Saturday, February 28, 2009

Yangshuo (Part 1)

After spending two days in Guilin, I decided to spend the last three days of my trip in Yangshuo. Yangshuo is about a two hour bus ride from Guilin, so I took off in the early morning so I would have plenty of time to see some sites my first day there. Upon arriving in Yangshuo, it was immediately obvious that the scenery and mountains were more spectacular there than in Guilin. While the main street, Xi Jie, is very touristy, at least the prices in general seemed to be a bit lower. For example, my hostel was about $4/night, so not too expensive at all. For the tourist sites, though, the prices in Yangshuo were much, much cheaper. "Xi Jie," or West Street, also seemed to have almost a majority of western cafes, restaurants, and other food, which was a bit of a disappointment. It was possible, though, to find some good Chinese food. There were, of course, a ton of shops selling souvenirs, paintings, fake clothing brands, and the other usual fare.
Xi Jie (West Street)
West Street with Mountains Yangshuo with Li River
Mountains Close Up
The best things to do in Yangshuo are mostly outdoor in nature, which makes it a perfect place to stay for me. I was able to spend my whole day riding a bike, hiking, or other things outside. It also isn't as conducive to the packs of large tour groups that are so common in most tourist places in China, which makes it a bit easier to get off the beaten path. I think that's why it's almost a de facto base camp for a lot of westerners who want to do biking, hiking, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities. However, because there are so many westerners there, it's not really a great place to see Chinese culture sometimes, but most people go there to see the scenery anyway. After checking into my hostel, I took some advice from the Dutch guy I met earlier and rented a bike to cruise around the countryside. I ended up biking everyday because it's really the best way to get around. There are a few good maps that show a lot of the biking trails around, although they are not always clear cut. I started heading out towards a famous mountain the area and was struck by the constant beauty of the area. It was really refreshing to get on a bike and go wherever I pleased without many people around. On my way, I came across the Yulong River, which had some beautiful views.
Yulong River
Yulong River
I was heading to Moon Hill, which is a hill that has basically a donut hole in the middle.
Moon Hill
It's possible to hike up to the very top of the mountain, although most people just hike up to the bottom of the arch. The last stretch isn't an established path of stairs like the lower part, but it's not that difficult and the views from the top are worth going all the way. You can see nearly all the mountains in the area. Unfortunately, like most days on my trip it was a bit foggy and there were short rains, but that's the risk you take traveling during winter time. The views were still good even with the fog.
Moon Hill from the Top
View from the Top of Moon Hill
View from the Top of Moon Hill
View from the Top of Moon Hill
View from the Top of Moon Hill
As I was coming down from the hill, I ran into the Korean guys that I had met the previous day when I went to the rice terraces. It was pretty random, but it was nice to see them and we planned to meet up again the next day to take a cruise on the Li River. After I finished at Moon Hill, I spent the rest of the day biking along a stretch of the Yulong River. I've never really seen mountains like the ones in Guilin and Yangshuo before. In the past, I have mainly seen mountains that are a connected, continuous range roughly following a line. The mountains in this area, though, see to be random dots and all the peaks are not connected together. Instead, almost all the peaks seem to rise independently and go all the way from the valley to the peak. It was really nice riding through the small side roads and through some of the small villages. For the most part, there were still a lot of people living and farming in the villages.
Riding Through Country Road
Village and Mountains
Near the Yulong River
Farmland near the Mountains
Farmland near the Mountains
By the time I got back to my hostel, I was pretty tired since I had biked for several hours and my body wasn't really used to it. Since my hostel was right on West Street, at night it was pretty noisy since there were a lot of clubs around. It was a bit funny because most of the clubs would have two or three people standing out front and dancing to techno music to draw people in. However, it was good that I was pretty tired and I was able to sleep without too much trouble. The next day I got up and met the Korean guys to go on the river cruise. Taking a shorter river cruise on a stretch of the Li River near Yangshuo was much cheaper than going from Guilin and is supposed to be the most beautiful part of the river. There are a few different options for a boat, but we took a bamboo boat because it might be a little more fun than being in a big cruise boat. While a lot of these pictures might blur together and seem similar, when you're actually there it's so beautiful and difficult to resist taking a lot of pictures. Everywhere you look there are beautiful views of the mountains, rivers, and countryside.
Cruising on Li River
Bamboo Boat
Li River and Mountains
Cruising with the Koreans
Li River and Mountains
The cruise we took went for about an hour or so up the river against the flow, then took us back to where we started. They stopped in the middle at a place where we could sample some fish, tea, or other food. We also saw some guys who put on displays of some traditional farming methods. They have these birds that they train to catch fish for them, but they put a band around the birds' throats so they can't swallow the big ones. These days I think mostly it's just a tourist attraction, but it's pretty interesting to see.
Some Local Wares The So Called Nine Horses Mountain
Cruising on the River
More Mountains
Man Fishing with Birds
Since this post is getting long, I will split it into two parts. After this, the posts for my Chinese New Year travels will be done. I hope no one has gotten tired of reading about travel stories, but that's all the kind of stories I have right now, so you have no other choice.


Jenny said...

Using birds to assist with tasks is so old fashioned. You should help those villagers get with the 20th century and suggest that they use monkeys to do their bidding instead.

Alice said...

the cormorant birds! :) That's so cool that you have time to do all that - we did a guilin tour a while ago, but we didn't have any free time to actually enjoy the nature that much...

Phil Dawsey said...

Those mountains are really cool. Nothing like the Alps or Rockies. That one picture looks like you just pasted yourself in photoshop into the picture haha, but I believe you that it's real. Take some sailing lessons on that river man, you'll be set in no time!

Myron said...

Hey Wes,

I haven't been very good at keeping up with your blog but I just went through it all today. Really great read. Hope you are doing well and staying safe.