Wednesday 1 April
A steward woke us up at 6 a.m. and we left Marco and Sharon asleep and stepped out into the blue/grey dawn.
The river was a sheet of polished glass and the air was cold and fresh. A thin mist drifted across the water, and through it, on the riverbanks, the occasional glimpse of poplars and people fleetingly appeared and disappeared. Sky, land and water were one until the burnt orange disc of the sun showed through the mist beyond the trees, throwing a shaft of gold across the water from the shore all the way out to the boat.
We docked in the dirty town of Yangshuo – where factories spewed clouds of grey and black into the air and the river was a noxious soup of rubbish and waste – at 7:30 a.m. The four of us found a bus going to the railway station. The conductor tried to charge us ¥5 each when everyone else is paying ¥1-50. At the station, we bought a Changsha-bound train and the trip took 2 hours. When we reached Changsha, we made our way to the opulent Xiangjian Hotel where a three-bed room with a shower and TV including a satellite Sports Channel cost us just ¥25 each.