Our last day in Guilin included the famous ‘bamboo raft’ ride down the Yu River. This was a jaw-dropping experience, and I am out of words to explain the physical beauty of this place. We were 6 in our raft (2 Spaniards, 1 British Guy, and the three of us). From 10 am till almost 4 pm (6 hours!) we saw these giant formations literally falling straight into the river. We were also fortunate to have ‘heaven clouds’ (those clouds that are often depicted in religious paintings) for a good portion of the trip. It was spectacular, jaw-dropping, and inspiring.
Start of our trip: Looks like it’s going to rain….
The haze made the rock (karst?) formations even cooler
6 hours of new landscapes
and, for the most part, small rafts (there was a cruise that did it in 1.5 hours, but was much more $$$)
Approaching a rock that is apparently famous
Looking into the landscape…
and more rafts
It reminded me a little of Petropolis/Rio yet again
Another famous rock (and water splashing onto the lens)
We stopped here because our boat drivers had to have lunch (and so did we, apparently…. place was overpriced…)
Lunchtime view (where the docks were)
Our boat driver
The girls having a Titanic moment
Heaven clouds started to form!
and there was blue sky!
Approaching (yet) another, famous rock
Getting close to the end
The last view before docking
and we arrived safely…..
before we had to cram as many people as humanly possible into a golf cart.
Maybe even more spectacular, jaw-dropping, and inspiring was the town of Yangshuo. I cannot put in words how incredible this little tiny town scattered amid the rock formations was. The only thing missing was a beach, to be honest, and then it would truly be paradise. There, we finally met up with the other group (Laura, Estelle and Valeria, which were beginning their hike down to Southeast Asia).
The view from the “Monkey Jane’s Rooftop Bar” (Our Hostel)
The sun setting
quirky rooftop bar
and more heaven-clouds
Meeting up with the other group
this fountain wasn’t as kitschy as many others I’ve seen here in China… it was actually pleasant.
restaurants getting ready for the evening
Images of the town
Tons of outdoor restaurants
and too many souvenir shops
their passion for neon is ubiquitous
The view right outside the door to the alleyway that led to our Hostel
the storeowner was camera-shy
Our first night in Yangshuo we headed over to the “Impressions” spectacle on the Li River. It’s another one of those kitschy neon-colored light shows. Actually, I learned that the guy that did the opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics was the director of the Impressions Show in Yangshuo. I have the brochure somewhere, so I’ll write more about it another time. Regardless of the intense use of color, it still was overall a pleasant experience. Again, since there weren’t that many foreigners in the audience (the audience was mainly comprised of Chinese tourists) we were yet again a sensation in the cue, where all these families wanted to take pictures and chat with us.
Feeling like a celebrity….
and the “me-nü”
The audience… it’s crazy that this place fills up 7 days a week, 2x a night, 365 days of the year like this (and the tickets aren’t cheap!)
Here’s a close-up
These guys were all on boats and had this red ribbons and made it look like water… really cool trick
the lady would dance on the moon and wherever she went, the moon would rock…
Neon people! like 500 of them!
here’s a close-up.. this was the “grand finale”
The following morning, we woke up early and saw the town without people (a little trick I learned back in Hangzhou).
temple at the top of one of the cliffs
After our breakfast, we headed over to Shangri-La, a protected reserve that showcases all the different cultural rituals, history, and aspects of the day-to-day lives of the people that live in this area. In other words, it was a Chinese version of Disneyland. The people “acting” looked so unhappy (I can imagine that “pretend-weaving” for 9+ hours a day, everyday, takes a toll on your psyche) but as a tourist, one can’t complain when surrounded by a landscape of this kind of beauty.
“it’s a small world after all…”
the place where you board the boats
going under the bridge
another group picture
In the south of China, I saw that people are much warmer to westerners and far more curious than in Shanghai. In countless instances we were asked to pose and take pictures with the locals, and we also asked a lot of locals to take a minute and take pictures with us. Rather than turning the cold shoulder, everyone really was clearly interested and motivated to know more about us (it also helps to speak at least a little bit of Chinese as well, right?).
guys carving souvenirs
recreated Chinese house
nice outdoor gardens
more bridges and ponds…
Around 10:15 am, we headed back to the city and rented out bicycles from the city center. A couple that I met at the hostel in Guilin actually told me this was a must-do in Yangshuo. It would’ve been also nice to rent out a scooter, but the bicycles sufficed (for 2 euros for the entire day…). We got a little lost in the beginning getting out of the city, and had to ask a number of times whether we were going in the right direction.
we finally made it out to the countryside, and, in a small village, we happened to meet up with the Spaniards that were on the boat with us. Random coincidence in the middle of nowhere….
We finally managed to get out of the town and pedaled for a good 45 minutes toward the mountains. We arrived at the ticket office to the Moon cave mud bath and hot water spring, parked our bikes, and took a minivan to our destination. The moon cave was actually a little daunting – this time there were not many tourists (we arrived right around lunch time) and there were no neon lights (which was great). Rather, this one was slippery, you had to crawl in some areas (hence the hardhats), and filled with bats.
the only way by pulling our way (notice the roap above the boat) into the cave
lots of mud
and the occasional cavity where you didn’t have to crouch to get in…
group picture… so nice and clean…
group picture, nice and dirty….
again, feeling like a celebrity. she was funny.
After the moon cave, we swung by a restaurant at the foot of the moon hill, and I have to say it was one of the most delicious Chinese meals I’ve had in a while. It was a big surprise. After that, we cycled a little more through a couple of small towns and over a few bridges. The bicycle thing was a great idea, and would’ve stayed in Yangshuo an extra day to simply rent a bike and do this all over again (maybe in a different direction). Annie and Aubrey stayed there an extra day and managed to include white water rafting in their itinerary.
view from the restaurant…. we ran out of time to climb to the top…. apparently this is the best view of the entire region (but it’s also climb at your own risk)
pedaling back to the city, the moon hill once again
You can rent out kayaks here and go for a ride on the river
not enough time… gotta come back and do this next time
old lady on our way back… she wanted my money…
That night, we headed over to a vegetarian restaurant for dinner, followed by our hostel’s “famous rooftop bar,” and given the day of heavy activities, was in bed before midnight. The following morning, We all had breakfast together, and Laura, Estelle and Valeria headed over to the Li River bamboo raft (they didn’t do it on their way down), Aubrey and Annie rented their bikes and went, and I had the morning to sit down, relax, and walk around the city. Yangshuo was a huge surprise to me and would recommend it to everyone.
having a drink after our exhausting day outside
About 2 minutes after checking out of the Hostel, I received a phone call from my employer (I agreed to start the 6th of July), saying that they would prefer me to start the 11th of July. Therefore, they essentially gave me an extra week of vacation. So I headed with Valeria, Estelle and Laura to the city of Nanning. Why not, right? Turns out Nanning is really not an exciting city – nothing really to see or do other than wait for your visa to get ready to go to Vietnam. Therefore it was somewhat of a dissapointment. Nonetheless, I went anyway, and that very night I headed to the train station to inquire about getting back to Shanghai. It turned out that the only train to Shanghai was 3 days from my arrival, and was a good 32 hours long. Resenting my decision to go to Nanning, I bit the bullet and decided to stay in Nanning for 3 nights. I’ll post some pictures of Nanning later.
The lobby of our Hostel…