Saturday, July 14, 2012

Travel Advice in China: Guangxi Province (Part1)

Part 1: Guilin and Yangshuo

Guilin is the easiest place to get a train to in Guangxi province.  Many Chinese people go there on vacation, and it’s a nice city, but I wouldn’t recommend doing more than using it as a transportation hub; you can see the same things much more up close in Yangshuo.

From the bus station in Guilin, you can take a forty-five minute bus to Yangshuo.  Yangshuo is a small town on the banks of the Li River, surrounded by karst mountains.  It’s pretty touristy; there are western restaurants and souvenir stands in town.  However, that was a nice break after several months in China: I really enjoyed the grilled cheese and such.  You can easily find a hostel there for about 25 RMB.   I stayed at Monkey Jane’s, but she was fixing to sell it, so don’t know what it’s like now.  There were plenty of them, though.  You can hang out by the river, swim, shop in the market, eat western food until you’re stuffed, and Yangshuo is a great place just to sit and relax. The scenery was worth  the touristiness of the town itself.  

You can rent a bicycle for the day cheaply (15-20 RMB).  You can bike around town, or you can bike out to the Dragon Bridge.  It’s quite a ways over rough roads; it wasn’t really hard but I was pretty sore at the end of the day; I hadn’t ridden a bike in years. Someone at your hostel can give you directions or a basic map, or there might be something in the guide book.  However, I didn’t have to worry about how to get there.  As soon as I got out in the country, there was a Chinese woman in a pink button-up shirt and a straw hat who was waiting with her bike.  She saw me and greeted me, then hopped on the bicycle and took off.  I was going to same way, so I followed a ways behind.  When we came to any kind of cross road or split in the path, she would wait until she knew I was in view, and made sure I saw which one she took.  The path wound through fields and farms and along the river.  It was an amazing view of the countryside and peasant life, and went alongside the river a good bit of the time.  Finally, I arrived at the Dragon Bridge, in a small village; the bridge is very old, but I don’t remember the exact dates right now.  It was a nice scene with the old bridge and all the village boys swimming under it, but the real point is the scenery along the way. The bridge doesn’t look like a dragon or anything; it’s just a bridge, albeit a very old one.  Just so you aren’t disappointed. :)  

Once you get to the Dragon Bridge, there are three ways to get back:  you can bike back by the highway, which is a little faster since you’re on pavement; you can bike back the way you came; or, you can do what I did—hire a bamboo boat and boatman to take you back, not all the way to Yangshuo usually, but at least to where the pavement starts.  It’s not super cheap; I paid 100 RMB (about $14).  However, the boats can hold two, so if you have someone to split it with it’s not bad at all.  They will put the bike on the back. This is why the lady in the pink shirt was going there, to get a cut by arranging these things for visitors.  It was one of the highlights of my travels in China—floating down the river, near sunset, through colorful farms and mountains.

Another thing you should do in Yangshuo is go out to Moon Hill.  You can bike out there, but it’s about 8 km or so and you would have to find a way to secure your bike once you got there; there is also a bus, which I took.  Moon Hill is a mountain with a hole that goes all the way through it, shaped like a half moon.  You can hike up to the crescent, and have an amazing vista of the countryside.  If you’re adventurous, it’s also possible to climb up to the very top. 


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