Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The unforgettable tour to Hukou Waterfall, Yichuan, Shanxi, China

The local tour bus which took us to Hukou
A quick stop to stretch our legs and for the restroom
After two days, we exchanged smiles frequently
As I expected, life in Xian was much better at the Ancient Youth Hostel, Xian. Most of the staff speak English and they are very helpful. The fact that many backpackers and foreigners are residing in the hostel, the staff have lots of opportunity to practice English. We were extremely happy to meet travelers from other parts of the world.  The hostel is well located, just next to the metro, Bei Dajie station. The shopping malls, Bell Tower, Drum Tower, Muslim Street and the Xian Great Mosque is just about 10-15 minutes walk away.

We sat at the corner of the bus for more than 7 hours
We have about 10 days in Xian and this is our third day.  At the hostel reception we saw the advert of Hukou Waterfall and that was my plan B.  We asked about the tour and was told that the 2 days/1 night tour cost RMB 480 per person, inclusive of entrance fees, guide and one night accommodation.  The price was good and we decided to go the next day. We paid RMB 960 and was told that we will be picked at 8 am the next day. 

Our new friends smiling for the camera
Although, the hostel allowed us to check out and offered to keep our things, we decided to keep our room.  One of the guys at the counter assured us not to worry as there will be an English speaking guide.  We do expect that getting halal food would be difficult in villages and small towns, so we packed snacks and simple food in our knapsack. We were told that we'll be spending a night in the mountain village and I'm not expecting much on the quality of the accommodation.  

Reading about Hukou Waterfall ( 壶口瀑布) and the pictures on the internet have always triggered my interest. The largest waterfall on Yellow River and the second largest in China, Hukou Waterfall is located at the intersection of the two provinces, Shanxi and Shaanxi with Fenxi City 165 km to the west and Yichuan 50 km to the east.  

The next morning a huge bus picked us from the hostel, about 10 local Chinese were in the bus and we thought this bus must be picking up people on its way. About 15 minutes later, just after we exit the ancient gate of Xian, everybody got off the bus and they were running towards another bus. We showed our receipt to the bus driver and in sign language, he instructed us to run to the other bus and we did so. We got on the bus and it was one third full with Chinese and there were still plenty of empty seats.  Soon the bus moved on and we were hoping we're on the right tour bus. Ten minutes later the bus stopped and again everyone stood up and got down the bus and ran towards several other buses near the stop. I began to be impatient, not knowing what was going on!

I asked a girl who looked like a tour guide pacing up and down giving instruction.  I spoke to her in English and she spoke to me in Chinese.  We showed our receipt written in Chinese and she directed us to another bus. By the time we got on the bus, it was full with Chinese and no foreigners, except for my husband and I! Everyone in the bus looked at us like aliens as we made our way to the two empty seats at the back of the bus. After being soaked in the rain like rats, we were hoping that, we were on the right bus. Surely, this is not a straight forward tour like we had many others before.   

As soon as the bus entered the highway, I was confident that we'll not be changing to another bus and hopefully we'll arrive safely to our destination. The girl whom we first talked to was the tour guide and she started talking in Chinese - perhaps explaining about the tour. After she was done with the group, she came to us and looked into our eyes for few seconds and at that point we understood that she does not speak English at all. Now, I fully understand why most foreigners would take China tours through the many advertised English speaking travel agents on the internet. 

We were determined not to give up on her...for the next two days we used drawings, sign language and body language. Sometimes it works but most of the time it doesn't.  In Yan'an, everybody got down the bus and we followed because we thought they were going to the Museum but they actually went to the toilet (an open space toilet)! 

And in another instance, my husband pointed the gun sign just to tell the guide that our hostel is next to the police station. Her eyes bulged and her mouths opened wide, in shock, yet not understanding what we were trying to say. We showed the address of our hostel but she shook her head. Out of frustration, she instructed the driver to drop (throw is a better word) us in the middle of Xian city and ultimately after all taxis refused to take us we end up marching to the police station. Although the police oficer was not able to speak English he was kind enough to call the hostel, stopped a cab and directed the driver to send us to the hostel. Overall, it was a good experience :)
Interesting sculpture at one of the rest area
The tourist :)
The tour guide


  1. Thanks for sharing this nice post with us. As we know that China is the most famous country for historical places, delicious foods and also tourist attraction place where every year huge no. of tourists comes to visit. I visited Xian for three days with Xian Tour Guide and really this place is so beautiful and attractive that was beyond my expectation. I enjoyed a lot my trip here food is also very tasty. I will suggest everyone should once visit the Xian.

  2. I absolutely agree with you Wang Li. This is my first visit to China and despite the language barriers I had a wonderful time and of course hilarious moments at times. Thank you for reading my blog.