What an experience.
To begin the day with a 5:30am start rushing around gathering our things and trying to haul down a taxi was stressful, to say the least. This morning we were to meet our tour at 7am to travel from Hong Kong to China, and the itinerary was under strict introductions 'we leave 7am sharp with or without you'. Sweaty backs and red faces we turn up 6:59, 7:20 we left. Great.
We all left our meeting place and hopped on the bus to take us up to Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, where we had spectacular views and grabbed some breakfast. First thoughts on the group - approx 30 of us, ranging from 18 to about 50, so it's nice to be able to speak to a mix of people. All such lovely people with such interesting stories that it makes us sound like our 4-month trip is nothing compared to their year travelling, I must admit it is making us want to stay travelling for longer.
After the peak, we began to make our way to the train station to China, even though the process of getting there was long and tiring, it gave us a chance to get to know everyone on the way. After getting off the train, we arrived at another train station and had a few hours to kill before the next one so it was time for a lunch break - and oh was this regretted. After taking a walk around the several fast food restaurants, quickly walking past the ducks with heads on still....we found what appeared to be beef and noodles in a spicy sauce. When it arrived, it was very different to the photo...we weren't even sure if it was beef. So after eating picking just the noodles out and with still rumbling tummies, we met the rest of the group.
We took the bullet train to Yangshuo and got our first peek at China. My first thoughts: one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Full of large mountains, greenery, small winding roads and big lakes, it really was something else. The contrast from the peaceful mountains to nearly being mowed over by bikes when we arrived to Yangshuo to get our bus was a huge contrast, however. I mean, they really love their bikes over here. Push bikes, motorbikes, scooters...conquering the roads (and very dangerously I might add. They seem to have no traffic laws here).
This was clearly the way they got around opposed to cars, as families were all piled onto scooters, both parents and the child hanging under the mums arm holding it in place whilst shooting down the road. The streets were full of open garages, which were converted into people's houses.
At the end of our bus journey, we grabbed our rucksacks and all followed the tour guides through dark winding alleyways, with water dripping from rooftops (it hit us both in the face, really not too sure what it was so I'm hoping it was water), and we finally arrived at the hostel. Downfall...this wasn't our hostel. As we were on the 16 day trip and not the 25, the group we spent our day with were now being split up from us and we were moved onto another hostel with 4 others. The 6 of us and a new tour guide regrouped for tea at a local restaurant where once again, the food that arrived wasn't as it said - but hey it's what we've got to expect.
After we'd eaten we headed back to the hostel where we sat on the rooftop under the mountains drinking and chatting till 1am, great start.