Friday, May 29: This weekend, only one of two times that I have traveled with a friend in China, I go to Yangshuo with my friend, Erica. She has lived in China for seven years, but only started working at SCIC in Nanning at the same time I did, in September, 2014. Though she’s traveled all over China, and around southeast Asia, she has never been to Yangshuo. This is my third time: the first time I stayed four days during the National Holiday in early October, and the second, I stayed three days with Mike in January.
This weekend, we only have about 1 1/2 days, as it’s not an extended holiday weekend and we have to spend about 6 hours traveling at each end. Erica decided long ago she was done traveling on China’s public holidays; I only just came to that conclusion after my last trip to Shanghai.
Erica and I leave directly from our classes at noon and spend the next 6 hours in transit, by bus, by train and by bus again. The time goes by quickly though as Erica and I chat nonstop about anything and everything, and we share a lot of laughs.
Finally, at the Yangshuo bus station (well, not really a “station” but a dusty parking lot where we get deposited), we search for a vehicle to take us to our hotel, the Cosy Garden. We try several drivers in vehicles of every make who want to charge us what we think are exorbitant sums, and finally, this gentle man takes us in his bumpy vehicle, where we sit on a plank of wood placed across the truck bed. It’s a very bumpy and noisy ride through town and down a long pavilion over a cobblestone walkway to our hotel, which is quite a distance outside of town; in the end I think we got him at a great price!
As Erica is normally much thriftier than I am, I asked her to choose the place, and this is what she found.
The Cosy Garden allows free use of their bicycles after 4:00, and since it’s about 6:00 by the time we arrive, we hop on the bicycles and ride into Yangshuo for dinner at the Rock-n-Grill, and then we take a walk around the streets of the town.
It’s a little more difficult riding our bicycles back to the Cosy Garden as the long pavilion is quite dark and the road after we leave the pavilion is even darker. We can hardly see a thing in the black night! I don’t know how, but we somehow make it safely back to our hotel without riding off into the Li River.
Saturday, May 30: To optimize our condensed time in Yangshuo, we’ve arranged to go on the Li River boat ride first thing in the morning. At the hotel, we can have breakfast, but we have to cook it ourselves; this turns out to be quite challenging as it’s always difficult to cook in someone else’s kitchen.
After breakfast, we ride our bicycles into town where we catch the bus to Xingping. Our boat ride begins here. Below is Erica with the boats and the Li River and karst landscape of Xingping behind her.
Of course Xingping is known as the most scenic area along the Li River, and because of that, it is on the 20 yuan bill. Erica holds up the bill in the front of the bamboo raft.
And then we’re off. We’re sharing the boat with two young Chinese men; Erica and I go directly for the front seats as this is her first and last time to do the Li River cruise. She’s planning to leave China for good at the same time I am. I do feel a little guilty for grabbing the front seats, but I also figure the Chinese tourists can easily come back.
The scenery is breathtaking as always; each time it brings tears to my eyes, it’s so stunning. I can see Erica is quite moved by the experience too.
Ever since we arrived in Yangshuo, it has been threatening rain, but we’re lucky it doesn’t rain a drop while we’re on the cruise.
We can see the Li River boats that come from Guilin go zooming past toward Xingping.
We stop at little pebble beach, where our boat driver gets out and eats something with some friends. Meanwhile, we’re left to wander and take pictures while we wait. Here’s Erica with our two boat mates.
And Erica at the beach.
As always, I like to take a few pictures of Chinese girls posing in ridiculous poses. I just missed this woman with her hands in the air.
We could go on a pony ride if we so desired, but we don’t. 🙂
Finally, our driver finishes eating, and we’re back in boat, heading back to Xingping. The light isn’t so great in this direction.
Below, you can see (and hear) a video of our trip down the Li River in our motorized bamboo rafts.
Soon, we’re back on shore and Erica and I each pose with the 20 yuan bill. This is a chubby time for me; after being in China, it turns out I picked up 7 pounds, which I don’t realize until I return home!
Finally, we head back up the path to meet our driver and head back to town.
When we get back to town, we’ll have some lunch and go on a bike ride in the afternoon.