Published: April 18th 2008April 11th 2008
The drive to Yangshuo was beautiful! Hundreds of karst peaks and then coming into town a lovely city nestled among all these peaks along the river. Definitely a breath of fresh air compared to Guilin and Shenzhen. We got off the bus and told the many hotel salespeople that we already had a place reserved and didn't need a room. We did end up walking in the complete opposite direction than we intended in an effort to lose them but then regrouped and retraced our steps to make our way to West street, a street aptly named as it is where all the tourists (many of them westerners) hang out and stay.
Just about every business on this street (and the side streets off of it) are hotels/guesthouses. So after finding the more quiet end of the street we settled on a place for $7 for our first night. We spent the rest of the day just walking around checking things out. There is TONS of souvenir shopping here as well as the usual pirated DVDs/CDs, memory sticks, fake north face gear, and various other random things. Also lots of places serving versions of western food, which I have to
admit was kind of comforting, given some of the things we'd seen on chinese menus (i.e. intestines, brains, dog, snake, etc). We had pizza for dinner which was really a nice change.
Next day we switched to stay at the Bamboo House II (the quieter of there two locations) which was really a nice treat. The softest beds in china (maybe in all of Asia), a DVD player with free movie rentals, free internet, and super nice staff to top it all off. Definitely worth a few extra bucks. It's funny how after traveling for a while we get so excited by a dvd player and a soft bed (oh and microwave popcorn), but I think other travelers will understand.
After getting settled in (we had to actually wait for a room to open up becuase it's a very popular place), we went for a walk around town and into Yangshuo park where we hiked up a couple of the peaks (where they conveniently put stairs in) for some amazing views. Oh, I should mention our great lunch we had on the way to the park. We got out of the really touristy area and went to a
chinese restaurant where some people were eating something that looked delicious. We basically pointed and said we want that! Turns out it was Swordbone Fish cooked up with peppers and veggies. After ordering the waitress took us out back to a big container of water where she netted a fish, weighed it, and asked for our approval. We picked a smaller one and then headed back in where we were very grateful to the other table of fish-eaters as they spoke a little english and helped us get the rest of our order figured out by translating for us. This was the best meal we've had so far in China, it was delicious, although a little challenging to eat trying to pick out bones and such.
So, on to Yangshuo Park, a lovely place to walk around and go up to the top of a couple of the peaks for amazing views of the city and surrounding areas. Also some pretty gardens and flowers to enjoy. After the park we walked around the rest of the city and headed back to our room for a much needed movie night.
On the 10th we rented bikes and took them
out to the countryside for a day of riding and exploring. It was so beautiful and picturesque everywhere we turned. Such a different pace than the many HUGE cities of China. We had a map that was decent, but still a little hard to follow and a little inaccurate so we relied on talking to other bikers, many of whom were just as lost as us. One loop we did down along a river, through a couple villages, took us on some really rough challenging single trak, which was fun but by the end our hands were numb from being rattled so much. We then headed over (after much confusion and several wrong turns) to Moon Hill, a karst peak known because based on where you look at it, it shows the various stages of the moon. It's pretty cool and a long steep hike up is rewarded with a beautiful overlook that has lots of picture ops. Realizing that our time was almost up for our bike rentals we raced back to town (oh, did I mention it was really hot today...yeah, we were pretty tired at this point). We returned our bikes and then went to a light
show on the river that everyone was talking about. It's put together by the director of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (the movie) and while it was on the pricey side, it was pretty impressive. The main thing was the sheer number of people involved in the show - I think they said over 600 people. We accidently uploaded the video of one of the scenes to the blog entry before this, but check it out and you'll see what I mean. There were some really cool effects with colors and lights, and all of it was done out on the water! The most amazing thing though was that we made it in and out of the show without getting trampled. More than anywhere else we've been the lack of any sort of order when it comes to "queing in a line" (unheard of here) is crazy and also a bit scary when you're in the middle of it. It doesn't matter that there really is a seat for everyone or that it's still 45 minutes before the show will start, everyone wants to be the first through the ticket turnstile and they are not afraid to use elbows! I suppose
when you live in a country with the biggest population, this is more a means of survival and getting ahead, but it's still hard to get used to. That and all the shouting...again, somethign that seems to be inherent in a place where you really have to shout to be heard among all those people, always sounds like such drama.
Today we hopped on a bus back to Guilin in the hopes of hopping on a flight to Chongqing.
There are more photos below