After a couple of days exploring Hong Kong it was time to check out some places to visit in China. We headed into the mainland to explore Yangshuo, a touristy but beautiful spot surrounded by karst limestone peaks. The overnight bus would leave Shenzhen in the late afternoon. The local train would take us across the border to the bus station. It sounded very easy, too easy. In reality was not as straight forward as it sounded. The bus station we went into was for shorter local buses only and the people that we asked had no English to explain this. However, after some confusing minutes and being pointed in several random directions we found our way and boarded the bus.
The bus had comfortable horizontal berths and only a few others were occupied. We had a lower berth and upper berth by the window which was great for watching the landscape go by. There were seat belts provided and I thought they were superfluous until the bus set off at a lightning speed ( I estimate about 170KPH at times). We shot through traffic on the major highways, amber street lights blurred past and the city never seamed to end. For the next 4 hours or so we saw city landscapes fluctuating with major industrial zones that seemed to have toxic chimneys and looming factory buildings. Patches of green heavy smog blurred the horizon. It really felt like we had found the worlds central production line. The industrial zones thinned and the mountain silhouettes became visible in the distance with dark grey lines of major roads occasionally heading straight into bright and hazy yellow circles of tunnel entrances. I was pretty comfortable but could not get to sleep with all these memorizing visuals shooting by.
Just as I felt I was getting to sleep suddenly karst peaks surrounded us and we drove into Yangshuo. It was about 3:20 AM, 2.5 hours earlier than our projected arrival time. We wandered of the bus and shook of the touts, making our way to West Street and into the 24 hour KFC on the main tourist drag. We spent the next couple of hours trying to wake up various night guards in hotels that either were unwakeable or could not be communicated with. In the end after watching the sunrise over the river we found a place and went to sleep.
We had come completely unprepared for the big drop in temperature that had taken place (24c in Hong Kong – to around 5 – 10 degrees in Yangshuo). So we were pretty cold but the surroundings made up for it. There was a lot of Chinese tourism going on but almost no westerners in sight. The place had a sleepy atmosphere with many cool characters around. We decided to explore the park and walk along the river for the day and booked in to the Double Moon Guesthouse. A random but ok place. Complete with free daily thermos of hot water (for having tea). In the evening we went to Monkey Jane’s roof top bar. A cozy and buzzing place with many backpackers starting off their evenings. It was run by a very bubbly Chinese girl and her friends.
After having a couple of beers and having dinner I started feeling quite sick. the next 3 days I spent mostly in bed with severe cold flashes an infected throat and all the standard flu symptoms. We only went out for short walks and quick meals as I could not handle more. We also did find some clothes to weather the cold further as the temperature went down. Vourneen spent some of the time to work on her writing.
After 3 shivering days of recovering from the flu and finding warm enough clothes we changed guesthouse again to Bamboo Hotel which was cheaper and more comfortable and set out to explore more of the surrounding areas mostly on foot. We still couldn’t go to far as the temperature was very low and the days were very rainy but we managed to walk further down and up river and enjoy some of the beautiful views the and reflections that the karst peaks and river had to offer. Meanwhile we did our share of people watching , being stared at, watched and having our pictures taken with some of the Chinese people around. They’re reactions to us varied from confusion to enthusiasm and shy interest to down right shock at times. It did make us feel being the tourist attraction occasionally.
It was amazing how much the old and the new mixed randomly around town. 1930’s style trucks with open tractor engines still spluttering along the streets alongside brand new BMW Land Cruisers. All sorts of 2 and 3 wheeled transport weaved in and out sometimes motorised, sometimes not. Old woman bearing baskets of fruit walked next to Iphone fiddling teenagers. Open fire cooking was very common but so was wifi. We walked past an open shacks which had 40inch lcd tv with random Chinese programming on it. This really brought home how quick and confusing the development must be for the Chinese.
After some more lazy days and crazy nights at Monkey Jane’s and around the town including going clubbing with random backpackers and young Chinese people we had hooked up with along the way. It was time for us to head to our next destination, Chengdu on Monday the 13th of December.