We arrived in Yangshuo at about 9 a.m. the next morning and stumbled off the bus after our 13-hour ride, an odd assortment of bedraggled Chinese and me. The folks for whom this was home took off quickly. The folks who needed a toilet took off quickly. Anyone with short legs took off quickly. This left the middle-aged foreigner with a couple of tall guys who needed to test their legs before walking too far and a few of the women from our group.
The group leader took a scouting party off to find the hotel while our group headed toward a breakfast of delicious steaming noodles. Nothing beats a bowl of steaming noodles for breakfast, particularly when you still feeling like you’re bouncing around from a bus ride. Good news: The hotel has been located and we’re off to check in. Will be great to put the backpack down and get cleaned up.
Bad news: Despite initial information to the contrary, we cannot check in until the afternoon. We can leave backpacks in the lobby (?!), though. Which doesn’t matter as the tour leader informs us that although this was going to be a relaxing weekend where we could do what we wanted, we’d just been booked on a cruise down the lovely Li River and needed to leave NOW! Now Chinese tour groups often operate this way with forced marches through scenic sites and souvenir shops but our group was self-guided and supposedly we had the option to schedule our own time.
However, pointing that out to my friend and co-travelers had no resonance and so with a “when in Rome….” shrug, we were off to the river cruise.
Of course, by now it had begun to rain.
Despite the rain, traveling down the river on little bamboo rafts big enough for six people and a motors was a lovely experience, considering the horrible drought afflicting southwestern China and Guanxi. The river was easily less than half as big as I remembered it from a previous trip in 1999, so although the rain was an inconvenience for us travelers, we were quite happy for the local residents and hopeful that the situation would improve despite predictions.
But getting back to the hotel sounded pretty good, too.