December! Onto Vietnam. 🙂