Friday, May 22, 2009

Escape From the Waiguoren Boat

Upon arriving in Guilin, our first move was to jump on a boat and cruise down the Li River to Yangshuo, where we were planning to stay for a couple of nights. Five years ago, this did not present us with any trouble, as we were on a domestic Chinese tour with the Kangs and company. This time around, though, the trip required a little more thought and effort.

You see, the Li River powers-that-be sort waiguoren onto different boats than tourists from the mainland. Foreigners are also charged more than their domestic counterparts, paying as much as double the price for the same basic excursion.

Our aim, as you probably can imagine, was to avoid all of this segregation and extortion. So I headed down to the lobby of our hotel (a cheap, Motel 6-like place where the staff don't speak much English).

At first, I was told by the receptionist that all Chinese tour boats for the day had already left, and that we would have no choice but to jump on a foreigner boat. Not going for this, I pressed a bit harder. "We want a boat where the speaking is in Chinese, where there is no lunch served, and where we don't have to buy a return trip ticket to Guilin."

Xiao deng, came the response. As instructed, I waited for a few minutes, while the receptionist made a couple of phone calls. Then came the good news...For about half the price of the waiguoren boats, she had located a way for us to get down the river.

And so it was that an hour later, a small van pulled up in front of the hotel. A driver and a guide jumped out, and moments later we were on our way to the dock.

But this was not the main dock where the big boats launch from. Our dock entailed scampering down a hill in this little village to the water's edge, and then literally jumping onto a raft that was made up of PVC pipes lassoed together. There were a couple of small benches on the pipes, so we made ourselves at home and settled in.

For the next three hours, it was the four of us, two Chinese guys, and the beauty of the limestone peaks. Somehow, we had gotten exactly what we wanted...



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