Riding Bikes in Beautiful Yangshuo, China
On Tuesday afternoon, J. and I arrived in Yangshuo Town by bus. It had been a long traveling day. In the morning, we left the rice terraces on a small local bus to Longshen. From there we caught a bus to Guilin. Then we took a cab to the train station to buy tickets to Hong Kong, then a cab back to the Guilin bus station to catch a bus to Yangshuo. We got to town, checked into our hotel, and dropped our bags.
Yangshuo Town borders the Li River on one side, and is situated on a small plain between a number of karst peaks. Its population is far less than Guilin and the area is less developed to match. But it is a huge center of tourism, both Chinese and backpackers. The major tourist streets paint a tacky veneer on otherwise classy buildings. Looking at the towering peaks, clean rivers, and agricultural countryside it’s easy to see why the place is popular.
Our first hotel, Yangshuo International Youth Hostel, sucked rice balls. Unlike the sparkling hostel in Bejing, this was a little worse for wear. Our room was clean and huge, but furnished in heavy lacquered wood. The bathroom smelled faintly of sewer and the floor was wet from a faulty sink drain. Plus, our room was on the second floor overlooking West Street, a noisy tourist road. The noise died down around 12:30, but around 6AM, loud talking ladies starting opening the shops. In the morning, we checked out early and found a quieter and better hotel facing the river.
We ate a quick and filling breakfast of rice porridge with pickled vegetables with fried dumplings on the side. There were two cute kittens warming themselves near a barrel full of coals. Then, we rented two mountain bikes (20RMB/$3 each a day) and pedaled quickly out into the countryside.
The Yangshuo countryside is beautiful. Dirt roads connect small villages surrounded by endless crops and towering limestone peaks. Citrus and leafy greens seem to be the main crops, though anything else you can imagine seemed to be growing as well: corn, rice, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, cotton, peppers, even fish. It was easy to get lost, but no road leaded anywhere ugly. The villages seemed to be populated with extremely old people.
We spent two days biking around. It was a highlight of the China trip.
Touristy West Street in the morning before the crowds.
Another one of those awesome tractors.
The Yangshuo waterfront along the Li River.
Kittens warming themselves near a bucket of coals.
J. at the start of the ride.
A small village of old and new buildings around a fish pond.
Old man sitting in a courtyard.
Another old man. J. in the background.
Lady washing clothes.
Water buffalo blocks our path.
Cart and old street.
Bundles drying outside.
Cool platform on a chipping wall.
Epic dirt road along the Li River. Huge cliff to the left, amazing views to the right.
These hilarious vehicles are all over. Take a motorbike and add a truck to the back. Voila! Frankentruck.
Another tractor truck.
Shed in the middle of nowhere.
Ducks and chickens.
Lady tending to taro.
Dead plants in a lake.
Clothes drying outside an old house.
Our road into the mountains.
Lady eating with her chickens.
Hunched old man leads his cows down the road.
Old bark shingled roof of a pig pen.
A few trees and a few peaks.
A fork in the road. We came from the 16km direction.
Cow and calf.
Pruned orange tree branches.
By early afternoon we reached Liu Gong Village. This wasn’t the plan, though, but it seemed like a good place to stop. Luckily, there was a nice restaurant by the river. We got a beer and some food and looked at the scenery while letting our legs rest. After lunch, we enquired about getting a boat back to town. The waitress said she could have one there in 50 minutes. Cost: 160RMB($23). We agreed. To pass the time, her father led us along a path through mountains and meadows to look as some caves and the river. He was silent except to point out good views for a photo. On the return, he picked a pomelo for us to share. When we got back to the village, the raft was waiting for us. As we and our bike got on board, he came running down the hill to give us a few mandarin oranges. We thanked him and were on our way.
The boat ride took a slow two hours upstream. The scenery was amazing. As the sun set, an otherworldly fog rolled in.
Our lunch stop.
Our lunch: pork and chilies and stir-fried pumpkin.
A view the father led us to while we waited for the boat.
Inside a cave.
Rock and river.
The father and his bamboo raft.
Me following the father.*
The decorative facade.
Mao inside a workshop.
Looking upstream on the Li.
Two happy passengers.*
The cliff meets the river.
Lady and her cows.
Algae on the rocks.
Man harvesting algae from a raft.
Abandoned factory by the river.
J. and the delicious orange.
Moody fog beginning to roll in.
Our boat was right under the fog level.
On Thursday, we headed in the opposite direction. We got off to a later start so we only biked for a few hours.
Ruins of a factory.
The factory floor.
Inside the base of the smokestack. There were tomatoes growing near the smokestack. They tasted great, though I’m sure they were contaminated with the remains of the factory.
J. looking at the scenery.
Old pool table.
Card floating a rice paddy.
Well I never picked cotton.
Roof meats. Everywhere.
Outdoor bacon and sausage and pig parts.
We tried crossing the river at a dam, but there was a spillway to large to cross. In the middle of the river was an island full of kumquats. We stopped and picked about thirty of them for a snack. We called the island “Kumquat Island.”
J. crossing a dam with her bike.
The view from kumquat island.
J. was getting sick and needed a rest. I was feeling tired myself. We made it back the hotel around 4. Rest for the weary for once.
*Photos with an asterisked caption were taken by J.