On arrival in Guilin, we were driven to our hotel (40 mins) only to find that it was FULL UP with conference delegates! We had to get back into our car and go to the sister hotel (Grand Bravo 5 star) at 11.30 p.m. This was a definite upgrade, but we were too tired to appreciate the opulence. The only thing wrong with our magnificent room was the aircon (temperature reading 26 degrees: controls in Chinese). Tried pressing every button. Finally I had to go back to Reception and ask for help. No English spoken at midnight: had to type into their Google Translate! A technician finally arrived and accessed the roof space. We could at long last have a shower and go to bed!
We were up at 6.15 a.m. in order to leave in good time for our Li River Cruise. First a 35 min drive to the embarkation point. Hundreds, or thousands, of Chinese tourists converged on the 50-plus river boats lined up for departure at 9.30. The boats have to go in convoy down the river, not allowed to pass each other. The lower deck, air conditioned, had lovely comfy seats, just right for snoozing after our short nights sleep.
The famous karst mtns soon came into view and everyone rushed up on deck to take photos; many people wanted to have photos taken with us Westerners. We met 2 couples from NZ who had done a 3 day Yangtse River Cruise. They said the worst part was the mad scramble for meals, as the Chinese refuse to queue up for buffets. Our cruise served airline type meals, reheated from frozen; we had been warned that they were not up to much, and had purloined items from our breakfast buffet to make our own packet lunch. The boat was a relaxing way to travel, watching the rural scenes go by. We saw many small boats dredging rubbish, water police vessels going at top speed and using up petrol for no reason, as well as a few water buffaloes, goats, horses and lots and lots of ducks grazing beside the river or pottering about in the shallows. Duck is now on the menu at every meal! At lunchtime it was 36 degrees in the shade. We don't have enough hot weather clothes and have to keep washing things.