Before I left, I got advice from a mentor who had gone on her own extended world trip: if there’s something you want to do, don’t miss out on it because of the cost. $500 is a crazy lot in backpacker world, but nothing comes close to the cost of regret.
I took her advice and signed up for all of the tours, safaris, treks, and other experiences that caught my eye. The only one that I missed out on was a glacier walk, but that was because of a national strike in Argentina.
It meant that I blew my budget out of the water, but oh well. Totally worth it! And thankfully, because of my preference to be over-prepared, I had planned in a 100% buffer!
Jess Travel Things #4: if there’s a mosquito within 1 km of where I’m staying, it will find me. That’s why I took my own mosquito net with me on the road. Hanging it up was sometimes an exercise in inventiveness and creativity…
Here’s the real-life set up! 5 minutes after I finished putting up the whole contraption, someone actually did ask for the broom, so I had to take it all apart again.
Walking is a great way to actually get to know the place that you’re in, but I admit that not wanting to spend money may have sometimes been a bigger motivator. Even when that money was only $2.35.
Going from having a well paying job in NYC to not having steady income in a developing country meant that I had to redefine my relationship with money. For a while, that meant defaulting to “avoid spending any money, period!”
Close to a hundred boats leave Guilin each morning for the Li River Cruise, and close to a hundred boats slowly return upstream to Guilin each afternoon. They trudge up the river in single file, then ready themselves to turn around and do it all over again the next day.
Bamboo rafts were the traditional means of transportation on the river and sidestreams, but nowadays they are replaced with plastic rafts in the shape of bamboo. Sure that’s…the same. There is a practical reason, though, because bamboo rafts have to be replaced every year.
We were still able to book a ride on a real bamboo raft, but the bamboo rafting business has gotten harder in recent years since the government took over. Boatsmen are only allowed to operate with licenses, charge a fixed price, and go down certain stretches. Where there were once 600 boatsmen, now there are only 200 because of decreased demand. My boatsman used to do 5 trips a day, but now he is lucky if he gets a trip every 2-3 days.
I took advantage of the relative seclusion of the bamboo raft to ask my boatsman about some sensitive topics.
What do you think about China cracking down on corruption? “You can’t get rid of it when the entire society is corrupt. You can’t get rid of all of the upper officials because all of the economic power is in their hands, everything would collapse.”
Do you think the government is getting better or worse? “Worse…it’s worst for the people on the bottom. To even do a little business, you need to have guanxi (connections). Where do the common people come up with that?”
One of the other famous sites along the Li River Cruise is Nine horse rock. If you look closely and are supposedly intuitive and bright enough, you can see 9 different horses hidden in the rock. In the 1960s, Premier Zhou Enlai reportedly took a cruise down the Li River and accurately identified all 9 horses, which served as a testament to his competency as a leader.