21 September 2011

Fried Slugs [Yangshuo, China]

Yangshuo is near the top of most peoples hit list when visiting China. But none of the guide books I have read can accurately describe how unbelievable this place is. And if they can't, what makes me think I can?

If I thought Guilin was unique, Yangshou is a more extreme version. Smaller town, bigger, more dramatic mountains. But there is also the not so good bit; it is extremely touristy. One street in particular - West Street - is now overrun with souvenir shops, restaurants and bars. And worst of all, with tourists come the touts. And they are the ruthless, never give up type. It kind of kills it really.

I was lucky enough to be hosted by a guy named Sam in Yangshuo. He actually runs a guest house called Fun Sams B&B, as well as a whole bunch of tours, but still hosts couch surfers for free! He is an awesome guy, check him out.

Getting out of the city in Yangshuo is one of the best things I have done in the whole of my time in China. I grabbed a bike and cycled around for a solid two days. I will tell you what I did, but I am not even going to try and properly describe this place; it is indescribable. Even the photos don't do it justice.

I saw a huge part of the Yulong River, cycled through lots of small villages, experienced amazing scenery, green rice paddies, bamboo rafts slowly floating down the river all sandwiched between the huge karst mountains.

I climbed to the top of Moon Hill; a hill with a big moon-shaped hole in it, which provided spectacular views. At the bottom of the hill there are a whole lot of woman trying to sell cold drinks from a polystyrene chest they carry around. When I went to climb up the hill one of the old woman tried to come with me, fan me down (it was really hot) and sell me drinks. I told her no but she was being stubborn. So I just started climbing faster. An old woman with a big chest of drinks is not really any match. On the way up I saw five or six other tourists, all with small Asian woman in-tow, fanning them down.

The Big Banyan Tree; a complete waste of time and money. It is LARGE tree, but common, there is no reason to try and turn it into a tourist attraction and charge money for it. In my opinion, this 'embodies' the tourism industry in China. My advice; Skip it.

Lucy came to hang out in Yangshuo for a couple of days and we decided to go for a cruise on the Li River. There are some really amazing and beautiful parts, so it was definitely worth the trip. But others, especially around XingPing, were insanely busy. The river was full of boats. A lot of the time all you could hear were the buzz of outboard engines. At the end of the cruise, near XingPing, are the mountains which are shown on the Y20 note which was pretty cool to see.

Stupidly I spent first day in Yangshuo city. I visited Yangshuo park which is kinda nice. Then climbed up Green Lotus peak; which was extremely disappointing. You can only climb half way up and it is quite expensive. It is really not worth it.

Open to new experiences, I tried some of the local cuisine, recommended by some woman I was randomly talking to... Fried snails. Apparently not only famous in France. They were... interesting. Let's just say I wasn't going back for a second helping. Later that day I saw a guy collecting hand fulls of them out of the river.

And during the evenings? Lucy and I hung out with a friend, Yolanda. We got drunk, and played pool and foosball. One night we went to a place called Monkey Jane's, most well known for Beer Pong. Lucy had played a couple of times before, and I had never played in my life. But it turns out we made a pretty good team, winning five games straight! If you win six games in a row you win a free t-shirt. But Jane herself heard we had just won our fifth so stepped up to play. Her team member must have been about seven feet tall, so could reach half way across the table and practically drop the ball into the cup. And even then, their win was only by one cup. Pretty solid effort I say. And I wasn't too concerned - free beer all night = WIN!

From Yangshuo I made my way to Nanning for a couple of days. The main reason... no, the only reason, was to get my Vietnam visa. There is not a whole lot going on in Nanning, so I spent a lot of time writing this blog and watching House. I had a nice host in Nanning for the few days I was there. She was really hospitable and an amazing cook... buuuuuut, she had a six year old nephew who was a little shit rambunctious. I was strongly encouraged to play with him while my host played on the computer in her room. One morning I woke up and my host was gone! Leaving me with him alone, no note or anything! I think the limits between couch surfer and babysitter was being pushed.

OK a few final observations:
- Chinese seem to love umbrellas. Umbrellas for the rain, umbrellas for the sun, umbrellas for the wind. Everyone is carrying them. They even have them attached to their motorcycles and scooters. And they love to be completely blasé with them - hitting you in the head, poking you in the eye and generally hurting you in any way they can.
- The majority of Chinese clubs (I mean those targeted toward Chinese, not foreigners) are crazy. Insanely loud music, FULL of smoke, 90% have karaoke, complete with some of the worst singers and music you have ever heard. Besides that, many of them have poles. Like stripper poles. And they have girls dancing around them. I never saw any naked, but there was certainly plenty of flesh.
- Like Mongolians, the Chinese love to wear t-shirts with English writing. Problem is that a lot of them don't know what the t-shirts say. Making for some awkward situations when you burst out laughing while walking down the street.
- A lot of girls don't shave their armpits. No judgement... just an observation.
- Old Chinese people like to keep active. Like go out walking, yoga, but more humorous; dancing. They seem to get together in big groups, in some public place, crank some music and... dance. Most of the music is traditional Chinese or what I would describe as 'oldies', but sometimes they mix it up with some hard-house... Makes things interesting.


  1. great pics and interesting tales

  2. Stunning photos Neal. Keep the words and pictures coming.

    Re umbrellas, did you know that it's because in China, pale skin is seen as beautiful and as a sign of wealth and properity. If you have a tan, it's not special because all the millions of peasants in the fields have tans. It's why you'll notice all of the billboards have pale skinned western women adversiting beauty products.

  3. You did a great job describing the place. The scenery is unbelievable! Amazing, those bamboo boats really float.


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