Trip Start Nov 15, 2009
55Trip End Aug 03, 2010
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Classical Chinese paintings and scrolls feature karst mountains covered in greenery. The inspiration for these works of art is the Yangshuo area in Guangxi province. Intrigued by the inspiration for such art we decided to include Yangshuo on our Chinese itinerary.
We flew into yet another seemingly modern and efficient airport at Guilin before getting a taxi to our hotel in Moon Village which is a few miles outside of Yangshuo. We arrived quite late at night so our only clue to the scenery around the hotel was the dark shadows filling the view from our hotel window.
When we opened the curtains the next morning we were thrilled to see the spectacular karst peaks filling our horizon
The scenery was surreal and we stopped frequently to take photos. For lunch we stopped at an ancient village and had the local speciality, beer fish. It didn’t taste of beer but was still a good meal.
On our way back to the hotel we decided to take a bamboo raft along the Yulong River so we could fully appreciate the scenery without having to concentrate on the track ahead. We left our bikes with the guide to be picked up at the end of our voyage and boarded the raft which was powered by a boatmen who punted the vessel along the narrow river. The raft was equipped with two forward facing seats so we were able to watch the scenery unfold in comfort.
The journey was quite magical as we were able to concentrate on the karst peaks without the distractions of cycling
At the end of our journey we were met by our guide who had been transported by lorry along with our bikes to the finishing point. We then visited the site of the 1500 year old Big Banyan Tree which was absolutely huge. Actually it wasn’t very interesting and the attraction seemed to cater more for local tourists and featured uniformed monkeys with which the tourists could pose for photos.
In the evening we bought tickets for ‘Impressions Liu Sanjie’ which is a highly recommended show featuring a cast of about 600. The outdoor light show is the brainchild of Zhang Yimou, famous for directing films such as Raise the Red Lantern, House of the Flying Daggers and Hero. He was also the man behind the opening ceremony at the Beijing Olympic Games. The show was very colourful and was enhanced by the lighting of the surrounding karst peaks. We suspect it told a story relating to the local area but as all the songs were in Chinese we can’t be sure
On our second day in the area we walked up to Moon Hill which is just a few minutes from our hotel. Moon Hill is a local peak where the mountain has eroded to form a large opening in the shape of a half moon. To get there we had to climb a relentlessly steep hill that left us breathless. Once near the top we stood under the archway of the opening before we pressed on further up the hill for impressive views of the opening and the surrounding peaks. The outlook was certainly beautiful and we were treated to more great scenery on the way down when we visited an observation point which had great views of the feature that makes Moon Hill so distinctive.
In the evening we took the cormorant fishing tour. The tour is conducted from a covered boat which travels alongside a fisherman who uses cormorants to catch fish. The birds’ throats are constricted so that they cannot swallow the fish and the fisherman forces the cormorants to give up their catch by dragging them out of the water and getting them to drop their catch into a bucket
On our final two days we relaxed a bit with some short walks and a cycle ride into the surrounding countryside. The cycle ride proved to be quite strenuous but we did not see many other tourists and were greeted by broad smiles and “hellos” from locals who seemed pleased to practise the one word of English they seemed to know. In response we would reply with a “nihao”, the Chinese word for hello, and they appeared to appreciate this as their smiles broadened. Either that or we’d totally mispronounced the word and had said something hilarious.
On our final day we had arranged to take a tour to the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces at Longsheng which is several hours away from Yangshuo. Unfortunately it was raining heavily when we took breakfast so we decided to save our money and cancel the tour as we did not want to get to Longsheng and find out precipitation had obscured the views and that in any case the rain made walking unpleasant.
Instead we went to Yangshuo, the centre of the local tourist industry, but a town we had yet to explore
Yangshuo was very touristy and the shops all sold the same low quality items so we didn’t stay long before returning to our hotel. There we spent some time with the family who own the hotel, a friendly and hospitable group of people whose children seemed fascinated by us, particularly Mandy who drew the attention of the young emperor himself; a two year old who was the only boy and so the recipient of much attention. In fact, China’s one child policy has resulted in many pampered children and even the girls were princesses, but all the children were quite funny and added to the informal and relaxed feel of our hotel.
We left early for the airport so that we could see the outstanding scenery between Yangshuo and Guilin before the dark of evening obscured the view. Guilin airport wasn’t quite as enticing as when we arrived and we ate an over-priced and bland meal before negotiating the somewhat confusing check-in process.