Getting Off Our Butts

Yangshuo Travel Blog

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To get to Yangshuo, Eva and I took a five-hour boat ride down the Li River, taking tons of pictures and eating four plates of fried fish, mini crabs, and shrimp along the way. Once we arrived, we sweated our way up the steps, then found a phone to call the Yangshuo Culture House's owner to pick us up in town.

Vendors in Yangshuo can be remarkably persistent. When we first got there, a lady tour guide followed us about 45 minutes asking where we were staying and if we'd already booked a guide, etc, even though we said no right from the beginning. She stuck around until I took her business card and the guesthouse owner found us and physically removed us from the area. Later, an elderly lady followed us up 1,000 steps to sell us cans of soda at the top of Yueliang Shan that we wouldn't buy at the bottom. Her strategy worked well, though (at least on me), since it's hard to refuse someone who's chatted you up a mountain, and even fanned you when you stopped to catch your breath . . . in any case, the combination of Sprite and mango juice we bought was nicely refreshing after our hike in the sun.

On our first night, we watched a light and water show on the Li River conceived and directed by Zhang Yimou, a director best known for films like Hero and House of Flying Daggers. Eva heard about it from her sister, and the twice nightly production of 600 people was much more impressive and less cheesy than I'd expected from past experiences with light shows.

The next day, which was our only full day in Yangshuo, Eva and I went with our guesthouse owner's sister-in-law to rent bikes, take a bamboo raft down the Yulong River, hike through the "real water cave", then visit Moon Mountain and bike back through the area's villages. Two lovely students from our guesthouse joined us for the initial bike ride and bamboo trip, though they'd already had their fill of caves from their previous days in town. They were taking a brief trip before heading to teach in Chonqing for 6 weeks. In the water cave, we got to check out rock formations that supposedly looked like anything from camels to kissing couples, float in a mud bath, swim in fresh water pools and rinse off in the dark under a waterfall. Admittedly the waterfall was more like a trickle in the summertime heat, but it was still a fun experience.

Our guide was awesome, too. She was my height but built even smaller, without a single ounce of fat on her. She actually lives on a mountain farm with her husband and 8-year-old daughter, but leads tours during the less busy seasons and as a favor to her sister's husband. They grow tiny oranges that I've never eaten, but Eva says are good. At the end of the day, we took the smaller roads back to the guesthouse, biking through some beautiful scenery including nearby villages, mountains, rice paddies, different vegetable patches and lots of water buffalo. It was all very nice until we got closer to Yangshuo, and exhaust from the motorbikes and buses made breathing really uncomfortable.

One of the nicest things about our experience was the meals provided by the Culture House. If you're around during the day, the owners actually provide you with all three meals, but dinner is by far the star attraction. Though I'd already heard about the meals from my favorite Singaporeans (upon whose advice I'd booked the place), I didn't realize just how delicious and abundant the dinners actually were! Every night around 6:30, the owner's family calls everyone to eat and starts bringing out plate after plate of meats and vegetables, each more colorful and tasty than the last. There were at least 12 or 13 dishes each night to feed the group of us. Everyone staying there was super nice, too, and dining at the round table made it easy to exchange stories and tips on what we did/where to go during our stays.

The least nice things about our stay were the hordes of mosquitos that seemed intent on biting us, regardless of our attempts to spray on or plug in repellents, and also the extremely pungent smell that came from our bathroom every time we flushed the toilet or turned on the shower. We spent a lot of time holding our breath, and Eva's bites turned a rarely-before-seen shade of purple. Additionally, although he was perfectly civil to us, we knew that Wei (the guesthouse owner) didn't like us, as we'd arrived a day later than originally planned, causing him to turn down a group of 10 who wanted to stay since we didn't let him know early enough. I didn't feel that bad, though, since he ended up way overcharging us for the two nights we were there. Fair enough I guess.

Our last half day in Yangshuo we ate some beer fish with a guy from the guesthouse, then headed back by bus to Guilin. We saved a whopping 2 RMB by standing on the street and hailing down the Guilin bus, instead of taking it direct from the bus station. The ride to Guilin took an interesting hour and a half, during which Eva's seatmate played Backstreet Boys mp3s on his phone, and live chickens occupied a prime spot at the front of the bus.


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photo by: sylviandavid