Months ago when Alyssa and I were planning our trip, Yangshuo had been recommended to us as a beautiful place – Chinese countryside at its best, and with lots of activities to keep us busy. In our 1.5 hour car ride from Guilin to Yangshuo, we could immediately see what the fuss was about. The limestone mountains that characterize the region rose up and down steeply for miles and miles around – there seemed no end to these green peaks, each one steeper than the last. Mist obscured the mountains father away, so they seemed increasingly lighter shades of green, turquoise, and blue, until they disappeared entirely in a sea of “blurry beauty,” as our tour guide would later say. We stared out the windows of the car, wishing we could take a photo to capture the strangeness of the scenery, and lamenting our failed boat ride, which would have surely boasted even more breath-taking views. Apparently the landscape in the Guilin region is so alien that it was used to film scenes from the Wookie home world in Star Wars – as I watched the mountains zip by from the car, I could believe it.
By the time we arrived at the Moondance Hotel (more a guesthouse really), it was dark, so we could not appreciate the surroundings, but we set out almost immediately to go to dinner in town, just a 10-minute and RMB40 (about $6-7) cab ride away. After more than a week of nothing but Chinese food, Alyssa and I were in the mood for pizza and beer, which we found at the Rosewood Inn. On the 2nd floor of the restaurant, we sampled local beer (light and delicious!) and planned out our next 2 days in Yangshou (below, left). I snapped the photo below, at right, of the bustling West street from the balcony of the restaurant. I could imagine eating outside in warmer weather, enjoying the music and hustle wafting up from the street below. After dinner, we sought out a massage parlor, and for RMB98 (about$16) we each got an hour-long traditional Chinese massage, which was at once relaxing and painful.
After wandering around West street for a bit after dinner, we headed home dropped into a dead sleep.
The next day we were up bright and early for a ride on a bamboo raft up the river. I had been expecting a teeny-tiny raft fit for 2 people, but ours was quite a bit sturdier than that. We huddled together against the brisk morning air and the wind off the river, until arriving at the tiny river town of Fuli. All along the tiny main street were artists and shops, and we saw how traditional Chinese fans are made and painted.
I saw these fruit peels drying on a window sill (something I’d seen several times before) and thought it was so lovely – like a still-life arrangement – that I had to take a photo. I still don’t know what fruit it was or why such peels are dried on windowsills, but I don’t mind the not-knowing.
Then, since it was Saturday, it was off to the central Fuli Market, where you can buy pretty much everything, from fishing nets to t-shirts to gutted or un-gutted ducks (at right). We kept to the candy and packaged snacks, and bought an enormous bagful to sustain us for the rest of the trip and bring home for gifts. An old woman selling fish pointed at our bulging bag and cackled a toothless laugh – “You silly girls! You’re going to get fat!” I’m sure she was thinking.
(On a side note, everyone in China seems to think Alyssa and I are like 20 years old. When they find out we are 32 and 27, respectively, they are shocked. “But you look so young!” they say. The feeling is mutual – I cannot tell anyone’s age between 20 and 40. But I digress.)
Our guide, a lovely young woman whose English name was Joanna, then took us for Guilin rice noodles in town for lunch (left), before we went back to the hotel. The afternoon was rainy, which gave us the perfect excuse to stay inside and read (Alyssa) and blog (me). We ordered a pot of the most delicious ginger tea and split it between us, savoring the sweet warmth while watching the rain pockmark the river outside the hotel window. We vowed to make the ginger tea at home, it was so good. I think it it just made by grating some ginger, then adding some whole pieces of ginger with slots cut through it, then pouring boiling hot water over it all and letting it steep for a few minutes. Add sugar and done. We’ll see if I can recreate it at home; I’m sure the taste will transport me back to that rainy afternoon spent on our hotel couches, watching the river.
I’ll leave you with that image for now; my entries are a couple days behind my travels and I am in Korea now, utterly exhausted and in need of a good night’s sleep! Next up, and final post for Guilin/Yangshuo: cave-exploring, mountain-climbing, and a Chinese cooking class!