Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Yangshuo - China (Part I)

Long weekends are very rare here in China so when I found out that our office would be closed from the 1st to the 4th of May, I immediately searched for a getaway near the city. I have been so frustrated traveling around China for the last year and not having the time to actually stop and take in any of the scenery or environment. My friend visited Yangshuo last month, which is only about an 8 hour bus ride from Guangzhou. He took some fantastic pictures there and had some very positive things to say about the place so I propositioned some of my mates to make the trek out there with me. Everyone flaked… It is fucking awesome to travel with friends but when left with no option to do that I can manage just as well on my own and I was not keen to spend my 4 days off trapped in the city, hitting the same bars, and doing the same old shit. I have been trying to find out if I have any talent with a camera so I borrowed some equipment from my buddy Andy, coupled that with my own cameras, and I bought some small stuff from the local market like a monocular and tripod. Armed with these tools I ventured forth.

I like to think I am quite capable of roughing it when I have to, and by those standards this bus was really quite luxurious. I mean, I have ridden some dodgy transport and stayed at some very questionable lodgings in the past. It was a VOLVO bus that slept about 45 passengers relatively comfortably. What was a relief is that the bus was very clean and smelling fresh. Guests were not permitted to smoke or wear shoes in there even. But as you can imagine, the space was quite cramped, but still comfortable enough to get some shut eye, unless you snore really loudly, which I do. So I used the nifty head lamp I bought to stay up reading. Had we actually made it to Yangshuo in the 8 hours that was projected the trip would have been awesome, but due to 3 break downs the trip ended up taking a good 12 hours. At this point I was pretty glad I did not force any of my friends to come. I was pretty content sipping my whiskey though.

By the time I got off the bus it was already about 10am. I had no idea what to expect when I got to Yangshuo but I did book a room at a hostel in advance figuring things might be pretty crowded for the long weekend. I selected The White Lion Hotel which is located on the main street of Yangshuo called West Street. It set me back only about $30 a night. The rooms were small but the shower was warm, A/C cold, and bed comfortable. What more could I ask for. I only spent time sleeping in there anyways. There are numerous other hotels, hostels, and rooms available in the area for all price ranges as well; I would say The White Lion falls right in the middle. I would seriously recommend this hotel to any traveler who does not care to stay in their room and watch TV during their vacation. The hotel owner was really friendly and helpful and their location was awesome to boot.

West Street is one of the two parallel pedestrian streets that are located in the small city of Yangshuo. Every space on the street is taken up by shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars. Every space above them has rooms to rent. I seriously did not expect to see such a bustling town right next to the sleepy Li River. The atmosphere was awesome. Towering over the street is a luscious green mountain that reaches up to the sky, and when you venture out of the populated area you find that these mountains go on for as far as the eye can see. On the other side of the street is the Li River which winds between the mountains and coming up to the hotel I could already see there were small boats for rent. I could see mostly local Chinese tourists but there were also handfuls of westerners walking through the streets. But all the shops seemed to cater to foreigners with their choice of food and drink. Although it was only 10am I could already see how this street was about to go off once the sun went down. Immediately I knew I had made the right choice coming to this destination. I threw my bags down in the hotel, packed a case of all my photography paraphernalia and headed out in search of some adventure.

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