Lhasa post # 1 - Guilin & Li River
Guilin is known for it's exotic and varied cuisine, most of which can be seen fresh outside the restaurants in cages (rabbits, ducks and snakes) and in basins pumped with oxygen (fish, eels and crabs). We saw a 4 foot rather nasty looking snake getting his head chopped off with a scissors rather expertly by the two young waitresses and then they drained the blood from the body into a glass to make a good medicine soup (they stopped me taking a phojo of that part).
We went for two "ordinary" dishes - the chicken with chillis (chicken was scrace and my lips were numb for an hour after) and to counteract it the most delicious sweet and sour fish I've ever tasted.
Even though it was pretty much destroyed by japanese bombing in the 30s the local authorities have made the town very pretty and lit up at night, as well as being pedestrian and bike friendly. We hired a couple of bicis and explored the town following the Li river - that's the nearest that we came to chinese countryside since the Great Wall! The town is full of expert hustlers, especially around the pedestrian streets where everyone wants to practice english and recommend a good restaurant. They left me alone sometimes because they thought Agnes was my guide/wife, but one guy whose cousin has a restauran in Dublin and who normally works in an orphanage, did manage to hustle me into a tea shop where I paid 12 euro for a 100g of very special, secret recipe, subtle taste blend - sucker!
After a few days in Guilin we hopped on one of the hundreds of boat tours leaving daily heading downstream to the tourist village of Yangshou. Again we opted for the chinese tour, being half as cheap as the foreigner tour, but still a pricey 200 yuan each. It came with it's own price as the first took is to a jade factory for an hour, then the included lunch was only cold rice, an egg and some meat that the dog didn't want - the idea was to pay another 100 yuan for a proper lunch, which amazingly all the chinese passangers did - and worst of all, as we cruised the very scenic river a constant commentary was given in grating chinese over the tannoy on literally every rock formation! Apart from that, sure twas a great trip .... the scenery being lush and green, with the odd rock formations vaguely familiar. This is probably because it appears on a lot of chinese art and is even on the back of the 20 yuan bill.
Even if the onbard lunch was pricey, there was no denying it's freshness, as nearly a hundred cruise boats took off simultaneously downstream then numerous small launches with the locals appeared from the banks and sold the cooks on the back of each vessel freshly caught fish, live hens and vegetables - all this without stopping! Later, locals on bamboo rafts poled out to meet our boat, which was chugging nicely along, to time their approach so that they could hook on to our gunwhale and attempt to sell is jade souvenirs and other such rubbish.