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Published: August 5th 2010
Arriving in Yangshuo at 4:30 in the morning was quite an experience. The city was still dark from the night before, with only a handful of people out still roaming the streets, a few drunken tourists and some motorcycle taxi’s with no English speaking drivers. After 5 minutes of walking in the wrong direction and a drunk Russian woman telling us that we were going the wrong way, we came upon a looming figure in the dark off in the distance... it was one of the towering cliffs the city is so well known for, hovering some hundred feet above us like a dark gigantic ghost.
4:30 in the morning, our first mainland China destination, everything was quiet, nothing was open except for a McDonalds with a few other westerners arriving from a horribly early bus ride. We waited until 6 before heading to the guesthouse we had chosen from the book, only to find out nothing opened until 8am. 2 more hours of sitting around in the lobby and we found out they were full (oh sigh). We eventually stumbled upon another guesthouse just off of the main street called Bamboo Guesthouse. It seemed quite nice so
we checked in and passed out for a long and well-deserved nap!! We spent the afternoon wandering around the town before enjoying a nice dinner on one of the main walkways along the river/creek in town. We were amazed at the massive amounts of tourists in the city, it was such a different look compared to the pre-sunrise feel the town had given us. We also found out why our guesthouse actually had room, it was right overtop a club, and across the street from two others, with pounding bass-filled music until 2am. Yangshuo, or at least the main strip, felt more like Ko Phangan’s ‘full moon beach’ then a quiet ‘back-country’ city in China.
We spent a total of 5 days in the city, some just relaxing and wandering around the small area of town that we were staying in, but two days we went adventuring.
On our first day we rented pedal bikes and took off on the 10km ride to Moon Hill, and the Moon Water caves. Moon Hill was an amazing sight, a magnificent hill with a big half-moon shape missing from the top inside part, we spent about
the village far down below..
45 minutes hiking up to the top and were rewarded with some amazing views of the country-side. After the hill we caught a bus to the Moon Hill caves, which were amazing, but not as spectacular as the view from Moon Hill. The tour-guides loaded us onto a boat which went 5 minutes into the caves, where we then set off on foot for a roundabout tour of the caves, with a stop at some mud bath (which we skipped) and an underwater hot springs. After a long day of hiking biking and caving we were more than pooped but felt we had a great day!! (I apologize for the lack of pictures from the caves but we didn’t want to risk getting the camera wet)
Our third day in the breathtaking city we biked off in the opposite direction, headed for the 600 year old Dragon Bridge. We were just about outside of the city when we stopped for water break and map check when a tiny Chinese woman pulled up and, using hand gestures, asked where we were going and pointed us in the right direction before heading off the way we were to be
going. What luck I though, she’s going the same way as us. It turned out we actually found a local guide, who rode with us the entire way, taking us through some back-roads and rice-fields on the way. The country-side was absolutely amazing, the hills, small villages and rice-fields were out of an ancient Chinese fairy-tale. The bridge, while amazing for its age, was less awe-inspiring but it turned out we didn’t have to pay our friendly guide, just hire her husbands’ boat for a ride back down the Yulong river for 120¥ ($19 cnd). The ride was slow but offered us a different, but beautiful view on the way back.
We also went one night to see the Impressions Liu Sanjie lightshow, which was directed by Zhang Yimou, the man who also directed the Beijing opening ceremonies at the 2008 Olympics. It was an amazing show with over 600 performers (including local fishermen) with the Li River and surrounding mountain peaks as a backdrop starting just after the sunset.
Yanghshuo was definitely a beautiful city, and I think if we had a bit quieter accommodations we would have enjoyed it a lot more.
The city itself was breath-taking, surrounded on every side by massive lime-stone peaks that looked un-natural, and although it was quite a busy city (compared to what we’re used to in Vancouver), it was easy to get into the peaceful country-side where life was slower. We definitely enjoyed our time there. Our next stop is an hour north to the city of Guilian, much larger then Yangshuo with a population of over 700,000 people, but still small by Chinese big-city standards.
The two biggest things we have noticed in China; the language barrier and the population sizes. Coming from Vancouver, the “smaller” cities seem quite large to use, with a population of over 300,000 people, and probably just as many tourists, it’s been different for sure, but interesting. I wouldn’t see either of these things as challenges though, just changes to accept as part of traveling. It will be interesting to get into bigger cities such as Shanghai and Beijing to see how the cities deal with so many people in such a small place.
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