February 22nd, 2010
Waking up on the morning of the 22nd we knew that we had a relaxing day ahead of us. We had almost 12 hours to kill from when we woke up (10:00) to when we were due at the bus station (9:30).
We left the hostel at almost lunch time and headed to see the Sun and Moon Pagoda. We walked around the lake for a little bit enjoying the view, as well as the company. I found it more difficult than ever to wrench myself away from the Sun Pagoda the second time than it had been the first. How many people have TWO chances to take a life-completing elevator? We all reluctantly decided that completing our lives wasn't worth 35 RMB. We headed to find some lunch.
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Trusting in the Lonely Planet, we wandered for quite some time to find a dumpling shop on a side alley off of the main pedestrian area. The people in the shop asked us how many we wanted, we decided to order two 'portions.' the total price for each portion was around 10 RMB, but the amazing thing was that each portion contained 30 dumplings. We wolfed down 60 dumplings between the three of us. A delicious lunch; the wonder of Chinese food is that you can eat a ton without feeling full (I'm not talking about P.F. Chang's).

With a gullet full of dumplings we began the long walk to the seven stars park across the river. On the way Becky had a bathroom emergency (perhaps too much spicy tofu the night before?). We scrambled into a bookstore and pleaded them to let us use their toilet. Unfortunately their toilet was located outside and around the corner. To put the shop keeper at ease I asked Jay to 'hang out' in the store. A fun time for him since he doesn't speak any Chinese. Upon our return for the disgusting outhouse of a bathroom, I found Jay perusing the Chinese language Lonely Planets. Coincidentally, the one he had picked up to say "haha! They have lonely planet too!" was for Australia. The bathroom fiasco completely handled we started across the bridge.

Lucky for us, in spite of the every-present haze over Guilin, the weather was quite lovely. We paid the requisite entry fee and started to walk in a circuit around the park. Jay and I explored a cave under one of the karst peaks. Becky insisted that there must be hundreds of snakes inside. In the end there was just some rubbish and a lot of poured concrete. Although, at the back of the cave we got a glimpse into some other chambers that were 'au naturale.' We walked some more, spoke with Jay for a long time, and finally came to the time when we had to make our goodbyes. Jay was leaving for a train in a few hours and needed to get back to the hostel to grab his gear. After he left, making us promise to come visit him and his girlfriend in Osaka some day, Becky made an interesting observation. She said that although we would like to, there is a chance we'll never see this person again in our lives. It's interesting to think about the people who just come and go in your life. Not to dwell too long on it, just a short musing, but really think about it. Sometimes people come in and stay, sometimes they're gone in just an instant.
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Having parted with Jay we continued walking up the hill we were already 50% finished with. We saw breath taking smog filled views of Camel mountain and the rest of Guilin city. We took a leisurely walk down the mountain and out of the park. The rows of cherry blossoms lining the park's boardwalks were perfect for Becky to practice picture taking. We walked back across the bridge, past the bookstore, and into the hostel to await our bus. We passed the time by talking, emailing, and reading.

On arriving at the bus station we were surprised to find the exact nature of our bus. I knew that it was a sleeper, but I guess I couldn't quite wrap my head around what that meant. There were three rows of cots, stacked in twos all the way down the bus. Upon entering we were required to take off our shoes, like this was some sort of deluxe Japanese hotel. We were given plastic bags for our shoes and had to climb up into our beds. The conditions were cramped to say the least, I couldn't not even come close to laying flat, my legs would be bent for the next 11 hours. As the bus took off it became clear what we were in for. A horrible dubbed version of "Shanghai Noon" was blaring so loudly on the speakers that I couldn't listen to my audio book through my headphones. Every time the bus driver jerked the wheel even the slightest bit, it felt as if we were sliding all around on our beds. Of course, the worst part for Becky was the sanitary condition of the bus. While it appeared that everything had been washed, or at least aired out, there was still the fact that the mattresses were without sheets. What was worst for me, was the absolutely WRETCHED stench coming from the feet of the man behind me. I am perfectly aware that my own feet don't smell like roses. For the love of god, I think his feet must be legally dead to have that kind of odor. After he had gone to sleep I stealthily placed the curtains over his feet in the hopes of containing the unpleasant aroma. For the most part it worked. While not the best night's sleep I've ever had, once i settled in, it was far better than any airplane or train I've ever been on.

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The bus took us overnight to Guiyang, which is notorious as a city with a lot of petty crime and financial difficulty. But more on that in my next installment.


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