We enter the PRC through to beautiful karst mountain countryside of Guilin
09.08.2013 - 09.08.2013 94 °F
When we fell into bed Thursday night, after our excursion through Hong Kong, we decided to give the kids (and let's be honest, ourselves too!) some downtime in the morning. Our flight to Guilin was not until 4:10, and we had seen more of Hong Kong in 24 hours then we had ever planned to! So we let the kids sleep as late as they wanted, and figured we'd get the hotel breakfast and start introducing our group to some local dishes. We ended up with the four of us just enjoying some blogging, reading, and writing/drawing in the cozy little room Bruce and the girls were in. It was only a twin bed, so Bruce got forced into the "crack" of the pushed together beds, and the whole group was a little light on sleep. We would have to catch up later as events were in going to follow in quick fashion as we entered the PRC.
Most hotel breakfasts in tourist-land China consist of buffet style offerings with a mix of Asian and western choices. The four of us really dug into the breakfast because our exhaustive efforts on Victoria's Peak had also caused us to pass up on dinner. Now, we were going to make up for it. I went for a varied selections of both cuisines, especially the dim sum,
The kids loaded up on fruit, rice, waffles, bacon, juice, and this wonderful feast recharged our batteries for the day of travel ahead of us. We made the decision, based on our observation of Hong Kong's unpredictable traffic situation, to head out to the airport several hours early and simply hang out there for a while until our flight. We had not been able to acquire seat assignments, and hoped that a personal appearance at the Hong Kong Airlines ticket counter would resolve all of our questions.
We did the reverse of our process from the day before (bus, train, airport) like old pros, and found ourselves all checked-in and ready for flying into China's Mainland...four hours before our flight. One little detail remained to be resolved - the gate for our departure. This will come into play later on...
No one was hungry after our wonderful feast, but we were constantly up for cool refreshing drinks since arriving in Asia. Lo and behold what do we see? STARBUCKS!! After a few refreshing Frappachinos (Does St. Louis have Red Bean and Green Tea Frappachinos?) We looked for things to do during our wait. The girls always have game booklets (Thank you Aunt Gloria), Laurie has a book to read, Hayley has her iPad, and Bruce and Keith made good use of the free WiFi (Thank you Steve Jobs for FaceTime!) Eventually, we would need some lunch, and while it sounds blasphemous to be eating McDonald's on a trip to an area of the world with some of the world's great chefs, in the airport, it's better to get food that the kids are familiar with.
A short while after our fries, burgers, and chicken fingers (they don't like the term nuggets. I think it may refer to body parts unmentionable), we decided to go through security and go wait at the gate. Uh...wait a minute...no gate chosen yet. No problem. Let's just get past security and wait for the gate assignment. 2:30...3:00...3:15...uh...folks, the plane is supposed to leave at 4:10. And there is no "Hong Kong Airlines" desk to get answers from past security. And there is a "language problem."
Eventually, we find out that the plane hasn't arrived yet, and we do get a gate...at 3:45. So, we will be leaving late, which is fine, just so we know where to wait! Hayley picked up the iPad under the watchful eye of one of the locals in her age group.
When the time comes to get on board, you board a bus with, what fells like, half of China.
Then, we hauled our "carry-ons" up a rolling set of stairs, like we used to all the time at airports, to get on Hong Kong Express #8121. Some juice, a cookie (I guess their version of honey-roasted peanuts) and a few government films about how friendly all the government workers will be that will smilingly goes through the immigration procedures with you, we landed in Guilin!
We were met after customs by our guide, Sandy, and our driver Mr. Yang, and headed into the scenic landscapes that surround Guilin. It was a fascinating mixture of past and present in one of the smaller major cities in southern China (only @700,000 in the city proper). The wonderful scenes make people-watching a real fulfilling experience!
We got into our Sheraton rooms late, because of our adventures in the Hong Kong Airport, ordered some pizza (the Chinese taught the Italians how...and still are masters!) and finished up for a big day Saturday on the Li River Cruise!