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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yangshuo's Haunting Karst Hills

First sight of the Karst hills

Our first real sight of the Karst hills of Yangshuo was when the bus was stopped by police who were literally everywhere hiding behind bushes and parked with walkie talkies at every entrance, before a convoy of party leaders appeared in black Mercedes with darkened polaroid windows and raced off at high speed in the direction of Guilin.

Map of Yanshuo area with our bike ride (green) and boat trip (cyan)

When the bus did arrive in town, we were promptly bailed up by a tout who dragged us to a Chines hotel where no one spoke English and tried to book us in for three nights at $150 Yuan a night and then stood in the room and tried to get us to buy bus tickets on the sleeper bus to Macau for 330 Yuan each. After having already forked out the bus fare, I became suspicious and after a near violent altercation with him claiming he had already made the booking on his cell phone, I managed to trick him into putting the money on the bed and grabbed it back - at which point he threatened to have us thrown out of the hotel even though we had paid, leaving us fearing a visit by the triads in the middle of the night or when we were out with our possessions vulnerable.

So after spending two nights there and discovering the bus fare was only 180 Yuan from the bucket shop travel agent outside, we moved to a dark but quiet place which claimed to be the YMCA for 70 Yuan a night whose only scam was to get us on a cheap boat ride for 40 Yuan on the last day we were there. There rest of our stay was pretty idyllic riding around on push bikes, enjoying good food and great scenery and taking the trip to Lonsheng Dragon's Backbone rice terraces which will be in the next blog.

A stunning Wikimendia commons image from the TV tower

Scenes of Yangshuo at night

Street musicians and a giant tea pot

Video of traditional Chinese music and and light rock in Yangshuo

As you can see from the map the river passes in a great sweep right by the town, so there are broad views of the river and Karst hills and the crowded tourist "paddle steamers" coming in to dock.

Scenes of the river at Yangshuo

Panorama of the river below Yangshuo

Scenes of Yangshuo by day

NZ butter and meat and the Blue Lotus where we ate.

Tin Tin is very popular in China because of its sympathetic portrayal of the Sino-Japanese conflict, so the Blue Lotus cafe where we regularly had breakfast and dinner was making a roaring trade in Tin Tin T-shirts.

The alleys by Monkey Jane's Guest House

The use of hand carts and tricycles to carry heavy goods

Industrial shops and the market

Street sellers of all manner of goods

A taxi rank for those terrible polluting chugging noisy Chinese tractors

Our best visual experience of the karst hills was when we took a long bike ride out to the smaller Yulong River to the west of town. This was a demanding but neat bike ride out a highway past the butterfly farm, which then turned off a side road and wound along the river which was a more placid affair with bamboo rafts and near morror reflections of the hills on the water.

Scens on the bike ride west

Fishing in the paddies and the butterfly farm

Countless cyclists by the butterfly farm

The Yulong River at river junction where the road also turns off

Riding north along the river

Panorama of rafts and the weir on the river

Villages along the way

Panorama of the Yulong valley and hills

Panorama crossing the Yulong on a small stone bridge

The Yulong bacomes a perfect mirror

A hot air balloon tour glides by in the haze

A misty view back of the bridge we crossed

The little village on the other side

We crossed the Yulong on a little stone bridge and rode into an almost deserted village on the toher side which seemed to be populated only by a few women and old people, although it may be that the men were all working in town.

Scenes of the almost deserted village on the other side

Chinese graves, well, water hand pump and tractor-drawn bamboo raft

Traditional stone house with rice sprigs and protector guardian on the roof end

Modern Chinese apartments mushrooming on the outskirts

Toward the end of the time in Yangshuo we finally succumbed to a boat trip up the larger Li River. We first had to take a bus up to nearby XingPing town which was a rustic throwback to what Yangshuo might have been like 20 years before.

Scenes in XingPing

Guinea pigs for dinner anyone?

The boat tour was another hilarious case of touting run amok. It turned out we were shepherded on to very slow noisy low class village-made boats, which nevertheless gave us a tour up river. However the prices paid by the eight or ten of us varied from I think 200 Yuan at a peak down through 100 to us at a reasonable 40 Yuan each and finally down to 10 for the guy who turned up at the last minute and asked if he could get on. So much for hotel reservations!

Won showing comorants and below a comorant fisherman

Top right the rough and ready ramp to the river we left from

Scenes on the river trip

The Li River from the 20 Yuan Note

Diverse river boats

1 comment:

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