Yangshuo Travel Blog

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Yangshuo is touted as a backpackers paradise. Away from the fast pace and congestion of the big cities, it's lies on the banks of the Li River about an hour south of Guilin. A place, it's said, where travelers can stop and rest for a few days or even weeks, relax and enjoy the scenery and culture. Maybe it's the lingering effects of my stomach issues or maybe the stifling humidity but I'm not that impressed. There is an odd haze (read smog) that curtains much of China. Almost as though the sun struggles through the morning, battling to burn off a heavy fog only to relent by midday and hang behind a shroud of gray for the afternoon. There for the is no blue in the sky nor any definition of clouds. It seems tobe the heaviest in Yangshuo.

Despite the striking topography featuring the regions trademark limestone karsts that rise from the river valley like giant green stalactites, there's not much to the town. The main drag, aptly named "West Street", is lined with tourists shops and western style bars and cafes making it feel more like Europe that china. Furthermore, you can't walk more than five steps without someone insisting on their services as a tour guide or peddling their wares. The same goes for the number of charming yet overly western cafe's that line West St. During breakfast one morning I counted no less than 15 solicitations while we sat and an outdoor cafe trying to enjoy our morning coffee. I'm sure once upon a time the village was everything it is promised to be, however the influx of the tourist dollar has soiled that image.
..possibly beyond repair.

Maybe I'm being a little hard on Yangshuo. It is quite beautiful and once you get past the peddling, the people seem very friendly. The highlight of our visit was a quiet boat trip down the river to the tiny village of Fuli. Once again we were able to dodge the overcrowded, tourist-filled river cruisers that seemed to leave dock every 30 seconds. We opted instead for a small private wooden flat bottom where the two of us could perch on the bow and enjoy the scenery and conversation. We also managed to choose our timing wisely - leaving in the late afternoon after the heat has subsided a bit and returning just before sunset. Along the river we encountered local fishermnan casting nets form their rickety old junks while the shoreline was visited by local farmers who brought their oxen to soak in the cool water after a long day in the fields. All the while the karsts framed the river and dominated the horizon.

Overall Yangshuo was a bit disappointing but I'll have to give it the benefit of the doubt. If I were feeling better I may have had a completely different experience. Tomorrow we head west toward Tibet to the Yunnan province sometimes called the Chinese Alps and the cities of Kunming and Lijiang.

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photo by: sylviandavid