emma frost, xmen, white queen
As some of you know, I edit for Allegory (and if you don't know, check it out! It's free! The stories are good! I promise!). Usually the process is pretty simple. I'm sent a batch for stories, I read them, decide which ones to pass on to the next round (generally 1/10), then get another batch until the reading period ends.

Occasionally Ty, the head editor, has me also look at the second round stories and rank them. I generally enjoy this even more than the first round as, by the second, all of the stories are fairly good. (And while the first round does sometimes contain stuff that is amusingly WTF, generally most stories aren't horrifying - they're just not in the top 10%.)

Now I'm not sure whether we got some sort of crazy great batch this month or whether story writers are improving or what, but the ones I just ranked were absolutely phenomenal. It was hard not to dole out the top ranking like candy.

I'm not sure which ones will ultimately make it to publication (since Ty will go over my rankings and work his magic), but I'm pretty sure it'll be a good issue.

With that said, it also gets me to thinking about how freaking hard it is to get published. While I love Allegory, we're not pro paying. We're a comparatively easy market compared with, say, F&SF, Asimov's, Clarkesworld, whatever. (Admittedly it's not a direct comparison as none of these magazines publishes the same stuff.) But even we get some pretty amazing stories and, in the end, the stories that make it are making it through some special mixture of objective quality (that appeals to at least three readers), uniqueness (also as measured by at least three readers), and personal taste.

It's especially in the last round that taste comes in (although it comes in earlier, too, since even 1/10 means I'm discarding stuff that's objectively decent). And it's tough, since I know that some of the stories I'm "meh" about someone else will love (I regularly win award winners and am like, "...why in the hell did this appeal to anyone?" while I've LOVED a lot of stories that have ultimately not even made it into a final issue of Allegoy.  And it's frustrating as a writer, because I know that I can write an objectively good story that's fairly unique and yet still have it not find a home because there are a LOT of objectively good, reasonably unique stories out there.

Travel Rant
Anyway, as I slowly plan my trip and reading over reviews, I'm amazed at how often tourists complain about a place being "too touristy".

Now some of the complaints I get. It really does suck to see a several thousand year old city transformed into Disneyland. (Yes, looking at you Starbucks in the Forbidden City - although to be fair, some of these changes make life a lot easier on people who aren't healthy 20-something backpackers, like paving, lifts, renovations, trash cans, potable water, food, etc.). And I do get that intense crowds can make it difficult to navigate/enjoy (esp. if some of those crows are unruly). But generally I feel like you have to accept that if you want to see the marquee attractions, you're going to have marquee crowds. Either roll with it or see stuff that's less popular. There's a lot of world out there. (Personally I preferred the decorative arts section of the Louvre to the Mona Lisa. Not well known =/= crappy.)

The one that makes me less happy, though, is the one where tourists seem to be complaining about how "touristy" a place is because it's gone from completely undeveloped to semi-developed. Quel horreur! Rather than using quaint little water buffalo, the farmers are using *machines*. Rather than dress in "native clothes" (whatever they are - an awful lot of "native dress" is semi-historical cosplay - yes, I'm looking at you native Irish, German, Polish, etc. fashion which mostly sprung up in the 19th century as a response to nationalism), the farmers and their kids are *gasp* wearing jeans and T-shirts. What's next? That they might use cell phones? Read and write? Go to school!

It really irritates me that there seems to be this thought that it's the *duty* (or something) of people to keep living lives that are pretty freaking brutal because, oh, hey, a selfie with a water buffalo >>> someone being able to improve their economic situation. And yeah, while I'm very interested in keeping historical/cultural practices alive, this shouldn't be at the expense of other people's well being.

(And if the goal is to keep traditional practices alive, there are a lot of ways of doing this, from subsidizing artisans/farmers/whatever to continue in the traditional way, to encouraging tourism with the expectation that, since the tourists *want* to see traditional practices, the people benefitting from them will continue doing so - although this also seems to be considered "too touristy", to carefully recording/documenting them, to letting wealthy hobbiests engage in them in their spare time if it's that freaking important to them.)
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Best Travel Experiences
A new trip has gotten me into thinking about my best (or at least most memorable) travel experiences. I suspect I'll leave out a few (many), but eh.

1. In Italy, trying to find my hostel in Milan. I had a bus route planned out, but wasn't sure if I was taking the right one, etc. I found a young, shy, nerdy Italian man (well, really boy) who directed me most of the way there, with him talking awkwardly in Italian, me in Spanish.

2. In Costa Rica, my brothers wandered off. I found a cafe and asked about them. Fortunately they'd passed by, so I got where they'd most likely gone, then dragged my mom along. She looked quizical, as though she had no idea as to how I'd magically learned their whereabouts through the dark magic of foreign langauge. (I loved Mom, but she cannot handle other languages to save her life, alas.)

3. Between Italy and Greece, freezing on the top deck with two Canadian girls. I'd brought a light sleeping bag in case hostel sheets were disgusting, so curled up in that and lent them my towel and sweater to stave off hypothermia as we all discussed how this was totally not the Mediterranean drunken tropical cruise we were expecting. (We were all thinking 90s weather, not 50s!) They did share their Ouzo with me. It was disgusting. Also, none of us got especially drunk.

4. Ending up trapped on a Greek bus with a Classical studies professor who spoke perfect English and was delighted that he'd found someone intersted in his culture. For four hours. Good times. Also on my ferry back to Italy, ended up with a Macedonian special forces troup who had quite a few things to say about Greece. The things you learn!

5. Hitching a ride from Mycenae to the bus stop I needed to take to get back to Athens. Incidentally, the ride was offered, very kindly, and without ulterior motives. Most people are nice the world over.

6. Going to Puerto Morales, finding that it was too late to snorkle, asking about the next trip, getting there super early, quizing the fishermen about what I was seeing in Spanish, then being asked out to a local (and not especially tasty) restaurant while our fisherman guide asked me about my boyfriend in detail. It was kind of adorable, esp. with Mom looking clueless the whole time, but trying to converse all the same. (Mom is kind of hilarious in that she's been studying Spanish for ages, yet never seems to get any better at it. It's mystifying. Like, she tries, yet...she just *can't*. While my father makes almost no effort, yet gets the basics down almost instantly.)

7. Taking a bicycle out to the east side of Angkor Watt, bribing the local kids by buying lots of post cards, then convincing the police officer that letting me sneak by the gate with my bicycle wasn't a big deal and watching the sun set on my own, without crowds.

8. Taking a tuk-tuk out to an ancient temple complex in the jungle, hiking thorugh paths marked clear of landmines, and seeing ancient Hindu ruins that were carved throughout a winding river. Then being driven back and watching a relative of the tuk-tuk driver make palm sugar and buying a bit. (FWIW, it's delicious.)

9. Jumping on the back of a motor cycle and going to a Khmer night club where the beer was cheap and I was the only non-Khmer there. Then explaining to my host that, no, no, he could *not* sleep on my floor. Geeze. Men are the same the world over.

10. Realizing that my cabin on a Yellow River cruise did not filter the water, allowing parasites that can attack you through your skin, into my shower. Being displeased and storming off. Pitching a fit in Mandarin and arguing with damned near everyone. Eventually getting a flight back the next day. While I waited for my flight, chatting with a Sinopec Engineer who bought me ice cream, with the hopes of meeting a foreigner and improving her English. Weirdly, this is a thing in China. If you are white, you can regularly get people to buy you things with the hope of having an English conversation/taking pictures with you to prove they have white friends thus proving their international cred. It's kind of weird, but meh. I learned to roll with it.

11. Ending up in a tiny Chinese town in the middle of the desert and randomly buying ice cream (bing ji ling) so that I could ask for directions as to how in the hell I could get back to Xi An.

12. Making it to a Trappist monestary in Hong Kong and lighting a votive for Mom, as she loves that kind of thing. It's also a really gorgeous hike.

13. Accidentally climbing Mount Hua. I didn't die, though. Even though the odds are unnervingly decent that I could have.

14. Thumbing through Beijing opera costumes and wishing I'd bought them for their embroidery alone.

15. Listening to my brother (in Costa Rica) hoot at the Howler monkies, and them hoot back. I'm sure they were convinced he was a rival male.

Regardless, all I can think is that splendid sights and big name stuff rarely makes my memories. Angkor is only really remembered because of the fun of sneaking in the back after hours. I barely remember the Forbidden City, even though it is a Big Deal. So probably I am best off just making my plans to second tier stuff that sounds fun to me and wandering. This seems to be what I do best. Scedule to a T, then forget the schedule when something more exciting comes along in the heat of the moment. Mostly, I like options. When I have a lot, I can choose between them. When I have none, I'm stuck on some insipid tour, which does nothing for me.

Current Schedule!
Anyhow, so discussed Vietnam possibilities with my Mom. We agreed that trapping me on a super touristy cruise with a set schedule for two days sounds like Julia hell. (It is. I must ~*roam free*~, to my own, incredibly intricate schedule. It is what I am.) Beyond that, Mom mentioned that I don't tend to like doing especially touristy things. My loves in life are seeing the history and culture and befriending new random people and trying to figure out what their lives are like. (Mom is very insightful. You can tell she is a psychologist, can't you now?)

With that said, it seems like Halong Bay is probably more Julia-Jail than Julia-Fun. While Ninh Binh/Tam Coc (which is less touristy + more free form + has more history) is tremendously more my style. I will admit that what really sold me was Phat Diem Cathedral, a Catholic cathedral built in Vietnamese style, called "The Vatican of the East". (The pictures are freaking amazing. More than that, I love cultural fusion. It's fascinating to me.) So...I think I have a final itenerary, unless something new and pretty catches my eye:

Nov. 3rd - Leave on the 6:40 pm flight from Seattle to SF from Alaska Air. Arrive 8:50 pm. (booked)
Nov. 4th - Leave on the 12:10 (just after midnight!) flight from SF to Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific. (booked)

Nov. 5th - Arrive 7:00 am in Hong Kong. Explore the city. Sleep overnight HK. (hotel = http://www.hopinn.hk/rate_en.php - booked) Best things to do: Won Tai Sin, Chi Lin Nunnery (and nearby garden), Stanley, Admiralty and birds, Lan Kwai Fong. Probably having an easy day of it as I will be ZONKED.

Nov. 6th - Train up to Guilin. Local transport to Shenzhen, then express train to Guilin. (*not* booked - but asked to book train from Shenzhen to Guilin, 11:48 am to 3:30ish) Stay in Guilin. (hotel = Wada = booked) Stuff to do: Moon and Sun Pagoda, the Lake, Central Square (water fall show at 8:30 pm), if super touristy Elephant Hill, maybe eat on the Food Street

Nov. 7th - Still in Guilin for evening. Hotel booked. (Wada) Spend the day taking the bus to Yangding, hike to Xingping, if I still have energy, hike to the fishing village. Otherwise, bus to Yangshuo, explore if time, then bus back to Guilin. Rest early.

Nov. 8th - Local transportation up to Long Ji (prob. Ping'An). Hotel requested. (http://www.liqinghotel.com/#!reservations/c1adp) Hike the longer of the two hikes, see if can catch the minority dance or whatever that evening.

Nov. 9th - Depending on taste, either hike around Long Ji a bit more or travel back to Guilin. Things to do in Guilin include the Reed Flute Cave, Guilin Museum, Guilin Art Museum. Need to be out of Longji probably by 1ish at the latest. Fast train down to Guangzhou. (not booked - but requested - 7:20 pm train to 9:48 train from Guilin to Guangzhou) Stay at Good East Hotel in Guangzhou. (booked - also, can probably get close via MTR)

Nov. 10th - Take 9:45 to 10:45 (actually 2 hours, but time zone change) flight from Guangzhou to Hanoi via China Southern. (booked) Stay in Hanoi Winter Hostel (http://hanoiwinterhostel.com/our-hotels - booked) Spend the afternoon in Old Town, possibly see the Ho Chi Min Mausoleum (or at least wander by it). Museum of Ethnology, Temple of Literature, Hani Temple. (Ideas, anyway...)

Nov. 11th - Take 6:00 am train to Ninh Binh (booked). Drop stuff off at hotel (http://www.agoda.com/tuan-ngoc-hotel/hotel/ninh-binh-vn.html?cid=1644586) (hotel booked). Take off to Hoa Lu on bike (motorized or pedal, can do both). If have time, check out Trang An or Mua Cave or Bich Dong (or just hike around Tam Coc). Try  Viet Bamboo and Father Cooking (Delicious Food) for food in Tam Coc.

Nov. 12th - Check out other parts of Ninh Binh/Tam Coc. (Hit hikes/places I haven't visited yet.)  Hire a motor bike out to Phat Diem Cathedral.  Take 5:27 pm train back.  Sleep in Hanoi (Hanoi Winter Hostel). Both train and hotel booked.

Nov. 13th - Day exploring Hanoi. Stay in Hanoi Winter hostel. (Also booked) (Weirdly, as round trip tickets were cheaper, if for some reason I'm all "screw vietnam!!!" I can always fly down for a day today. Not sure why I'd do that, but w/e.) Do hanoikids tour in the morning - starts at 9 am and hsould last most of the day.  (Food, sights, whatever.) After can wander around old town, eat, ask for suggestions from the tour guide, etc.
Nov. 14th - Fly to Hong Kong on 10:35 am flight. Arrive 1:30 pm via Vietnam air. (Booked.) Stay in Hong Kong. (not booked, but maybe with Vanessa) Probably go out drinking with the Vanessa. May do things earlier in the day with her or on my own, as time allows. (This might be a great time to pick up souvineers)
Nov. 15 - Stay in Hong Kong. Not booked. (Maybe with Vanessa) (Probably go hiking with Vanessa, unsure where, will let her figure it out.)

Nov. 16 - Stay in Hong Kong. Not booked. May stay with Vanessa. May hang out with Vanessa, but most likely is a day to myself. Will likely go to Tap Mun and Sai Kung, then may do dinner + drinks with Vanessa.

Nov. 17th - Leave Hong Kong on 6:45 pm flight to SF. (booked). Before then will probably buy stuff like a mad woman, because this is the best time to get gifts for every last human I know. Arrive 2:45 pm local time in SF. (Cathay Pacific) Take 6:05 PM flight out of SF. Arrive 8:09 pm in Seattle. (Alaska Air)

In other news, went to the travel doctor (well, PA...) today. I now have typhoid living in my refridgerator that I am to devour every two days. Yum! In addition, I have a prescription for antibiotics + anti-malarial pills that should hopefully keep me bright and perky for the two weeks I'm away. Good times!

(Amusingly, the PA seemed to know exactly what I needed but was still like, "Sure, I'll look at all the CDC stuff you brought in. Yeah, you don't need all that, but I'm going to give you some other stuff anyway...")

Things I need to book/do:

1. Get Vietnam visa (will do after China visa is returned)

2. Book HK hotel for later half if Vanessa won't let me crash.

3. Confirm Longji hotel

4. List of maps of MTR/cities/bus routes for each destination

5. List of best places to see (plus bus routes, etc. to them) in each destination

6. List of good restaurants to try - ideally 1/city. (Try to get both on paper + on Android tablet.)

7. Get prescription filled (probably a week or so prior).

I WILL Go to the Party
Anyway, I ended up getting a Sunday PAX ticket from the extras pile or whatever that went on sale today. ^_^ Now I must decide what to wear. Video game costumes include:

Jaina Proudmore (WoW)
Blood Elf (WoW)
Chiss Imperial Agent (SWTOR)
Ashley (Mass Effect 3)
Anora (Dragon Age: Origins)
Bastila (KOTOR)
Revan (KOTOR)
Valkyrie (Clash of Clans)

With that said, most of these are oldish/uncomfortable. (Boo forever!) Honestly, the only ones I could probably handle for a full day are the blood elf and Bastila. (And I've worn the blood elf approximately a zillion times.) Of course, changing mid-way is *always* acceptable...but also can be kind of a pain, esp. if it involves special make up. *cough, imperial agent, cough*

Other options include other costumes:

The Stalk (Saga) - new
White Queen/Emma Frost (X-Men)
Katya (Archer) - new-ish
Elsa (Frozen) - new
Buttercup (Princess Bride) - new
Imperial Officer (Star Wars)
Naga (Original)
Probably a ton of others that I'm forgetting/aren't in great shape/just don't feel like bothering with/are impossible to recognize without a group.

Of course, a lot of these are also pretty uncomfortable...

I may be able to get She-Ra finished by rthe convention, too, although I'm not sure that I especially want to push it. (Last minute attempts to get a costume to work are often kinda miserable.)

I also will probably hang around in the evening on Saturday, since why not? Fortunately, my Max Pax: Blurry Road post-apocalyptic costume is already chosen. Isn't it super convenient that I made a leather bikini a while ago just 'cause? Of course it is. Of course it is. ^_^

Leaning Away from Halong Bay...







And We Have All Flights Booked!
It's always exciting, isn't it, to know that your *travel is planned*. It's also kind of terrifying, because while I can still fiddle with minor details, the gross outlines of my China trip are now pretty much set in stone.

Onto the plan!

Nov. 3rd - Leave on the 6:40 pm flight from Seattle to SF from Alaska Air. Arrive 8:50 pm. (booked)

Nov. 4th - Leave on the 12:10 (just after midnight!) flight from SF to Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific. (booked)

Nov. 5th - Arrive 7:00 am in Hong Kong. Explore the city. Sleep overnight HK. (hotel *not* booked)

Nov. 6th - Train up to Guilin. Local transport to Shenzhen, then express train to Guilin. (*not* booked - but asked to book train from Shenzhen to Guilin, 11:48 am to 3:30ish) Stay in Guilin. (hotel *not* booked)

Nov. 7th - Still in Guilin for evening. Hotel *not* booked.

Nov. 8th - Local transportation up to Long Ji (prob. Ping'An). Hotel *not* booked.

Nov. 9th - Fast train down to Guangzhou. (not booked - but requested - 7:20 pm train to 9:48 train from Guilin to Guangzhou) Stay at Good East Hotel in Guangzhou. (booked)

Nov. 10th - Take 9:45 to 10:45 (actually 2 hours, but time zone change) flight from Guangzhou to Hanoi via China Southern. (booked) Stay in hotel (not booked)

Nov. 11th - Go on Halong Bay Cruise (not booked). Stay on it.

Nov. 12th - Return from Halong Bay Cruise. Stay overnight in Hanoi hotel. (not booked)

Nov. 13th - Day exploring Hanoi. Stay in Hanoi hotel. (Also not booked) (Weirdly, as round trip tickets were cheaper, if for some reason I'm all "screw vietnam!!!" I can always fly down for a day today. Not sure why I'd do that, but w/e.)

Nov. 14th - Fly to Hong Kong on 10:35 am flight. Arrive 1:30 pm via Vietnam air. (Booked.) Stay in Hong Kong. (not booked.)

Nov. 15-16 - Stay in Hong Kong. Not booked.

Nov. 17th - Leave Hong Kong on 6:45 pm flight to SF. (booked). Arrive 2:45 pm local time in SF. (Cathay Pacific)
Take 6:05 PM flight out of SF. Arrive 8:09 pm in Seattle. (Alaska Air)

Incidentally, I feel like I've done a pretty good job optimizing. Times are long enough between most mandatory trips that I've got a decent cushion. Also, costs aren't too terrible. Flight from Seattle to SF, round trip, ended up at around $150. Pretty good, all things considered. SF to HK was $900, even with the change fee.

Gungzhou to Hanoi was $170 one way. So was Hanoi to HK, although weirdly I bought the round trip. I feel like it's a touch pricey to do it that way, considering that it's only a 2 hour flight, but apparently crossing international boundaries via plane = expensive, esp. when you hop around between cities. In *theory*, returning to HK for the round trip would be cheapest still, but since even sort of crappy HK hotels run around $100/night (vs. $25/night in Guangzhou) + the cost of local transportation + the additional time to get there, I think it's not too terrible a plan. (Essentially, getting from Guilin to HK will probably take me around 7 hrs. vs. a mere 3 from Guilin to Guangzhou. This is mostly due to local transportation issues + border crossings. It's just easist to not have to manage multiple cities' MTR systems. I *think* that 4 hours is worth the $75 extra I'm spending to do my stop over in Guangzhou. And, of course, in theory, I could have always taken the over night train to Hanoi, for a savings of nearly $170. Just...ugh. I'd have to sleep so badly I think I'd be out of it for several days.)

I may have a master plan
I know no one cares about this other than me. While this is disappointing, it is acceptable. Only so many people are as into optimizing travel iteneraries as much as I am. It is a sad, but true, state of affairs.


11/6 (Friday) - Arrive in Guilin around 3:30. Probably explore and see elephant rock (so freaking boring sounding...) and whatever else seems like it might be interesting. Crash at Wada hostel, being the dork that I am. Drink with what is bound to be a bar full of Aussie backpackers, sleep in my own room, laugh at people hooking up with people they'll regret than forget about.

11/7 (Sat) - Get on the envigoratingly early 6:10 bus to Longshen. Book earlier with Baike Hotel so that they pick me up around 8:30. Dump my extensive collection of crap off at the hostel (around 9:00? 9:30?) and check in, then get on the trails. Oh yeah, baby.

Recommended trails are expected to take 7 hours. I can do this. Even if I'm not on them until 10, I'm done by 5:00. Oh yeah. Enjoy a nice, relaxing dinner at a very nice hostel + the sunset + whatever else. (Also, based on recommended hiking times, I tear the Q@## up. Goldymer was supposed to take 2-3 hours. O and I did it in 1 1/4 hour. Suck it losers. Moving on...)

11/8 (Sun) - In theory, I could hike around, but I did that yesterday, right? Right. For 7 hours. I'm good. Sleep in and take perhaps the 8:00 taxi back. Get into Longshen 9-ish.

From 9ish, get on another bus. Arrive in Guilin around noon. Fun times.

From noon to 2ish, am transported from Guilin to Yangshuo. I am good with buses!

Then, once in Yangshuo, take another bus (until 3ish?) to Xingping.

Once in Xing Ping, enjoy the quaint old town, catch a sunset at Bird's nest view (or whatever), and possibly drink some Osmathium wine. I *deserve* it.

Sleep at This Old Place. Since, again, deserved. Maybe have pizza too. Why not. And probably beer. I suspect I'll be in my "I deserve all my creature comforts!" phase by now.

11/9 (Mon) - Get up at 6:00ish to start my trek to Yangdi. Expected to take until 11:00 ish.

11:00-ish - finish, get bored, take a boat back to Xing Ping. Arrive 12:00-ish.

12:00-1:00ish - take a bus back to Yangshuo

1:00-ish to 3:00ish - take the bus back to Guilin

Hang around Guliin, being all "I'm not an over achieving tourist, yo!" - then around 7:00 hop on the train to Guangzhou.

Arrive at Guangzhou around 10:00 pm. Take the subway to a hotel by the airport. Curse my everloving gods that I'm stuck out this late doing nothing other than riding MTRs, etc.

11/9 (Mon) - Take a quick bus ride to the air port and board the 9:45 am to Hanoi.

This all seems doable, yes? yes? I think it *could* be. It also minimizes time in soulless Chinese cities. Or somesuch.


Another, maybe more relaxed, maybe less miserable option?

11/6 (Friday) - Arrive in Guilin around 3:30. You know what's near the train station? The bus station. Take the train to Yangshuo. Arrive around 6:00/6:30. Find my room. Sleep the sleep of a person who's been traveling for 12 hours.

11/7 (Sat) - Get up super early and hoof it off to Yangdi. Hike - I can take my time! - to Xing Ping. Once I'm there, meander, make it back to Yangshuo then to Guilin. Spend the night in Guilin.

11/8 (Sun) - Take the 6:10 bus out to Longsheng. Get there 8:30ish, hop on a cap to the hotel. Drop my stuff off and hopefully begin my hike around 10 am. Finish around 5 pm. Go to hotel. Sleep.

11/9 (Mon) - Sleep in a bit, eat breakfast, wander around if I feel so inclined. Get back to Guilin at my leasure (Probably 3-4 hours to get there, but I could stay until 8 and do another hike and still make it comfortably). Tour Guilin until 7ish, when I'll take the train. (The advantage of this is that if *something* gets held up, I can still make the train to Guangzhou. ^_^) - Take MTR to airport and sleep in a hotel there.

11/10 (Tues) - Hop on Guangzhou plane to Hanoi. Explore city in the afternoon.

I'm thinking this leaves a LOT less margin for error (i.e. I can do both hikes knowing that I don't have to catch a bus or be stranded). This is a good thing. It also simplifies a few of the bus connections as the buses all tend to leave/arrive at the same locations, so it's easier to hop from one to the next. It also reduces the potential for failure if a hike takes longer than the expected 5 hours from Yangdi to Xing Ping or 8 hours wandering around Yangdi.

Guilin Debates
I'm slowly considering vague possible iteneraries for the first part of my trip (for later parts, I think I'll wing it/be more reliant upon tour groups as I'm more concerned about Vietnam than China. Based on some basic Mandarin skills + having traveled a bit before in China, I'm pretty comfortable doing it solo. Generally there's a very low rate of violent crime + trains and buses tend to run pretty reliably, so I don't worry the same way I would elsewhere.)

Anyway, some thoughts for Guilin are:

1. Visit the Longji rice terraces, spend the night there, check out the various minority cultures + hike around there.

Pros: AMAZING engineering feats (seriously one of the best ever), will likely get to see some rice harvested (November is towards the end of the season).

Cons: Will miss out on the Li river stuff + may mostly see bare earth if the rice is entirely harvested. (I'm kind of showing up at an awkward time. If it was 2 weeks earier, I'm fairly sure there'd be rice, but maybe not this late? The terraces would still be cool but less so, I suspect, if they're just bare earth.)

Probably good if: I can verify that the rice is still really gorgeous. Also if I'm not feeling like going on a super grand adventure into the middle of nowhere.

2. Take the Li river cruise to Yangsho. Head off to Xingping. Stay over night and hike a bit the next day (probably to the fishing village, which sounds so out in the middle of nowhere that I can feel like I've had my fill of getting out into the ass end of nowhere. I'd probably see lots of rice farming, although admittedly not rice farming on amazing terraces.)

Pros: The cruise would be relaxing and goes through some amazing river and karst scenery.

Cons: A 4-5 hour cruise is a pretty big time commitment, esp. if it's not English speaking. (Which would force me to sort of chill while staring idly out the window. Admittedly at beautiful scenery, but still...) It's also kind of expensive. I also lose my ability to control my time as the cruise will begin/end when pre-determined. (Also, will miss the rice terraces. :(  )

Probably good if: I'm feeling tired and want something a bit more canned for part of my day, but something less canned later on. Also, if I'm feeling like dealing with a literal boatload of Chinese tourists. :)

3. Take the earliest bus I can get on (probably the 6:00 am one...) to Yangsho. Get my butt over to Xingping. Drop off my stuff and do the Li river hike (around 5 hours). The next morning, get even more into the middle of nowhere by going out to the fishing village before returning sore but very well hiked.

Pros: I would not be stuck doing what anyone else wants me to do at ALL. Totally non-canned, totally solo, totally free.

Cons: Probably really exhausting. I'm going to have to get my hike on. Also, will see less of the Li river than I would on the cruise, although supposedly the Yangdi to Xingping portions (which I'd be hiking) are the most beautiful.

4. Go to BOTH! Take the earliest bus I can to Longji, get there around 10 am, hike around until 3 or so, take the bus back, sleep in Guilin. Then the next day, take the earliest bus I can to Yangdi (get in around 10 am), hike to Xingping (so around 4 pm), take the bus back to Guilin.

Pros: I get to see EVERYTHING. Oh yeah. Also, I can leave the heaviest stuff at the hostel in Guilin so not bring it everywhere with me. (Instead I can just take a little daypack + my valuables, food, and water.)

Cons: Freaking exhausting. But maybe we have a winner? ^_^

Reference: http://www.travelchinaguide.com/package/tour-sz02s.htm (Yangdi to Xingping)
http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=659310 (Xingping to Fishing Village)

Hmmm. Decisions. I'm wishing I had more than 2 days...

EDIT: I could always reduce my trip in Vietnam to 3 days (one day exploring Hanoi, admittedly I'll be tired/grouchy - then two days in Halong Bay.) Then I could do 2 days in Yangshuo + one day in Longji. I'm not sure if this would be much fun, though...I think it's around 3-4 hours to Longji then back again, so realistically, if I did that, I'd only get maybe 3 hours in the rice terraces. They are *gorgeous* in the autumn, though...http://www.nikdaum.com/news/2008/12/guilin-longji.html

EDIT: Another possibility might be to miss Nanning all together and instead fly from Guilin to Hanoi. The length of time is about the same (ugh...), the cost is similar, but because layovers, I might be able to explore a *different* city and could sleep somewhere with a shower that evening. Hmmm...

EDIT: And ANOTHER idea. Bare with the crazy here...

11/15 (Thurs) - Arrive and explore HK

11/6 (Fri) - get into Guilin (train), explore, etc.

11/7 (Sat) - Go off to Longji rice terraces and hike!

11/8 (Sun) - Bus down to Yangshou or ride ferry, depending on mood. Bus to Xing Ping. If did not ferry, hike the Li river. (If did take it, meh. Wander around Xing Ping.) Stay overnight. (Alternately, stay over night in Longji, which seems popular too.)

11/9 (Mon) - Hike to fishing village or other thing early in the morning. (If prefer Reed Flute cave, go back early and do that instead...) Ensure are back in Guilin by 6:30 pm at latest. Take 8:30 train to Guangzhou. Arrive 11:15 pm (Or possibly go earlier. It looks like there's a lot to be said about leaving more like 7:10, which would mean being back by 6:00 at latest, which seems super doable. Prob. want to do whatever I do on day 2 in this timeslot, so I'm bored and heading back by mid-afternoon.) Then take train (if take 7:10 train...) to air port and sleep in hotel there.

11/10 (Tues) - Fly to Hanoi from Guangzhou, hike around city

11/11-11/12 (Wed-Thurs) Halong Bay

11/13 - Whatever in Vietnam

11/14 (Sat) - Fly to Hong Kong

Most expensive (by around $200 between lodging + flight). Maybe not most exhausting, though, as I'll get to sleep in a bed in Guangzhou and, if I sleep in the airport, should be in around midnight then don't have to wake up until 7 am. ^_^ I'd get less time in Hanoi, but I'd probably be more awake (flight lands at 10:45 am, so would still get some time...) Essentially, would be trading a fair amount of money for exhaustion + another day in Longji or Yangshuo.




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