Yangshuo (pronounced Young-sh-woah) like Zhangjiajie is surrounded by some very unique scenery. It is a little bit bigger than Zhangjiajie, equally as pretty, but in a different way. There are literally thousands of limestone mountains, or “mounds” that jut up in the sky. The Li and Yulong Rivers snake their way through the mountains with the town sitting right in the middle. Even though it is remote, it is a very popular tourist destination and has been for many years. The locals said they remember tourists coming here for the last 30 years or so.
After leaving Zhangjiajie and taking a 4-hour morning bus ride, a 7-hour overnight train ride and one last 2 hour bus ride, I arrived in Yangshuo! When I was back in Xi’an I became friends with a guy from Singapore and he recommended an English school here where I could eat and sleep for free as long as I wanted, provided I hung out with the students for a couple hours each night to help them learn English. Most of them already speak English pretty well, they are just learning the nuances of English. It wasn’t really “teaching” per-se because we just hung out with them and chatted, doing fun things with them like heading out to the river to swim. It was a pretty sweet deal.
I hung out with the students on the first day and then on Sunday I met a guy at the school named Andy. He is from Germany and had been studying Chinese here for the last 9 months. He was just beginning to travel around the country for a bit before heading back home. He spoke pretty good Chinese, which was a great help for the next two days of adventure. He had just arrived at the school and since we had nothing to do so we decided to go and do some exploring. We found a cave close to our room and decided to check it out. Fun right? Well it turns out we didn’t find a cave, but an abandoned highway tunnel and some sort of military or water plant. We are still not sure what it was! On the way out of the place we met a dude that runs a sort of dog breeding place out in Shenzhen. As we were talking to him we noticed a grasshopper hopping along the road. Suddenly it falls over right in front of us. It’s stomach suddenly bursts open and a small long white parasite wriggles out. It was freaking nasty! I’m assuming that’s why you don’t drink the water here 🙂
We finally made our way back to our room and found out we were locked out. No wonder our keycards didn’t work, it was 2:30am and obviously no on is still up to let us in! So we decided to walk to the school, but it was also locked up tight. Running out of options we made our way to eat at the local KFC (open 24 hours, which was a total surprise to us!) to find out they were out of chicken! So we left there and found a local place that was just closing up and bought some chicken. We then trekked back to KFC and bought their fries, so we were all set! We were pretty much falling asleep at this point, so we stumbled back close to the room and slept in some chairs outside a hostel that was close. At 6:30am after trying the door every 30 minutes or so, we finally made it inside and immediately fell asleep until 2pm the next afternoon! Crazy night!
When we woke up it was afternoon, but with plenty of daylight left we decided to venture our again. We rented some mountain bikes and made our way along the local river. No real plan, just biking along some small villages along the river. Of course we got caught in the 6pm daily rain! Almost every day we were there, the clouds would roll in around 6pm and it would rain hard for a couple of hours and then clear out. We found a little house and asked for directions back to the city, but instead they invited us in. We ended up chilling with them for 2 hours, eating corn on the cob and waiting the rain out. We made it back to the city around 11pm, pretty exhausted from all the biking and from being completely soaked for the last 5 hours.
The next morning we were up early around 9am and decided to go biking again. We rented the bikes and headed out in the opposite direction, biking along the river for 3-4 hours. It was really beautiful. The mountains were in the background, little adobe houses dotting the countryside with rice fields everywhere in between. Inevitably I got a flat tire and after some searching and asking around, we hitched a ride to the next town. It was a small ancient city called Xinping. The touristy thing to do there is to rent a faux bamboo raft (metal formed to look like bamboo) and float down the Yangshuo river. The prices they wanted for an 1.5 hour trip was outrageous! They wanted 400RMB (about $65 USD) which is pretty steep considering that the bike rental was 30RMB for the day ($5 USD), dinner was 20RMB ($3 USD), a bottle of water is 2RMB (33 cents USD) and a pack of Oreos is only 4RMB (65 cents USD). So obviously we declined to rent their fake bamboo rafts, but every time we would take off on the bikes down the road, these little old ladies were RUNNING after Andy and me trying to get us to go. I have to say they were actually hustling us pretty hard! This was actually pretty much the story for the rest of the day, locals yelling “Bamboo, Bamboo, Bamboo!” everywhere we went. I think it was the only word they knew in English! I’m sure many unsuspecting tourists get sucked into the trap.
After spending most of the day out along the river, we headed back around 4pm as we had our English Corner at 6:30. Of course once again, 5pm rolls around and it starts dumping rain. A little old Chinese guy and his wife invited us into their house to wait out the rain. I don’t think they even spoke Chinese, but we sat and waited out the storm in their humble home. It was close to 6:30 when we left again and we were able to flag down a truck that let us jump in for the ride back to Yangshuo. It was a very eventful day, but one that I don’t think many people get to experience. We were pretty much the only foreigners we saw all day, spending most of it biking alongside the locals and getting towed along by passing trucks. A very unique and fun day!
The next morning Andy and I headed back to Guilin, got on the bus and parted ways. But not before having one final adventure! I was using my credit card in an ATM and it ate it and would return it! After an hour and a half of arguing with the bank, comparing my signatures on paper, giving them everything from my phone number to my email address, home address, copies of the credit card and my passport, they finally relented and returned the credit card back to me. I sure hope that doesn’t happen again! I then parted ways with Andy. He was heading north to Zhangjiajie and I’m on my way to Nanning to secure a Vietnamese visa before continuing on to Hanoi, Vietnam.