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Published: October 7th 2018
To avoid the shuttle bus - bus - taxi - bus - taxi - shuttle bus combination required to get from Ping'an to Yangshuo (required due to a national park being declared on the direct route between the two places apparently), we splurged on a taxi which would cut the commute down from about 6 hours to 3.
We were picked up from our hotel in Ping'an just before 2pm. Our driver was quite friendly and spoke reasonably good English. We made our way down through the mountains and then onto a highway. Midway through the trip he pulled over at a service station to have a power nap and get some coffee before continuing on towards Yangshuo. As we got closer to Yangshuo we were surrounded by the beautiful but strange karst scenery the region is famous for.
Yangshuo used to be a hippy town which served as a peaceful alternative to Guilin, however in recent years tourist (both local and foreign) numbers have increased significantly. The town is nestled between the Li River and one of its tributaries. The bulk of the town is set to the east of the tributary; a restricted area which includes a
large area of land around the river now houses many hotels and guesthouses.
Our driver dropped us off at the entrance to the restricted area in Yangshuo where we transferred onto a shuttle bus. Only people who live in the restricted area are able to drive into the park in a car. After about a 5 minute drive we were dropped off out the front of our guesthouse.
After checking into our room (bath in the main room with electrical sockets either side; proper bathroom door offset by window into the bathroom (with blind, thankfully)).
We read our books for a little while before heading downstairs to borrow a bike to go for a short ride. After about a 10 minute ride on very flat terrain with few cars we made it to the river. We watched the bamboo rafts being loaded onto trucks to be taken upstream ready for the following day before heading back to the hotel.
We made our way upstairs to the rooftop. Scott ordered a beer and we sat and read our books / admired the scenery and watched the sun set over over the karst formations. Unfortunately the sunset wasn't
that spectacular due to the haze but the scenery was still beautiful.
After the sun set we had dinner at the guesthouse (vegetarian dumplings, cashew chicken and broccoli) which was quite bland. The Guilin region is quite famous for food but they tend to assume that foreigners can't handle any spice (or flavour) so dull things down unfortunately.
The following morning we had breakfast on the rooftop before grabbing some bikes and setting out for a day of riding. We set off towards the river and found the bike path which runs along the eastern side of the river. We peddled along the mostly flat path admiring the views until we reached a bridge.
We crossed the bridge and entered the town on the other side of the river. We headed north through the streets (whilst thinking that we didn't really want to live there... it looked pretty grubby and the houses had fairly small windows. Most houses also had a water pump out the front so we're not sure what plumbing was like inside. After making our way north through the town we hit a small track which ran through the farmland.
I dismounted and
walked my bike along the track whilst Scott did some 'mountain biking' (his words, not mine; the land was flat) and rode along the path. The path eventually rejoined the road and we continued north until we reached the Dragon Bridge.
The Yulong (Dragon) Bridge is a beautiful arched bridge which was built during the Yongle period of the Ming Dynasty (1402 to 1424). Unfortunately the bridge is now one of the main points tourists take a bamboo raft to float down the river on so we were harassed by people yelling "bamboo bamboo". Because of the number of sellers and umbrellas it was actually quite difficult to get a good look at the bridge so we didn't stay for long.
We continued north until we reached Jinglong Quay which is a large (modern) bridge. We crossed back to the eastern side of the river and rode along looking for a small road which would take us to the Fuli Bridge.
We found the track and rode through the town avoiding the piles of burning remnants of fire crackers (some which were exploding). We took a wrong turn and ended up at the river south of the
bridge, but looped back through the town and eventually got back on the right track. We rode until we reached the Fuli Bridge.
The Fuli Bridge is another old arched bridge (unsure when it was constructed). The bamboo raft hawkers and souvenir (/ fishing net and water toy) stalls are set back from the bridge making it much more relaxing that the Yulong Bridge.
We sat by the river watching couples take very posed selfies (hoping they'd fall in) and rafts float down the river for a while. It was nice to have a break; though the roads are mostly flat it was quite warm and very humid so we were both sweaty by this point.
After a rest we hopped back on the bikes and cycled south, this time on the eastern side of the river. We veered off down a smaller track and cycled through farmland until we reached another bamboo raft point. We considered stopping for lunch but decided against it as the options weren't very good.
We continued south until we rejoined the bike path beside the river. We made it back to the area near our hotel about 5 hours after
we left. We stopped for lunch (and to wipe the sweat off our faces) at a little restaurant. We watched the table next to us play with a cute little duckling while we waited for our lunch to be cooked.
Our lunch (seasonal vegetables and tomato and egg dish) was...uninspiring and lacking flavour but edible. Seasonal vegetables turned out to be a warm cucumber stir fry...
We spent the rest of the afternoon reading books / relaxing in our room. For dinner we ventured to a restaurant about a 5 minute ride from our hotel. We ordered a 'spicy' chicken dish and green beans with soy bean paste. The green beans arrived with pieces of pork on top... The food was much better than the other meals we'd had in the area as it actually had flavour, though I would have preferred the beans to not have the surprise pork element.
The following day we hired an electric scooter to give our butts a rest from bike riding. These speed (limited) machines are incredibly popular across China. Ours was a snazzy little purple number, complete with umbrella to preserve our white skin.
We set off on
our beast heading south in the direction of Moon Hill. We trundled along at 30 km/hr enjoying the scenery. We drove past the entrance to Moon Hill (without realising it was Moon Hill), I caught a glimpse of a weird semicircular hole through the top of the mountain as we passed it. We took the next right but strategically placed trees blocking the view meant we had to turn back and enter the official park to get a good look at it.
I left Scott to mind the scooter (and be harassed by women selling drinks and souvenirs) while I set off up the mountain. He wasn't too sad to be missing out on a walk up stairs in the heat and humidity. At a fork in the path I met some other tourists with their guide who told me that the path to the left was to the view point whereas the path to the right was for the much longer climb up the hill which takes you closer to the mountain. I decided that Moon Hill was probably best appreciated from a distance so took the (shorter) path to the left.
Moon Hill is a strange
hill with a moon shaped arch through it. It is all that remains of a limestone cave. The site is apparently pretty popular with rock climbers, although judging by all the signs scattered around which warn of the risks / saying that rock climbers aren't allowed I'm fairly certain it's not actually permitted.
By the time I reached the top of the path I was fairly please I'd decided on the shorter option. The heat and humidity didn't make it particularly pleasant, however the views were worth it.
From Moon Hill we made our way east and took a small path which veered off the main road. We stopped to take photos of the scenery (and our cool scooter) before continuing on through what appeared to be another one of those weird towns the Chinese government has decided will become the next guest house location (lots of empty partially constructed guest houses).
We backtracked and then headed north. We veered off again to take some photos and explore another small track before continuing north again. We found a restaurant review of Trip Advisor so set off to find it. We overshot it so turned back and eventually
found the restaurant. Turns out our detour was good as we arrived at the restaurant just as the owner was unlocking the front door.
The restaurant owner was an amusing lady who seemed very worried that people were in a rush. We assured her that, as we were on holidays, we didn't mind relaxing for a while as we waited for her to get organised. Plus the longer lunch took, the more charge our scooter would have!
We ordered Chuang Shang Ba (a local dish which is like a thin sticky rice cake with chives and chestnuts), fried eggs with special vanilla (chives) and a lotus root salad. We also ordered a couple of passionfruit juices. The food was delicious.
After lunch we made our way south again. We took a couple of detours to admire the scenery. We eventually made it back to our hotel around 3pm.
Just before sunset we jumped back on our scooter and headed to the river to take some photos. We arrived back at the hotel and handed our keys back (sadly). The scooter was an excellent way to get around. 40 km/hr was speedy enough to cover a lot
of ground and as it's electric it was really quiet. We'd love one for home (if we didn't have to worry about being knocked off by cars / going through the whole registration process).
We headed up to the rooftop to watch the sunset while drinking beer and in and tonic. After the sunset (again, not that impressive due to the haze), we headed back to the same restaurant from the previous night. This time we ordered cashew chicken and green vegetables with garlic (and no pork).
We enjoyed Yangshuo; the unusual scenery was really pretty. It was nice to spend a few days riding around and exploring at a relaxed pace.
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