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My frineds and I had a trip to Yangshuo several weeks ago. We enjoyed the stunning natural beauty, challenged ourselves with the thrilling rock climbing, tasted the wonderful local food, and strolled around its ancient street. In all we had a great time.
We gathered at the Guilin Bus Station to catch our bus for Yangshuo. Our bus was scheduled to leave at 10:00 am but we were informed it was delayed for a traffic blockage just outside the station. So we had to wait for a prolonged period at the waiting hall. The hall was half filled but the atmosphere was not so good. People talked, laughed, spoke to the cell photo loudly, somebody smoke. It was a bit sticky. Chinese often lack concern of appearance with uncouth behaviors in public such as spitting, talking loudly in public, queue jumping, smoking in non-smoking zone, random littering. The Chinese government now has become aware how serious the problem is and it launched a massive campaign with the aim to change its citizen's bad habits. I hope this can help.
Our bus finally arrived. The bus condition was fairly good with air-conditioning and a TV set in the front. However, the behavior of the driver and attandant offered an unpleasant contrast to the atmosphere. The staff of the bus company is supposed to appropriately behave and provide good service to their passengers and actually most of them do. However, this two were surprisingly bad that I thought they had damaged their company's image and their boss could sack them for enough reason. They talked loudly and when we encountered a bad traffic jam at the station entrance. They shouted at each other.
The driver was definitely bad, really bad. He was literally sleeping when we came to the highway. He nearly hit the vehicle ahead twice and could have caused serious traffic accident. Fortunately scenery outside the window was gorgeous with haunting limestone pinnacles, snaking rivers, patches of paddy at the foot of the lush hills, amidst which farmers were working. I glimpsed a group of mud-thatched houses just beside some extravagant villas. China is trying hard to modernize the whole country but a little poverty still exists. Moreover, the gap between the rich and poor continue to widen.
Yangshuo around 1 hour's drive from Guilin is a lovely tiny town set among the limestone pinnacles. The area is internationally known for its superlatively natural beauty. Over centuries it has been a magnet for artists and poets who has been inspired by the unique landscape and created their masterpieces.
It was noon time as we reached Yangshuo and the weather was sweltering hot. No sooner than we got off the bus, a group of vendors flocked to us to offer their tours. Some of them were really persistent and I had to say " No"several times to escape them.
It's peak travel season and the hotels in this town were heavily booked. The town seems built for tourism with 50% if not with 60% of its residents involving in tourism-related business. Hotels, roadside hostels, inns scatter everywhere around the town, but they still can not meet the huge demand in high season.
It turned out to be a nightmare for us not to book a hotel in advance. Scouting for a hotel in that sticky, hot day was absolutely a plague. We tried several ones but were told no room available all the time. It was 1:00 pm as we found the Riverside Hostel. It is a very small hotel run by a local family. The hotel's location is good at the West Street. The owner asked 150 yuan for a double room. After several minutes' negotiation we agreed on 100 yuan/per room.
When traveling China, you should never miss the food it offers. Chinese food in all its variety and complexity is unquestionably one of the finest pleasures a visitor can experience in China.
We tried the famous local dishes for our lunch. Restaurants serving basically the same food are plentiful in this town. We randomly picked one called Sister Xie Restaurants. It is relatively big with a big dining hall and some private dining rooms on the second floor. The dining hall was very crowded and noisy. We requested Beer Fish, a famous local dish that is supposed to be on the table of all who visit Yangshuo. Before the main dishes were served, they provided a small plate of snack for free usually steamed peanuts. The Beer Fish is definitely worth a try. As is common in Chinese cuisine, the whole fish was deep fried and then cooked along with beer, green peppers and tomatoes. It's fragrant and delicious.
No doubt, Yangshuo is more than a place for eating. Yangshuo is also China's foremost venue for rock climbing, with around 200 bolted routes and several companies offering guiding on that thrilling tour program. The Black Rock Climbing is one of them. "We have been in business for over 3 years and the climbing we offer is fantastic"said Mr Han, manager of that company. "All our equipment was imported from aboard to ensure the safety"added he.
Our guides were three young men who are lean, muscular climbing machines. After half an hour's drive through picture-postcard natural gallery, we arrived at the climbing site. Along with us there was an expat climber, Steven. Steven was from Switzerland and has traveled across China for the past half year. I was feeling confident as standing there watching Morgan and Steven sprawling on that sheer cliff.
Soon it's my turn. I was equipped with a pair of skin-tight, bone-crushing climbing shoes, a helmet and a crotch-enhancing harness. I managed to get two thirds of the way up before running into trouble-unable to hurdle a flat, slippery vertical rock. I found nowhere to go but down. My legs and arms were trembling. " I don't have any strength to go higher. There is no way up. I am coming down" I screamed on the rock.
But my guide (sorry I have forgotten his name) and my companies-Tina, Angela and Morgan showed no sympathy for my predicament. They shouted encouragement"Don't stop, you can do it. You are almost there". Whipped by their encouragement, I paused and then continued and finally reached the top. Back on the ground, I stood shaking and sweating as I watched Angela scramble up the same cliff face like a giant brown lizard. I have to thank my dedicated guide and my colleagues here for all their encouragement. I really couldn't have made it if without them.
After climbing, we went along a highway back to the town. The pastoral scene in the area is refreshing and relaxing with a mixture of green paddy, snaking rivers, haunting limestone pinnacles. It should be a natural paradise if without tourist groups.
Yangshuo is also a goop place to pamper yourself with a relaxing massage. After a day's hard trip, we went into a small massage shop in that street to revive those weary bones. The owner-a pretty, young lady was quite friendly and hospital that's the reason why we used her shop. But we were all a bit disappointed with their awkward skills.
The next morning, I was awoken from a lovely sleep from a call of a cock. The town was very quite before business began. The tourist street-West Street was still partially asleep, and just waking up. Most of the shops had not open yet. It was tranquil with only a few kids briskly walking by.
We decided to go to the Stone City for that day. Stone City as its name implied is a small village filled with stone-built houses. The place is not far from Putao Town about 1 hour's drive from Yangshuo. There were no regular bus services from either yangshuo or Putao there so we had to hire a tricycle. The road condition is unbelievably bad with potholes and thick dirt. The roadside greenery and houses were shrouded by a cloud of dirt triggered by the passing-by vehicles. We were pouncing over those zigzagged narrow so-called highway though those high mountains for around 30 minutes.
We arrived at the entrance of the village at the midday. The village fills a small basin surrounded by high mountains on four sides. At first it blew my mind how secluded the place was. But I realized that I was completely wrong when I saw a luxurious brand-new van packing in front of a seemingly old house. One old man in his 70's was voluntarily o be our tour guide. His body looked tattered from many long years of a difficult life, but his eyes had a fire the showed his strong spirit. His strength amazed me as he set a fast and steady pace that few of us were able to keep in stride with as we climbed the 800 steep steps leading to the City Gate. It really challenged your physical strength as you climbed up to the City Gate at a mountain pass along those steep steps. I almost couldn't catch my breath as we reached the top. The stone city was said to be built 500 years ago to protect against enemy attack. They were originally 4 gates but two were destroyed, abandoned. I was quite interested in the history of the place such as detailed information on how it was built, but unfortunately, our tour guide can only speak broken Mandarin. The language barrier prevented me from knowing more. That's quite a shame. The bird-eye view on the city gate over the vast area below was awesome with a small village nestling among lush pinnacles, shining farmland and a narrow dirt way zigzagging through the mountains linking the village with the outside world.
It came a long time trekking along a narrow mountainous path before we reached another village in a valley. On the way, we saw wide fruit trees heavily laden with fruits, some wide flowers. Wide animals such as monkey once saw but we did not see any.
The stone village nestles at a mountain valley. It is very small only with a few houses of around 20 families. Around the village are pomelo orchids. All the structures in that village are built with stone, stone houses, stone toilets, stone coops. We had a lunch there and afterward caught a bus back home.