Saturday, July 16, 2016

Yangshuo, China: A Million Amazing Mountains

If you think Guilin had beautiful karst mountains (now that I have learned the word 'karst', I can't stop using it), Yangshuo is the epicenter of them.

From Guilin, we cruised down the nearby Li River to the city of Yangshuo - a smaller, more mountain-filled (more mountains!?! YES INDEED), outdoor mecca.

What It's All About:
Yangshuo is a city in Southwestern China - it's only an hour from Guilin by car, and is super popular with both tourists and backpackers because of its insanely beautiful landscapes. If you came to China wanting to see the gorgeous craggy mountains, Yangshuo is where it's at - Guilin is more of a jumping-off point.  A Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo is kind of a must-do in life, at some point.

Cruising down the Li River

There's tons of outdoor activities you can do in Yangshuo - from cruising on the Li River, to biking, hiking, swimming, climbing, etc.  Parks and I spent a couple days in Yangshuo doing all the outdoor things.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Enjoyed a lovely 4-hour air-conditioned cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo - along with half of China. These river cruises are now so popular that there is literally an assembly-line of boats cruising down the river, one-by-one, at any given time.  But once you do it, you see why. The entire way is completely, spectacularly breathtaking.

This is literally the landscape the entire time.  There are about 5-10 "famous sights" to see on the way, i.e. particular mountains that they've decided are better than the others - but I almost preferred the ones that weren't famous, because there were far less people jostling for photos and it was all gorgeous, either way

Assembly line of boats

You can't stop taking photos. And you're scared to go inside and sit in your fancy air-conditioned seat, because you're so afraid you'll miss something. I think Parker and I only managed to make it to our actual seats for the last hour of the cruise, when all the famous sights had passed and the temp soared past 100 degrees.

This is a mountain that looks like a sideways face, which Parker is uncannily demonstrating.

This is one of the famous mountains, called "Nine Horse Mountain" - it is supposed to have nine horses that appear in the huge rock face, in both black and white. I can maaaaaaybe see one?

This is another mountain I liked on the left, which is supposed to be shaped like Hello Kitty's head (sans bow).

The most famous viewpoint of all, which you will see explained in the next photo

It's the same view that is on the back of the Chinese 20-yuan note!!!
(I will fail to mention that neither of us had a 20-yuan note, and I may have creepily accosted a Chinese woman to borrow her 20-yuan note for this photo)

We <3 mountains

FINE WE'LL GO INSIDE IF THERE'S LUNCH.  Especially when it comes in adorable themed boxes!

Inside, there were good views too. Like this woman who couldn't even remove her selfie stick from her phone before talking on it

  • And before we knew it, we had cruised right into Yangshuo! Parks had booked us some adorable boutique hotel out in the middle of the sticks, so we cabbed it out there.

The adorable lobby of our new hotel.

Our room had a fancy wooden bathtub in it, which I promised myself I'd use at least once, as a personal hot tub.  And then it took like, an hour to fill the thing up.  Do you see how deep the thing is?!  The best laid plans, sometimes...

View of the mountains from the dining room

And then there was a lovely rooftop! With a lovely view! I loved our hotel so much

  • That evening, we went on a brief tour outing to watch cormorant fishing!  In case you don't know, there is this amazing bird called a cormorant - they're water birds, and they dive underwater to catch fish.  Some of the local farmers here fish by using their own cormorants. It doesn't sound very nice, but they achieve this by tying a rope around the birds' necks so they can't swallow the fish they dive and catch.  The cormorants are trained, so that after cruising around the river, the fishermen basically take each cormorant, turn them upside down, and dump all the fish from the cormorants' throats into their own baskets. Voila. A basket of fish.

A fisherman and his cormorants on his raft

This is a terrible photo I tried to take of the cormorant fishing. Cormorants are super smart. They hang out on the raft and alternate diving into the water to catch fish.

Cormorants cruising for fish

We followed alongside the fisherman in our own little speedboat. It was so, so cool

Then we got back to shore - here is another terrible photo of the fisherman dumping each cormorant over to empty them of all the fish. It's crazy how many they store in there.

And then we were allowed to take photos with the cormorants on our arms. Which was terribly difficult in the dark.

Parks and his cormorant

Later that evening, we were dropped back downtown to a popular area called West Street. Where we proceeded to go to a fish spa. We were supposed to only have 20 minutes, but I think the lady liked having us (read: Parker, a white person) sitting in the front and advertising her business, so she let us stay for well over an hour. And she sold beers. It was a good life.

And then we went to an incredibly strange club (there's TONS on West Street) where there were various performances on this tiny stage with thumping music, from girl dancers to boy dancers to a strange man karaoke-ing poignant love songs

  • Day 2, we rented bikes from our hotel and biked a couple miles through Yangshuo, and up the river to go bamboo rafting.

Biking in Yangshuo

Parks paid more for his fancy mountain bike, while I opted for the cheaper cruiser option - which came complete with a fancy yellow basket and a child's seat in the rear. Good, that'll make it easier for me to steal an adorable small Chinese child, if need be.

Our views on the entire ride.  These mountains are EVERYwhere you look here.

Our bike ride was through small neighborhoods and small country roads, which I loved.

And then we reached the bamboo rafting embarking point! Weeeeee

This was our super-nice bamboo rower, who I'm sure loves wearing this outfit to work every day.

We had a nice setup under an umbrella - we cruised under bridges, over mini waterfall things, past snack stands, etc. It was so, so relaxing and lovely and great.

  • Near the end of our 2-hour rafting journey, our rower asked if we wanted photos taken.  I think I responded "SURE" the same time Parker went "No."  

But the photos turned out the greatest! They caught us going over a mini-waterfall, which was awesome. There were about 9 of these on the entire journey, and they're the greatest.

And then the photog turned it into a photo shoot, where he'd yell out poses for us to do

"Make a heart with your arms!"

"Splash each other with water!"


"Kick your foot up!"

"Do a cute yelling pose!"  (I'm paraphrasing his Chinese here....)
There were a bunch of other poses which I didn't include because I'm not sure this needs to be a post filled with us doing poses on a bamboo raft. 

  • That evening, we went on a walk near our hotel in search of a pretty view to watch the sunset.

We didn't find one (I think our hotel missed the fact that we wanted to have a vantage point of the sunset, and just thought we wanted to take a walk during sunset - leading to their recommendation to take a walk along this very ordinary road)

So we headed back to the hotel, got a bottle of wine, and went to go watch the sunset from the roof.

It downpoured right before sunset, but that ending up leading to gorgeous hazy skies


And because of the rain, we were the only people on the roof deck!  Except for the adorable hotel lady who took our photo, of course.

  • Day 3, we started off by going to the Moon Water Cave - it's a cave much like the others in China (very cool, lit up with tons of neon lights and descriptions of shapes you can see in the rocks, etc.) - but this one Parker wanted to hit up, because the tour ends in a mud bath, and then a hot springs area.  

We didn't bring our cameras in, but here are photos from the internet. Yo, the mud cave part was slightly creepy - it was like watery, cold, questionable runny mud.  Or like sitting in weird brown-colored water.  They (of course) had a photo man to take photos of you, as well as mini-slide things and such.  The people claim the mud here has healing properties (of course x2. If it's one thing Chinese people also like, it's healing properties).  Later on, we watched as a man refilled the "mud pool" using a hose.

And then after the mud pool is the hot springs!  All the pools are different temps, and it's kind of cool and eerie getting to sit in them inside a cave. There was a point where Parks and I were the only ones in one of the baths, and Chinese tourists would come traipsing through taking photos without realizing we were lying motionless in the baths, and so when they finally noticed us, they would FREAK. It was kind of amazing.

  • We had a flight back out of Guilin late that evening, so our hotel hired us a car to take us - and on the way, we requested he stop at one of the most famous/gorgeous viewpoints over Yangshuo.  It was a quick 15 minute "hike" to the top.

And this, THIS was the view from the top. Are you dying. Do bears eat salmon. 

Dreammmmmmmm status

We got there just before it started raining as well.  I could seriously stare at this view forever. FOREVER.


  • We sprinted back down the mountain as it started to rain - and our driver headed towards the airport.

And on the way, he stopped by the road again - for THIS VIEW. SO MANY VIEWS

If this view was a person, I'd marry it

But then we got to the airport - and were faced with a 4-hour delay to our 10:30pm flight. It was pure misery. Well, maybe more for Parker, because we were exhausted and he couldn't find anywhere to sleep (you do not, I repeat, NOT lay or sit on the floor anywhere in China). He tried to engineer his own bed, exhibit A above, but I don't think it worked. Meanwhile, he claimed I snoozed on the seat beside him peacefully until we finally boarded around 1AM.  Oops.
Off to Shanghai!

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • In China, they colloquially call all women 美女 (mei nu), which means "pretty girl", and all men 帥哥 (shuai ge), which means "handsome brother."  That's how they yell at you and get your attention and call you 24/7.  It's funny because in Taiwan, you call all the ladies "小姐" (xiao jie), which means "Miss" - but in China, that's what they call prostitutes. So you do not call women that, EVER.  Jesse apparently learned this mistake firsthand.
  • Addresses in China are not that helpful - especially in the larger cities, the numbers will change and not be in order, and the roads are inconsistent.  Having cross streets is the #1 most helpful information to have when giving location information to a taxi driver.
  • Yangshuo is the prettiest. This is a fact.


  1. i'd like to make over there as well. Very relaxing looking at your photos. Well done!

    1. Thanks! Yes, it's definitely a place worth visiting - make sure to add it to your list =)

      Thanks for following along!