As mentioned previously this part of China is known for the Li River (which is iconically the design on the twenty dollar bill there). Today was the day and we booked a boat cruise from Guilin to Yangshou. There are two options you can do – one is this cruise that comes with lunch and takes about four hours, the other is to take a bamboo raft that does about half of the trip and then you hop onto a coach. The latter initially sounded awesome but once we researched more it seemed the bamboo rafts were actually made of plastic and the engine on them is super noisy (and I didn’t want to be on a coach at all). I was worried we made the wrong decision going for the boat cruise but actually it was awesome and I don’t regret it.
We were picked up at our accommodation by a coach and taken to the harbour. The boarding process was simple but made manic by all the Chinese people pushing and shoving. Once onboard we were given an assigned seat at a table downstairs but actually spent most of the ride on the top deck enjoying the views. The trip was smooth and the sun shone which was perfect. It is a stunning cruise and the karst mountains mixed with seeing fishermen on bamboo rafts and little villages was wicked. About halfway through we were given lunch which was kind of like a plane dinner mixed with those TV trays you see on American shows. It wasn’t the best thing in the world but satisfied me from going hangry. Along the way there was a narrator who told us what we were floating past on an intercom. A lot of the ‘sights’ require imagination and squinting to tell how that rock looks like a horse but it’s all part of the fun. I’m a sucker for any kind of river cruise as you’ll know from the multiple fjord boat trips I’ve done in Alaska and Norway. As long as the sun is out and the air is fresh I’m a happy bunny. A highlight for me was when we were about to pass the section that is on the twenty dollar bill. As soon as it was announced everyone ran to get outside and were waving their bills in the air to get a photo of it aligned up. I’ve never seen so many bank notes fluttering about before hah.
Yangshou as a city is very small and much more touristy. It has one main pedestrian street that has restaurants, bars and markets on either side. At night this place becomes wild and you’ll walk past a lot of karaoke, people dancing on poles and pumping house music. Although it wasn’t really my cup of tea, I did really enjoy the landscape contrast. Amongst these traditional Chinese buildings there were karst mountains poking out. Walking around was really enjoyable during the day, I would just skip the evenings (unless you fancy a wild one).
In total opposition if you get out of the city centre the Yangshou area is gorgeous. The most popular thing to do is rent a bike and cycle out. We did just that and followed the route to the Moon Hill. Once you get past the main streets the country really opens up and you are riding amongst fields and more karst mountains. There are a bunch of trails and it’s really easy to get carried away and cycle for hours. I loved riding out in the country and it was a real pinch me moment.
We stopped for lunch at this restaurant at the end of the bridge with lovely views of cyclists, mountains and the water. It was finally time to try bamboo rice and I was bloody excited. We saw the man cooking it outside and they seem to put the bamboo shoots straight onto a bbq/grill, I’m not entirely sure how they get the rice mixture inside. Either way though it was really delicious and I’d recommend it. We added some aubergine dish and pickled cucumbers and it was super scrumptious.
Moon Hill is a cheeky terror in that the view is breathtaking but the climb to the top will send shivers down your spine. After cycling there and my legs already burning, having to walk up a gazillion steps wasn’t the best. Luckily we went on quite a sunny but cool day and I was kind of prepared from all the hiking thus far in the trip. Once you reach the summit (I’m going to say summit to make it sound impressive) there were a bunch of old Chinese ladies selling waters. I felt like they were mocking me being a huffing puffing mess and can only imagine they’re total pros
Something quick to end on and that you’ll cycle past if you go to Moon Hill is the Big Banyan Tree. I had no idea how big it would be and what exactly a banyan tree even was. Turns out it was quite grand and not big as in height, more spread. Banyan trees are pretty magical as it looks like there are two trees intertwinned together but it’s actually the same one. As it grows out, it gives off aerial roots that help support the wide, stretching branches (and as they get older, they end up becoming undistinguishable from the main root – thus looks like a different tree). Fascinating stuff right?