Amidst dozens of green mountains and hills, with emerald rivers and streams winding around them, sits the once quiet country town of Yangshuo. As more and more people stumble upon its existence, the sight of the Western chaos engine steamrolling over it's almost epic horizon comes ever closer, and it's hard to say how many years until tourism ruins this place.
But onwards now, to the Yangsuo of the present!
There are dozens of positives to bullet list for Yangshuo, so i will stick to just a few.
The first thing to love is that if you are coming from England to visit here, upon crossing that border you will be transformed into a rich, powerful King. English money goes far here, and you will be able to afford almost anything, from the nicest rooms, meals, souvenirs and activities, without having to worry.
The main street is 'West' street, which offers a plethora of bars and restaurants clambering for your attention. The food has become somewhat more Westernised than your traditional Chinese cuisine, but it shouldn't trouble you to find those more delectable dishes if you do want to try something different (and you should).
The amount of things to do in Yangshuo are also quite overwhelming, with the most popular being Cormorant fishing, Bamboo rafting, The Water Cave (with mud bath included) and Moon Hill. All dirt cheap for the flush foreigner. I especially enjoyed the Water Cave (beware of other less auspicious caves pretending to be this!), for it's freezing cold mud bath, the ridiculous celebrity lookalikes founded amongst the deformed rocks and stalactites, and the gorgeously refreshing underground waterfalls and pools. Bamboo rafting is vastly popular, as it offers a relaxing stroll downstream where you can enjoy the most stunning scenery, buy a beer from tiny stalls set up in the middle of these streams, and maybe even squirt a water buffalo on your way down. Moon Hill is quite an uphill trek (always have a couple litres of water on you) but once you reach the top you'll understand why people take up the challenge. And lastly cormorant fishing, conducted mainly at night, offers an insight into the old traditions of this place and how they used to live (training birds to catch fish).
Slowly i fear that Yangshuo will be steamrolled by our Western civilisation, and for all it's natural phenomena the local inhabitants will see nothing but the pound signs in their faces, and the landscape once lifted from fairytale will soon be lamented and forgotten amongst a throng of new businesses.
Get there while it lasts.
China is one of those countries that if you have the luck or inclination to travel; won't disapoint. If you have made the decision to travel around China then you are in for a wonderful surprise. Not only will you be subjected to visions that are hard found anywhere else (especially away form the beaten track), but you will be (again, away from major cities and towns) the epicentre of attention where ever you go. You quite literally will be given no break from the constant barage of questions (spoken in native mandarin), small children running up to poke and laugh at you and the men who just hang back and stare. This experience can be quite unerving at first, especiallly when arriving from such a rude, secular society as Britain, however afetr a while it becomes great fun. Yungshuo is a place siuated within these quite amazing hills that suddenly spring up from no where. Having spent many days travelling to get to this place on all manner on transports - and with 1000's of Chinese people, again poking, laughing and singing - you can find yourself arrving at this place that boasts other Europeans (quite a welcome after a couple of weeks with no contact what so ever). Hotal accomodation is quite good and competitively priced, the shopping for authentic chinese souvenirs and artefacts is great fun, and the streets and lined with eaterys and bars offering delicacy's as diverse as fish and chips and hamburgers (again a surprising relief after weeks of egg plant and chicken). The highlight for me of this quaint and charming little hide away was a little 70 year women. She wandered around all hunched up day and night plying her trade (and before you get concerned about this) it was selling her.......... banana'a. Yes, she used to home in on any unsuspecting tourist ushering the hollowed words "banana", and due to the nature of her voice and appearance has aptly be dubbed "Yoda"! KEEP YOUR EYE
S OPEN FOR HER!!!!!!
Your opinion of Yangshuo will depend on the reasons why you came to China in the first place and where you have arrived here from. Lonely Planet might well advise not to make this your first or second stop, yet I am certain that I would have appreciated this town more had I done so and if I hadn't seen so many more interesting places before I got here. Certainly as you leave Guilin (the most popular gateway to Yangshuo) you can't help but feel pleased that you are leaving one of the most overrated tourist destinations in China, but are you heading to another? First impressions of Yangshuo (after the short and smooth 90 minute journey - but don't pay more than 5 kuai) leave you feeling a little cheated by the eulogising of the place you will have read in various guide books and heard from other travellers. The town (and it is most definitely a town and not a village even by Chinese standards) appears at first to be yet another version of Chinese white tiled building hell. Your pleasure at reaching your destination is blighted by the feeling that 'this can't really be the place, can it?', and you hope that the bus will carry on further into the beautiful scenery to empty you into the village you dreamed Yangshuo was. After being dumped off the bus you will have no problem in finding somewhere to stay. As you stumble out of the bus station you are faced by a bustling yet quiet street along which you have a good choice of places to stay. On my first night tired after a long journey I settled for the Good Companion Holiday Inn (one of the first places you see as you exit the bus station) which promised private facilities and a decent price after a spell of good natured haggling, 30 kuai (under 3 quid) for a room with a big bed and shower and WC. Certainly most of the accommodations around here are much of a muchness and the owners will have no qualms about letting you view rooms beforehand although the Faulty Tower Hotel (around
50 kuai for 1 person to 30 kuai each for a room with 3) nearby was recommended by travellers I met. If you can resist the urge to dump your bags in the first place you come across a walk of around 5 minutes down the first road you come to if you turn right on exiting the bus station will take you to the tourist centre of the town where every building is a cafe, guest house or shop catering to tourists and you will have no trouble finding someone to point you in the direction of a guest house they recommend. Expect prices which are relatively high for China (due to the high number of people who make there way here) and less success in haggling than you may be used to during peak times of the year. A good compromise for those who want the scenery without the baggage of the town can be found a few km's out of the town on the road to Moon Hill (you should have no trouble finding somebody willing to take you here everyone knows where moon hill is)where a double can be haggled down to below 100 kuai. I heard good reports about this place from those that stayed there. The town itself is most definitely not the highlight of your visit here. During all times of the day and night you will be offered the same souvenirs that you can buy anywhere in China (ranging from tacky junk items you wouldn't buy for a joke to eye-catching silks and paintings) but due to the popularity of the place you will be offered these goods at prices far higher than you can get them for at most other places. Lets face it the sellers are hoping that your presence in a place which requires no imagination whatsoever to find and reach means that you have only visited such places during your time in China and will therefore not know that you are being ripped off. Judging by some of the prices I witnessed people paying (250 kuai for a silk robe I could get for 40 or 50 in Beijing) they are wise to try this. Sure you have to haggle in most places but here it is a necessity and the sta
rting prices will be a lot higher and the sellers are unwilling to sell for a good price as they know that in a few moments another wallet will walk down the street who will pay more. It is a criticism of a place that is all too easy to make that its inhabitants see the hordes of visitors as a way to make money fast, but this is the case here. If you don't mind paying these prices (that are in most cases far less than you would pay at home) then fine. Simple economics tell me that if I can avoid being ripped off (without being too stingy on the people doing the selling) then I can travel for longer so I’d rather not be ripped off. So rather than pay 20 kuai to internet (slowly) here I’ll pay 3 kuai for speedy internet in Chengdu. The same goes for CD’s, cheap though they may be here compared to home, as little as 5 kuai in most towns and cities (even Guilin) rather than 15 or 20 here. Indeed a few days spent in Yangshuo can work out to be expensive due to the constant temptations. The scenery around Yangshuo is at times spectacular, and whilst many of the destinations themselves (Moon Hill etc.) are not that impressive the journey to them is well worth the hassle, and a few hours of aimless cycling can be very rewarding. However, there is little that you can see here that can't be seen elsewhere in this area. The most impressive Karst scenery I saw in China was tucked away in little visited Guangxi province. The town is not picturesque and due to the high number of tourists and the amount of facilities which cater to them and the fact that its residents are by now used to high number of tourists you will certainly not find the 'real china' (whatever that might be) here. This is a place remember which is becoming popular for the Chinese to visit as much for the chance to ogle at the westerners as for the scenery. If you are looking for your own piece of China don't believe the hype about the place
and search elsewhere. Where Yangshuo scores highly, though, is in the way that tourists are catered for here. The novelty of eating reasonable copies of your favourite dishes from home will be too much for some and it is easy to arrange onward travel to your next destination. It is also a good place to stock up on books and tunes (of course you do pay more for this here). Also the large number of tourists will be a huge draw for many. It can get lonely tramping around the places off the tourist circuit and at times the chance to converse in your own language is too much to resist & I made good friends whilst I was here. Maybe I’m being too hard on the place. It tries hard, a little too hard for my liking. It all depends on what you are looking for. The best thing that can be said for Yangshuo is that the time I spent there felt like a holiday from travelling. However, I don't remember Yangshuo as fondly as many other places I visited because it was all there on a plate for me. I have no tales to tell about this place, it was somewhere I tuned out for a few days. I would have loved to have visited this place say 15 years ago before it became a 'destination'. It must have been a special place then. If you have been to Dali or Lijiang (or even Xiahe) there is nothing here that you need to see. Yet if you liked those places this provides more of the same. Just don't believe the hype, Yangshuo is easily missable and the real magic, surprises and madness of China can be found elsewhere.
With a visit to China being the culture shock that it is, you're truly glad of a place like Yangshuo. The village has become something of a Mecca for backpackers travelling across China, because of the absolutely stunning scenery that surrounds it. Inevitably, this has led to the establishment of hundreds of stores selling tacky souvenirs, and numerous little restaurants and cafes selling international food. Yangshuo is probably the only place in China where you can buy a traditional British apple crumble, for example! The village is only about an hour and a half's drive out from Guilin, through some truly spectacular scenery, and this leads to the village being crowded out with tourists visiting by boat or coach for most of the day. However, if you're staying in Yangshuo, you can avoid this circus by going on an expedition through the surrounding area. If you get back after about 5pm, you'd never even know the bulk of the tourists were there! So, what is there to do in the area? Well, the area is truly stunning, so frankly travelling anywhere will give you some unbelievable views. Most of the hotels and youth hostels in Yangshuo have a rank of bicycles outside that are available to hire by the day, so you can make your own agenda for the day. It is worth mentioning that the bicycles aren't always that well maintained, so it's worth checking that the brakes actually work properly before cycling off. Oh, and if the bike has gears, it doesn't actually mean that they work – so leave them alone! When I was there, we took a bike ride through the countryside to Moon Hill – about two hours of gentle cycling past paddy fields, rivers flanked by massive bamboo shoots, and through tiny villages. (If you take the main road to Moon Hill, it takes far less time to cycle there). Near Moon Hill is the stunning Riverside Retreat guesthouse and restaurant – just a little way off the main road to Fuli. The pict
ure of Yangshuo above actually shows the view from the Riverside Retreat balcony, where I sat and ate – it has to be one of the most stunning views from a restaurant anywhere in the world, and the food was pretty great too! The proprietor of the guesthouse is a canny lass, and has negotiated with the nearby villagers that so long as they don't bother her customers by trying to sell them things, she'll encourage the customers to take a short ride on their boats upstream. The boats are made from bamboo and sit worryingly low in the water, but it's well worth taking the trip for the 20 yuan (under £2) it costs per person – plus, it's a nice way to relax as a villager punts you along the river. The photograph of me above was taken at the end of the boat trip. If you're feeling lazy, then rather than cycling yourself, you can hire a motorbike and sidecar to take you wherever you want to go. But, don't be surprised when the driver hands you a card with a pager number on it, so you can call when you want to go back! You can also take a boat trips along the Li River from Yangshuo, either upstream to Xingping, or downstream to Fuli. We took a boat trip to Fuli village, which took under an hour, and was well worth doing – especially as we visited on their market day. Every three days, there is a market in Fuli, and it is certainly a thing to behold. The market is absolutely crowded out with people, and there are areas selling live animals, vegetables, herbs, clothes, cassettes and, somewhat oddly, haircuts. The live animal section could be a bit upsetting if you're squeamish, but appears considerably more hygienic than the same area of Guangzhou's Qingping market. Fuli village itself is very interesting quite aside from the market, with its stone houses and cobbled lanes. In the summer, you can see piles of chillies left out in the sun to dry in front of people's houses. Yangshuo is definitely on
e of the best places to buy gifts in China. I picked up a beautiful silk scarf for my mother for 46 yuan (under £4.50), and got some name chops (carved stone blocks with your name etched into the bottom) carved for friends for 35 yuan (under £3.50) each. I got a feng shui compass for 25 yuan (under £2.50), a Chinese chess set for 20 yuan (£2), and a 1967 first edition of Mao's little red book (with underlining from a zealous citizen) for 45 yuan (£4.50). Jade was also plentiful, and stunningly cheap. There's so much jade in China that you'd be hard pushed to buy fake jade, according to our tour guide – bracelets cost 20 to 50 yuan each, depending on size and colour (i.e. how green they were). If you want some traditional Chinese paintings, they can be bought very cheaply here too – about half the price of in Xi'an for example – however, the quality of painting isn't always as good. I bought a five foot long painting of the countryside around Guilin for 120 yuan (about £12). The main thing to bear in mind about buying things in Yangshuo is that you have to haggle. If you don't like a price, then offer about a third of what you were quoted, and take it from there. Yangshuo also has several shops selling very cheap CDs and VideoCDs. Needless to say, these are all pirated, and of variable quality. Most CDs cost 15 yuan (about £1.50), but are very poorly made, so don't be surprised if they don't actually work when you get them home. As for places to eat, Yangshuo has a whole street of them, with such tempting names as 'Minnie Mao's', 'The Hard Seat Café' (a pun on the name given to the lowest class of travel on Chinese trains), or 'Susannah's' (reputedly the first Western restaurant in town). You can eat pretty much whatever you want from anywhere in the world, from pizzas to shepherd's pie, but if you want Chinese food, your best bet is to head up Xi Jie (West Street)
to the market area, where stalls sell more traditional noodle dishes. In the evening, there are numerous organised cormorant-fishing trips that you can go on. Basically, you get on a motorised boat, which travels along the Li River, next to a bamboo boat on which the cormorant fisherman demonstrates his skill. On the Discovery channel, you may well have seen the art of cormorant fishing portrayed as the perfect fusion of man and bird, working together in perfect harmony. It's nothing like so perfect in real life. The cormorants all have strings tied round their necks, to prevent them from swallowing the fish, and are tied to the boat, to prevent them escaping. The fisherman knocks them into the water with his pole to make them start collecting fish, and hauls them up when they catch one. He then wrings their neck, to force them to spit the fish out into a bucket on his boat. At the end of the trip, he proudly shows you his haul of half a dozen cormorant-spittle-covered minnows. It's certainly a fascinating trip, if only to shatter your illusions of the beauty and synergy of cormorant-fishing! An hour's trip costs 20 yuan (£2) per person and not more – I heard of a gullible American family parting with 150 yuan (£15) to see the same thing! Yangshuo is an absolutely fascinating place, with a lot to do, and some of the most incredible scenery in the world. If you do go to China, and plan on visiting Yangshuo, do as the Lonely Planet says "don't make this your first or second stop… you'll appreciate it much more."
"Yangshuo (Simplified Chinese: 阳朔; Traditional Chinese: 陽朔; pinyin: Yángshuò) is a small town in Guilin, Guangxi Province, China, and the seat of Yangshuo County. Surrounded by towering karst peaks, bordered on one side by the Lijiang River (漓江) it is easily accessible by bus or by boat from nearby Guilin. Over the years, it has become extremely popular with foreign backpackers as a place to unwind. Nowadays, it is rare to visit this city without finding throngs of local and foreign tourists. Yangshuo was visited by US President Bill Clinton on his visit to China. Yangshuo is an ancient town which became a country in Jin Dynasty some 1,500 years ago."