I have not written for a while, so I have a lot to catch up on what has been the most beautiful part of China so far.
We arrived after another tiring overnighter in Guilin as the sun was rising over its two impressive waterside pagodas. Our hostel was only a couple months and it showed in terms of the eager staff as well as its look. Price was a trip low of 79p! A welcome rest from the recent £15 Hong Kong despite also being, no exageration, 10x better and more spacious!
Guilin itself is a pretty with its karst hills rising out of nowhere, and the Li River cutting through the city traditionally supplying trade, food and transportation. We climbed DieCie Hill and we treated on a clear warm day with a stunning aerial view of the city. The mountains create a welcome break from the grey concrete.
Guilin, although realitively quiet is one of the few places we have seen that sell steak. Ness' birthday meal was celebrated by eating a beautiful black peppered sauce version whilst being outside in the Sun. We also enjoyed the light up Li River, which would take us to our next
Yangshou is the most touristy place we have been to in China, in terms of Western and Chinese tourists. For good reason. It is beautiful! We cruised to the outside of Yangshou by bamboo raft along the Li River. The gentle cruise in the searing Sun was only distrubed by the occassional tourist boat, and the demanding scenary! Touring the Li River with a large memory card is a recipe for disaster. It is achingly beautiful, even giving the scene imprinted on the 20yuan note. It is stunning, although whisper it quietly, it looks very similar to Southern Thailand. Although what you dont get in Thailand, bar rivers of this size, are mental Chinamen on tiny bamboo rafts risking their lives to sell fruit to large motored boats full of Chinese tourists. They see the boat, and then start to paddle, a bit like a surfer spotting a wave. However they then get as close as they can to the motored boat, which could barge over their raft whenever it wanted, and grab hold of a life saving ring. If they dont die they effectively surf along after tieing themselves to the boat, and go window to window selling fruit for less than a pound. Thats earning a living!
Upon arriving in Yangshou the pretty, small streets are relatively quiet in the day. This is due to it being an outdoors place. However come nighttime it is crazy. We stayed in a hostel called Yangshou 11 which was nice and quiet, and also offers the highest viewing point in town. This allowed us to witness the towns superb beauty. At night they light up the hills, something Ive never seen, and they loom over the town magically. If Guilin looked nice, Yangshou is simply epic.
As I mentioned, Yangshou is all about the outdoors. In the daytime I hired a bike and rode to the fantastic arch on top of a hill that is Moon Hill. Riding past old men taming their buffalo in paddy fields, and watching old women with faces showing off an outdoors life carrying bags of strawberries etc. If you stop to take in the endless hills, you are taken back to another time, at least until some mad Chinese couple on a tandem come uncontrollably past you!
Moon Hill was a suprisingly steep climb. Especially after a 10mile, two wrong directions ride in 25oC. However upon the stop you can sit under the stunning arch. Problem being you are chased everywhere by an 80yr old woman who seems to have not aged when it comes to climbing hills, trying to sell you Coke. Its pretty funny as I tried to lose her by climbing steps really quickly. But she arrived a few minutes later. However it is all worth it. At the top you are treated to a banquet of vistas. Some of the most stunning karst scenary in the world mostly uninterrupted by tropical greenery, it offers quite the sight in whatever direction you look.
Nearby Moon Hill were the mud caves. We were taken on a creepy boat ride through some caves, and a Chinese tour explaining about how all the rocks were awesome, until we got to the main attraction, the mud bath. IT WAS FREEZING! We tip toed into the freezing water and attempted to cover ourselves in mud. The mud was warmer but still cold. It was fun but a real shock to the system. Unlike the next part of the tour, the hot springs!
We also did a superb cooking course. We made several local dishes including the tasty Beer Fish. The school was located by the Li River and whilst we cooked we saw Comorant Fishermen with their birds on their rafts, just like the HSBC advert!
The conclusion of our time in Yangshou was the superb Impressions show. Nothing to do with impressions as we know it, it is a light show featuring 600 locals on water created by the same guy who directed the opening ceremony of the Olympics. 4000 people go to see it twice a night, and for good reason. It is unbelievable. Imagine the Olympics Ceremony on water, with lights everywhere. It was superb and I will upload some video as soon as I get decent internet. It was a superb end to our time in Yangshou.
The last few days have been spent in Guilin chilling out. We are currently on a train finally heading to Yunnan province, hopefully saving the best until last!