Tag Archives: solo female travel China

Escape from Ganzi to Dege, Tibet: Hotel Horrors and Hotel Highs

So when we last left off, I had just had a complete nervous breakdown in the middle of Tibet and was told that I would be leaving Ganzi in a shared minivan at 8:00 the next morning.  You can read all about that here.

Well that morning was this morning and I should probably start off by telling you that I did indeed get out of Ganzi (YAY) but the story is a bit more complicated than that.

I knew I was supposed to be leaving at 8:00 so I planned to leave my hotel at 7:30.  The shared minivans gather about ten feet from the door.  I woke up at 6:00 am and was just about to eat a Cliff Bar and drink some milk tea when someone began knocking on my door.  What the hell.  I open it and it is a dude standing there who says “Dege” to me.  I say “I thought we were leaving at 8:00” which he does not understand, as if it mattered anyway.  He does a driving motion and says “Dege” and points down, meaning “come on, let’s go.”

If I wasn’t such a maniac, I would not have even been awake yet.  I could in theory have set my alarm for 7:30 and still have been outside by 8:00.  As it was, I was only awake for maybe five minutes.  So now I have to rush like even more of a maniac and pack and get out now.  I am ready in five minutes, but I am all shaky from doing too much when I was only awake for five minutes in high altitude. Plus, I had consumed zero calories.  But hey, I am getting out of Ganzi so let’s go!

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In order to have gotten ready so fast, all I did was squeeze some toothpaste into my mouth and swished it around while I changed out of my pajama pants into jeans, put my hair in a pony tail,  put on my sneakers and hoodie and ran out the door.  It did not hit me until we were almost at Dege (seven hour drive) that I was wearing a band shirt that I had slept in that reads “If there’s a god he hates us.”   In a region of the world where religion is a pretty big deal. Luckily, I don’t think anyone could read it.

The minivan was horrible, as expected.   They pack so many people in these things.  This one had bucket seats so people had to sit on stools in the aisle between the seats  There was too much luggage to fit.  But this is China so it was put in anyway.  For the entire ride, I had a wheel of someone’s suitcase digging into my shoulder.  I tried using it as a massage tool for a while, but once we left paved road, it became excruciating.

There are so many roads that are not paved. Then there are the are mountain passes.  You are driving around a fucking mountain, on the edge, on a driving path that is so narrow, it would be a single lane in the United States.  But this is China, so it is a double lane.  There are trucks going on this route.  When they pass and you are on the edge of a fucking mountain, there are only mere inches of space between you and the truck, and you and the end of your life if you fall over the side.

Add to that, my driver had this annoying habit of sticking his head out his window and looking behind him.  Without stepping on the brake.  So we would be slow rolling and he wasn’t watching.  It was quite the fingernail biting experience when we were on solid ground. But when he did it a few times as we were about to veer off of a 5050 meter high mountain pass, I nearly vomited.  Like literally, I was burping up bile.

We passed an overturned minivan that had a bunch of people outside looking absolutely devastated.  I imagine there were people either dead or trapped inside. Even seeing this, did not make my driver drive any less like a maniac.

The view though…guys…the view.

chola pass between ganzi and dege tibet china gorgeous blue sky behind chola pass between ganzi and dege tibet china snow on chola pass between ganzi and dege tibet chinaGood thing we didn’t die or else you guys would never have seen these photos!

I have a new thing that whenever we pull into a new town, it starts raining.  I do not mean drizzling, I mean the skies open up and vomit more than I did when my driver almost drove us off a mountain.  So my first impression of Dege was standing under an awning for about half an hour getting “hello!”ed at by the locals.  I got “hello” yelled at me here more than anywhere ever before.  Some of the younger kids followed it up with “What is your name?”

Then it was time to find a hotel.  Oh you guys.  The mistakes I have made in my entire life pale greatly to today’s mistake.

I passed a few hotels as I was walking through inches of mud.  The sidewalks here, when they exist, are all broken and missing in spots so there are unusable.  The hotels I kept seeing had nothing written in English, only had photos of beds on the awnings.  They were all up staircases.  High altitude, seven hours in a death van, still zero calories consumed.  I did not want to walk up and find out they do not accept foreigners so I kept walking, hoping to find one that says “foreigners accepted.”

I finally find a guy who does the mime for “hotel” and I am all “sure!”  He takes me to this place.  We walk up stairs and he calls to a woman who comes out.  She shows me two rooms.  One is a shared bathroom, one is private.  Private please!  I pay the 100 RMB (about $16 USD) and then begin to realize I do not want to stay here. The room was gross, which is fine.  The beds are clean, who cares about the walls.  Okay I know a lot of people care about the walls. Maybe you are licking walls as entertainment, but I am not.

shitty room dege walls

But the bathroom. Why did I not look at this?  Oh dear.  This is the bathroom.

dege disgusting bathroomI sit on my bed, clutching my adorable stuffed dog and ask him what I should do. He suggests I should eat something because obviously the fact that I have had a full day and have not yet eaten, plays a huge part in me accepting this room.

I go out of the room and ask for the WiFi password and I swear the woman laughs at me as she is shaking her head “no.”  This is the final straw, I am not staying here.

I leave my crap here and go outside to find a new room.  It hits me that I did not lock the door, nor was I handed a key. I ask for a key.  “No key.”  Oh you are fucking kidding me.   Meanwhile, the irony of this is that this woman is actually mopping the hallway during this conversation.  Here’s a hint: TRY MOPPING THAT DISGUSTING BATHROOM IN MY ROOM.

I leave my stuff in my unlocked room because honestly at this point, I would rather it be stolen than to carry it up 982374837 staircases in Dege before I find a hotel that allows foreigners. Seriously, there were zero hotels that had a lobby on the ground floor.  They were all up staircases.

It has stopped raining but Dege is a mess today.  There is mud everywhere, in inches.  But they are also redoing the main (only?) street in the town so there is wet cement, dust, jackhammering, missing sidewalks, missing street and a HUGE traffic jam that passengers cannot even get past because a cement truck has shut down the entire town.

dege streetsThis is unfortunate because Dege seems really pretty.

dege river tibet chinadege prayer flags behind tibetan architecturedege mountain viewI find one  hotel, walk up to the second floor and the entry door is locked.  There was an adorable dog on the mat outside the door. I went to pet it and it bit me.  Okay, this is not the hotel for me.

I find another one.  I walk up two flights of stairs and I see the bathroom door open.  It makes the one in my room look clean.  So this is also not the hotel for me.

I find a third hotel but it is across the street from the traffic jam so even if I do find a way there right now, I will not be able to get through with my luggage.

NEXT!  I find a fancy looking hotel.  SO FANCY I LOVE YOU.  But the entire ground in front of it is ripped up and the only way to get to the hotel is to walk over a wooden plank that does not look like it would support my weight.

Then I see a sign for a hotel that looks fancy and BONUS – is on the river.  I go around the corner and cannot find any English sign like I saw from the street. There were so many hotel entrances here but none of them with lobbies on the ground floor.  Just photos of beds and stairs for you to walk up and find someone.  Which one is the nice one I saw from the street?  Is it this one?  Or this one?  Wait, this one has an elevator…oh my god what is THAT?!?
prayer flags hotelI have found my hotel. I do not know the name of it, but I am inside of it right now.  I don’t even know how much it costs.  She showed me 190 RMB ($30.59 USD) but then asked for 390 RMB ($62.79 USD) so either I paid $200 deposit I will get back tomorrow, or I paid 390 RMB for this room.  I do not fucking care.

I checked in, went back to the other place to get my stuff.  When I walked in, I realized I had left the bathroom door open. Oh the stench.  Oh we have GOT TO GO.  I left without saying anything.  The woman had her back to me, still mopping the same spot in the hallway she had been mopping two hours earlier.  Best choice of thing to obsessively clean in this place.

I am now showered with water that was too hot (this is not a complaint) and wearing hotel slippers that are actual slippers and not shared shower shoes described as slippers, and I have the fastest WiFi I have had since I left home.  Excellent end to a shitty start.

I am not entirely sure if I will be able to get to Yushu tomorrow, like I would like to do.  I am not entirely sure I can get there at all from here.  Which may make you wonder why I am here.  I am with you on this one.  I don’t know if I should try to find a shared taxi at 6:00 am?  Like do I really want to wake up and go strolling looking for a minivan at 6:00 if they do not leave until noon?  No one knows what time they start collecting people, not even GOOGLE knows for crissfuckingsakes.  But I will figure it out.  As always.  And if not, I can still go back to Chengdu and try out my “spend twenty days in a hostel eating Subway” plan.

Guilin, China: Bamboo Raft Ride on Fanglian Pool and Reed Flute Cave

Today’s plan was to go to Fubo Hill. To get there, you need to take bus #1. I could not find a bus stop for this line. So instead, I changed my plans and took the #3 bus to the Reed Flute Cave. Buses in Guilin are only 1 RMB, which is about fifteen American cents. Total bargain.

I was able to follow along the stops by simply looking out the window when we would stop and reading the name of the stop we were at on the bus stop sign. When we got to where the next stop was mine, I stood up. A Chinese man made gestures to show me “NO” and motioned for me to wait. Um, okay. In the end, it turns out that the stop for Reed Flute Cave is at the parking lot. The one right after leaves you directly at the entrance. Thank you kind sir!

I got off the bus and lit a cigarette. A man approaches me to try and sell me a ride on a bamboo raft on the little Fanglian Pool across the street. No matter what I said, he would not leave me alone. If I were not smoking, I would have walked away. Finally I decided it was easier to just take the damn ride (5 RMB = $.85 USD) than to sit there arguing any longer. For less than a dollar, it was worth it.

Fanglian pool bamboo raft ride outside Reed Flute Cave in Guilin China

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Fanglian pool outside reed flute cave guilin china background of fanglian pool guilin chinaFanglian Pool Guilin China

When you get out at the other side, you are bombarded by women selling post cards. The more you say “no”, the more they parrot you. So you are then walking through a wall of Chinese woman all yelling “NO” while giggling.

The Reed Flute Cave costs 120 RMB which is $19.55 USD. I thought this was ridiculously cheap. A man I met in my hostel later on thought it was insanely expensive. I guess it all depends on where you are from and what you are used to.

There are a bunch of steps and it looks like there is an elevator.  I could not see the way to go up in the elevator so I just hiked it.  There is a tram that I still have no idea where it goes.  Once you pay for  your ticket, you then have to wait for a time period and a guide will take you as a group.

The cave was amazing.  The guide did not give the tour in English so I have no clue what she was saying.  I gather she was hilarious judging by the amount of laughter she got from the group.

Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China

In the middle, you stop and there are videos broadcast on a wall.

After leaving here, I got back on the bus and took it to a main street that had a McDonalds on the corner.  I stopped there for lunch and met a girl who appeared to be in her teens, who told me she was an English major.  Problem was, I could barely understand anything she was saying.  She kept trying to talk to me.  It was so awkward because I had to keep asking “what?”  I was hoping she would not sit with me and my wish came true.  I hid in the corner of the restaurant by myself and tried to get WiFi on my phone.  Hmm, which network should I connect to?

wifi

After eating, I again try to find the bus to Fubo Hill.  Spoiler alert: days later I discovered it was right across the street from me but I did not see it because I was too busy buying milk tea and cake.

After building up some burn from never finding the bus, I went back to my room and took a nap in air conditioning, next to my bottle of delicious milk tea.

I can’t resist posting more pictures.

Reed Flute Cave in Guilin China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China

Guilin, China: Elephant Trunk Hill Park

After my oh so exciting first sleep on mainland China, I was up bright and early for my first day in Guilin.  I could not have been more excited.  I went outside to stare at the Li River from behind my hostel.

Li River outside Green Forest Hostel, Guilin, ChinaLi River Guilin China

From here I went walking around the streets near my hostel.   Just about instantly, I met Jerry.  Jerry is a tour guide who offered me lots of options for tours to take in and around Guilin.  I was not interested in any of them, since I already had everything planned out before I left home.  I ran into him regularly for the rest of my trip.  At some point a couple of days later, I was pretty far away from my hotel just walking around and I hear “HELLO JENNIFER!” being yelled at me from across the street.  Oh hello Jerry.

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I stopped at a store to buy some bottled iced coffee to  bring back to my room.  Once there I accidentally discovered the heaven on Earth that is iced milk tea.  I didn’t even know this existed.  I thought I had purchased iced coffee.  This stuff is so good.  I should have kept track of how many bottles of this I drank in the one month I was there.  Or maybe I am better off never knowing?

After breakfast, I walked over to Elephant Trunk Hill.   This is a rock formation that looks like an elephant taking a drink of water out of the Li River.  I have read a few legends about the elephant.  All of them involve the Emperor of Heaven stabbing the elephant and leaving it turned to stone.  I don’t really like these legends.

Trying to buy a ticket to enter a Chinese park when you do not speak Chinese means you will be pointed in a direction in which you do not see the ticket booth.  So instead, will find yourself in a cafe ordering fresh mango juice.  It was delicious.

The weather was so gross.  Hot and humid.   As an added bonus, I sweat more than average Westerners and the Chinese do not seem to sweat at all.

Elephant Hill Park Entrance Guilin China

Elephant Trunk Hill entrance Guilin China

Once inside, I walked around trying to find the elephant.  I walked around a path and was just instantly taken back by the beauty that is Guilin.   Whenever you tell people you are going to China, they instantly tell you about black skies and smog.  They never consider that China also looks like this:

Beautiful Guilin from Elephant Trunk Hill Park

path Elephant Trunk Hill Guilin China

Elephant Trunk Hill Park Guilin China

I walked around for a very long time, trying to find the elephant.  At some point, I got my first “HELLO!” yelled at me by a man who was borderline giggling.  This may have been the first time, but it was most certainly not the last.  Chinese people LOVE to yell “HELLO” at Westerners and they are usually all giggly and over excited to do so.

This man told me about his family and how they own banks in America.  I really did not know what to say back.  I probably should have just asked him where the damn elephant was.

Right past the man is this cave.  Although I did not know this at the time, it seems rather obvious in hindsight that THIS is the elephant!

Elephant Trunk Hill Cave, Guilin China

But nope, I do not realize this.

So I keep walking and looking.

I found myself being accidental hiker.  I do this all the time.  I did not have any intention of hiking to the top of the hill.  But I found signs pointing to a scenic spot up top.  This is ELEPHANT TRUNK HILL, surely the scenery would be seeing the elephant.  Right?

Up the steps I go.  scary steps elephant trunk hill guilin china

I was so petrified twisting my ankle and falling.  Of course, some woman was walking up the stairs in high heels.

I stopped for about fifty pictures, all of the same view, just from higher points.

boats across river Elephant Trunk Hill Guilin China

Guilin Scenery Elephant Trunk Hill

I finally make it to the top, positive that I will see the elephant.  Nope, he is not visible from up here.  It is okay, I am at the top.  I should have a beautiful view of Guilin from here, right?

Sigh.  No.

view from top of elephant trunk hill park guilin chinaI made my way back down, yelled “HELLO” to the “HELLO” guy as I passed him again.  I kept walking around until I found a little bridge and crossed it.  Wait, is that it?  Is that the elephant?  IS IT?  IS THAT THE ELEPHANT?  IT IS!  No wonder I could not see him.  For the first hour I was looking for him, I was walking around ON him!

That pagoda up top is (a) where I hiked to and saw only trees obstructing my view and (b) according to legend, the sword that was used to kill the poor elephant.

Elephant Trunk Hill Guilin ChinaThere is a whole beautiful park over here with boats you can take a ride on and cute little elephant statues in the water.

boatselephant statues in water Elephant Trunk Hill Guilin China

Here is a random bamboo raft with chickens.  Yeah I don’t know either.

bamboo raft featuring chickens - elephant trunk hill park in guilin china

If you walk past these, you come across what seems like a never ending park full of things like golden dragons, affectionate statues and cute little bridges with elephants on them.

Golden Dragon Elephant Trunk Hill Guilin China

kissing statue Elephant Trunk Hill Guilin China make out statue Elephant Trunk Hill Guilin China mother child statue Elephant Trunk Hill Guilin China

elephant bridge Elephant Trunk Hill Guilin ChinaElephants on bridge Elephant Trunk Hill Guilin ChinaIt was very beautiful and peaceful over here.

bridge Elephant Trunk Hill Park Guilin ChinaLi River Elephant Trunk Hill park Guilin China

After leaving here, I went back to my hostel and did laundry.  Even though there was an actual dryer in the laundry room, it was not hooked up to anything. I later learned that dryers just do not exist in China.  Also as an added fun time bonus, the lights went out as I was doing laundry so I just sat in the room in the dark like a weirdo.  I scared the crap out of the poor guy who delivers the laundered towels.

Macau, China: Final Gambling Chapter Featuring MGM Grand and the Venetian

So after spending a day doing touristy stuff, I earned my right to continue on being Gamblor!  Hopefully I will do as well as I did on my first try, which you can read about here.

My plan is to play $100 HKD (just under $13 USD) in each of the five casinos I plan on visiting.

Where better to start than in my own hotel?  Lisboa’s casino was offering $20 HKD free play to new sign ups.  This is about $2.50 USD.  I also got a free cookie and a little change purse.

Lisboa casino swag

I lost my $20 free play and my allotted $100 (and an extra $100 for good measure.)  I went to cash out my last few cents and found out I had played enough to earn $50 HKD in free play.  Lost that too.  BUMMER.  When I went to collect my change, there were two women working the cashier’s cage.  One was obsessed with me and you could just tell she was dying for me to go to her window.  She looked SO EXCITED to see me walking up.  So I decided to get some good karma by obliging her.  No one has ever been happier to speak to me in my entire life.

Back over to Wynn.  Surely I will win here, since I did last night, right?  Maybe.  I lost my $100 in a Code Red slot machine and put in a second.  Because I said I was only going to play $100 and now I am playing $200.  This got me $1000.  That is about $129 USD.  This means I can put in another $100.  Cashed this one out at $900.

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Over to MGM Grand.  Here I got a fish pin.  Oooooh!

MGM Grand Macau fish pinmgm  macau entrance

I played some stupid dolphin themed slot machine and never stopped losing until I stopped myself from playing.  I left down $400 HKD (again, because I was only supposed to play $100 here.)

This was the first place I found any video poker and I only found one bank.  I did not play it because my math told me each hand would be $10 USD.   No thank you.

After this, I retreated back to my room for a nap.  I stopped at a bakery inside my hotel for a croissant on my way up.  I was due $40 HKD in change and was given $20.  I point this out and the woman instantly hands me another $20 without even double checking I was telling the truth.  Either they are really into honesty here, or she was purposely trying to rip me off and knew she was caught.

I go back out later on, this time to the Venetian.   Macau is set up so every hotel/casino has free shuttles to and from the ferry terminal.  The way you are supposed to get around is to take a shuttle to the ferry terminal and hop on a free one to wherever it is you want to go.  Where I do not want to go is the ferry terminal.  It is hot, I am riding some winnings, I will splurge for a cab.

Let me tell you, the lines for cabs on a Monday in Macau are longer than lines for cabs in Las Vegas on a Saturday night fight night.  No joke.

The Macau Venetian is enormous.  ENORMOUS.  It was shocking and impressive.  It looks like the Vegas version, only on steroids.

Venetian Macau canalVenetian exterior Macau ChinaVenetian Tower Macau ChinaVenetian Rialto Bridge Macau ChinaVenetian Macau entranceVenetian ceiling art macauVenetian hallway MacauVenetian Canal Macao China

Signing up for a player’s card here got me a keychain.

Venetian key ring

I played some slots, but could not win at all.  I had originally planned to go across the street and try my luck at the casinos over there.

crown and hard rock macao

Crown Macau ChinaBut I could feel myself getting anxious for a win and I knew this might not end well.  So I actually managed to stop myself and get back in a cab back to my hotel.  I think I promised myself I could do a degenerate Atlantic City trip when I got back, in exchange for being anti-degenerate.  Spoiler alert:  I have since taken two degenerate Atlantic City trips.  Oops?

Back to Lisboa.  This place is so pretty.

casino lisboa macau china daytime

I tried to have dinner at their coffee shop. I am not sure what exactly I did wrong.  I walked in, got seated, got a menu and then nothing happened ever again.  There was a waitress who kept ignoring me.  She would keep walking by and never stop.  When I would say “excuse me” she would keep walking.  Mind you, there was only one other table in the whole place that had people sitting at it.  So after half an hour (literally, half an hour) I got up and went to my room and dined on a package of mixed nuts.  Not exactly the meal I had been hoping for, but it did help in keeping my Macau spending ridiculously low.

I was in bed pretty early to prepare for the next day: my first time ever stepping foot on mainland China.