Yangshou is this little town south of Guilin which is famous because of its fantastic landscapes, the Li river and because it’s a climbers’ paradise.
To get there you can take a bus that takes 1 hour and a half. Or you can get a tour through the Li River, which is what I did. With this they pick you up from your hostel, drive for like an hour and then you get on a bamboo boat for another hour, then another bus to Yangshou. Well, actually it’s not a real bamboo boat, it’s one made of plastic I think which imitates the original one, but this has now become a big business and these are safer and better.
The trip goes down the Li River through a fantastic landscape, with weird peaks along the way. They appear on the 20 Yuan notes and are famous for this. Again, come visit in spring time or summer, I’m sure it’s way more beautiful than now.
It wouldn’t be a total Chinese experience if it didn’t stop in the middle of the itinerary where a bunch of locals are awaiting you trying to sell you absolutely everything. From fruits, to fried fish, etc. So you stop for a bit, and while you try a bit of that food, you wonder how it must look in better weather, when everything is green and good.
Finally, you get to a small village and then grab another bus to Yangshou, where you try to find accommodation for the night.
Yangshou is not very big, and it’s very very touristy. This is an understatement. It has one street, west street, full of souvenir shops and bars. In the souvenir shops they sell everything overpriced (4 times more expensive or more, so they say) and in the bars, they play the music very very loud everywhere, while many of them have locals singing songs in Chinese. Finding a place to have a beer and be able to talk to people is a bit of a mission.
The one thing that really annoyed my about this town was that it’s not really prepared for winter, or for cold temperatures for that matter. The temperature here dropped to 7⁄8 degrees Celsius which is not that cold in absolute terms, but because it’s very humid you get a nasty cold feeling. Also, it doesn’t help that almost every room lacks central heating (or if does have a heater, it’s not enough to warm the room, let alone the bathroom). So you end up in a place where you are shivering constantly. Oh well, cheap accommodation.
But the most interesting part of Yanghou are its surroundings, and the best way to discover these, is by renting a bike and cycle away on your own. Again, you have to bargain hard here to get a decent price.
If you rent a bike, there are a few bike paths that you can use. These go along the river, through really beautiful landscapes and remote villages. The only problem is that there are constructions everywhere. It seems the Chinese are exploiting this to the maximum and there are houses almost everywhere (or construction sites for future hotels), which kind of spoils the whole landscape. You can get to some really nice places however, where you get to random villages. Again, it was kind of rainy and cloudy and very very cold, so it didn’t feel really nice biking. But it’s one of these places that must feel absolutely awesome during sunset and sunrise, when the light is that way.
Biking and traffic is interesting in Yangshou, well in China in general. To say that it’s chaotic is not to say much. It all seems like there are no rules, and that the natural order or preference prevails. When I say natural order I, of course, mean that the bigger your vehicle is the more you can do whatever you want. So, this means Lorries, Busses, Cars, motorbikes/mopeds, pedestrians.
I’ve seen about everything, from reversing a bulldozer, not looking backwards at the same time the guy is on the phone, to cars going in the wrong way on a main road. Turns and stop wherever you want, etc, you name it.
Apart from this, there are a few other interesting things you can do here:
Now, this is funny, because you have to pay like 15 yuan to get into this place and climb to the top. Just when you’ve arrived you’ll be assaulted by a group of local farmer ladies who will ask you to give them 2 yuan. What they’ll give you in return, it seems, is to show you a path to the moon hill. But all they show you is a broken piece of the fence of the perimeter around Moon Hill so that you can jump it and get into it without having to pay the official 15 yuan. Cheeky. The problem with this is that the guards know about this and they usually patrol the area preventing people to get in…
The view from the Moon Hill
Anyway, there’s a pretty steep climb using stairs to the top of the mountain where, when you get there out of breath, you’ll be assaulted again by other farmer ladies trying to sell you postcards or water.
As you see, this is like a mafia, they have the farmer ladies everywhere… Just joking, they are nice and they are only trying to earn a bit of money!
This area is full of strawberry fields where you can either buy them directly from he farmer or just go and pick them yourself. The interesting thing about this is their taste. Very very sweet and quite different from the ones I’ve had in Europe. Really.
Hot Spring and Water Cave
I went here on a day that was raining miserably. It’s actually a cave, very similar to the reed flute cave, illuminated in the same way, but it has a mud bath section (cold water, only opened in summer) and a hot spring, where you can get into and stay between 30 minutes to 1 hour. Nothing really exciting here unless you consider this exotic, but it looks kind of tacky and touristy.