Yangshuo: Why do they think my name is Bamboo?

Trip Start May 06, 2011
Trip End Nov 10, 2011

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Flag of China  , Guangxi Zhuang,
Monday, July 25, 2011

We finally made it to Yangshuo in the afternoon, after a day and a half of travel. The good thing is that it was worth traveling for that long to get to.  Why, you ask?  It just happens to be one of the more beautiful areas in China – the Chinese will even tell you so (if they can't speak English, just say "Yangshuo" and they will probably give a knowing look and “ohhhh”.  There are numerous rivers that wind their way through karst formations that are like… well it’s rather hard to describe –  we’ll let the pictures do the talking.  We walked around the town for the rest of the afternoon of our first day, perhaps still not in “go mode” from all the train travel.  The town itself has the karst formations in it and surrounding it and it had some charm about it. 

At night, we went to a “cormorant fishing show” that really wasn’t that much of a show, but still cool because of this rather special fishing method in this part of China.  Cormorants are a type of duck that can be trained to fetch fish for the fisherman… it is quite interesting.  They have a long string attached to their feet, linking them to the boat.  Then they go diving down for fish and when the fisherman notices that they have something, he reels them in and makes them spit the fish out.  During our half an hour “show”, the dozen or so birds only caught 4 measly fish.  At shore, you could get your photo taken with the bird on your shoulder or on top of a traditional Chinese hat.  Darja passed on this one.

Our second day was one of those crazy full ones.  We rented bicycles from our hostel early in the morning and ventured out to enjoy the landscapes.  Our first stop was at a place called Moon Hill, so named because it has a hole in the middle that looks like (guess what).  On this hike we were joined by some nice Chinese ladies who were conveniently carrying drinks for outrageous prices (for China).  They were fanning us along the way, too, which was a little weird, but nice because we were really damn hot.  We bought some crazy priced drinks from them against our better judgment and enjoyed the fabulous view from the top. 

Next, we biked back to the Yulong River and through some gorgeous scenery.  Now, unless you’ve been to Yangshuo, you probably were a little bit confused by the title of this blog.  Over the course of one day, someone traveling through this area probably will hear “Hello Bamboo??!!” more than 100 times.  Along the two main rivers in the area (the Li being the primary and the Yulong being a tributary) there must be thousands of bamboo rafts and at least that many touts, always middle-aged ladies, trying to sell you a ride on one.  They will yell at you “Hello Bamboo!” about 10 times before giving up unless you walk away from them.  It can be more than a little irritating, so in order to fight off the insanity, Nathan would joke “why do you think my name is Bamboo?” or conversely “how did you guess my name was Bamboo?!  Nobody else has that name!” or “no, I don’t have any bamboo…  Are you trying to build a raft?”  These Chinese ladies didn’t get it but it amused us plenty.

We biked along the river until the path ended and the only way across was by using a raft.  Some snotty teenage kids came over on their raft and offered a price that was ridiculous for a 3 minute ride.  We couldn’t bargain them down and they were getting in Darja’s face and grabbing at our money, so Nathan went off on them (stopping short of getting physical) and they went away.  But we still needed to get across.  We were a little concerned about what to do but after a little while, an old lady who was actually trying to sell drinks took us across.

Our journey continued through some tracks that went right through the middle of farms and had quite a few twists and turns.  We stopped at really great place in the country for lunch with a funny name: the Giggling Tree.  Also, we had an unofficial “guide” for most of the way starting around this time.  She just always happened to be near an intersection when we were going by and told us “no, this way” numerous times.  But we knew that this was not some altruistic act.  She didn’t mention the word “bamboo” once in all of the times we passed each other on the path, so we were getting very curious.  We got to our destination, a very old stone bridge called the Dragon Bridge.  By the time we got there we felt like a thoroughly cooked steamed dumpling.  It is possible that neither of us had sweated that much in our lives.  So we took a much needed rest and right about the time that we started talking about taking one of those previously-mentioned bamboo rafts, our “guide” came over and asked if we wanted a raft.  We were quite impressed by her patience (we had not seen that here), but it is an excellent technique.  We came to a reasonable price (it’s always a good idea to look up what that is for anything in China) and headed back down the river via raft

We chose a great place on the river where the tour buses don’t go (it’s hard for them to get to this spot, we think) so there were only a handful of other rafts on the river.  Where we got off the raft was where all the tourists come in droves and there are hundreds of rafts full of loud Chinese… Hardly idyllic, right?  But anyway, our section was nearly idyllic and it was a nice reward for the 4 or 5 hours of biking through the heat.  A fun part of the ride on the river was going over these small waterfalls of roughly a meter.  Most of the time they’d only get your feet wet, but the first time we came up to one you can’t help but think “this doesn’t look like such a good idea”.

Another 45 minutes on the bicycle from where we were dropped off and we made it back to the hostel.  Enough for a shower and brief rest before going to a light show called “Impressions”     .  It’s very popular; they have it every night and they fill up an outdoor ampitheatre that must seat about 5000 or more. It was a very unique show because the stage is outside in the dark and basically all water. The artists are on boats that have lanterns or other lights on them. They also use flood lights to illuminate the mountains behind. The cast has more than 600 members and at one point they all walked across a small bridge with suits that had LEDs on them. And while there were some obvious flaws in execution, the cool visual effects made up for it.

On our third day in Yangshuo, we took a local bus up the Li river to a town called Xingping.  This area is famous because a part of the scenary there is on the back of the 20 yuan note.  We found a place that rented bicycles for cheap (turns out they were cheap bikes, too) so we could cover more ground.  We made it up the river until the trail ended, and then walked back along the river banks a bit and had a snack.  The Li River between Guilin and Yangshuo has a steady stream of tour boats and motorized rafts (they still call them bamboo rafts, but really it’s white plastic tubing about the same shape and size as bamboo).  It really lacks the ambience in comparison to the Yulong.  It was still nice and, of course, the scenery is still breathtaking.

Later in the afternoon, we took a cooking class back at the Yangshuo Cooking School.  It’s located in a picturesque, rustic spot outside of the town and it was also a nice group of nine people.  We learned to cook five different dishes, including some local specialties such as “beer fish” (or for Darja, “beer tofu”).  Most of them ended up being pretty tasty.  We couldn’t help compare the experience to the cooking class in Thailand, which we thought was better and more fun.  If you take away the comparison, the class was a decent in and of itself.

We had an early morning flight the following day so we hopped on the bus to Guilin to stay there for the night.  It was a nice place right on the river –aptly called Riverside Hostel – the same that we stayed at when we got into Guilin by train.  It’s too bad we didn’t have more time there, though, as it was probably one of the nicer hotels we had in China.
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Greta on

Hello Bamboo!!!

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