Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Yangshuo and Guilin, China

After waiting for weeks for my “return home permit” to enter China (which reduced my time in China from 4 to 2 weeks), I boarded an overnight bus from Shenzhen to Yangshuo. The 9.5-hour sleeper bus (with beds in it) was very comfortable and efficient. I arrived in Yangshuo at 5am, 1.5 hours ahead of schedule.

I was extremely excited to be visiting China! I have only been to China once (Xi’an) and that was 14 years ago. Thus, I was unfamiliar with the culture and society of the Mainland and was curious to experience it! In particular, I wanted to visit the scenic Chinese countryside, with its villages, rivers and hills. I wanted to discover the beauty of a country that has been deemed “polluted” by Western media.

The Yangshuo and Guilin area in northeast Guangxi province smashed most stereotypes I had about an ugly, polluted China. This area consists of fabled karst limestone peaks overlooking rice paddies, quaint villages and meandering rivers (Li Jiang, Yulong He). The scenery resembled a painting.

One of my highlights was cycling in the countryside, with karst peaks surrounding me. My day guide Daisy and I also floated down the Yulong He on a bamboo raft, sliding down a few rapids. Another highlight was the 4-5 hour walk along the Li Jiang from the village of Yangdi to Xingping. For this hike, I followed the river the entire time, all the while gazing at those dreamy peaks and chatting with the villagers. The countryside (and especially on the trail) was calm and peaceful, with wildflowers and water buffaloes along the way.

Back in town, I sampled the famous “Guilin rice noodle soup”, with its sour and spicy condiments. There was nothing special about the cities of Yangshuo and Guilin, only that I preferred Yangshuo because of it is smaller. Guilin has become a large city with tall buildings that hide many of its famous peaks.

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