Here we are in China proper! We took a ferry up the Pearl River from Hong Kong, biked for 5 days, and here we are in Yangshuo, 65km south of Guilin. It's cold here but not snowy so far. China is pretty cool - not many people speak English but the ones that do are keen to practice. The people have been as friendly as anywhere we have been, with some going well beyond the call of duty in our aid. One girl in the street we asked for directions called the hotel we were trying to find to arrange for someone to come and take us there. The first few nights we were staying in towns that not a lot of foreigners go to so we get a lot of stares, and attract crowds of people in the supermarkets.
The first day of riding was miserable as it was freezing cold, rained on and off all day,and of course we got a puncture as well. This did not bode well. But since then it has been mercifully dry although still finger numbingly cold. The road we followed was busy but after Vietnam it seemed relatively peaceful. Did see 3 crashes in one day however...
The countryside has also been a nice change from the dreary bits of Vietnam and we are yet to see much of the hyperindustrial China that would make for very unpleasant riding. Rather it has been forested hills, rivers, and bamboo sprouting in every direction. Plenty of dilapidated little towns but they only take a few minutes to breeze through on the bike. Unlike the rest of the trip, at the end of the day we have usually found ourselves in a big city, with public transport, malls, fastfood and all the trimmings. A nice change to be able to get food easily. The towns down south were ghostly empty probably because of the New Year holiday but now we are into some more bustle.
The food here is good, on our first night we ordered noodles and they were hand-pulled in front of us. This invlves a lump of dough being rolled flat, twisted and pulled until miaculously noodles spring forth. None of this fancy-pants cutting the Italians rely on. We have also been getting into Chinese dumplings and much much tea.
Yangshuo's scenery is impressive with hundreds of karst cliffs surrounding the town. Our guest house owner is very friendly and has been teaching us some Chinese. Up until this point we have been struggling to make ourselves understood, no one even understands when we say the names of towns. Not sure the lessons will help much though as our pronounciation is shocking.
From here we are off north and into the province of Hunan that has been the recent victim of the worst snow in some decades. Great timing. Hopefully winter comes to an end at some stage in the near future.
Goodbye (in Chinese)