19.05.2015 - 23.06.2015 24 °C
Day 14 - Shanghai – May 19, 2015
This morning we woke up and looked out the window from our 47th floor and couldn’t see a thing! The fog was so thick we couldn’t even see the roof of the building that is only 20 floors below us. By the time we headed down to the excellent breakfast buffet it had started to clear. After breakfast we checked out of our hotel and once again headed to the massive Shanghai airport.
Next we headed off to the city of Guillin. This city is a major tourist destination in China and by Chinese standards a relatively small city of around one million although the greater area around it is closer to thirty million. After landing in Guillin and we made the hour long drive through the pretty very green city to another Shangri-La Hotel.
Dancers in the Lobby of the Shangri-La, in the city of Guillin
Our room in the Shangri-La in the city of Guilin
After getting settled we head down for another great meal – we are afraid to even guess at how much weight we have put on. We have a busy day tomorrow so head off to bed fairly early.
Day 15- Li River, Yang Shuo & Hong Kong – May 20, 2015
After an early breakfast we headed out on our bus. It had been raining hard all night and continued to pour but we were not deterred. We were well prepared as we had been warned in advance by the Viking written material that it could be rainy as we get further south since this is the start of the rainy season, however, the temperatures are warm.
This morning our destination was a boat trip on the beautiful Li River. As we drove along in the bus it was clear that there was some significant local flooding. Our local guide was not deterred and we continued to drive to the place where we boarded the river boat. After an hour drive we arrived at the boat loading station which consisted of a very large rather elaborate building which is fairly typical in China. The central government erects a massive welcome center for a local attraction. Like most attractions in China there is an airport-style security screening at the entrance to the facility. All of the museums and other attractions had a similar security screening facility, however, the process is a joke as no one is ever stopped and the metal detector alarm is constantly going off. It looks more like a make work project for some local folks. We disembarked our bus in the pouring rain and join the 5000 Chinese tourists who are also heading for the river tour. The river bank loading area was total pandemonium as 40-50 smallish rather run down tour boats lined up at the jetty to pick up their passengers who were all scrambling to get on their respective boats and out of the pouring rain.
Chinese tourists waiting in the rain to board one of the many boats for local tourists
The river was now well into flood stage with water rushing by the river bank loaded with discarded shoreline garbage picked up as the river had rapidly swollen over its banks. After a half hour wait our much nicer tour boat was able to get a slot at the jetty and load our group of 50 or so folks.
Our comfortable tour boat on the Li River
We quickly departed and made our way up the river as we ploughed our way through the barrage of garbage now rushing down the river. The river level by now was at least 5-8 feet above the normal level but then again this is not a terribly unusual occurrence on the river so no one seemed to be too alarmed. Our guide told us that the river would have been much more crowded with smaller boats if the weather were nicer and the river not so flooded. The scenery was breath taking as you can see from the pictures.
Other more crowded tour boat on the flooded river
Even the miserable weather couldn’t detract from the gorgeous scenery.
The beautiful Li River near Guilin
During the four or five hour ride we had a buffet lunch and the sky cleared somewhat. We scrambled off the boat across a make-shift pathway (the normal walkway was flooded) and walked through another group of vendors to our waiting busses.
A rather unconventional landing spot due to the flooding
Vendors at the boat dock
On the way back we visited the Elephant Hill Scenic Area where we saw not only the Elephant Trunk Hill but also a couple of captive cormorants which they use for fishing.
Fishing with cormorants
Fishing with cormorants
After a bit of a clean-up and a check of our email we headed down for dinner which was once again a lovely buffet at the Shangra-La hotel. Since we were scheduled for a very early start the next day we were off to bed by 10:00 this evening.
Day 16 - Guilin to Hong Kong – May 21, 2015
This was our earliest start yet, we were up at 4:30 am as our luggage had to be outside our door by 5:30 am. After another great breakfast we boarded our bus by 6:00 am in order to catch the 8:00 am flight to Hong Kong. Once again it was raining steadily as we left the very picturesque area of Guillin.
By 9:45 we landed at the Shenzhen airport which is right on the border with Hong Kong. Although Hong Kong now is part of China there are still strict border controls between Hong Kong and China. Our tour guide explained to us that it would be more efficient for us to fly into this Chinese city right on the border and take a bus through customs and immigration than it would be to take a flight directly into Hong Kong. So we deplaned, picked up our luggage and got on a bus with all of our luggage. We drove about 5 km unloaded all our luggage from the bus, went through a China exit process with thousands of Chinese gently pushing and shoving in long line ups. After going through the exit process we walked down a long corridor to the Hong Kong entrance area which is similar to going through customs and immigration for any country. Once through the border process we boarded our bus again and headed into the amazing city of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong through the mist. The objects floating in the water are pens for fish farms.
Hong Kong consists of a number of major metropolitan areas and is spread over several islands and a peninsula. Unfortunately, once again we were plagued with light rain and a fairly heavy mist and even a bit of fog. However, our itinerary called for a tour so we pressed on and did a Hong Kong city tour on our bus.
Next we headed off to tour the harbour area including a visit to the floating city of Aberdeen and we were able to also take a sampan ride.
Sue and Roy on the Sampan
There were all manner of boats in the harbour - from
Sampans like ours
We next took a quick tour through a jewellery factory
We continued on to the top of Victoria Peak which is a small urban mountain top located on the highest point of the western part of Hong Kong Island, This location offers panoramic views of Hong Kong’s unique skyline. Unfortunately, in the very heavy mist we could not see much. There were high winds at the top of the peak which made it even less pleasant.
Dave part way down Victoria Peak where we could at least see part of the city of Hong Kong
After more than enough driving around in the brutal Hong Kong traffic our bus dropped us off at the ShangraLa hotel which is in the Kowloon section of Hong Kong which is pretty well in the very center of most of the action and only a short walk to the waterfront or the subway.
Lobby of the lovely Shangri La Kowloon
Our room in Hong Kong
After getting settled in at our hotel we cleaned up and headed out on our own with Sue and Roy and our new friends Bev and Wayne from Adelaide in Australia to find some place for dinner.
Day 17 - Hong Kong – May 22, 2015
Our last day in Hong Kong was a free day that we could do things on our own. Since we didn’t have any formally scheduled activities we slept in for the first time in two weeks. After a leisurely breakfast in the hotel we, along with Sue and Roy, our travelling companions, headed out for a day of exploring on our own. Once again the weather was not very pleasant with heavy overcast and a light mist. We walked along the beautiful waterfront promenade all the way to the ferry docks where we grabbed the public transit ferry across the harbour to Hong Kong Island.
The Hong Kong public transit system is very extensive and excellent with very low fares. Trip to the island cost us about 50 cents each. While on the island we got to see many of the big bank buildings as well as a wonderful Marine Museum located right at the ferry dock.
Eventually we headed back to the ferry and back to the mainland. Once back on the mainland we walked up through the major commercial area back to our hotel. After an early dinner near our hotel we joined our tour group and headed out to the waterfront to watch the laser light show which occurs every evening. Unfortunately once again the weather did us in. The mist/ rain/fog mixture was so thick you could see almost none of the show. However, it was a great walk and even in the mist the harbour is a magical place with all of its lights and excitement.
Hong Kong Harbour on a misty night
More of Hong Kong Harbour in the mist
Day 18 - The marvellous journey draws to a close - May 23, 2015
Well we arrived at Day 18 and another great adventure was drawing to a close. We didn’t have to have our luggage outside our rooms until 11:00 am so we joined Roy and Sue for a leisurely breakfast. We also sat with our friends Wayne and Beverly from Australia and next to two great couples whom we met from Atlanta. We were able to say our goodbyes to other friends whom we met during our 17 days on this amazing Viking tour.
By noon we were headed to the airport, another amazing structure like all the other airports that we went through in China. After a bit of a delay due to the rain and thunder we finally lifted into the sky at around 4:45 pm for the 15 hour flight back to Toronto via Air Canada.
Special thanks to our wonderful tour guide Matthew
Like every trip we have taken we have enjoyed ourselves immensely. We have met new friends who we will stay in touch with even if only once every year or two. Best of all we have learned a tremendous amount about a major country of our world that we had known very little about. This trip has dispelled many misconceptions that we had about China and we are much better for it.
China is a country with many contradictions, it is a country going through tremendous change. China has built more infrastructure in the past decade than North America has built in the last 40 years. The entire country is under construction. New cities are popping up everywhere. The people are facing tremendous social changes as literally hundreds of millions of people are moving from what was a rural based society a few decades ago to one that is now highly urban. What will be the social impact of this massive urbanization? We see high rise communities of 20,000 to 50,000 people springing up everywhere. Families are split up as children (one per family in most cases) are frequently left with grandparents in the country for months at a time as the parents move to the city in order to get the work they want. Despite massive building projects there is still a shortage of affordable housing. One thing we do know is that China is going to continue to be a larger and larger player on the world stage and her people certainly have the drive to make that happen and they are prepared to sacrifice a lot to make sure they get there.
There was so much to see and do on this trip that we got a bit carried away with this blog and it turned out far longer than we intended. We hope you enjoyed our adventure and we look forward to seeing your comments in the comments section of the blog. Feel free to forward the link to anyone who is interested and if you know any travel buffs who might like to be on the mailing list for future blogs just drop us an email.
David & Hazel