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As planned, Jessie our guide whilst in Yangshou arrived at 6:30am and we met her in the lobby. It was 18 months since we'd last met, during our previous visit to Yangshou, and her first comment was how much Yanmei had grown. The children remembered her as well.

We checked out and left Guilin to a beautiful sunrise. We drove through the countryside along the Li River. Many people were already up and working the fields and there was also a lively traffic on the river - even at this time of the morning. After about an hour, we arrived at a small village and boarded a small boat for a trip along the river towards Xingping. The scenery was just as beautiful as we remembered with karsts lining the river banks – a truly magnificent sight.

We sailed for about an hour or so before arriving at Xingping – even though the sun was shining, it was fairly cold. Xingping is famous in China as the scene depicted on the back of the 20 RMB is taken in this small farming town along the Li River. It was market day, so there was a lively activity across the river.

We walked along the bank of the river through green fields and stopped in the town for breakfast. We eat a Chinese breakfast consisting of noodles and steamed buns sitting in a barn – the meal was good, warm and filling, and cost 23RMB for all five of us.

We continued on to the market, and were surprised by the vast variety of the goods available – all the vegetables and fruit fresh – brought to the market by the local farmers. The market takes place on dates ending in 3, 6 or 9, and you can find more or less anything you need when living in a small Chinese town or village – fruit and vegetables, rice, noodles, flour, numerous varieties for sugar, eggs, chickens (dead or alive), herbs and spices, flowers, seeds, meat – including dog meat (we saw dead dogs ready to be cut up) and all sorts of household goods and spare parts needed for ploughs or other farming appliances as well as shoes and clothes. We also saw a lady selling her hair to be used as wig - Jessie told us that the lady would get ca. 50RMB for her hair.

The market was packed – Jessie told us that when she was young it was one of her clearest memories getting 1RMB on market day and experience life at the market before buying noodles for lunch and even having some money left over to buy some candy. We left the market and continued to drive through the countryside towards Yangshou - arriving at our hotel before lunch.

The hotel was less than 18 months old and the people seemed very friendly. We were shown up to our room, a big double room with two single beds in the one room and a double bed in the other room. The room was fairly cold thanks to the cold weather of the previous weeks and the fact that we were fairly tired getting up so early. We rested before buying some fruit for lunch.

We took a walk outside the hotel, the hotel was close to a village and little else. Not wanting to take the trip into Yangshou, we decided to climb a karst next to the hotel. It was a steep and strenuous climb despite the fact there was a man made path all the way up. The effort was rewarded already halfway up with great views along the river and across the countryside. We continued to the top, where the view was equally impressive. Coming back down was harder work than going up, leaves making it slippery.

Back down we took a drink at the hotel - Daji managing to get a piece of left over cake from a birthday party. Lene and Steven took a walk into the local village, the fields green, but the pond in the middle of the village green and dirty- we wondered why the villagers don’t try and keep their villages a bit cleaner.

The past weekend and the coming week, the Chinese celebrated the equivalent of All Saints Day where you pay your respects to dead family members. The Chinese do this be setting off firecrackers next to the grave in order to scare away the evil spirits. They then leave; paper money, so the dead have money to use and are happy. Throughout the week we heard firecrackers and saw lots of gravestones with "monopoly" money lying around.

We eat at the hotel – the food was good but the service was amazingly slow – made worse by the fact that the dining room had no heating and open windows – it felt so cold. After a quick cup of coffee we took an early night – tucked well away under the quilts.

NEXT DAY (7th)