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.
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…
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 🙂