This post is written by Katie, about her solo trip to Yangshuo and Hong Kong.
This morning was a causal affair of breakfast, packing, and figuring out what to do in Hong Kong later today.
I was chatting with an older UK couple at breakfast and they were surprised I was travelling alone. Overall, China has felt to be one of the safest places I have travelled with regards to theft, personal safety, and not having to deal with creepy men. People (men and women, adults and kids) stare a lot and take random photos of you but, besides that, nothing creepy.
Huanggong Garden Hotel reserved an 11am ¥30 taxi to the Yangshuo North Bus Station, but the taxi did not show until 11:15am. The hotel gave me water on the way out, which was nice.
I got to the bus station at 11:30am and went directly to the official ticket office for Guilin and Guilin airport buses. There was a sign with 13:30 in the window, but I inquired about the 12:00 airport bus anyway. I could not understand what the lady was saying, so I just stood there until a girl in a yellow dress came over. She asked if I was alone, and I said yes, so she talked to the ticket window lady and (I guess) convinced her to give me a ticket.
I was going to wait by the bus with the airport express sign by it, but a guy at a desk motioned me towards a waiting area I had previously missed. I stood around for a while, and then at 11:50am a guy came to find me and motion me towards the airport bus, which was now loading. I put my big backpack under the bus and boarded. The yellow dress lady – who apparently works for the bus station – was checking tickets and said I had seat 14 – a window seat! I was definitely the only whitenon-Chinese speaker on the bus.
By the time the bus departed shortly after noon, the bus was completely full but with no one standing. I guess they do not allow standing passengers, as a few people got turned away (who seemed to have tickets – perhaps they had tickets on the 1:30pm bus). Traffic in Yangshuo was bad, so we did not arrive at the airport until 1:25pm.
Once at the Guilin airport I was very confused about where to check-in. I saw no signage at the check-in counters for Dragon Air, so I sat and waited thinking maybe check-in would not open until closer to the flight. But then I noticed a customs area that was closed and decided to watch it. It eventually opened, and people entered without showing any boarding passes. Customs was low key, with no one to declare anything to even if you wanted to. Then I got to the check-in area, where I got to use the Business Class line since JT had used his British Airways Avios to book me a Business Class seat. However, the agent regretted to inform me that my flight was delayed by two hours, maybe longer! After checking in, immigration was not open yet, so I had to wait in a small waiting area for a while. Once immigration was open I passed through and went to check out the international departures area, which was actually just one gate with two jetways. The business class lounge was not open yet, so I sat in the normal seating area for a while.
While I was sitting there, a young girl passed by a few times. She eventually asked to practice her English with me as part of a school assignment. She asked me some rehearsed questions and gave somewhat rehearsed responses for a few minutes, and then her mother(?) took a picture of us together. It was interesting, and probably a good experience for her to get some experience speaking to a native English speaker.
After chatting with her I headed over to the first and business class lounge. It might be one of the saddest lounges ever, but it did provide non-alcoholic drinks, snacks, and comfortable seats. However, it provided no power, no bathroom, no food, and no protection from the loud terminal since it did not have a roof.
However, having the lounge to relax in was nice when my 4:30pm flight was first delayed to 6:45pm and then 8pm. The lounge staff went and obtained meals for those of us on the delayed flight when they were served at our gate, which thankfully saved us from having to battle all of the masses of hungry people to obtain our meals. The meal was surprisingly not terrible, although the noodles were inedible due to a strange spice that made them bitter. Being delayed 3.5 hours was not terrible, but it did mean I was no longer going to be able to see any of Hong Kong that evening.
Once I boarded my business class cabin for the flight to Hong Kong, it was apparent that the business class cabin would be very sparse – there were only three other passengers! It was the quietest flight by far that I’ve had in China!
Shortly after boarding I was given a choice of water or Dragonair’s signature cocktail, Summer Breeze. They compare their Summer Breeze to a pina colada, but I’d compare it more to an orange juice and rum. In either case, it was a nice way to start my flight.
It was just a 75 minute flight, but the seat was comfortable with a good bit of recline (and designed in a manner where the person in front of you reclining did not affect your space).
Dinner was forgettable, just a slight improvement over economy-class meals often served on American-based airlines. There was a fruit bowl for the starter, a choice of chicken thigh or sole fillet for the main course, and a few choices of bread. I choice the sole fillet, which came with potato balls and spinach. Overall, the meal was not bad, but not impressive. I was, however, impressed with the real, mini salt and pepper shakers that were provided with the meal as it was a nice touch.
Once in Hong Kong, we parked away from the terminal and had to take a bus. They excessively packed the bus to the point that it was really uncomfortable. Once inside the terminal, everything was well signed in English and things moved efficiently. There was a bit of a line at immigration, and I was originally behind a group of three Arab-looking men. After watching the first Arab man stand at the immigration counter for at least 5 minutes and make no progress, I switched to a different line. Once I was granted entry about 5 minutes later, I looked over and that same Arab man was still standing at the counter. I’m really glad I changed lines!
I bought my Airport Express train ticket to Tsing Yi (HK$60) at a booth before leaving security where I could use my credit card. Once in the arrivals terminal, I obtained cash from an ATM and easily boarded the next Airport Express train.
There were plenty of luggage racks on the Airport Express train, and it was not too crowded. There are some quiet cars, and some cars have USB chargers in the seats. It was a quick 12 minute trip to Tsing Yi, which was the first stop. I then had two easy metro transfers before I made it to my stop, Sham Shui Po.
From the Sham Shui Po stop, I followed directions from the hostelworld.com website as well as posted signs on the street, to the YHA Mei Ho House Youth Hostel. However, I became slightly lost after the instructions did not tell me to take an underpass under Tai Po Road and I had to use Google Maps to navigate to the hostel.
Once at the hostel I checked in. It was a non-refundable room (HK$300), so my credit card had already been charged. I had to pay a HK$100 deposit and HK$10 to rent a towel – both of which were frustrating because neither had been announced when I booked. Neither was an issue for me, but they might have been had I only withdrawn what I thought I needed from the ATM.
I was in a 8-bed female dorm, and it seemed 5 beds had been claimed when I arrived (and most people were asleep). I settled in, changed, and fell asleep. The bed was pretty comfortable and the dorm relatively quiet. I do not believe anyone ended up sleeping in the last two beds.