Warning: this is a ‘whining’ post. You would do well to skip it.
To all those naysayers who said, “Don’t travel China in February”, “the weather will be miserable”, “it’ll rain”, “you’ll freeze”, “you won’t see the scenery”—well I say to you…
Ok, you were right. i kowtow to Your brilliance.
That said, even though the weather wasn’t great in other places, Guilin was my first serious wrong turn on the trip. Unless you consider coming to China in the first place a wrong turn, in which case two wrongs don’t make a right.
About a dozen people I’d met in China, from Steve 3 to a girl who taught in Yangshuo for a year, recommended Guilin for its beautiful scenery.
The word got out, because now Guilin is the only city in China with more travel agencies than restaurants. And in February, more travel agencies than tourists.
I chose my hotel in Guilin partly because the website said guests could use their laundry facilities, and my clothes were beginning to smell like Bally’s.
I figured I’d do laundry the first morning and be done with it. So after throwing all my clothes in a bag save the flimsy slacks, t-shirt, and jacket I was wearing—not even socks at this point—I asked the very friendly girl at the front desk where the washing machine was. It turns out, they have a laundry service, not self-service facilities. I didn’t have many options* at this point (*read ‘brain cells’) so I handed her the bag. She said they’d be ready by 11pm, but they’d leave them in my room if they were done earlier.
11pm? Seemed kind of long to wash and dry a load of clothes. Probably they say 11 just to be safe.
At noon I went out to grab a quick lunch, and returned just short of frost bite.
At 8 o’clock I inquired about the clothes and was taken to the laundry room, where I discovered, in lieu of a dryer and despite charging more to dry than to wash, they use a rectangular garment bag filled with lukewarm air.
I grabbed a pair of dry-ish socks and a couple of extra layers so I could head outside for dinner.
In retrospect, the day I spent quarantined in the hotel would have been the day to sightsee. From then on out, it was thundering and pouring rain, except when it paused a few minutes to hail.
The saving grace of Guilin was that the staff at the hotel in was the friendliest and most helpful I’d encountered in China. Although when I asked about buses to Yangshuo, they recommended a boat ride up the Li River to Yangshuo instead. “In the pouring rain with zero visibility?” I asked. “Yes,” she said, “very scenic.” [‘Scenic’ in Guilinese means “20 times more than the bus and the hotel gets a commission”. Ordinarily it is quite scenic—and you get to take the mandatory picture holding a 20 yuan note in front of the scenery on said note—but that would have to wait.
Guilin had 5-layer weather: t-shirt, long-sleeve shirt, pullover, hoodie, and jacket, four layers below the belt, plus two pair of socks. Essentially, most of the clothes I brought to China.
The problem with wearing most of the clothes you brought with you during a thunderstorm is that they’re still damp the next morning. I suppose I could have asked to use the hot garment bag, but come hell and high water, I was getting out of Guilin.