Worth yanging about for
06.09.2012 - 07.09.2012 26 °C
Day 343: Yangshuo, Guanxi, China 06/09/2012
A sociably timed start today for our bus ride onto the next stop of our Chinese adventure. Wanton soup sets us up for the day and we are soon on the underground for rush hour, which seems about as busy as non-rush hour. We take our seats - or beds to be more accurate - for the eight hour journey to Yangshuo. Pretty comfortable, with a couple of English films thrown onto the big screen and all the invitation needed to throw a few zzz's up. A young baby sat next to me starts to play up and cry, but soon catches sight of the big, stupid Englishman, which stops her in her tracks and induces a big belly laugh!
Some stunning scenery and landscapes to add to the visual memory bank as we snake through the countryside of Southern China - with grey-brown fields and urban sprawl giving way to rolling hills and impressive, domineering limestone karsts jutting out of paddy fields. We are soon off the bus, in the middle of a town straight out of the textbook of Chinese towns - looming mountains and old school buildings mingling with the omnipresent smell of delicious food. We get a little lost on the way to our charming, family run hotel but a quick phone call sees us met by the hotel owner just down the road. A great dinner sat on the verge of six (ish) lanes of traffic. The dumplings are to die for though.
Day 344: Yangshuo, Guanxi, China 07/09/2012
A nice day starts with us making use of the quality Chinese DVD player and Cambodian bought pirate DVDs, followed by a pretty ordinary breakfast - a thick, uncooked pancake and a thimble of muesli. Lunch follows shortly afterwards, perhaps the shortest ever interval between these two meals. The roadside dumplings are every bit as good as they were yesterday.
The day is spent mooching through the town, a real melting pot of juxtapositions, with old fashioned stores located next door to gleaming new supermarkets, old ladies cycling through traffic heavier than the combined weight of the two backpacks, a Ronald McDonald stood at the edge of a picturesque pond flanked by huge limestone karsts and incredible scenery. A stroll through the town's central park reveals a social hub for the very young and the very old; children stare longingly at the rusting soviet looking bumper cars and the elderly playing chess and practicing tai chi (later in the trip we learn that this 'old' park has actually only been there about ten years).
A fairly early retreat to the room follows, which turns out to be a good move as the mother of all thunderstorms rages and there is some deadly looking precipitation. A nice dinner from a hawker stall follows and after a bit of confusion over my order - I realise halfway through the first course that I am munching a surprisingly gristly chicken's intestine - we have a pretty good evening.
Day 345: Yangshuo, Guanxi, China 08/09/2012
This morning sees us give breakfast a wide berth after yesterday's disastrous attempt from the otherwise excellent hotel and opt instead to hire some bicycles for a day's exploration. A near miss occurs whilst cycling through a car park as the barrier comes close to closing on my head. We then make a visit to the train booking office and the purchase of two of their lowest class tickets for a twenty eight hour journey to Chengdu. We find ourselves in a very touristy but pleasant part of town, with a labyrinth of small alleys and smaller market stalls, all set up for the swathes of tourists - both Chinese and foreign - that visit Yangshuo each year.
A reasonable lunch is followed by a foray out into the sticks on the bikes. We encounter some of the most epic landscapes of the whole year at this point, stopping on the winding road out of town to look over the beautiful Li River and the huge yet elegant limestone mountains. Further out into the country (though still only a stone's throw from the town) the marked difference between the lives of the wealthy urban dwellers and the poverty of China's rural communities becomes apparent. A huge gulf between the standards of living of these two groups. We roll back into town and get back to the hotel, where I am seriously befriended by the resident four year old girl. We then head out for dinner at last night's hawker stall, where a sensual beer fish dish is joined by a mountain of other dishes and a shedload of beers.
Day 346: Yangshuo, Guanxi, China 09/09/2012
A little fragile to begin the day, but after a lie in and a spot of DVD watching, we head back for the old part of town again. I open my eyes to find we are in McDonald's. Not quite sure how that happened but still a welcome meal. A man comes into order trying to leave his hyperactive cocker spaniel puppy outside the front door. He is surprised when it bounds around the counter going for people's Big Macs. He is even more surprised when the dog pulls his motorbike over after he ties the puppy to it. Quite amusing.
Another set of ominous black clouds brew on the horizon and before too long another big thunderstorm empties a huge amount of water over the town. Quite glad to be back indoors by the this point, though I brave the weather to pick up some dumplings. A great fried rice sees us good for dinner and we return to the room to prepare ourselves for tomorrow's (and the next day's) train ride. Yangshuo has been a great place to visit and a town to recommend.