After a day in Guilin, which was mostly spent unsuccessfully trying to organise train tickets (we still don’t know how we are getting to Vietnam, all we know is we have to leave China by 16th, which is when our Chinese visas expire), we moved on to Yangshuo. This involved getting a “bamboo” (actually plastic pipes) raft and drifting lazily down the Li River. This area is famous for its scenery – it’s full of limestone peaks called karsts and terraced paddy fields. Gorgeous. We even spotted water buffalo on our journey.
Yangshuo is very touristy and there’s a big, pushy, noisy service industry developed to cater to the tourists – the evenings here are like being in Magaluf (or so I would imagine). Everyone knows at least one word of English -“Hello!” – and as soon as you get off the boat you are assailed with people shouting hello to you. If they are trying to sell you something it will be “hello drinks”, “hello t-shirts” or “hello peanuts“. They then poke you with said item. If you have a peanut allergy then don’t come to Yangshuo. Even people who aren’t trying to sell you something will say hello just to be friendly. Even though it’s a touristy spot, they still seem excited to see Westerners – I suppose that’s the Chinese tourists rather than the native Yangshuo-ers who must be rather blase about it by now. We’re still posing for people’s photos and we have a rule now that when they ask to take a photo of us, we take one back of them. They are even more excited when they hear the word London – “Olympics! Olympics!”
There are plenty of activities on offer here designed to allow you to make the most of the countryside. Today we did our own little triathlon. We hired bikes and cycled out along the Yulong river. Three separate people said to us, in all earnest, “nice day for a bike ride today, it’s not too hot.” It’s 32 degrees. Now, I can sort of ride a bike but I’m a bit Bambi on ice, but I only fell off once (and it wasn’t so much a fall as an exuberant dismount into a paddy field).
“Locals say the water under the bridge is 7m deep. It’s certainly a great spot for a swim.”
I love that – “We can’t tell you that you can jump off the bridge, because if someone breaks their back then we will get sued, but we’re still going to put the idea in your head.” Anyway, I didn’t jump off the bridge and nor did anyone else while we were there. Considering that we had to do a shortened route on our bamboo boat cruise yesterday because the river level was low, I don’t think it would have been advisable. But I did have a swim, much to the amusement of the bamboo boat drivers and passengers.
They are the birds that the fisherman train to catch fish for them. They weren’t on duty when I saw them, and if they had been accompanied by their fisherman at the time then I probably wouldn’t have been allowed to get a free photograph – I think the fishermen make more money from the tourists than they do from the fish.
We then cycled back on the other side of the river, missed the bridges back across and had to haggle with a bamboo boat man to ferry us and our bikes over to the right side on a proper bamboo raft, so at least we can say we were on one, even if only for a minute. After returning our bikes, we were absolutely shattered and it was starting to get dark, but it’s a Saturday today so I had to do a parkrun. I’d worn my running gear all day in the hope of finding somewhere to run. I know that going back to our room would be fatal – we’d sit down and not get back up – so I dragged poor Mr Beet to Yangshuo Park, where I did my very slow run.
More photos of Yangshuo on Mr Beet’s flickr page.