I was so reluctant when my husband introduced Yangshou as the next place to be because it involved a 13-hour overnight train ride from Guangzhou to Guilin, a 4-hour cruise to Yangshou, and a 7-hour bus ride back to Guangzhou. I only relented to it since I knew I’d regret not going!
We bought our tickets to Guilin a few days before our trip since many sources strongly recommend that we do due to the high influx of local tourist traveling through train. We went to the Guangzhou Railway Station where we were greeted by chaos. There were several queues but we had absolutely no idea which one to queue up for. I noticed several travelers, huddled close to each other, asleep on the terminal floor. Others were simply staring into space while waiting for their schedule. There were lots of well-dressed ladies walking about, heels a-clinking while lugging a few bags. It still amazes me how they do it! Here I am, unable to live without my unfashionable pair of Fitflops that don’t seem to match anything that I wear.
Jody found the queue for Guilin and after what seemed too long a discussion with a non-English speaking agent in the counter, he eventually managed to get our tickets. We paid for the entire trip from Guangzhou to Liuzhou, which stops after Guilin. Our tickets did cost us 426 yuan ($69) for the upper berth and 443 yuan ($72) for the lower berth. This was more expensive that what we found in our research. It could be because our departure was on a Friday and because we are paying the full ticket to Liuzhou. As we were leaving the train station, we discovered that our beds are in the same train car but not in the same cabin. We figured we can speak to the occupant to switch.
We arrived to the usual commotion in Guangzhou Railway Station on a late Friday afternoon. We grabbed a fattening take-out from KFC for dinner before we walked to the terminal. As we settled on one of the seats in the waiting area, eating our fries, the janitress made this hawking sound and nonchalantly spat on the floor. She did this while she was sweeping the floor with a broom. I was flabbergasted. I thought people only spit OUTSIDE, not on a freaking tile inside a railway station. I could barely eat the rest of my fries. If brooms could get tuberculosis, this broom might have died a long time ago. After a few minutes of waiting, a woman in uniform brusquely spoke to us in Chinese and signaled us to move. Apparently, there was a change in the waiting area. We followed the rest of the passengers.
We were directly led to the train. Each cabin has a 4-berth soft-sleeper; each berth comes with a night light, clean set of sheets, 2 pillows and one comforter in each bed. I double checked to make sure it’s clean after all the unhygienic things that I’ve witnessed in China!
We shared a room with a middle-aged man who was friendly even though he didn’t speak English. Our other roommate was a young man whose eyes were always glued on his Iphone. The person who’s supposed to occupy the other bed in that room agreed to switch with us with the help of our middle-age roommate. Jody occupied the lower bed while I wish I learned gymnastics as there was only a flat slab of metal attached to the wall that served as a step while lifting entire body weight to get to the upper berth.
We kept our active toddler occupied with pens, stickers, songs, and a few baby shows. As much as I wanted her to run around in the aisle outside our cabin, I was way too petrified to make her do so after seeing a middle-aged Chinese woman spit on the carpeted floor!
Arabella was overstimulated by the new surrounding and ended up only sleeping at midnight. We were lucky because our roommates were both crazy over their Iphones that they were tinkering with their respective devices til 1am or so. All along, I had been dreading the possibility that we would annoy tired passengers with Arabella’s activities while they’re trying to sleep. We arrived in Guilin at 7:30am. Exhausted from lack of sleep, we still found energy at the thought that we were going to cruise the Li River – the highlight of this trip!
Know Before You Go:
- Pack hand sanitizers. Many public places in China can be unsanitary. You might be sitting on a chair that has been likely spat on.
- Bring wipes and tissues. Unlike in other countries where you expect a roll of tissue in every toilet cubicle, you’ll most likely not find one in the restrooms in China especially in public places like terminals, airports, and shopping malls. We were lucky on this trip because I actually saw a roll of tissues but it’s good to have some as a back-up!
- Bring some water with you especially during the summer months.
- Pack a bag of munchies. Chances are you might not find the food that they serve on the train appealing so it’s always good to have an option.
- Print a map of the city that you’re going to. Jody did print one but we forgot to bring it with us!
- Most of the tickets in China are in both Pinyin and Chinese characters so go to this link to get a good idea about what’s written on your ticket.
- A phrase book or an app that translates English words to Chinese will come in handy because you will most likely bump into people that do not speak English at all!
- For parents traveling with kids, bring a few treats, a feeding set, and a few toys that will keep them entertained for a while, if not for the entire trip. Disposable changing pads is good to have if you’re suspicious of the surface where you might possibly change your baby. In China, you ought to!
- I always pack a plastic bag or two with me in case of motion sickness that would involve some puking. It also comes in handy when baby decides to do number 2.
- We always, ALWAYS bring with us a pacifier as if it’s part of our family. We use the Wubbanub because there’s a lesser chance of losing it than the traditional pacifier. Even so, we bring two of these in case one gets misplaced/lost. I could say that this is our life saver!