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Nima and Michael’s Birthday Dinner at Shabu-Shabu

The original plan was to get wasted, but due to finals, we resorted to getting super full on good food instead. We went over to Mong Kok looking for a sushi buffet. Luckily, we found one. For a standard price of around $150 a person, we were treated to the best service and quality sushi buffet I’ve never seen. The waitresses were almost too eager to deliver the food, and each time they come, it was with at least three pounds of meat, sashimi, or sushi. My birthday present to Nima was a windows-enabled laptop with Conquer Online installed. I figured we could play a little for old time’s sake.

The first of many batches of handrolls we ordered.

The first of many batches of handrolls we ordered.

Train Ride back to Hong Kong

I wanted to take the soft sleeper berths again, but the tickets were all sold out. The ticket counter told me to just talk to the conductor when I board the train, and that was exactly what I did. The conductor suggested me to get another type of soft sleeper cabins since the normal cabins were still full. Not knowing what “gao bao” soft sleeper meant, I said sure. It turned out, “gao bao” meant “deluxe cabin”, a whooping ~800RMB. At least I had an entire quarter of a train car to myself for the night, complete with a couch, a bathroom, and two beds.

An American couple stayed next door to me. The husband was a computer engineering back in the hay days of Prolog. Prolog! The wife grew up in Hong Kong studying AI, but is now in the marketing business. Traveling in the middle of China and meeting people who are also from the Valley is quite a refreshing coincidence.

Streets of Causeway Bay

Streets of Causeway Bay

Scenery of Yangshuo is second to none in Guilin

Two main things to check out at Yangshuo is the 3km biking trail and West street. I drove through the biking trail because I was too lazy to bike, but I think I’ll get a better experience if I had biked.

Layers after layers of steep hills emerged one after the other. Even though the foggy skies did my photos no good, I still managed to capture some key scenery with HDR photography. After a while, I stopped by Moon Hill, a tall mountain with a naturally formed hole in the middle. Why is there a large hold through the mountain? Well, according to my guide, millions of years ago before the Ice Age, Guilin part of the ocean floor. As evident by today’s ocean floors, holes tend to form in the undersea mountains.

Yang Shuo's scenery

Yang Shuo's scenery

A Chinese Traditional Funeral

I had to get up at 9am to go to a funeral between 10 and 12, the “right” hours. A few things I learned –

1. The urn is not allowed to be directly under the sky, so you open up an umbrella even in the day.

2. Souls eat and drink alcohol.

3. There’s always a spirit of the land that you must bribe so he will treat your respected one better.

4. Light a giant roll of fire crackers after you are done… for fun.

Umbrellas in front of the crematory

Umbrellas in front of the crematory

Family Property

Took a little trip to see some ancient family properties. It’s a few acres of farmland, houses, and mountains that were all confiscated by the communists back in the days. Thinking about the would-be’s and the may-be’s, I think whatever happened, happened for the better. Farmland is nice to have, but I’d rather live in the suburbs of a developed country like US, Singapore, or Hong Kong.

Interesting sight: the bottom of the trees are painted with white paint to keep the trees warm in the winter.

This piece of land extending into the far mountains used to be part of the family.

This piece of land extending into the far mountains used to be part of the family.

Chinese kids are born to be engineers

I said it would take a long time for China as a whole to be more civilized and less chaotic. I am also predicting, after what I saw today, that it would take a shorter time for China to produce the world’s top innovations. On a little stroll down to a local school, I saw posters advertising a class for young toddlers. The class teaches kids how to build a car with gears, a powered plane, and other things you would not expect a four year old to even hear about. Gears and powered aviation each shocked the world at its times, and now China is training their next generation with these innovations in hopes that the children will grow up to be capable leaders in engineering. For its own sake, I hope China is able to keep these would-be talents willingly within its chaotic borders.

Scenery of Guilin is the finest under heaven

I arrived at the harsh and cold morning of Guilin at 7 in the morning, sleepy and tired from staying alert all night. While meandering the city, I took a bunch of interesting photos. Guilin is a mix of Bali and Shenzhen – a developing city built right in the center of a ring of touristy rivers and attractions. One street would be a bustling town of metal shops and auto dealers, and another street down would be the legendarily beautiful Li River, on which floats fisherman and bamboo boats. Also, less people try to convince you to take a tour with them, and more street vendors making an honest living instead of screaming at you for money.

Guilin's Scenery

Guilin's Scenery

Leaving for Guilin

Train travel used to have so much appeal back in the days. It was part of the vacation, not just a mean of transportation. So, I’ve opted to take the train to Guilin. It’s a 13-hour red-eye train, departing Shenzhen at 6, and arriving at Guilin at 7. Except, this was definitely white-eye for me since my time zone is completely off. To reduce the chance of my getting robbed or killed, I bought a soft sleeper ticket. Instead of a seat out in the open, I get a nice and soft bunk bed in a room with three other people. It’s pretty much the first-class equivalent of airplanes. When I found my bunk, I was slightly disappointed. I remember the rooms to be much more spacious, but I guess it might have been because I was just little. Perspectives matter. I’m typing this up on my bed after everyone in my room has fallen (deeply) asleep. I must not be spotted in the wild with a Macbook Pro and a DSLR, or I’m going to be in lots of trouble.

Leaving for Guilin alone on the train

Leaving for Guilin alone on the train

Cramming for finals

The main reason I’m cramming for finals this early is because I am going to Guilin for a week tomorrow. It was supposed to be 4 days of visiting relatives, and 4 days of touring Guilin with the rest of the travel group. I just found out there is a very high chance that none of them are going any more, so I might come back early. The whole altered sleep pattern thing isn’t going to be good for my travel, so I tried switching back, but now I have Pacific time.

Happy Valley Horse Racing

Day or night no longer mattered to me by this point. When I woke up at 6pm from one of my phases, I found out we were going to bet on some horses at Causeway Bay. Dinner and a few hours later, we arrived at the Happy Valley Racing course. Entrance fee was only $10, and food inside is relatively normal. It seems like the only way they make money is from people losing their life savings, (four large ATM machines guarded the gates) not tourism.

Nima, Michael, and I quickly separated from the group because we wanted to go up to the top of the stadium for a better view. Betting on horses seems to be easier than betting at a Casino. Track records of the horses, jockey, and horse-jockey combo clearly printed on the information sheets, along with a bunch of other statistics and data about the horses. Putting the minds of two engineers and a mathematics major, we managed to actually predict and bet on the first place horse on one of the rounds.

Oh yeah, adding the word “million” when you talk about how much you’ve bet and won is totally satisfying.

Horse Race at Happy Valley

Horse Race at Happy Valley