Have you ever looked at the random painting of impossibly steep mountains at your local Chinese takeaway restaurant? I have on many an occasion and was surprised to find out those mountains weren’t a flight of fancy at all but instead very real and found in around the town of Yangshuo located deep in southern China near the Vietnamese border. The mountains are eroded limestone karsts formed fairly recently on a geological time scale, and while I’ve seen the occasional mountains like this before it’s impossible to believe how many of them there are here-
The view from the famous boat cruise on the Li River between the city of Guillin and Yangshuo. Guillin is a rather generic big brother city and Yangshuo is rather touristy, but honestly I’ve never seriously minded very touristy places because a. lots of people tends to mean it’s something worth seeing, and b. I always find it the height of irony to complain about tourists when you are one yourself, no?
Anyway, if you ever find yourself in this corner of the world I can highly recommend the boat ride as it was quite pretty, but I will warn you the English commentary certainly falls into that “so awful it’s beyond entertaining” category. To fully understand why, look at this photo above which had this commentary verbatim in a bored, monotone voice over the boat’s loudspeaker-
“Look-to-the-left. Look-to-the-left. Here-you-can-see-a-cliff. The-cliff-has-a-yellow-mark. The-cliff-has-a-yellow-mark. It-looks-like-a-fish. We-call-it-“Fish-Cliff.” It-is-highlight.”
This commentary essentially explains everything you need to know about Chinese tourism. Well that and most of the people participating in it are local Chinese with matching red and blue baseball caps following someone around with a flag, but I digress.
Anyway, because we are not cool enough to have our own matching headgear like everyone else in Yangshuo Patrick and I were left to entertain ourselves, which according to us meant renting mountain bikes for 20 yen for the day (read: just over US$3) and exploring the countryside. Here’s me with a field of yellow flowers- they’re called rapeseed, which is an unfortunate name for such a pretty flower but there we are-
(This was actually taken right next to a great place we stopped for lunch down a muddy path which we never would’ve gone to except there was a geocache hidden here and I am a dork. Yay!)
The Li River isn’t the only river around here actually, and just a few miles outside town we found the Yulong River complete with some local boys fishing-The thing to do on the Yulong River is go for a ride on a little bamboo raft (well traditionally bamboo, lots of the rafts these days are made out of large PVC pipes instead), but we did not. I don’t know whether you can notice in the pictures but it was actually quite cold in southern China- seriously, the temperature never got above the low 10s (50s in Farenheit) for a few days- so bamboo rafting didn’t sound tempting. This was to be fair the very end of the rainy season and unseasonably cold even for that so Yangshuo is usually much more pleasant- good, because most of the hostels and restaurants do not have central heating!
But hey there are always advantages to the off season, namely we didn’t have half as many tourists to share it with as what come through here in high season. Which is good because Yangshuo was already touristy enough, I have no idea where everyone stays in summer!