Outdoor adventures in yangshuo
08.10.2012 - 12.10.2012 28 °C
My flight to guilin was incredibly uneventful, and after an airport bus into town in which I wasn't 100% sure it was going to Guilin and then walking the last 20 minutes in town instead of being ripped off by the taxi drivers, I arrived at my hostel, hot and sticky. Walking to the hostel, I kind of got a sense that Guilin is not that interesting and I was totally correct. I had lunch at a little cheap outdoor stall and had to suffer through a meal with chilli before going for a wander around. Yeah I was done in like 20 minutes. The main pedestrian street is filled with shops and restaurants that will rip off tourists and felt like someone had built it badly in the 80's and then forgot all about it. So being productive and out of a lack of things to do I organised my train ticket to Hong Kong and got a massage. For $12 I had a 1 hour full body massage AND a 1 hour foot massage. Sorry I felt the need to brag! It was really nice and I felt much better about wasting time in Guilin. I wandered around slightly more after this and then also spent some time relaxing in the hostel reading before going out for dinner, once again at a little local outdoor stall. These types of places are great as the food is cheap, it comes out really fast and tastes awesome. I didn't linger in Guilin at night, instead finally getting a great night sleep and relaxing in the hostel.
In the morning I was keen to get out of Guilin as quickly as possible, so after a breakfast at KFC (they sell congee, so I felt kind of ok about this, but there was nothing else!) I headed to the bus station. It felt the same as the airport bus, I bought a ticket but then was never properly sure that I was going to go the right way. It was about 1.5hr on the bus down a pretty horrid road and experiencing all of china's chaotic driving with constant horns and crazy overtaking. If I could rip out all the horns from all the vehicles in China I would be very happy!
After arriving in Yangshuo and dropping my stuff off at my hostel I set out to explore. Unfortunately I haven't got great weather here, it is hot but really hazy so I can't get these glorious panoramicviews of the karst landscape. I wandered around the developed tourist area, seeing all the goods they have, which is all stuff I have seen elsewhere in China. I'm just not interested in buying stuff for the sake of it. I had lunch and then hired a bike to go exploring the countryside. Yangshuo sits on the Li and Yulong rivers which run through this amazing place. I set off along a paved roadway through little villages and past these amazing karst mountains and lots of farms. The area is thankfully very flat and so very easy to ride around. I was trying to find the ferry point to cross over the river to see the town on the other side but I never could find the ferry. There was absolutely no signage in the area, and my map was more about pretty graphics then a true representation of the area, so instead I turned around and cycled the 7km back to Yanghshuo.
Back at my hostel I met Katharina, a german engineer currently living in Beijing and on her holidays. We headed up to the rooftop balcony of our hostel to have a beer and take in the lovely view. Here we met Brendan, an aussie from Cronulla and we spent ages chatting and being perplexed by the beautiful landscape that the chinese have lit up with flashing neon lights. I headed out for dinner with Brendan and his mate Chris and then we went to another rooftop bar in town which was lots of fun. Met lots of people and ended up staying much later than I anticipated!
Katharina and I had arranged that we would go bike riding today and so after a sleep in and a huge western breakfast we hired some bikes and set off on an adventure. We cycled to moon hill, a karst landscape that has a semi-circular opening towards the top of it which was pretty cool, and although you can, we chose not to climb it as we planned this huge bike trip. Riding to the moon hill was along a main road and I saw my first proper car accident with a sedan flipped upside down in the field next to the road and lots of people and police around. I'm so surprised I haven't seen more accidents in china, I guess its organised chaos.
After looking at moon hill we set off on a unpaved roadway, not positive we were going the right way! We got stopped as we came to a little town down the roadway and were mighty confused were to go, there didn't seem to be any paths or any indication of where to get through, so after backtracking we found this tiny little path and assumed this must be it and so we set off on even rougher paths, which scooters and bikes can get down but no way could a car! We were riding past little round down houses and lots of fields of fruits and crops, all amongst this amazing karst landscape. It was pretty surreal. It was so nice to be in absolute peace, no horns, no talking, just no noise. This is a rare thing in China. We rode along for a little while, cursing our mountain bikes that actually had no gears and already starting to be very painful to sit on until we came to a fork in the road, we had absolutely NO IDEA which way we should go and so we went right down this rocky hill and then left again where we ran into an old chinese man who basically was telling us not to go this way and back up the hill but it was very confusing and so we ignored everything he said and road through until the road ran out in this little village and we realised the man right telling us to turn around, but we didn't want to ride up the hill so we turned right where we had turned left and then found some westerners also riding who were going the other way and were also lost so we were able to help each other and we all had to ride back up the hill and then we went left! We continued on for a while happily riding through small villages and through fields. We took a few purposely wrong turns so we would be able to see the river with all its bamboo rafts transporting chinese tourists and then most of the way relied on gut instincts as to which path to travel at any forks in the road, and eventually 4 hours after starting we arrived at our goal, the dragon bridge, a pretty stone bridge that crosses the yulong river. We got off our bikes to enjoy the view for a little while and realised we were quiet stiff after our ride and decided to take the short way along the main road back. It may not have been scenic and was very noisy with all the bikes, scooters, cars, trucks and buses and all their horns screaming down this road but we were back in Yangshuo in 45 minutes which was great!
We celebrated our massive adventure and actually succeeding in finding our way through the countryside basically without a map with a beer on the rooftop over looking the view and a snickers! We went out for dinner and then headed to a rooftop bar but were so exhausted after 1 beer we couldn't wait to get home and sleep.
12hrs sleep later we awoke and lazily got a cheap chinese breakfast and ready to go on a kayaking adventure. We were picked up a mini-van and with 3 others taken to a dock (the one I couldn't find on my first day here) where we jumped straight into some pretty sad looking kayaks. In total luck of the draw my kayak was ok, but Katharina's was a nightmare, she was in lots of pain kayaking and it had a small hole in it and she was getting soaked so she gave in half an hour into it! For 3.5hr 1 paddled along the Li river, with a bamboo raft with Katharina on it following us. This section of the river was not as dramatic as others but it was fantastic as there was no one else around and for half an hour I was able to lay there and drift in complete silence and serenity. Along the river, which is quite wide in this section is just farms and we would often pass buffalo bathing in the river and mini-fish farms too. The river was flanked by tonnes of bamboo and at some sections there were miniture rapids to ride. The whole experience was fantastic and I definitely love going kayaking.
We had a bit of drama with our transfer back to our hostel with the driver wanting to cheat us, the chinese are all for doing as little as possible for as much as possible, but after refusing to get out and Katharina's broken chinese to the driver's boss on the phone we got our transfer.
We had a great meal of Yanshuo style crispy duck out in the town but once again we were exhausted and decided to be nana's going to bed really early!
My last day in Yangshuo and we had decided to do the Li River hike, a 16km hike along the banks of the Li River, passing the site of the 20 yuan note image. We got up early and after a big breakfast caught a local bus 38km to a Yangdi, a small town up river, which took over an hour because the bus was going so slow and stopping all the time to pick up people and also because the roads and traffic are chaotic. At Yangdi we had to take a ferry boat over to the other side of the river to start the hike. This sounds simple but was the most stressful frustrating and exhausting part of the hike. Straight away we had this woman on our back offering us bamboo rides down the yangshuo, after explaining we just wanted to cross the river she wanted us to pay 60 yuan each! no way, so we kept walking towards the ferry. We found the ferry, it looks like hasn't run in a long time! Katharina tried asking some boat men and they all wanted exorbitant prices like 100 yuan to go the 20m across the river. Meanwhile the first woman is still following us getting in our faces each time we stopped. We just didn't know what to do, everyone was trying to rip us off and we didn't know if we would get across the river. Even some chinese were having a really hard time. After half an hour of wandering around, getting increasingly frustrated, still always with this woman following us and no one helping us, 2 portugese arrived but still nothing happened, the ferry boat did not go and no one would budge in price from 20 yuan each to cross. On principle we would not pay this much. The bus from Guilin to Yangshuo - over 63km is only 18 yuan. After another 15 minutes 2 french canadian's turned up but one of them could thankfully speak mandarin and the shouting match got interesting. We found out it was big racket and the boat drivers had paid off the ferry master not to run the ferry. With two other chinese people and lots of yelling and haggling we got the price down to a resonable 50 yuan for 4 and finally after over an hour stuck at this dock we were able to get across the river by bamboo raft. Not cool china, not cool. They were lazy and greedy and really helped diminish my view of the chinese and their country. I rarely really dislike a place but for the hour I was stuck at this dock I really did not like China. On the other side we were all able to calm down and relax and actually start to enjoy the gorgeous karst scenery all around us. The first stretch followed along the edge of the river for a few kilometres before we hit a village and had to cross the river again. What a difference a town makes, they were happy to do it for 10 - the standard price - and so within minutes we were on the other side and started the major leg of the hike. It was less a hike more than follow a footpath running along the river, past farms and through the forest but it was gorgeous (and blisteringly hot!) and we all took lots of photos. It would have been really peaceful except for the noise of the bamboo raft motors running up and down the river. We had lost the chinese couple at the first crossing and the portugese early on this leg and then for the rest of the way Katharina and I walked with the canadian couple. After a few hours we hit the last ferry crossing and we able to finally take a ferry across the river and continue the last leg along the roadway. (once again really loose term of hike!) Right at the end before we hit the ending town of Xingping we came across the beautiful 20 yuan image. Pretty nice image to see!
We got the bus back to Yangshuo, and although exhausted picked up our bags and headed back to the bus station to catch the 2 hour bus back to Guilin. The bus seemed to go on forever, it felt like I would never get there, but eventually we reached Guilin and made our way to our hostel were we were able to perfectly end our massive day by joining in the all you can bbq they offer, eating dumplings and lots of bbq meats on a stick and meeting lots of other travellers, one of whom being Rodrigo, a brazillian, who was going the same way the next day and so I found my next travel partner! With that it was time for bed and the next adventure.