Dragon Bridge

an afternoon bike ride in the yangshuo countryside

Saturday, May 30:  After we finish the Li River cruise, Erica and I drop into town for a quick pizza lunch at the Rosewood Cafe and then head out immediately for a bike ride.  As we only have a short weekend, I’m trying to compress what I did in four days into less than two days.  We take off into the countryside in a steady drizzle, hoping that it will let up before long.  By the time we get into the heart of the countryside, it has stopped raining, but we are fairly damp.  The moisture in the air is thick, making for some hazy views.

Yangshuo countryside

Yangshuo countryside

I’m trying to lead Erica by memory into the countryside, following the route that Audrey led me on in October.  I’m surprised that I am able to recognize landmarks and find my way, despite only having been once on this route.  Sometimes I have no sense of direction, and other times I have an uncanny internal compass that enables me to figure out the lay of the land.

the farmland of Yangshuo

the farmland of Yangshuo

We come to a spot along the Yulong River where some girls are standing under the trees trying to keep dry, as it has started raining again.  We get off our bikes and join the girls under the trees, as there’s quite a deluge.  While waiting, we’re lucky enough to have a farmer cross the river with his cows.

The Yulong River

The Yulong River

A farmer and his cow

A farmer and his cow

I love it how the farmer rolls up his pants and wades confidently into the river, and his cows follow obediently behind.

the farmer crosses the Yulong River with his cows

the farmer crosses the Yulong River with his cows

farmer crossing

farmer crossing

wading across the Yulong River

wading across the Yulong River

I am thrilled to experience this little slice of life in the Yangshuo countryside!

disappearing act

disappearing act

bicycles Chinese style

bicycles Chinese style

When the rain lets up, Erica and I get back on our bikes to continue on our journey.

Erica and her bicycle

Erica and her bicycle

Before we leave, two young men come by on a motorbike.  I can’t believe it, but they try to cross the river on the bike.  One of the men gets off and walks alongside.  Of course the bike stalls, but they get it started again and make their way gingerly across.

crossing the Yulong River on a motorbike

crossing the Yulong River on a motorbike

There’s all kind of activity on this rainy day in Yangshuo.  We encounter another farmer leading his cow along the path.

another farmer and his cow

another farmer and his cow

His cow goes off into the bushes to scrounge around, but the farmer doesn’t seem to mind.  After all, cows will be cows.

and the cow goes scrounging in the bushes

and the cow goes scrounging in the bushes

Chinese countryside

Chinese countryside

more farmland

more farmland

We pass more farmland in the midst of the karsts, and we glimpse farmers and water buffalos in the fields.

a farmer in the field

a farmer in the field

water buffalo in the field

water buffalo in the field

Erica and her bicycle

Erica and her bicycle

I have to take a convoluted path to get us to Dragon Bridge. There are no English signs to point out the way, but I use my 6th sense, just letting my body lead us in the right direction.  We go through a parking lot and then emerge on the other side to find the trail continuing along the Yulong River.  Once again, I’m surprised and pleased that I’m able to remember the way to go.

Erica hasn’t seen the bamboo rafts at Yulong Bridge, and she is delighted by the sight, as am I.

the view upriver from Dragon Bridge

the view upriver from Dragon Bridge

Looking downriver from Dragon Bridge

Looking downriver from Dragon Bridge

bamboo rafts on the Yulong River

bamboo rafts on the Yulong River

the Yulong River from Dragon Bridge

the Yulong River from Dragon Bridge

The rafts go downriver, and as the boatmen go by, they toss these ID tags up on to the bridge, where someone collects them.  I’m not sure exactly how this system works and what the point is.

boat ID tags

boat ID tags

As we’re leaving, we catch this character shooting the breeze with a companion.

Do you like my hat?

Do you like my hat?

We pass by a cute little bridge beside a coffee shop in the countryside.

A little bridge in the countryside

A little bridge in the countryside

coffee shop in Yangshuo

coffee shop in Yangshuo

view from the little bridge

view from the little bridge

We stop at the Giggling Tree, a hotel that always seems to be booked whenever I’ve come to Yangshuo.  This hotel is popular among Westerners.  We stop in the courtyard and have some mango drinks.

the courtyard at the Giggling Tree

the courtyard at the Giggling Tree

I was hoping we’d end up back at the Passion Fruit Leisure Farm, where Audrey and I ate lunch in October, but Erica is tired from our long day and wants to make our way back to town.  So we ride back into Yangshuo, where we stroll around the town.  Here, I finally buy a couple of cool lanterns, after dreaming about them during my whole time in China.

Lately, the lens on my Olympus Pen has been acting up, and I’m disappointed to find that many of my pictures are not quite focused.  I’m not sure if they’re like this because of the dense mist in the air in Yangshuo, or because of the lens not focusing properly.  I think it’s going to be time for a new camera soon. 🙂

a little Chinese girl poses at a shop in Yangshuo

a little Chinese girl poses at a shop in Yangshuo

the town and canals in Yangshuo

the town and canals in Yangshuo

After dinner, we hop on our bikes to head back toward the Cosy Garden.  While we’re riding over the bumpy cobblestones under the long pavilion, Erica says she’d like to stop at Demo Tikki Bar, which Audrey took me to in October; it has now moved from the middle of Yangshuo to this somewhat deserted stretch under the pavilion along the Li River.

Audrey had introduced me to the German manager, Peter, and when we stop in, I ask Peter if he remembers me from when I came in with Audrey. He does because he added me on WeChat at that time, so he’s seen all my posts.  I’ve seen his as well, so everything finally comes together: all his posts about Demo Bar’s move to the new location now make perfect sense. We sit at a table and have some beer and cheese plates and Peter joins us when time allows. When he sits with us, he shares his excitement about the restaurant/bar’s new location and all his plans for this and another new restaurant in town.

Erica over beers at the new Demo Bar by the Li River

Erica over beers at the new Demo Bar by the Li River

After dinner, Erica and I hop back on our bicycles to ride through the drizzling dark to the Cosy Garden.  The staff at Cosy Garden gave Erica a miniature headlamp, like what a coal miner wears, when we left the hotel this morning.  At the far end of the long pavilion, we both take turns struggling to turn it on and put it on our heads; finally it’s me that wins out.  We cycle forth into the darkness, a beam of light shining from my luminous head onto the road ahead.

Earlier today, I asked Erica if she’d rather take the bamboo raft down the Yulong River tomorrow, or if she’d rather take a motorbike tour up to the Seven Star tea plantation and Xianggong Hill.  There is only enough time for one or the other.  She was so charmed by the Yulong River rafts that she’s decided she’d like to do that tomorrow; we arranged it in town when we returned from our bike rides earlier.

We settle in quite late at the Cosy Inn, preparing for another raft trip and for our long journey back to Nanning tomorrow.

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Categories: Asia, Bicycle tour, China, Cosy Garden, Demo Tiki Bar, Dragon Bridge, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Rosewood Cafe, The Giggling Tree, Travel, West Street, Xi Jie, Yangshuo, Yulong River | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

a bicycle ride through the yangshuo countryside

Saturday, October 4:  My day starts with a message from Audrey on WeChat saying that she hasn’t got the strength to get out of bed yet, but if I am up, she’ll pull it together.  After our late night last night, I’m still in bed, unusual for me at 9 a.m.  I respond, Maybe I’ll go down and have some breakfast, and then take a quick shower.  How about if we aim for 10:30 or so?  She, obviously feeling more energetic than I do, says, No shower! let’s go get dim sum!  She asks if I packed a bathing suit, which I didn’t.  She says she’ll be over to my hotel shortly.

I throw on some clothes and head down to the lobby, where she shows up momentarily and we head down Yangshuo’s main street.  Sadly we find that the dim sum restaurant she knows of is no longer serving dim sum.  Instead we head to another restaurant for a Western breakfast.

We return to my hotel where I rent a bicycle for the day for 20 yuan ($3.24), and we head out of town.  We ride through traffic for a while.  After all, there’s no way to escape the crowds unless we get away from Yangshuo.

Finally, the traffic starts to thin out and we stop for a second to enjoy the view of the beautiful karst scenery beside a coffee shop.  A cute little lady approaches and tries to sell us wreaths of flowers that girls buy to wear on their heads like a crown.  I don’t want the wreath but I do ask if I can take a picture.  I give her a yuan for her time. She’s adorable. 🙂

Chinese lady selling flower wreaths

Chinese lady selling flower wreaths

I take some more pictures of my great hostess and guide, Audrey, as well as a little canal and bridge, the farmland and the karsts.

Audrey and her bicycle

Audrey and her bicycle

Me and bicycles

Me and my bicycle

bridge and canal

bridge and canal

We continue on our bicycles and come upon this charming scene at Dragon Bridge, which crosses the Yulong River.  A flotilla of bamboo boats with rainbow-colored umbrellas is floating down the river.

a flotilla of colorful boats scurrying down the river

a flotilla of colorful boats cruising down the river

There’s a bustle of activity as a group of men load the boats on a truck.  I stand on Dragon Bridge and Audrey takes a picture of me.  I wave to some rafters who pass under the bridge.

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.

We continue past the bridge into the heart of the farmland.  Audrey points out the rice fields and other crops, about which she’s been learning during her time in China.  I love the yellow grains of rice framing the jagged peaks.

Rice fields and karsts

Rice fields and karsts

Rice fields outside of Yangshuo

Rice fields outside of Yangshuo

farmland

farmland

yellow grains of rice

yellow grains of rice

We get off the paved road onto a dirt trail that meanders prettily through the fields, where hay is stacked into cute little bundles resembling the karst landscape.

haystacks and karsts

haystacks and karsts

haystacks mirror the karst landscape

haystacks mirror the karst landscape

We catch some glimpses of people drifting peacefully down the Yulong River.

a glimpse of some private rafters

a glimpse of some solitary rafters

We come to the edge of the Yulong River, where some people and their bamboo boat are stuck on a dam.  Audrey trots off to help them move it after taking a brief phone call.

Audrey wades along the dam to help the bamboo boat in distress

Audrey wades along the dam to help the bamboo boat in distress

While she’s helping the boaters, I enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The Yulong River away from the crowds

The Yulong River away from the crowds

a less-touristy part of the Yulong River

a less-touristy part of the Yulong River

Audrey has gotten her shoes wet by wading out into the river.  I say my tennis shoes are the only ones I’ve brought on my holiday, so I don’t want to get them wet.  As we continue our ride, Audrey tells me how she’s learned to live with very few possessions here in China.  She says she only owns two pairs of shoes.  We agree that people in America have too many possessions and that actually we can live comfortably with very little.

We see a rural Chinese house with the top floor unfinished and Audrey tells me that many people don’t finish the top floors of their houses because once the top floor is finished, the house is taxed.  A lot of people never finish their top floors and can avoid taxation indefinitely.

Rural Chinese houses

Rural Chinese houses

fields of hay

fields of hay

haystacks and mountainstacks

haystacks and mountainstacks

farmland

farmland

hay mountains and karst mountains

hay mountains and karst mountains

We take off on another dirt trail.  This time, I stop to take a picture of more haystacks, and Audrey zips by me. She says, “I’m going ahead.  Just keep going till the trail ends!” She disappears.

the bicycle trail through the fields

the bicycle trail through the fields

a motorbike in its element

a motorbike in its element

More haystacks

More haystacks

Finally I come to some ruins.  Beside them is Audrey’s bike, but there is no sign of Audrey.  I follow a bend in the trail to find her stuff lying in the grass, and she’s floating out in the middle of the Yulong River.  “Come on in!” she says.

ruins near the Yulong River where we stop for a swim

ruins near the Yulong River where we stop for a swim

Of course I don’t have a bathing suit, but there isn’t a soul in sight and Audrey says, “Just swim in your underwear!”  I’m so hot and that water looks so refreshing that I don’t hesitate.  I pull off my clothes and dive in.  We float for quite a while and no one at all comes down the river or to the river’s edge.  We honestly have this little spot in China all to ourselves!  There is some hope in this country of over a billion people of finding a little solitude.  From the middle of the river, the view downriver is magnificent, but of course I don’t dare carry my camera into the water to take a picture. 🙂

When we finally get out, I put my clothes back on over my soaking wet underwear.  In minutes even my clothes become drenched.  Oh well, it’s warm enough that they’ll dry in no time.  We continue on our bike ride, at which time we pass a Western guy wandering down to the river with a towel in his hand.  A few minutes more and he would have found us there, and I would have been embarrassed to get out!

We come upon a pretty scene of a new hotel that Audrey says reminds her of an English cottage in the countryside.

a little English cottage in China

a little English cottage in China

We ride through a small town where we see taro drying on a roof and an old mud brick home.

taro drying on a roof

taro drying on a roof

old mud brick house

old mud brick house

We pass by some cute little towns nestled up against the karsts.

a little town nestled into the karts

a little town nestled into the karts

town sheltered by karst

town sheltered by karst

a cute little bridge through the town

a cute little bridge through the town

We also pass some cute hotels in the countryside: The Tea Cozy, the Outside Inn, and The Giggling Tree.  We drop into The Giggling Tree to see what it’s like.   Now that I’ve stayed in town and have somewhat figured out the lay of the land, I think I might like to stay at one of these countryside hotels next time I’m in Yangshuo.

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.

Continuing further down the paved road, we come to the beautiful Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, where we can see the bamboo boats floating down the river.  I’ll end up taking this route in a bamboo boat myself on Monday morning before I return to Nanning that evening.

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

Audrey tells me this hotel has hot tubs on the balconies.  Sounds perfectly lovely, but I wonder what the prices are.

the Yulong River in front of the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

the Yulong River in front of the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

Yulong River boats

Yulong River boats

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

We head down another winding road where the traffic is picking up.  We stop to take a picture of this cozy little valley.  You wouldn’t know it from this picture, but this is a busy place where little yellow tour buses are buzzing through at breakneck speed.

cozy little valley

cozy little valley

Finally we head back to town.  Along the way, we cross over a bridge from which we can see bamboo rafts on the Yulong River coming in to drop off passengers.

View of the Yulong River from another bridge downriver from Dragon Bridge

View of the Yulong River from another bridge downriver from Dragon Bridge

Audrey has promised to take me to the Passionfruit Leisure Farm for lunch. By the time we finally reach here, we’re famished.  We start with an ice-cold passion fruit drink, and then Audrey proceeds to order a delicious meal, which includes egg and tomato and green beans, and honestly I can’t remember what else because we gobble it down so quickly!  I don’t even remember to stop to take a picture of the food.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the arbor under which we eat lunch at Passion Fruit Leisure Farm

the arbor under which we eat lunch at Passion Fruit Leisure Farm

an ice cold Passion Fruit drink

an ice-cold Passion Fruit drink

During lunch my nose starts to bleed and it just won’t stop.  I feel perfectly fine, but I use up a bunch of tissues, making for a pretty unappetizing scene.  I don’t know what is wrong with me.  I do tend to get nosebleeds from time to time, but they usually don’t last this long.

Finally, after leaving the Passion Fruit Farm, we cross over another bridge with a view of the river.

on the way back to Yangshuo

on the way back to Yangshuo

It’s a pretty harried ride back into town because cars, motorbikes, carts, bicycles and pedestrians are clogging up the roads and making it hard to move anywhere.  We do make it back eventually.  Audrey heads home and I return to my hotel where I take a nice hot shower and take a little nap.  It’s around 4:00 by the time we return to town.

What a delightful day!  I don’t know which day is my favorite, the day of the Li River Raft trip or this one!  They’re both so much fun in different ways.  I’m so thankful to Audrey for taking me on this bike trip, because I would have never had this much fun alone, or with a tour group.

Later, around twilight, I take a walk around town and take a lot of pictures as the lights come on and the sun goes down.

If you want to know about bike routes around Yangshuo, here are a few websites that have some good ideas:

Travel China Guide: Yangshuo Bicycle Route

Plan to China: Yangshuo Bicycle Routes

Categories: Asia, Bicycle tour, China, Dragon Bridge, Expat life, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, National Holiday, The Giggling Tree, Travel, Yangshuo, Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, Yulong River | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

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