Tuesday, January 27: Though the bus ride from Guilin to Yangshuo is only supposed to be 1 1/2 hours, today it seems like it is longer. It also seems to go through much uglier scenery than I remember from my October trip. Maybe it’s the dreary weather, but there is also much ugliness in the human habitats and commercial establishments along the way. Most of the buildings are of shabby concrete construction, of no architectural character at all, and junk seems to be scattered about willy-nilly. It’s too bad the amazing natural landscape is so ruined by people.
We arrive and check in to the Yangshuo River View Hotel, the same hotel in which I stayed in October. It seems shabbier now at off-season, and Mike is pretty disappointed after some of the nice hotels we’ve had. Oh well, we get settled in and immediately go out for lunch.
On the street outside of our hotel, we run into an older lady who introduces herself as Esther. She offers to take us on a bicycle ride through the countryside for a good price and she pulls out a book in which many foreigners have written glowing things about her in English. She’s apparently wonderful, the most kind person in the world, energetic and hard-working. We tell her we are interested in a bicycle ride this afternoon, as the rain seems to be holding off. But we want to eat some lunch first, so if she’ll wait, we’ll go with her.
I would take the lead myself, but I’ve only been on one bicycle ride here in Yangshuo and I’m afraid we might get lost. It’s late in the day to get lost, so I figure it will be nice to have someone along who knows the territory.
We stop at a pizza place and share a medium pizza because we only want a small snack. It’s another cold and cloudy day in a what is becoming a long line of dreary days on our holiday.
Even the cute town of Yangshuo looks a little empty and desolate.
We look for Esther after lunch but she seems to have vanished. I go to the room to put on some warmer clothes, and Mike goes off in search of her. He finds her (I’m not sure where), comes to collect me from the hotel, and we meet her at a bicycle rental place. After finding some bikes that fit, we’re off.
We ride quite a long way until we’re able to make a stop at this lovely spot. I am always in awe of Yangshuo’s karst landscape, with its mystical oddly shaped mountains jutting up from flat farmland. Granted, it’s a dark and hazy day, so it’s not as beautiful as it could be. But it still reminds me of ancient Chinese paintings and suggests romantic and poetic ancient times.
Esther is lively, cheery and energetic and luckily we all ride about the same pace.
When we stop for photos, Esther makes a phone call so we mill about taking a lot of shots while she’s talking.
We continue on our ride through farmland and old villages. We pass some of the countryside hotels I’ve heard of, most notably the Giggling Tree, a place I want to try one day.
It seems to be getting colder and darker as we ride.
After going back to one of the main roads, Esther wants us to stop at her friend’s restaurant so we can eat something. We’re not hungry because we just ate lunch several hours earlier, and we plan to eat at Rock-n-Grill tonight. Her friend’s restaurant is in the shadow of Moon Hill, so we can see a glimpse of it from below without climbing up to it.
On the way back down the main road, I am looking for the Passion Fruit Leisure Farm where Audrey and I had a lovely lunch on our bike ride in October: a bicycle ride through the yangshuo countryside
At this time of year, which is off-season, there is no lunch being served. However, the proprietor is serving up some passion fruit juice. We each order one and take our time enjoying it, much to Esther’s chagrin. I think she’s impatient to be on her way.
After we finish our passion fruit juice and leave the farm, I know from my bike ride with Audrey in October that we are almost back to town. However, Esther has other ideas. She veers off on another backroad to take us through more villages. Once we get off onto the backroads, it starts to rain. At first it’s spitting, but then it turns into a steady drizzle. It seems like we’re riding forever, with Esther pedaling furiously onward. I am now miserable and wet and just want to go back to our hotel. Finally, Mike tells Esther that we want to go back to Yangshuo. It’s a very long ride back into town. Meanwhile I’m getting drenched and starting to shiver. I’m getting the chills and I can feel a cold coming on.
Finally, we get back to town, pay Esther her money, and go to the hotel. The room is quite cold, even with the heat on. Mike and I decide to grab a bite at Rock-n-Grill, just to get out of the hotel. At Rock-n-Grill, the restaurant is toasty warm. We order wine and delicious Thai food and thoroughly enjoy our meal. After dinner we take a walk through the town. It has stopped raining by now but I am feeling quite miserable. I have been not feeling great ever since the day in Zhangjiajie when my feet got wet, but now, I can feel a sore throat and a bad head cold coming on. After I walk, I put on multiple layers of pajamas and cuddle up in bed, wondering how on earth I will survive not only the rest of my trip with Mike, but the next month of travel I’ve planned after Mike leaves.