Written by May 1, 2006 06:05
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From Hong Kong to Zhaoqing

I arrived from Hong Kong by ferry and a kind of shuttle bus . There, I was immediately immerged into another world, a more Chinese one. Sometimes I was a little “lost in translation”, because nobody spoke English, or very few people, but I actually enjoyed the experience.

Collecting information to take this trip was far from easy, because it was not part of the usual tourist circuit -but that is precisely what I enjoyed most.

I saw very scenic landscapes, around the lake in Zhaoqing (Seven Star Crags) and around, in Dinghushan moutain’s park. The lake area is very nice and there are always beautiful and changing colours. It is partly due to the monsoon humid climate which prevails in Zhaoqing (Zhaoqing is located at the Tropic of Cancer). Sunshine succeeds to abundant rainfall and so on.

I stayed in a quite nice hotel at a discounted price – HUA QIAO HOTEL . Rooms needed to be renovated but were really good value. No English speaking staff, apart from a young man on the first day, who spoke some English, but I never saw him again later. Menus in the hotel restaurants weren’t translated and didn’t include any picture. In such a situation, just show the dishes you want to eat or the Chinese characters in a bilingual dictionary -Buy the English-to-Chinese one, because if you cannot read Chinese you just won’t be able to use the Chinese-to-English one !

I enjoyed the scenery but also the quiet – in so far as a Chinese city may be quiet – provincial life here, just seating outside and eating dumplings with the locals.

The lake is really part of the local life. In the morning, people practice tai chi. I would have liked to join them and try to learn it, but I had to leave. Every day at 8 PM, people gather to watch a water and light show, while music plays in the background. There are some tourists there, most of them Chinese, but also locals. It is a convivial gathering. During the day, a few people are walking around or practicing light gymnastics. I tried to walk barefoot – or just with socks – across the “reflexology” path and it made them laugh a lot. Sometimes here you have to accept that people laugh at you, not in a mean way, because that actually seems to be the first function of Westerners in China. Do not take it badly. Just laugh with them. Besides, this exercise really works, you feel very well then, perhaps because it stimulates the blood circulation.

Sometimes, you have to pay entrance fees to visit parts of the park around the lake. And it is quite expensive, compared with the cost of local life. Although it is sometimes worth taking a ticket, often it is not. In fact, they tend to add a lot of “kitsch” to these spots. I entered such a place. Relaxing music was playing from false rocks!… Nevertheless, there were nice “summer houses” with beautiful frescoes. And there were also many plants and flowers.

Another day, in a café, a young waitress asked me how to pronounce the English names of the menu. She looked so happy to repeat the English words that I read the whole menu with her.


It is really worth taking the trip to Dingushan (about half an hour by bus) and buying a ticket to enter the park.

I you have enough time, it is really worth hiking there and following side routes to enjoy the “Flying Waterpool” and “Two Rainbows over the Chasm Bridge”. If you hop on a motorbike, the driver may stop on the way sooner than expected and ask you additional fees if you want to go up further. Personally, as I don’t like this kind of behaviour, I just let him go away. As a matter of fact, if actually needed, you will find another one later on the way.

The dense vegetation you may see here looks like primary forests. It is quite impressive. It is really worth hiking there. You may even spend one or two nights there. There is an international youth hostel. I didn’t, but when hiking there, I felt it may be nice.

The following pictures were taken at Baoding Park, one of the scenic spots on the way.

(1) Dense subtropical vegetation and beautiful lakes
(2) China’s largest ancient cauldron (dragon-engraved bronze pot)


I was supposed to take a bus to GUILIN (Guangxi) at 8 in the morning, but checking out took so long that I missed it. In the bus station, I managed to explain what I was trying to do, with gestures and by showing Chinese names in the guide, on the maps and in the dictionary –I had bought a small Chinese dictionary for 10 Yuan the day before in the supermarket.

Thus it appeared that, if I wanted to leave on the same day, I had to take a bus to WUZHOU (Guangxi) and then a bus to YANGSHUO (Guangxi). People in the bus were very astonished to see a Westerner here and some of them just stared at me. The bus trip was very long, but it was nice to be only with locals and just trying to understand each other. The bus made regular stops and each time it was an occasion to share a few words with one another and taste local food stalls. Besides, landscapes, especially around Wuzhou, were beautiful.

When I had to take another bus in Wuzhou and transfer from a bus station to another, everybody was staring at me because it isn’t a place where Westerners typically stay. From the window, I saw beautiful sceneries from the farmland and people working in rice fields. People work hard there, just with their hands. It is a traditional agriculture, in contrast to the highly modern plants you may see around big cities in the Pearl River Delta and everywhere in China.

After a long bus trip which lasted a whole day, I finally arrived in Yangshuo, a kind of Mecca for the backpackers. This was a different experience, less Chinese but nice too. However, if you aim at discovering China, don’t stay too long here, because it sometimes looks just like a Western, or backpackers’ “enclave” in China. But that is not our subject here. I will maybe write another article on this experience. The place is beautiful, but I don’t really feel in China here anymore.


It was quite difficult to get the accurate information to engage in this special trip, because I wasn’t looking for the information I was supposed to as a « tourist ». People were just objecting to me that there was no ferry to this place. I finally found the timetable when crossing from Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon, Hong Kong) to Macau. If you want to do it, you just have to check the timetable at www.ctshk.com (it is the website of the operating ferry company, Chu Kong Passengers Transport Co).

Be aware that you may find no English speaker on the boat, especially if you take an “economy” ticket. And what is not stated on the ticket, the timetable or even in the departure hall is that you will not arrive by ferry directly at Zhaoqing but in Gaoming, near Foshan, and have to take a bus there. And you are supposed to tell in the ferry that you have to take the bus, so that it will wait for you when crossing the border (see: formalities). And no announcement will be made in English during the boat trip. By chance, I met a businessman who helped me with this point. Otherwise the bus won’t have waited for me!

Travel guide
I used Let’s Go China. You may find it at home or in Hong Kong. After reading through a few guides, I concluded that it was the best travel guide available for what I wanted to do, even if I eventually didn’t rely on it for the accommodation. Each name of place, accommodation place or sight is written both in Chinese and in English, which is very useful.

Communication issues
You may find some people speaking a few words of English at Dynasty hotel ( 9 Duanzhou Wu Road, very close to Hua Qiao Hotel) even if you are not staying there. Although some travel guides state that CTS Agency staff speak English, you cannot rely on it.

HUA QIAO HOTEL, I booked this hotel trough www.ineedhotel.com and everything was OK. Just don’t forget to print the Chinese name and addresses, otherwise you may never find you hotel.

Bus 21 leaves from the right of the Memorial Arch Plaza

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1. <A> An Ancient Land REV311 from SG Apr 19, 2005 11:04
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