travel & arrival in yangshuo

Thursday, October 2:  I leave my apartment at 6:40 a.m. and reach the main gate of the university at around 7, where I take the number 10 bus, arriving with the crowds at the Nanning Railway Station about 20 minutes later. There I accidentally meet one of my students, Eva, who had told me on Tuesday that she was taking the 8:20 train to Guilin, her hometown.  She tells me she read that yesterday, the first day of the National Holiday, this station “saw 140,000 people.”  I believe it.  Even today, for this early train, the station is packed.

my student Eva at the train station

my student Eva at the train station

I get comfortable on an aisle seat next to a friendly Chinese girl. The fast train is comfortable, modern and smooth. My ticket was 111 yuan, or $18.

Even two hours south of Guilin, I begin to see the limestone karsts for which the area is famous.  There are thousands of them stretching endlessly on the horizon.  We pass beautiful farmland, farmers in conical hats, water buffalo, and neat little paths threading between fields.  Some farms have ponds, and some of those have lotus blossoms.  I see sprawling groves of tall spindly trees with tufts of green at the top.  I’m not sure what they are, but they’re delicate and pretty.  I love watching the countryside outside the train window even though I don’t have a window seat and I’m constantly leaning forward to look over my seat mate’s head or lap.

When we arrive in Guilin, I catch a bus to Yangshuo for 40 yuan ($6.51).  I think this is the special “holiday price,” because I’ve heard it’s normally 20 yuan ($3.26). Either way, it’s dirt cheap!

By the time we arrive at the Yangshuo bus station at 1:00, I’m desperate for a bathroom.  It’s been a very bumpy ride!  As always, the public bathrooms are disgusting, the Chinese hole-in-the-floor variety.  I encountered one outside the Guilin bus station that didn’t even have flush mechanisms; woman were squatting over a trough with no doors to shield themselves from curious eyes! You can imagine the smell.  Yikes! I could rant on and on about this, but what’s the point?  I try to pretend I’m not actually using these toilets; I simply imagine I’m somewhere else.  It’s how I’ve learned to deal with a lot of unpleasant situations while traveling.

I’ve already asked several people about the whereabouts of my hotel, but I only have it written in English.  At this Yangshuo bus “station” bathroom, I find an American girl and ask if she knows where it is.  A Chinese girl is standing in line and lucky for me she speaks English.  She writes the Chinese name of my hotel on the copy of my confirmation.  It’s amazing when traveling that you often find helpers in the most unlikely places.

I find a moto-taxi and show him the Chinese name of my hotel.  He ties my suitcase to the back of the bike, and I hang on to his tiny waist as he zips through Yangshuo.  It would have been quite a long walk!  He charges me 20 yuan for this thrilling ride (~$3.26).  I finally arrive at my destination at 1:30, 7 hours after I walked out my front door this morning.

Arrival at the hotel.

Arrival at the hotel.

People have told me to expect prices double or up to 5x as much as normal during this National Holiday, because Yangshuo is the ultimate tourist destination in the south of China.  Still, in Western terms, I find everything very cheap.  I’m not going to complain if someone charges me 20 yuan instead of 10 yuan for something.  It seems like penny-pinching.

My room at the Yangshuo River View Hotel

My room at the Yangshuo River View Hotel

I check in immediately to my hotel, the Yangshuo River View Hotel. I had booked this ahead of time on Agoda.com.  Again, I know the prices are higher than normal, but I wanted to travel during the holiday and I wanted a nice room.  I pay around $87.50/night, which is really high for China.  I don’t have a river view because it was one of the last available rooms, and the river view rooms were more expensive anyway.  I’m actually glad I face a courtyard; it’s much quieter than the streetside river view would be.  The hotel receptionists speak excellent English and they’re very helpful.  I arrange a cruise down the Li River for tomorrow morning (220 yuan, around $36).  Then I go out to explore the town.

First I walk down the street in front of the hotel, which borders the Li River.  I get a glimpse of the pretty karsts and boats cruising down the river.

River boat on the Li River

River boat on the Li River

View of the Li River and karsts from Bin Jiang Road in Yangshuo

View of the Li River and karsts from Bin Jiang Road in Yangshuo

Along the sidewalk, the merchants are in full swing.

Stinky tofu for sale.

Stinky tofu for sale.

Pomelos for sale

Pomelos for sale

peeking through trees at the Li River

peeking through trees at the Li River

The town is very cute and touristy, with colorful shops selling the typical things you find in these kinds of towns everywhere: pashmina shawls, flowing skirts, bohemian tops, hippie handbags, silk scarves, “do your name in Chinese character” scrolls, whimsical lanterns, postcards and trinkets.  I’m always temped most by the lanterns, but I wouldn’t know how to transport one, so I don’t buy.

I really want all these lanterns!

I want all these lanterns!

There are scores of fruit juice shops or stands, coffee shops, musicians performing in hopes of selling CDs, flags flying for the National Holiday and views of the karsts at the end of streets.  There are also plenty of tourists, including Chinese families, Western backpackers and older couples.

Xianqian Jie

Xianqian Jie

Tropical Yangshuo

Tropical Yangshuo

"Write postcards to the future and coffee"

“Write a postcard to the future and coffee”

To stroll through the town, click on any of the pictures below for a full-sized slide show.

In my walk about town, I come to a cute pond beside the hugest McDonald’s I’ve ever seen.  What a shame about that.  I have a picture, but it’s so NOT scenic.  I’ll leave it out.  I don’t think you’ll miss it.

bicycles by a pretty little pond

bicycles by a pretty little pond

a pretty little pond, bordered by a huge McDonalds

a pretty little pond, bordered by a huge McDonald’s

I stop at Cloud 9 for lunch.  By this time, I’m starved.  I order shrimp with peppers and onions on a sizzling plate, along with white rice and a beer.  It’s yummy, but my stomach starts rumbling before I’m even finished eating.  Since I feel a little sick, I go back to the hotel to relax a bit before going back out for dinner.  I got up at 5 a.m. this morning just to be sure I made it to the train in time, so I’m exhausted from travel.

After I rest a bit, I go back out and walk along the river.  Along the opposite side of the road from my hotel, between the hotel and the Li River, is a long playground buzzing with Chinese children.  Down by the river are lots of people posing for pictures on a sliver of moon, or walking along the river’s edge and on stepping-stones that jut into the water.

I wander back into town.  It’s even more crowded now that it’s approaching dinner time.

I’m keeping an eye out for a bar called Demo, where a young American lady named Audrey bartends.  Small world that this is, she is the niece of one of my old classmates.  Her aunt put me in touch with her through Facebook.  Audrey, who is part Chinese on her mother’s side, lives and works in Yangshuo.  She teaches English and works sometimes at Demo.  She thinks she’ll only stay in Yangshuo through December; she’s looking for jobs elsewhere.  If she decides to say in China, she says there are “limitless possibilities.”

Welcome to Demo Tiki Bar

Welcome to Demo Tiki Bar

Of course, I haven’t got the lay of the land yet, so I have no idea where to find Demo, but suddenly in my wanderings, there it is right in front of me.  I’m not hungry since I had a late lunch, but I order a Kirin beer and some delicious mushroom soup and homemade bread made by the German cook, Peter.   I chat with Audrey a while and then she gets to work.  We plan on taking a bike ride on Saturday.

Wall art in Demo

Wall art in Demo

Demo Tiki Bar

Demo Tiki Bar

View of the street from Demo's balcony

View of the street from Demo’s balcony

street view from Demo's balcony

street view from Demo’s balcony

I walk back to the hotel and settle in for the night because I have to get up early tomorrow for my boat cruise down the Li River. 🙂

back to the Yangshuo River View Hotel

back to the Yangshuo River View Hotel

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Categories: Asia, China, Cloud 9 Restaurant, Demo Tiki Bar, Expat life, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Nanning, Nanning Railway Station, West Street, Xi Jie, Yangshuo, Yangshuo River View Hotel | Tags: , , , , , , | 24 Comments

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24 thoughts on “travel & arrival in yangshuo

  1. That’s what you traveled all those miles for, Cathy. It’s beautiful! 🙂

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    • Thanks, Jo! Yes, this was at the top of my list in China and now I’ve been. There’s lots more to see here in the south, but I may have to go back here one or two more times. When Mike comes to visit, he’ll want to come too. It was a lovely holiday, Jo!!! 🙂

      Like

  2. What a fabulous post – I feel as though I have actually been there with you! It’s a wonderful, colourful place (with the dramatic scenery in the landscape!).

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  3. How wonderful that you’re finally there at the gorgeous Li River! It looks a lot more commercialised than when we went 15 years ago, but a lot of fun. 🙂

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    • It probably has become more commercial over the last 15 years, Sylvia, but the landscape is still beautiful. The crowds did mar the landscape a bit on this National Holiday, but now that I know the ropes, I think I could go back for a long weekend. It’s truly lovely. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “Write a postcard to the future and coffee” !! Hahahahaha! I miss travelling! That made my day! Beautiful and scenic post as always!! I cannot imagine how you (or your many blog fans!!) could have coped had you not been able to post so often!! It is wonderful!!!!!!

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  5. A fantastic blog, Kat. I loved seeing the pictures and remembering my trips to Yangshuo.

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    • Thanks, Dai. It’s nice when you’re able to be transported back to happy travels of your own. I love reliving my own travels through other people’s shared experiences. 🙂 It really was a wonderful trip.

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  6. Oh wow! So this is where you are these days – been going through your blogs and jackpot, lol.

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    • Hello Marco!!! Wow, long time no see. Glad to connect with you again. I hope all is well with you. Glad you happened to find me for my year in China. Only a little over 9 months remaining. 🙂

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      • I got a bit distracted on the way but here we are! Glad I found you again – I find your travels fascinating! Sounds like you are having a ball in China! What made you decide to go there?

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      • Thanks so much for finding me again, Marco. I decided to come to China because I heard they have a mandatory retirement age of 60, which turns out not actually to be true (it all depends on the institution). I turn 59 in two weeks, and next year in October I’ll be 60. I figured if I was going to come to China, I had better do it sooner rather than later. 🙂

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      • I never would have guess you were going on 59! You have more life in you than a lot of people I know from home! I find it absolutely amazing how you go by yourself, nothing is stopping you, and you have awesome adventures. It is really inspirational!

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      • Ah, you’re too kind, Marco. Thanks for the vote of confidence. I don’t feel almost 59, and as long as I have my health and I still feel young, I guess I’ll keep going. I’m glad you think I’m inspirational. Nothing is really holding us back, is it, except maybe money! That’s another reason I decided to work in China; I can pay for my travels this way. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’re teaching English again, right? It makes sense, work there and earn money and some of it you be put to good use!

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      • Yes, teaching English again. It isn’t my dream job, but I can’t seem to get my dream job, so at least this enables me to reach other dreams, of travel. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yes? What is your dream job?

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      • I used to think it would be working on international aid issues with an NGO, but now I think it would have something to do with travel. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • You can’t go wrong with travel 🙂 unless you get your wires crossed and end up in all the wrong places at the wrong time…

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      • Yes, and I could see that happening, Marco! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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