Yangshuo has definitely been the highlight of the trip so far. I’m sure I will probably keep saying that as we explore more places, but for now, it’s definitely a winner. A backpackers heaven: a mix of loud streets of bars and clubs, restaurants and souvenir stalls alongside amazing landscape views, rivers, treks and cycle rides – there wasn’t anything not to like. All of that mixed with the great company we found and the hilarious memories we have to take away (some of which aren’t suitable for sharing online) certainly made it a place to remember.
We set off from Guilin on a little river boat which took almost 5 hours to get to Yangshuo. There were quicker, and in fact cheaper ways of making this journey, but from my previous research of the area I knew that cruising the Li River was high on my to do list! We got to take in some breathtaking views and the sun finally made an appearance! Despite the breeze I was able to take my jacket off which was a first for the trip so far! Another first is that we both got sunburnt faces.. but they are all fine now, and dare I say a little tanned!
The trip wouldn’t have been complete without a bite to eat, one of us having a nap (James) and the obligatory holding of a Chinese child for a photograph (James again). Thankfully, our overpriced cruise included all of these things so really we were quids in.
Once in Yangshuo, we made our way through the normal crowds of locals trying to get you to buy their goods or get in their “taxis” and took a fairly long walk to our hostel, but as you may recall we are getting good at not getting lost and this was another of those occasions! The hostel we stayed at was the best we have been in by far. It was like a hotel really and the price was unbelievable. We spent our first day navigating the Chinese roads by bicycle and took ourselves out into the countryside for the day. What was meant to be a 16 mile round trip was cut quite short because we did get a little lost and ended up breaking into a tourist attraction through the back gate. We realised on our return trip that 16miles was probably somewhat ambitious for two quite unfit individuals whose normal version of strenuous activity is walking to the chip shop at the end of the road. I think we did about 8 miles, and with that we got some stunning views and a nice lunch stop too.
The following day, our bike game was taken to a whole new level. On our journey through China we noticed it was the “done” thing to get around on an e scooter so of course, it would have been wrong not to embrace that part of the culture before we left the country.
Considering it was electric, the scooter had some power! To begin with the journey was a little frightening and I was holding James hard enough to crack a rib or two, but after a few minutes of being on open roads the worry completely left. It was amazing!
The views were incredible. We just drove randomly down roads and through small villages with roaming chickens and where we nearly hit a passing cow, until we came to the end of the road and completely by accident ended up at the most beautiful area that was completely abandoned other than a couple of men in rice hats loading their bamboo rafts up. I thought the previous days lunch view was a good one but it was nothing on this random spot.
I did have a little go at driving the scooter, but only down the road the hostel was on. I turned around and picked James up for a ride and he got to fear for his life for about 30 seconds before I pulled up and decided that was enough. I was definitely better suited to being a passenger.
We were enjoying Yangshuo so much we opted to stay another night and if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have had half the stories that we now have. We had met a great bunch of people and we went out to get some cheap dinner and have a few drinks. I should at this point mention that we had spent the day by the pool in the scorching sun during beer since 11am, which may give you an insight into the latter parts of this story.
We remet up with a couple we had met in Beijing, Naoimi and Joe who had spent their time avidly climbing and drinking. A night out with the pair of them turned into an outing with three Dutch guys too – Jean, Amsterdam Dan and a guy known to most as “The Fisherman”. I’m not sure he knew this. After dinner in a “restaurant”/room on the side of the street that you wouldn’t touch with a barge pole at home (but was actually amazing and made no one ill at £1.90pp!), we headed to West Street. Quite aptly named as the area was full of foreigners and was quite Westernised to an extent. Naomi and Joe took us to a rooftop bar for happy hour called Monkey Jane’s. People were already quite merry and James was getting quite loud and proclaiming that he wanted to go to the “naked lady bars” that were littered on West a Street. A long story short, everyone drank a lot at happy hour, Monkey Jane was a head case, and Fenn the barmaid became very friendly with us and brought us free shots. Lots of free shots. As a result, she saw more of a James than anyone needed to.
From this point however, I will for now have to use the term “What happens in Yangshuo, stays in Yangshuo”. The events of the night will be forever etched into many of our heads. Essentially, it ended with James vomiting all over The Fisherman’s feet. Then The Fisherman vomiting. Then us trying to get the pair of them home. Fenn evidently wasn’t put off by this view and brought James a bucket after he had already ruined her floor, wiped his mouth, and then called him a pussy and handed him some water. She even offered him a room at their place, or a space on the roof for free but we kindly declined and dragged the reprobates down the stairs and back onto bustling West Street. A memorable night had by all. Followed by a day of recovery and pizza for breakfast. Oh, and I am now the proud owner of a Monkey Jane’s tshirt that I slept in that night.
This installment has brought me to quite a sad realisation about our trip. We are meeting such a diverse bunch of people and making new friends all the time, however we are constantly saying goodbye. Some of these are people we would hang out with at home and are similar to us, but some are people who we wouldn’t ordinarily get to spend time with. A lot of them we say goodbye and it’s unlikely that we will ever see again. I sincerely hope that some of the folk we met in Yangshuo cross our paths in the future. A selection of us have similar plans to head to Vietnam soon – so maybe! Although a repeat of the events at Monkey Jane’s won’t be necessary.