It was a relief when we arrived in Guilin at 6am, from the overnight train. We took a 6:30am bus to Yangshuo. At the bus depot at Yangshuo there were some touts who tried to convince us that the hostel we were staying at was dodgy, and that we should go to theirs instead. We had been warned about this. When we refused but persisted in walking rather than taking their friend’s taxi, they pointed us in the wrong direction.
There were a couple of kilometres to walk to West (Foreigner) Street, where our lodgings were. At present it is peak season, so the pre-booking was useful. There was a mix-up with the dates though. The hostel thought we were a day early but they had another room we could use instead, so in the end everyone was happy. We left our bags there and went in search of 2nd Breakfast (1st had been a very early apple on the train). There were no pineapples on sticks, alas, which I’d been looking forward to, but we found many foreigner places with set breakfasts. There’s no difference between price for Chinese or Western food around here, and they do a genuine Western.
Afterwards we hired bikes Y20 each for a day and rode to the Moon Mountain, a natural phenomenon. To it is an eight kilometer ride one way, but it went fast. The bikes had adjustable seat heights, which was good, but ours were racing seats; long and slender and very hard, which was less comfy. They were especially uncomfortable on the bumpy road. We were a bit sore the next day.
The walk up the mountain was long but satisfying to clear the lungs, even though we hadn’t showered for a while and still stank of cigarette smoke. There were many persistent little grandmothers here, who followed you up the mountain in the hope that you’d feel sorry for them and buy a drink from them. We explained gently in Chinese that we had all the water/ beverages we needed, didn’t want anything and would like to walk up by ourselves, thanks. The view from up the top really is stunning. We took some photos. I stood under the Moon shape and saw water dripping from the stalactites around me. Big drips, they were. Eventually one dripped on my arm. Hooray! Having a drip come down at you from directly above looks a little weird but fun because they drip slowly, and are big, so you can see them coming for a considerable time.
We rested near the top of the mountain where it was cool and there was a stone table and seats. I wrote a few postcards. If we’d had one offer of a drink-seller, we’d had 25. They were most persistent. Down again, then we got on our bikes and headed back.
We stopped off at a Dragon statue-something, but not many people were there and it looked very shut-up, so we went to a park where there were people. And an admission charge. Everything remotely desirable to do or view has one. If the air were any better there’d be one on that, too. So we paid and went in. It was 2:30 and I’d seen locals with noodle bowls so we had a bowl each. I, er, mistook the strength of the chillis, and put some on our bowls. Bad idea. Very bad. Terrible, actually. It was hot as anything. Andrew suggested pouring the broth off, which helped a great deal.
After lunch we grabbed an ice cream and went to explore the place further. There was an 150 year old tree. It looked like the original died long ago, but the extra bits and offshoots formed a second trunk. This had happened about 3 times. It was rather large. There was also a boy with cormorants with rings round their necks, just like The Little Golden Book’s ‘Ping’! but he wanted money to take his photo.
There was an ancient water wheel that we sat and watched for a while, interesting limestone rock cutouts, caves and rock formations. There were peacocks, 2 donkeys and 4 performing monkeys, (3 of which were dressed up with the 4th being about 6 foot tall). They were dressed up. Altogether it had a festive atmosphere.
Do you know which side to go to?
The only quandary was when we came to unlock the bikes and couldn’t find the key. We retraced our steps, searching but to no avail. So we called Amy, our hostel owner who suggested we try someone else’s key. I was sceptical, but these are Chinese locks, after all. After trying a hairpin, Andrew managed with a key that the ticket attendant had. I strongly suspect we weren’t the first to have this little trouble. We called Amy back, explaining the situation, then rode the bumpy 6km remainder back home to check-in and a shower. The bathroom was mock-stone, very Robin Hood Castle-esque.