Seven of us hostel dwellers want to get a 'bamboo' raft downriver to the village of Xingping today, eschewing the big, pricier, triple decker tour boats. First though we need to drive for forty-five minutes to a suitable dock, I think it's got something to do with the river level not being deep enough upstream. Everyone else is returning to Guilin later today, but I'm going to stay for a couple of days so have my big bag with me, glad I'm not charged extra for that.
Jennifer, (back left with life jacket) is half Venuzuelan, half Cantonese and has moved to Beijing from California. Erin and Nate are travelling for eight months from Chicago, and Ani, originally from India now lives in Singapore working for a bank. These are my rafting buddies today.
And this is our pilot:
Our raft is half the price and considerably more personable than the bigger tourist boats that cram the river.
Arriving at Xingping, I check into the sibling hostel of the one in Guilin, also called This Old Place. This one though is more charming, at the far end of the village nearest the river, I have a balcony that overlooks the street stalls below. I have a cup of tea and listen to the xylophone seller practice her scales.
The hostel is round the corner from Old Street, there's no internet startups and silicon roundabouts here though, this is a paved street deemed so picturesque that local art students use it to practice their watercolour technique.
Overlooking the river end of Xingping and directly above my balcony is Mt, Laozhai. It can be climbed in 20 mins, so I did. An increasingly steep path, (that also featured a precarious iron ladder at one point) led to a pagoda at the top and, despite the low hanging mist, incredibly beautiful views.