You may have noticed that during this entire trip – since leaving California in August – I’ve been staying exclusively in major cities. Kyoto/Osaka, Busan, Seoul, Shijiazhuang, Xi’an, Beijing, Hong Kong, and then Guangzhou. All major population centers of one million or more.
Finally, the trend has been broken.
I’m writing to you now (I really am – the posts are officially back up to realtime!) from the riverbank of the Li River an hour outside of Guilin – in Guangxi province, China.
When I decided to take the leap and buy a last minute plane ticket from Guangzhou to Guilin, I was really wondering if I’d made the right decision. I’d finally found a nice, comfortable, (comparatively) inexpensive spot where I could apparently work in relative peace. Why the hell would I leave so quickly?
Because every single person I talked to – without exception – assured me that I’d be in store for bigger and better things.
And wow, am I ever glad I took the plunge. This place really is just magnificent:
“Pedaling across the rice fields through Yangshuo’s soaring limestone peaks is often the top experience of travelers in China. If you’re like most, you’ll come to Yangshuo for a couple of days but end up staying far longer.”
Yangshuo and its surrounding mountain villages offer weeks of pristine nature hikes, “dragon’s backbone” rice terraces, stalactite caves, cormorant fishing trips, bamboo raft excursions, and relaxing days at the park – all to the sweet sound of retired farmers plucking away at their 100-year-old musical instruments. But aside from its natural environment, the feel of Yangshuo itself reminds me in many ways of Dahab. Because the central area, while still managing to retain its small town charm, has clearly turned into a budget traveler’s haven – with countless dozens of lodges, cafes, and restaurants – all with English speaking staff and menus. Prices, while higher than the real local villages, are dirt cheap when compared to the West – or even to the China’s larger cities. And since it’s off season, the touts are few and the deals are yours for the taking.
My current residence is a single room on the top floor* of the Bamboo Inn & Lodge. I’ve got a DVD player, cable TV, broadband Internet, powerful heater, marble-tiled bathroom, and wonderfully soft queen-sized bed. Right outside my door is the rooftop patio with a stunning vista of about two dozen mountain peaks lining the small, winding Li River (see panorama below).
And a couple flights of stairs down leads straight onto Xi Jie – “Foreigner Street” – the site of all the delicious restaurants you could handle, from traditional Chinese Sichuan to cheese pizza and hamburgers. All this for about $8 a night. Dorm beds in Yangshuo can be had for as little as $2.50.
The only downside I can see to Yangshuo is that it’s cold – ten degrees colder than Guangzhou, which was probably ten degrees colder than Hong Kong. It’s definitely no longer T-Shirt weather. But I can deal with it 🙂 I still just hope that getting transport to Shijiazhuang for Chinese New Year isn’t too much of a problem.
*When I first arrived here, I checked into a room on the ground floor. Although the amenities were just as nice, it was blocked off from sunlight by the neighboring building – and felt like night time 24 hours a day. If I were “traveling” this would be fine, as I’d only be indoors at night anyway – but because I’m planning on staying here to work, I had to move to a place with some more natural light. So I negotiated the same price for the “penthouse single,” provided I pay in week-long increments. That’s fine. It’ll prevent me from wasting more days by continuing to move around anyway. And I’m plenty happy here 🙂
Below is what I see when I turn my head to the right: