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Yesterday we hired bikes for 20 Yuan each. Mine was so snazzy it was still half wrapped in bubble-wrap (which I ripped off after about 2 hours of it hitting my leg annoyingly).

We were given a map that we couldn’t follow so we just guessed roughly where we wanted to be heading. Twas pretty scary cycling along the main road with all the other push bikes, motorbikes, cars, buses, trucks, and random pedestrians darting out across the road at any moment.

I apparently worried C, who was behind me, with just how well I was blending in with the local road traffic. According to him I was weaving randomly in and out of the bike lane, cutting off cars and narrowly avoiding being squashed. Quite glad I didn’t know that at the time.

After only about 15 minutes we’d left the big scary road and were happily cycling along more country roads amongst all the rice paddies and karst hills. It was all very very beautiful. And completely worth the leg agony I was in that evening.

In about an hour we’re off to a Chinese cooking class. Yum.

I’ve been guzzling the tasty Sichuan food here as we’re pretty close to that region. It’s very delicious, a little buzzy. I am totally winning the battle of the chillies. C cried. Muha.

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It’s raining. But that’s okay because we’re in Guilin in CHINA! Oh yes.

And we’re staying in a lovely hostel called Flowers.  It’s very welcoming. I especially like the buckets everywhere to catch the rain. The best one is perched above the computer next to me. They have a variety of english books. I’ve already snaffled and read one.

In Guilin they’re into exotic food (tortoise, rabbit). Also very fresh food. We went on a walk and passed lots of restaurants with cages stuffed with live animals and bowls of sea creatures.  They used to eat monkeys but now don’t because of SARS.

I had spicy fish for lunch. It took a while to prepare. Chances are the fish was still alive when I walked into the restuarant. Poor Mr delicious Fish.

We got the train from Hong Kong to (note: names may be mispelt) Guangzhou and changed to a sleeper train to Guilin.  Guangzhou station was horrible. It was massive and confusing. Nothing was in English, there were no apparent platforms, or entrances to platforms. And it was very very dirty. Everyone was sitting on the floor or broken chairs. People were spitting and blowing their noses into bins or the floor. There were babies with no nappies, just slits in their trousers so they could go on the floor whenever they wanted. 
Once we got on the train everything was better though. It takes 12 hours by train to get to Guilin. We’d chosen to travel by ‘hard sleeper’ which is a carriage seperated into about 16 sections with six beds in each section. In bunks of 3. C and I were in the very top bunk! It was tres high. I squeaked with alarm as I tried to hurl myself up it. The ladder was tiny. Plus I was foolishly wearing a skirt.
 
Tommorrow we’re getting a boat down the Li river to Yangshuo (supposed to have beautiful limestone formations and gannet fishing). 3 nights there then after we’re coming back here – getting a train to Chongching (18 hours) and from there getting a 3 day cruise up the Yangtxi river.  Exciting! A guy called David helped us book everything in a travel agent shop in the station when we arrived. We’d only gone with him originally to get a map. Lol!

I will add photos at some point when I locate a USB port/remember my wires. This may take a few days.

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Today we bought travel insurance. We can now do a variety of mildly dangerous activities (such as abseiling, parachuting, ballooning, bungy jumping, white water rafting, and the rather obscure ‘working holidays’) in China, and if everything goes horribly wrong we can spend up to $10,000,000 each in a hospital driving to fix it.

We wanted to compare STA’s and Student Flights’ prices so we went to both and picked up their insurance brochures. STA didn’t actually have any prices for policies in theirs at all so they lost.

Basic cover for the two of us in China for just over a month was $574.

However I just pulled out the certificate to look it over and find they’ve spelt C’s name wrong and they’ve put my birth in the wrong month! Argh! Why is nothing ever easy? I’m going to have to go back on Monday now and sort them out! So annoying!

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‘Ah easy’ I hear you cry ‘It has to be the train every time, for what other travel offers the smooth straight lines and convenience of speed? The plane is fast, but does not drop you conveniently in the centre of the city. The bus is cheap but takes far longer and is bumpier and smellier’. You smile knowingly and nod your head ‘Oh yes it must be the train every time for the discerning traveller!’

Ha, I say, ha! Everywhere else in the world this may be true, but not Australia. I wanted to go to Canberra from Melbourne and return back again. Simple enough you would think. How can it be that such a wealthy country that is practically begging for tourists to visit it, that has signed the kyoto agreement and is supposedly committed to cutting down on carbon emissions, how can such a country NOT have connected train lines between the state capitals. My mind boggles!

Oh you can buy a train ticket from Melbourne to Canberra and vise-versa but what’s not immediately obvious is that you have to get a BUS for a large portion of that journey. For some reason there’s a gap in the train tracks!!

And is it faster? Noooooo. Is it at least a little cheaper? Nooooo.

Here is a price and time comparison from Canberra to Melbourne that I was investigating for my journey home yesterday:

TRAIN: $75 single ticket. 12 hours travel. First 3 hours of which are on a bus!!!

BUS: $48 single ticket. 9 hours travel.

PLANE: $28 (Tiger Airways) single ticket. 2 hours travel.

If I wasn’t such a wuss I would have gotten the plane. Instead I chose the bus, it goes at night so the theory is that you can at least sleep the journey away.

Of course the bus was 1 and 1/2 hours late leaving Canberra. The driver was quite quite mad. He kept talking and texting on his mobile phone (which is illegal in Australia BTB), using only his elbows (sometimes knees) to steer with. I had the misfortune of being right in the very front and therefore able to see exactly how dangerously he was driving. I didn’t sleep at all. I was too busy checking my seatbelt locked properly and digging my nails into my thighs.

Yet despite this it still seemed to make logical sense to get the bus over the train. The overall lesson is that public transport in Australia as a whole is very very poor quality.

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