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Archives for April, 2017

Xingping to Yangdi

April 30th, 2017

So after I had a fun day out in Xingping I decided to go back there the next day and see how far I could get along the river. If you look around on the internet there’s various references to a classic hike from there to another village called Yangdi along the most scenic section of the river but they also say it’s now “impossible” or “unsafe”. This is nonsense, as it’s totally doable as of March 2017 although requiring a bit of luck and a small amount of adventurousness. I’ve tried to write some instructions below in case anyone else wants to try it. It’s by far the best hiking I’ve done in Asia, and unlike all the tourists packed onto the boats, you’ll have time to appreciate the scenery.

It’s probably useful to be able speak some Mandarin as you’ll need to get someone to help you across the river at one point. Or you could just try gesturing wildly.

The first part is really easy. Just head out of town past the “20元 note scene” and follow the road until it starts to curve away from the river. Then you can drop down onto the beach and there’s a well maintained path following the shoreline.

Follow the path for about three miles and you’ll come to a scenic spot called “nine horse fresco hill”. On the other side of the river is a small village and a ferry to take you across. Just get on and pay the guy 10元.

In the village there are some stalls where you can buy fruit but not much else. Just follow the road through and out the other side where you’ll see a large grassy area by the river down below. Scramble down some rocks and the path should be fairly obvious (it’s where those people are walking below).

Follow the path along the river for another two miles or so until you hit a dead end and you’ll need to double back a little way and take a more inland route (check my map above). This bit has the best scenery, I stopped every 30 seconds to take a photo.

On the stone is the local tourism slogan 桂林山水甲天下 “Guilin’s scenery is first under heaven”. It was around this point I made friends with a very friendly old lady who apparently walked this way every day to sell oranges. Not a bad job eh. It was her 70-something birthday.

She insisted on accompanying me for the next mile or so to the village where she lived which turned out to be really useful as the reason for the internet saying the route was impassable soon became clear: you need need to cross the river again at this point but the only official ferry sank a few years back, it’s remains were rotting on the riverbank. After I told her where I was going the orange selling lady introduced me to her friend, an old guy with the sketchiest looking raft ever. He took me to the other side for a small fee.

I rather suspect this a profitable business for him since the ferry sank, as he seems to just hang out by the old ferry landing. You can probably haggle a bit on the price.

The path on this side is a bit overgrown but should be easy enough to find. Follow it for a while and you’ll come to a small tranquil village with some very elegant lanes. This isn’t Yangdi though so just walk out the other side of the village and take the path over the rope bridge (I asked for directions at this point).

Pass these small farms and you’ll eventually come to another operational ferry. Ride that back to the other side and you’ll reach the destination. The bus back to Yangshuo takes an hour or so and is quite scenic itself. Epic day out!


April 23rd, 2017

XingPing (兴坪) is the place I should have stayed instead of YangShuo. It’s only 45 minutes away by bus, but it feels like a totally different place. Much quieter and less commercialised.

The town is right on the most scenic section of the Li river. In fact, the scene on the back of the 20元 note is a 15 minute walk out of town. There were, however, quite a few competing “official” viewing platforms, so I don’t really know if this is the right one.

A Final Samsung Q320 Update

April 23rd, 2017

You almost certainly don’t remember but back in 2009 I published a series of articles detailing my travails getting Linux to run smoothly on my then-new Samsung Q320 laptop. Well you’ll be pleased to know that eight years on I’ve finally solved all my remaining issues:

  • The fan randomly spinning up and down
  • The “always-powered” USB port not working
  • General sluggishness

The first two can be fixed by downloading the 06LH BIOS update from July 2010. Maddeningly this can only be installed from Windows. To fix the third problem I swapped the original magnetic disk for a modern SSD (really easy), and at the same time temporarily installed Windows 10 and applied the BIOS update. Then I dd-ed my old disk over the SSD using a USB-SATA adapter.

I’m really happy with the result. Running Debian Stretch everything Just Works and with the SSD it’s pretty speedy. At the moment I’m using it whenever I go home to visit my parents.


April 14th, 2017

So Yangshuo is a town in the countryside just south of Guilin which was probably really nice 20 years ago but which has been commercialised so much it’s easily the tackiest place I’ve been in China. Think hordes or persistent touts that target white tourists, loads of Western junk food, “Irish” pubs, etc. etc. Not my kind of place. If I’d known before I went I would have stayed in one of the smaller villages nearby. Although the lady who ran the small hotel I stayed at was really friendly, so not all bad.

Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonalds, what more could you want?

There are some natural attractions south of Yangshuo that are worth a visit, but as you might expect they are way over developed. It didn’t really help that the day I went was very grey and gloomy.

Old banyan tree

The first one is this 1000 year old tree called, descriptively, “Big Banyan Tree”. Bit spooky and Harry Potter-ish.

Half moon hill

This one is called Half Moon Hill. Climbing up is good fun. At the top were some enthusiastic old ladies selling water trying to justify their ridiculous prices because they had to carry it all the way up. Hmm.


April 2nd, 2017

Where to next on my off-season travellings?! Well I went south and west to Guangxi, and its capital Guilin. It’s mainly famous for the strange rock formations dotted around the city, but there’s actually much better examples in countryside to the south around Yangshuo. The one below is supposed to resemble an elephants trunk, although that was bit lost on me.

Elephant trunk hill

Guilin is definitely high up on the list of China’s top tourist attractions. It’s not totally clear to me why though, it seems a bit over-developed and the sights are just so-so yet eye wateringly expensive. There’s a Chinese phase 一般般 which seems appropriate. Anyway this means there’s an awful lot of English speaking touts, especially around the bus and train station, which came as a bit of a shock to me after a week in Guizhou which had none of that. They are annoyingly persistent.

World’s tallest copper pagoda

My favourite attraction was actually this, the world’s largest copper pagoda. And, I’m fairly sure, the world’s only copper pagoda. It really is all made of copper. Impressive. You can go outside and walk around every level, which is rather good fun. And the only way to access it is via an underwater tunnel from beneath another pagoda (the one I’m standing in). Oh and it’s the only pagoda in the world with an elevator to the top. Um…

Guilin scenery

But the best scenery in Guilin is not in the city itself, it’s what you can see in the distance from the top of the city’s scenic spots. The mountains in Guangxi really are very exotic. But more of that later, including a fun hiking adventure.