Feb 102009

I know I said this once before, but…Yangshuo was SUCH a pleasant little town! Even though I spent the vast majority of my two weeks there indoors or at cafes programming away, I still felt quite sad to leave.

Yangshuo is completely landlocked, located deep in the midst of the Middle Kingdom – yet somehow it doesn’t have that typical Chinese “edge” at all. The streets are clean, there’s very little pollution, and not a single car horn to be heard.

I would’ve just loved to’ve had the opportunity to see it in the summer – for as nice as it was in the winter, the vast majority of its attractions were unavailable due to the cold weather (i.e. no riding over the waterfalls in bamboo rafts this time of year, and no spectacular Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces).

I’d be willing to bet that Xi Jie, the main walking street, is just overflowing with life during peak season. Even in the cold winter they’ve got outdoor terrace seating with delicious-smelling bbq skewers beckoning pedestrians to have a seat and pull off their evening gloves.

As for me, my favorite (and almost daily) meal turned out to be this rather unassuming little corner restaurant.

By the time I left I didn’t even have to order – the husband and wife owners knew exactly what I’d be having. Ten pan-fried dumplings and a steaming plate of fantastic Guilin noodles – for about 0.60 cents.

And somehow, even the touts felt friendlier and more “homely” in Yangshuo. Where a step outside of Guangzhou train station resulted in a constant battle against pamphlets in your face and tugs at your arms, the countless shoeshiners roaming Yangshuo’s streets with their little shineboxes – including the one who literally asked me half a dozen times every single day – would handle your “no thanks” with a huge smile and quick laugh. By the time my two weeks were up I’d even become friends with a young girl who said hello because she was trying to sell me a necklass on the street – but didn’t switch off as soon as she realized I wasn’t in the market to buy.

After spending the better part of a week programming away in my favorite little hippy-themed cafe, listening to The Beatles and watching backpacker couples stroll by on the cobbled road outside, I decided to take advantage of one particularly sunny day and explore a bit outside of town. I rented a bike and headed towards Moon Hill.

Unfortunately, Dave, my regular dinner buddy had already left Yangshuo for his next destination – Kunming – so this trip would be done on my own.

The ride was great, but I was disappointed when I finally reached the top to find that the late winter fog had mostly obscured the otherwise fantastic view.

Much more memorable than the peak itself was a site that I happened upon by total chance: while making my way back, I noticed a farmer selling fresh strawberries from a cart on the side of the road.

I pulled over for a batch, managing to communicate that I needed a place to rinse them off prior to consumption. She indicated a building a little off the road to the right…so I rode down to check it out.

Strawberry patch!

With a bucket of my own I was off to pick a little pile of red, ripe strawberries. They were so sweet you’d SWEAR they’d been injected with sugar.

Too bad I obviously got ripped off when they weighed my pickings and told me the price… :roll:

After completing the ride back into town – and passing about five dozen of these odd-looking, clunky tractors with the engines hanging off the front – I found my way into a small covered farmer’s market that was just about to close.

I hadn’t planned on splurging for dinner, but when I took a look at this woman’s menu and noticed the fabled Yangshuo Beerfish I decided to take a seat. She pulled a still-wriggling specimen out of a bucket and weighed it. It was much more than I wanted. “Thanks anyway,” I said, “But that’s a bit much.”

So she cut the price in half.

Like the strawberries, that fish was so overflowing with flavor I could barely believe my tastebuds.

Most readers of this site probably realize that in Asia, my destination-of-choice is Japan. But one thing I’ve gotta say is, for as many wonderful qualities as it has, Japan is definitely behind the rest of Asia when it comes to food. Raw fish and (almost) unflavored rice just can’t compete with the myriad of colors and flavors you find in places like Korea, Thailand and China.

Now if only there weren’t so many bones in that fish πŸ™‚

  34 Responses to “A Pleasant Little Town”

  1. oh man, the pictures of the noodles, dumplings and strawberries are making me hungry! πŸ˜›

  2. You can guess which of those photos got my juices flowing

  3. Haha yeah…I thought of u when I took the photo πŸ™‚

  4. Yum, me hungry!

    I’d argue that Japanese food is better than Korean though.

  5. Wow those pictures were amazing. You have gotten to see some beautiful places in this world. My favorite was the one of the little boy running next to the bull. He exudes such innocent and genuine joy.

  6. P: Really! That surprises me…both Eli and I loved the Korean way more!

    Soraida: Thanx πŸ™‚ And yet…there are still so many more out there πŸ˜‰

  7. Cool stuff…..I’d forgotten about the beer fish…..I remember it now as being really good, but filled with bones. The picture of the boy is great. I want to go back to xi jie now!

  8. Actually, every fish I had in China was completely filled with bones.

    …Chicken, too πŸ˜›

  9. Don’t you know that everything in China has bones…..chicken, fish, potato chips, coca cola, etc. πŸ™‚

  10. HAHA! That was probably my favorite (public) comment of all time πŸ˜†

  11. Sure.Chicken and fish in China both have bones though some haven’t but most have! We like chicken and fish with bones ,which make them more dilicious,i think.It is a bit difficult for me to explain more in English ,sorry.I heard that in USA all chicken and fish have no bones because American people are lazy to eat them with bones,is it true?? haha.Especially in Chinese New Year,chicken and fish must be cooked wholly too not to say without bones!:-)))

  12. …but bones don’t make it more delicious, you can’t even eat the bones – they just make it a hassle to get to the good meat! Of course if you’re making something like soup, you’ll keep the bones in while cooking…but then remove them before serving it to the customer (because the customer would never eat them). And in the case of fish, those tiny things always get caught in your throat and between your teeth and stuff!

    Ick…boneless it is for me, hehe πŸ˜‰

    BTW, what happens to all the chicken breast meat in China? I must’ve eaten chicken a hundred times but not once did I get any of the lean, healthy white meat πŸ˜›

  13. J: Nope, Japanese is better. All Korean food tasted either like really spicy kimchi or like chestnuts. No exceptions. It felt like they all use the same red sauce on litterally everything.

    I’d like to see a boneless chicken farm πŸ™‚

  14. I can see that…the flavors are similar…but still, I found them to be so much more zingy and less bland than in Japan! And you have to admit, white rice is less fun than a table covered with 12 little dishes each with its own variation.

  15. Hmm, I’d say what you refer to sounds exactly like yakitori or yakiniku. Really yummy in both countries. Then you have curries, fish, MOS, οΎŒοΎšο½ΌοΎ•οΎˆο½½ バ「゙, tonkatsu, yummy baiten, and all the stuff I make at home with goods from the supermarket. Ramen is a tie since it doesn’t come from either country.

  16. No no, I’m talking more about stuff like this http://www.justin-klein.com/wordpress/post150 (5th picture) – where you’ve got salads and soups and kimuchi and chijimi and crab (gone) and meat and more. Pretty much every sit-down meal I’ve had in Korea was served with a similar myriad of side dishes, from Bulgogi to Dog Soup…and all the little dishes are all-you-can-eat.

    Certainly, nothing (except for In-N-Out) can compete with MOS or Freshness Burger, but to me the variety of Korean flavors just blow the Japanese ones away. Baiten are SPECTACULAR (http://www.justin-klein.com/wordpress/post2194) and cheap as can be.

    As for supermarket food, can’t help ya there – I ate every single meal out in Korea! πŸ˜†

    (and yes, 倩下一品ラーパン is also heavenly, hehe)

  17. I can understand about chicken with bones or steak with bones, as the meat nearest the bones is often the most flavorful….but fish….come on! It makes no sense. Removing the bones after cooking a fish is something that just makes the dinning experience more enjoyable….no downside

    And you did get some breast in China….my maid has been trained to only cook w/ breast πŸ™‚

  18. Lol, are you talking about Chinese chicken breast or simply Chinese breast? πŸ˜€

  19. hahhaa…..yes….she cooks with her own breast….no hands…..all breast πŸ˜‰

    I think your mind is even more in the gutter than mine!

  20. He he, you’re talking to a single man, dude πŸ™‚

    And based on your recent description I’d love to experience a session of your maid’s cooking. Of course she’s got five pound silicone implants and used to be an international model before atteding Le Coq D’or cooking academy in France, right?

  21. hahahahaa ROFL

  22. Justin: i never have let bones of fish catch my throat .lol!If fish without bones ,then is there any difference between fish and fish meat?:)

    About chicken breast without bones ,maybe i only eat at KFC or Mcdonald!:-)otherwise i don’t like eating such because it was chewed like gum in the end.

  23. “it was chewed like gum in the end”…hahaha…..I have no idea what you are talking about but I am amused πŸ™‚

  24. Peder……I just noticed that your browser icon is for IE….do u really use that pos to browse the net?

  25. Do you really have no idea?Once you are here,let you experience it,lol

  26. I have probably experienced it many times….I just didn’t understand your English…..η”¨δΈ­ζ–‡η»™ζˆ‘ε†™δΉŸε―δ»₯

  27. Yep, using IE or FF! It depends….

  28. I still can’t believe that a programmer uses IE for anything other than debugging webpages for compatibility! πŸ˜‰

  29. Depends on what mood I’m in, but I somehow have the notion that FF is slower to start…

    Btw, I just disabled the IE Developer Toolbar. It’s got the most annoying, braindead, unintelligent, stupid and witless bug I’ve ever experienced in the history of web debugging. If it’s enabled, it will pop up a ruler dialog box when you press Shift-R (yes, that’s CAPITAL R), so if you’re writing a response to a blog, using webmail, or any other similar task, you will not be able to write ‘R’ and you get that stupid dialog box in your face every time you forget. The weirdest thing is that they haven’t corrected this “feature”. Whoever created that shortcut deserves to be dressed naked, dipped in peanut putter, whipped silly and tied to a termite mound.

  30. LOL!!!!

    FF is indeed slower to start, but to me this is MORE than made up for by the far superior browsing experience it offers…not to mention how pathetic i think it is that IE STILL can’t figure out how to conform to W3C standards.

    Personally, I virtually never even quit FF – it’s running just about as much as my PC – so the launch time is something I rarely have to deal with. There’s a hidden option (http://kb.mozillazine.org/Config.trim_on_minimize) that swaps out its memory on minimize, reducing the memory-hog issue. And I have a minimize-to-tray app that I use to put it (or anything else) in the systray, so it takes up virtually no taskbar real estate.

  31. I can’t believe you would use IE, even if it takes slightly less time to start……it is such crap!

  32. …and I can’t believe you hired a maid who kneads the dough with her silicone breasts, but I’ll forgive you πŸ˜€

  33. Mmmmm….breast dough πŸ™‚

  34. Mmmmm…envy

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