We'd taken our first internal flight from Chongqing to Guilin and it was ok. Once we landed we got the shuttle bus into Guilin, where we were staying for one night. We got into the Guilin hostel quite late,. As we expected Bryan and Sara were waiting in the bar for us as they had taken an earlier flight than us...they were definite following us and had taken the best room. We were informed that we would have to have twin beds once again, despite us booking a double. Bryan and Sara were in a double of course! We had a few drinks with them and Bryan convinced us all to go to McDonalds. I think he was shocked that me and Hilary hadn't been to McD's since we've left and insisted that we go straight away.
We only stayed one night in Guilin as we were eager to get to Yangshuo where we were staying for 9 nights in total. We got the bus in and our first impression of the place was wow! The views on the bus travelling in were all country side and mountains. It was welcome change, since we'd only been in cities up to this point. It was nice to get into the country side. We arrived at our hostel in the centre of Yangshuo where we would spend 6 nights here. The hostel was very nice and once we'd dumped our bags in our room, we grabbed a cold beer each and headed up to the roof bar/garden/area. The hostel claims to have the highest roof garden in Yangsuo. It didn't disappoint. The views of the town and mountain were really nice and we sat up there enjoying a couple of beers and watching the sunset.
Our first night in Yangshuo was a bit of a shock. After relaxing with a few beers on the roof top, we decided to go for a meal. Yangshuo changed at night. It's just like being on holiday. The streets were heaving with tourists, market stalls, night clubs, bars and restaurants; almost every other person was trying to sell you DVDs, watches, tours or trying to get you to come into their restaurant. It was just like being somewhere like Magaluf or Benidorm. A big difference from the relaxing evening on the roof taking in the sunset! Once we'd overcome the shock it was not too bad.
There were plenty of things to do in Yangshuo and we booked our first tour through the hotel and took a 2.5 hour bamboo raft down the Yulong river. We assumed transport was included, but when we got up in the morning to meet in reception, they presented us with 2 old rusty pink bicycles. We had to jump on them and follow a guy to where the bamboo raft tour started. Neither of us had been on a bicycle in years. It didn't help that the guy we were following was on a moped, so keeping up wasn't easy. But once we got used to being on a bike again, and once i worked out my bike didn't have any breaks, it was really nice cycling through the countryside. We got to the start of the tour and our bikes were quickly whisked from underneath us, we barely had time to get off them and they were put onto the back of a truck. We were told that the bikes would be waiting for us at the end. We were then rushed onto a raft. We had to walk across about 7 or 8 rafts before we got to ours. This was very funny as our rafter/driver just ran ahead like he was walking on concrete. For me and Hilary this wasn't as easy, especially when the rafts moved apart from one another as soon as you put one foot on them! I just ran ahead as quick as I could...then stood and chuckled a bit at Hilary attempting to cross. I did think a couple of times she was going to go in!
We set off on our rafting ride, and its basically 10 pieces of bamboo tied together with 2 deck chairs, a parasol and obviously our driver/rafter he's a bit like a gondola driver...but Chinese. It was so peaceful floating down the river and very hot! The views were amazing and we didn't realise but there's loads of little rapids that we had to go down, which was funny as each time you thought the raft was going to go over! After a couple of hours we arrived at the end and had to jump off the raft. Where there was a horse dressed up, a camel and 2 monkeys for photo opportunities! We declined and went to find our bikes. It wasn't easy as there's lots of bikes parked up and lots of pink old rusty bikes as well! Once we eventually found them, we realised we didn't know how to get back to Yangshuo and hadn't brought a map with us! Luckily I have very good communication skills with folk who don't speak English. So I shouted YANGSHUO very loudly and slowly, then shrugged my shoulders and pointed...as if to say, which way. It worked...we arrived back in Yangshuo safely and only going wrong once.
Bryan and Sara joined us in Yangshuo after a couple of nights and stayed at the same hostel as us...obviously...stalkers. We all went to the Impression Sanjie Liu Light show, which is a show on the river at night where everyone is lit up. The show has over 600 actors/local fishermen in it and was directed by the same guy who did the opening ceremony to the Beijing Olympics. It was pretty breath taking and we all really enjoyed it. Its pretty impressive especially with so many people being involved. The thing that was strange was the Chinese who were there watching the show. They talked all the way through it, leave early to get out in time and more bizarrely they don't clap at all...even when the actors take they're bow. They just sit there. We clapped though and it probably sounded very pathetic with just a few Westerners clapping.
That day we hired bikes with Bryan and Sara and went cycling through the countryside for a few hours. We made the sensible decision of setting off at noon, when the sun is at its hottest. We didn't want to be stupid and set off in the morning or evening when it was cooler...that would have been a silly idea. So after about 4 hours and a loss of about 6 pints of sweat each we headed back. Despite the heat, it was nice cycling around the countryside.
The day after Bryan and Sara had to leave as they were heading to Hong Kong. It was sad to see them go, as we'd had a good laugh together. We'll miss Bryan's attempts at a northern accent. Before they left they gave us lots of tips and advice about South East Asia as they'd just finished that part of their trip and were heading to their 2nd part, South America.
We also went to see the Cormorant fishermen. For those who don't know, these are the fisherman from the HSBC advert, where some lazy Chinese bloke uses Cormorant birds to do his fishing rather than get a rod out himself and do it! We went to the show at night as it's supposed to be better then, it was very impressive. We were in a boat with a few other tourists and went down river with a Cormorant fisherman on either side of the boat. I was surprised how many birds they use. They had at least 6 birds each. The birds just swim in front of the bamboo raft, diving for fish. Once they've caught one they try to swallow it but can't because they have a rope tied around their necks which prevents them from eating the fish. So the birds head towards the fisherman and he lowers his bamboo stick, they sit on it as he lifts them back onto the raft, then shakes them by the beak over the basket and the bird drops the fish in. He then chucks the bird back in and off it goes fishing again. The birds are apparently very well looked after and if they don't want to fish anymore they don't. They just sit on the front of the boat. Also the fisherman lets them eat every 7th fish they catch. You get the impression they're treated very well and are not hard done by. Halfway through the tour/show we pulled up onto a little pebbly beech and got a chance to hold the birds. Hilary was straight in there which I was surprised by. The birds do look funny when they're not in the water as they just sit there with their wings spread at full span drying them off...or showing off. While we were on the boat watching the fishermen, 2 Chinese boys had water pistols on them. They kept squirting the birds while we were trying to take pictures of them. Very rude indeed and you could tell all the Westerners' on the boat were a little be disgusted by this behaviour but didn't say anything...except Hilary. She didn't hold back. It started with a few glares...men, you'll know the type of glare..I'm talking about "The Look" that your better halves give you when you're in trouble (the one that burns). That didn't work of course as these kids were too young to know of "The Look". So she just started to shout at them and tell them off. They soon stopped...well their dad obviously told them to only squirt them from the side of the boat the scary woman wasn't on!
We had 6 nights in Yangshuo and despite how much we enjoyed it there, we were ready for a bit of a change and had booked our last 3 nights at a different hostel. One Dan and Kate had recommended to us that was just outside Yangshuo. Its all converted barns and sat in the middle of a little village. It was very chilled out and relaxing. A welcome break from the hectic streets of Yangshuo. Here we just chilled out for a few days, went for a couple of walks, played a bit of table tennis...where I discovered that Hilary does not have a talent for this sport.
These were our last few nights in China, as all we have is a night train from Guilin to Shenzhen. Then once in Shenzhen we just get the tube over to our next destination...Hong Kong.
A few things we learned about Yangshuo
- The countryside is amazing
- The mountains look just like the ones in avatar..except they dont float
- They sell chicken feet like they do sweets
- The nightlife is like Magaluf
- Fishermen are lazy and use birds to do their work