Guilin, Yangshuo, China

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Asia » China » Guangxi » Yangshuo
September 14th 2011
Published: October 7th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Back down the bottom of the hill at Ping An, near Long Sheng, I boarded a minivan for Guilin, which happily deposited me at the train station, where I knew a couple of value hotels were located.

(I actually ended up in a slightly more upmarket one, The Cairns hotel, for 206RMB. Still pretty cheap and a lovely room. It’s so nice to be in a room where few things are broken, and with a bit more space!)

I didn’t do any sight seeing in Guilin, but just wandered around looking for a restaurant. There were plenty of people selling fruits on the footpath, including freshly cut watermelon. I love that sort of watermelon. It was only 1RMB for a big slice, so I had several!

While walking around near the train station, I wanted to find the ‘Guilin Flowers’ Youth Hostel, to book a Li River cruise, but I simply could not find it (and I had left the phone number back in my room).
When I got back to the room I rang them and arranged a place on the cruise for the next morning.

Some more observations about travelling in China:
- Besides the constant hornblowing: the cigarette smoking is really annoying. They just light up anywhere, indoors, outdoors, in restaurants, right next to you – they don’t care. I suppose it was the same in Australia 30 or so years ago, but it is very hard to take. When you are walking around outside, you constantly come across the horrible smell of cigarette smoke, because someone is puffing away, so it is not just an indoors problem.

- I have a choice to stay in international style youth hostels or Chinese hotels. The Chinese hotels are often only a little dearer than the hostels, but have much better rooms. However in the youth hostels you meet a lot more people from around the world, and can get lots of info (in English) on what to see and do. The staff are often helpful with bookings etc. So the choice is: comfort (Chinese hotels) or help, people and info (youth hostels)!

- The Chinese hotels charge far less than the rates posted in their lobbies – often 4 times less! I don’t know when those rates apply. Near train stations in some cities there are scores of hotels with bargain rates.

I left the Cairns hotel and went to the youth hostel (which still wasn’t that easy to find), had breakfast, and then got picked up for the cruise, down the Li River to Yangshuo which is about 70km from Guilin. They farted about an awful lot (picking up other people, loading us onto a bigger bus etc) before we finally got going, and an hour later we reached the river, and, after ANOTHER long delay boarded what were supposed to be bamboo rafts for a leisurely cruise down the Li River towards Yangshuo. The rafts were actually made out of PVC pipes, but who cares? The ones near Yang Shuo, are indeed made of bamboo. Straight away the scenery was incredible. There were 4 passengers in each little boat, with a driver. After an hour or so (and more great scenery) we pulled up at a bend in the river to get some refreshments at a bunch of stalls. We continued on for another 45 minutes or so before disembarking. Every bend in the river brought more incredible views, till I wondered what else the remarkable countryside could throw at me.

Unfortunately, after we jumped off the boats, the tour organisers only provided small inadequate buses to take us the rest of the way to Yangshuo, so again there was lots of farting about squeezing aboard these.

After arriving in Yangshuo, I went to “Monkey Jane’s” guest house, a pretty run down looking youth hostel (with a very energetic owner who was not present at the time) and got a tiny private room for 70RMB. I was too tired to look elsewhere. Althought 70RMB is only about $10 it was hardly worth it to have such a crap room (up 2 flights of steep stairs) but on the other hand I had the advantages of a youth hostel – info in English, and help arranging further trips.

The staff there helped me book a plane trip from Guilin to Sanya on Hainan Island for late Monday night. They also told me about a cormorant fishing trip, for only 40RMB. This started about 7PM. About 20 of us tourists ended up on a long boat cruising up the Li River alongside a fisherman on a bamboo raft with his little bunch of cute cormorants. They looked like nice, happy little birds, constantly diving down to look for fish. While on the surface they had to paddle constantly to keep up with their master’s boat. In 20 minutes of fishing they caught about 6 fish they couldn’t swallow, and about a dozen smaller ones that they got ‘to keep’ :-)

I decided to do a bicycle trip into the surrounding countryside. A young German guy in the hostel described a trip he had done, and it sounded interesting and doable. Navigation was still a concern. But while walking down the street to look for a bike a Chinese lady approached me with good English offering to take me on a tour. I asked whether she could take me on the particular trip the German guy did and she agreed, for 100RMB. I hired a respectable mountain bike for 30RMB. She (Rose) had to go pretty slow however as her bike wasn’t so good and she was carrying an umbrella along to shield herself from the sun.

We went up alongside the Yu Long (Dragon) River eventually reaching the Dragon Bridge – probably about 10km outside Yang Shuo. Very nice countryside the whole way. The road varied from good to terrible! I really enjoyed the tracks going through the farmland, full of rice, chickens, ducks, and other unknown cultivations. We had lunch near the bridge, and then crossed and rode along the other side of the river. There were numerous turns and tracks to negotiate, and it would have been pretty difficult to do it without a guide.

The weather was very hot. We had to drink constantly. Plus my backside was very sore from riding the bike.
Got back to Yangshuo about 4PM, pretty tired, then went for a quick swim in the Li River at a popular swimming spot. Water was a lovely temperature. (That was a contrast to Thailand – I haven’t seen many rivers there clean enough to swim in – at least not near biggish towns.)

After moving to a Chinese hotel (decided I could not take the tiny room in the YH any longer), I joined Rose for another cycling trip. Destination was the ‘Moon Water’ cave, about one hour ride outside Yangshuo. Again we took a scenic route through farmland, along some pretty rough tracks. It was even hotter than the day before. Finally we reached the ticket office for the Moon Water cave tours. They wanted 200RMB for this tour, which is a lot in this part of the world. If Rose came for the tour too it would cost another 100RMB. I took pity on her and paid the 100RMB (equal to her day’s fee), and off we went 5km down the road in a crowded minivan to the cave itself.

I think this was the worst value attraction I have met in China. Firstly the start of the cave tour was chaos. You really need swimwear to enjoy the cave, and they had cheap swimwear on sale at the start. But nowhere to change except in fetid, stinking toilets. They had one girl serving the hordes of tourists, while 5 people upstairs I saw playing cards! Everyone pushing and shoving. Everyone shouting and carrying on like monkeys in a zoo. The poor girl looking after us had to:
- help people try on the swimwear,
- rent out towels,
- rent out lockers,
- direct people to the disgusting toilets to change,
- issue helmets, etc.

The cave was absolutely nothing special except for 2 features: some hot water pools that were nice to lie in, and a mud bath! The mud bath was a bit cold for me, so I didn’t see it as very attractive (admittedly the young people there had a whale of a time, but they could have done that in a pile of mud anywhere!). I wouldn’t pay $30 to see a cave like that in Australia, let alone in China where most things are so cheap!
Plus I had paid $15 to treat Rose to this ‘attraction’.
When we finally left the cave the driver took ages to show up, to take us back to the ticket office.

At least we had a very nice lunch there, and rode back to Yangshuo on easy roads. One spot had a magic view over a river. There were heaps of young Chinese riding bicycles back to Yangshuo.

Back in Yangshuo, I found that my new hotel had a few disadvantages: surly/sour-faced staff (there were a bunch of them always in the lobby who obviously hated to have to deal with guests), and really loud music from some nearby bars – it finished about 2:15AM, so I didn’t sleep much before then.

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