Friday, 27 March 2015

Yangshuo, China

The journey from Hong Kong to Yangshuo was surprisingly simple, made easier by the fact we didn't have to carry our luggage. It was an eight hour journey which consisted of a bus, metro, train ride and a border crossing. The journey ran very smoothly and the border crossing was far more civilized than Cambodia.

On arriving at the hostel, we headed out for a group meal. The group we are travelling with have been really nice and very sympathetic about our lack of luggage. The group meal was one of the parts of the holiday I was most apprehensive of, being a fussy vegetarian and reading some of the TripAdvisor reviews beforehand. However, the meal was amazing, with a wide range of foods that I even I enjoyed, and only costs £4! That is cheaper than breakfast in Hong Kong.

On our first full day in Yangshuo we spent the morning shopping for extra clothes and exploring the town. There are so many roads heading out from Yangshuo and each of them becomes more rural the further you get from the center. The atmosphere in these areas are far more relaxed than the 'strip' where we are staying! In the afternoon we had to travel to 'Moon Hill'. In Yangshuo there are many hills that randomly poke up, just how children would draw them. These hills are a striking comparison to the flat countryside and unlike any I have ever seen. Climbing the stairs to reach the moon shaped crescent in the hill was a challenge, but definately worth it! Following this it was time for a bit of relaxation - mud baths and hot springs. The mud baths were crazy! The mud was really thick and clung to you as you tried to move, but its meant to be good for your skin right? Once again, we were a tourist attraction for the local Chinese people, who were very amused by our pale skin! 

In the evening we took a boat ride alongside a cormorant fisher. This fishing involves training birds to catch fish, rather than the fisherman catching them firsthand. Elastic bands are placed round the birds beaks which stops them swallowing the fish. Although it is a very smart way to fish, I still felt it was too mean and the fisherman was too rough with the birds.

The following morning, the torrential and continuous rain had finally subsided. As a result, we were able to go bamboo rafting down the river Li. The scenery was amazing and it was so relaxing to just sit on a bamboo raft and float down the river. The farmer who was driving our raft clearly obtained commission for any photos we brought from the touristy booths, as that was all he wanted us to do! In the evening, we indulged in a Chinese traditional therapy - hot cupping. The aim of hot cupping is to remove toxins that can cause a colds or fluids that create achy/sore backs. A flame is put inside a wooden cup, heating up the air inside. The cup is then placed on your back. As the air cools, your skin is sucked into the cup, effectively creating a love bite. This part of the procedure felt strange, but didn't hurt. It was only afterwards, when the dark red circles appeared that the skin became sore and sensitive - as well as ensuring you look like an octopus. Sleeping on these circles was not pleasant. The therapy must hold some truths though, as parts of my back that are normally sorer became a much darker colour.

On our last full day in Yangshuo, we Kayaked down a different section of the river Li. This was the best fun! Not only did you get the awesome scenery of the bamboo rafting, but you also got to control what happened on the river. I personally love exercise that works set muscle groups and so kayaking was perfect for me. Although I'm normally game for some dangerous fun, I wasn't game for swapping boats after we made a kayak raft - falling in a cold river definitely isn't appealing! In the afternoon we went to one of our group leaders, Sally, village. This was supposed to be a small rural village, but it was still a big town by English standards - it was bigger than my hometown of Clevedon. This modernised rural town was definitely a surprise, I expected small huts and fields and wild animals - instead I found a smaller version of Yangshuo! Eating dinner with Sally's family was lovely. We sat on low tables with tiny wooden stalls - this made the food seem more authentic in a strange way.

The next stop is in Chengdu which is only a 25 hour train journey away...

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