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Trip Report China Trip Report October 2011- Part 3

Day 10: We had a leisurely breakfast in the Crowne Plaza. The previous night we took our SLR and camera stand (I almost never get to carry the stand when I travel - the perils of lightening trips). I will upload the photos in my next update.

Our flight to Kunming was uneventful. The airport was relatively older. Our adorable little guide, Sulu, told us that a new one was coming within a year. She would end every sentence with a "mmm" sound. We went straight to the Stone Forest. The shapes of the stones were all interesting. The most important one seemed to be the Ashima stone. According to legend, the forest is the birthplace of Ashima (阿诗玛), a beautiful girl of the Yi people. After falling in love she was forbidden to marry her chosen suitor and instead turned into a stone in the forest that still bears her name. This stone is also the symbol of Yunnan Tourism.

We were taken then to our standard silk factory visit. At this point, I gave up and agreed for the Mrs to buy silk comforters and sheets. They were very pretty. We also bought one for a friend back in Canada.

We stayed at the Great Lake Hotel, which was very good. The restaurant had the spiciest food in our whole trip. They used the little red chillies that one finds in Thai food (not surprising, Kunming is close to Thailand).

Day 11: Our flight out to Kunming was eventful. The airport and the rail station seem to be the hub of China's links to South East Asia. In the future, the road rail link to the Indian subcontinent (therefore connecting the world's two most populated regions) will be through Kunming.

We landed in Guilin. Our guide Chao shum (whose name translated to "little bear" due to her toughness) took us straight to the Reed Flute Cave. The cave had many colorful lights, with little ponds. It is known for stalactites & stalagmites formations.

We stayed at the Sheraton, which was well located right in front of the lake. There were a couple of pretty pagodas by the lake. The town gate was also by the lake.

In the evening, our travel agent Silvia, who organized our tour, very generously invited us for dinner. The food was awesome, and we had a few local delicasies. We related the story of the Chinese men in Lijiang who said they had to learn English, so that they could talk to the foreign girls. She laughed and said that the Chinese men found foreign girls to be exotic. I corrected her saying that all men find foreign girls to be exotic!

After dinner Silvia directed us to the Guilin Waterfall hotel. The water starts pouring from the top of the hotel (www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyG2ydasdsE). It is followed by music. As soon as that was over, we walked through the night market on the way back to the hotel. I bought a few gifts for my nieces (vastly undersized, those kids grow so fast).

Day 12: We were taken for our Li river cruise. We ended up sitting next to two fellow Canadians. The boats went in a convoy arrangement. I remember some forgetable lunch being served on board (we were warned about this). One highlight was passing the mountain that is on the 20 Yuan note. The second highlight is a Chinese person who gave me their two year old son to hold, so that they could take his photograph with me! By now, I was getting quite used to this :)

We checked into our hotel, the Green Lotus. Our guide from Guilin, Chao shum, had accompanied us. She took us through West street. In the evening, we went to a restaurant close to the McDonalds, which served authentic Guilin food. We also tried the Duftwein (Chinese Guihua jiu (桂花酒) or Guihua chenjiu (桂花陈酒 = "Kuei Hua Chen Chiew")) is a Chinese wine produced from white wine, possibly sugar, and osmanthus flower flavoring. My wife liked it a lot, and we proceeded to the market to buy some.

In the market, we also came across a snake wine. There is a baby snake in the wine bottle! Perhaps inspired by the tequila with a worm? Or the other way around? In any case, it is supposed to provide energy and good health. I wanted to buy one as a display piece, but her highness put her foot down and said she didn't want a snake, dead or alive, in our house.

Day 13: Chao shum rented bicycles for us to go to the Yulong river. We aren't in shape, plus she has not ridden one in many years. We huffed and puffed for the couple of kilometers. Chao shum diplomatically did not smile at any time. At the Yulong, we went on bamboo rats, including a down a 5 foot dam. They take photos, and make you buy them.

After lunch at Ryleys in the West Street,where we got a Chinese Western fusion lunch, we headed to the airport. Shanghai airport was large and busy. Our guide picked us up and we went by the Maglev train to the city centre (it is the fastest train in the world, and travels at 400 km/hr or 250 miles/hr). We checked into the Wyndham Grand Plaza Royale Oriental Hotel. Unlike the other hotels in our trip, while this hotel was quite fancy, it wasn't within a walking distance of anything.

Day 14: we visited the Yu gardens. It is a well preserved historical part of Shanghai.It was a lovely clear day and I got quite a few good photos. We had lunch at a mall. The food was Shanghai style, a little sweeter than the rest of China. A few dim sum like items too.

We then went to the Oriental Pearl Tower. At the base of the tower, there are photos showing the growth of Pudong (a newer flashier version of Manhattan). From one building in the year 2000, to dozens of skyscrapers by 2011! One could see the Bund, the early 20th century European part of Shanghai. After the tower we spent some time loafing around in the Bund.

Our final stop was Nanjing street, which is full of shops and malls. Apple had a large store too. My wife didn't find the bargains to be as good as the Silk market or Pearl Market in Beijing. This was followed by an acrobatic show, with motorcycles and all. Very impressive.

At night, I decided that I wanted to try some Chinese liquor. None of the restaurants in our previous stops served it since you have to buy the entire bottle. Since the Mrs doesn't drink hard liquor, I had to forgo testing the famous Chinese whiskey. In Shanghai, I ordered a bottle of Huangjiu. It came in an clay bottle. The waiter disappeared with it for over twenty minutes. I figured this was the first time we were getting bad service.

Actually, the poor guy and gone and and boiled some peaches in the whiskey bottle (using a water bath, I am guessing). While strong, the peach flavor was recognizable. Apparently this is a traditional form of having Huangjiu. After sipping it for an hour, we headed to the hotel restaurant. Over there, the manager further boiled some ginger in the whiskey!

Day 15: We went to Zhujiajiao, the Chinese version of Venice. It was a couple of hours outside Shanghai. After the boat ride, we shopped for snacks. We also bought a wall hanging depicting the Great Canal (it is one of the iconic paintings in China). We had lunch in a tiny little place, with good food as usual.

We then drove back to the Shanghai high speed train station, to head back to Beijing. It is new, and looked like an airport. There is a VIP section, which we could have used? We were allowed to the platform first, since we had VIP tickets. The VIP seats had flat bed type seats, stewardesses, clean bathrooms, personal TV screens. All for the same price as an air ticket!

The journey of 1300 km (800 miles) took about 4.5 hours! Once back in Beijing, in the same super awesome Regent Hotel, we had dinner at Wangfujiang again. It was great to be in such a vibrant center of a world class city.

Day 16:Beijing had clear skies, after a few autumn rains. The temperature was a cool 15 c (59 F). Flights back to Calgary, Canada.

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