China Day 3: Yangzhou

Another very hot humid day today. It was the first time I had needed to wear my sun hat and Mr L needed to get himself a hat and found himself a very nice black Chinese cap in the market for the bargain price of 70CN¥ (£7.94) – now to be known as Comrade L here-forth!


We had the option of going on a 5 hour bike ride today leaving at 7.30am but Comrade L and I decided we wanted to explore Yangzhou town in a bit more depth as we are out of here first thing Thursday morning to catch a flight to Kunming. After an excellent breakfast at Lucy’s Place, with freshly squeezed radioactive-looking orange juice and an excellent strong black coffee to set me up for the day, we wandered and explored the markets and backstreets and then headed towards the Li River to find the Riverside Path that was marked on the map and recommended in Lonely Planet.

The view of the river and karsts was splendid but there was only a limited path so it was only a brief meander but not a proper walk.

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Comrade L wanted to get a bamboo raft ride on the Yulong River which lies 6km southwest of Yangzhou. His plan was to get the raft from Jinlong Bridge and then be ‘bamboo rafted’ up to Dragon Bridge, a trip of about 1.5 hours. Trying to sort this with the trip sellers who spoke no English was a challenge and involved phone conversations with English speaking Chinese and various quotes of how much this was going to cost. In the end it got so complicated we decided to get ourselves to Dragon Bridge and get a raft from there. We got a tuk-tuk out to Dragon Bridge and were passed by our driver to a raft trip seller who walked us to the bridge area which was heaving with coaches transporting people in and out and loads of rafts on the river – not what we had planned! She told us it would be 400CN¥ (£45.42)…….we told her 200CN¥ was all we were paying which was accepted – not really much option having come out all this way. So, we got our bamboo raft ride lasting 30 minutes but no option to go anywhere other than the tourist round trip along with everyone else. A bit disappointing but still good fun nevertheless.

With the bamboo raft ride done we wandered up onto the Dragon Bridge and took some photos before wandering through the tourist stalls established to relieve visitors of their yuan. Having got here on a tuk-tuk we had no obvious way to get back as there were no taxis looking for a ride. We walked back up to the main road and decided to get a drink and lunch before working out what to do next. No one in the restaurant spoke any English except for a young child who could say ‘hello’. We ordered a couple of beers by pointing to them in the fridge. Comrade L pointed to a picture of a dish on the wall, I didn’t want a full meal so said I wouldn’t order anything but just share the one meal as portions are always huge. Other people’s meals were served but not ours…….after a while we worked out that no food was coming – my no to a meal meant they thought no meal at all! Next challenge was to try and get a taxi to get us home – Comrade L found the Chinese word for taxi and I had the hotel card so showed these to the woman at the desk who worked out what we wanted and called us a taxi. Amazing what you can achieve with no common language for communication.

We were booked to go with most of our group to the Liu San Jie Impression Light Show in Yangshuo in the evening. The waters of the Li River set the stage and a dozen beautifully lit karst formations form a natural backdrop. The light show is a creation of Zhang Yi Mou, the director and choreographer of the opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The light show features over 600 locals, has 3 shows a night, and with each show holding 6000 people. Chinese organisation ensured seamless flows of people, through the arrival gates and at least 3 security checks. There was then a huge holding area where we waited until getting through to our seats. The show started exactly on time and was magnificent, very atmospheric with some beautiful music. It was not quite what we expected but we were not disappointed and pleased to have bought tickets to go.

We finished the evening with Bob and Sue and had an unimpressive meal at the rice and noodle venue next to our hotel. Good company but shame about the food!

Distance walked: 22,973 steps / 9.91 miles

 

 

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Periyar National Park and a Quick Exit

Alarm set for 6.20am, but did I need the alarm this morning? No…..as Mr L woke me around 6am telling me the alarm was going off when in fact it was an extremely loud bird noise from outside (which admittedly does sound like a ring tone or alarm).  Anyway we were up promptly after a better night sleep with our extra blankets, and on our way at 6.45am in our tuk-tuk and off to Periyar National Park for a half day bamboo rafting and trekking.

Periyar National Park is also known as Periyar Tiger Reserve and is in the mountainous Western Ghats of Kerala. This wildlife sanctuary is home to Bengal tigers, elephants,  macaques, sambar deer, leopards and Indian bison. We had already booked our rafting and trekking tickets but also needed to get day passes to the park before meeting at the designated area at 7.15am.  As always a great deal of form filling was required by the rangers in the office before anything could happen.  There were 8 of us together with 3 rangers and 1 armed guard.  We were given water and breakfast packs which were warm at 7.30am but by 9.20am when we stopped to eat breakfast the curry was cold.  Strangely Mr L and I didn’t fancy cold curry so passed on this. We had walked for 90 minutes before our breakfast break and then it was time to get on our bamboo rafts.

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We were rowed up the lake and spotted lots of different types of birds – egrets, white necked storks, white storks, kingfishers, herons, to name but a few. We then did a short circular walk before getting back on the rafts and back to the other side of the lake.

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Indiana Jones eat your heart out!!  Time then for the trek back to the start. We saw macaque monkeys, black monkeys and 2 Indian giant squirrels but no tigers or elephants. We did see scat from elephants, wild dogs, sambar deer, and porcupine. Our armed guard didn’t need to use his rifle to keep us all safe. We walked just under 8 miles and were really lucky with the weather. After the storms of the previous night the morning was hot with blue skies and fluffy clouds.  So lucky.

Once back Mr L was in need of lunch and we found a great place with an amazing view of a wildlife area with bison roaming.

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Then at about 2pm the clouds came in from over the mountains, the rain started, gently at first, but was soon torrential with a thunderstorm directly overhead and off went the power.

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We sat it out for a while but then took a dash for shelter across the flooded road and waited for a tuk-tuk home.

Once back we went to find Mama to tell her we would need dinner and to ask if she could book a driver to take us to Munnar on Monday morning.  Sometime later Mama and we think Subish’s brother who speaks good English came to find us (Subish was absent all weekend and had said contact him on WhatsApp if we needed anything but had failed to respond to my message on Saturday, so not particularly helpful). Anyway the long and short of it is that there is a general strike on Monday from 6.00-18.00 so getting a taxi during the day is not possible.  Pity Subish hadn’t let us know on Friday when he checked us in and confirmed our 3 night booking! The options were we could leave at 5am Monday or would have to leave after 18.00 which would leave us stranded at Monsoon Retreats with no access to any form of transport.  We decided the late departure would be a waste of a days holiday.  The other option would be to travel Sunday night if our next accommodation in Munnar could take us a day early.  Subish’s brother advised this as the preferred option as even with the early start we might still have problems travelling.  Mr L called Green Spaces to confirm availability for Sunday night, Mama booked the car, we packed, said goodbye to Mama, had a frustrating telephone conversation with Subish who insisted we pay full rate for Sunday night as it was ‘our choice’ we were leaving early, and we were on our way at 18.00.

Munnar is 105km from Thekkady but took 3 hours on the most horrendous of roads. We zig-zagged up and down through the Western Ghats mountain range, some unbelievable hairpin bends.  Thank the Lord it was dark and I couldn’t see the sheer drop outside the car window! At one point we had to leave the main road because there was an elephant blocking the main route further up and causing lots of problems – only in India! The alternative road was like a badly maintained Norfolk skinny road……our driver did well and we can’t complain.

Green Spaces is yet another amazing accommodation booked by Mr L.  Our room is huge, too dark to see the view but I expect will be stunning, and we have hot water for the first time in a week – bliss to be able to shower and wash my hair in hot water. The staff were amazing, enquiring as to whether we had eaten then willingly cooked us a meal which was served on our outside balcony area.  Access to our room is via a very spirally spiral staircase, almost as precarious as the ladder steps at Monsoon Retreats.

Today has been quite an adventure and not altogether what we had planned or anticipated!