Yangshou, China

I took the train from Hong Kong into mainland China to Guangzhou. I just spent the night in Guangzhou before getting a bus to Yangshou. I biked around Yangshou and to near by villages, Fuli and took the bus to XingPing. This area of China is like Vietnam’s Halong Bay but on land. It is very beautiful.

WEATHER: 3/5 stars
It was practically snowing on my arrival. The other two warmed up and the day was sunny and clear. This area of China is also not that polluted so that was also nice.

Not speaking/reading Chinese is quite challenging for transportation. The train was easy (also best way to go through customs, so quick!) but the bus was more tricky. Once in mainland China, English is not common. I had the hostel tell me how to get to the bus station and then had them write me a note in Chinese asking for the next bus to Yangshou. I went to a random ticket counter on arrival and thankfully they use English numbers so I knew the bus time and how much it cost. I got my ticket and just showed random workers who directed me upstairs and to my gate. Once on the bus, I was yelled at for sitting in the front of the bus. Then the 5hr bus trip made a stop for lunch (I didnt leave the bus’s side out of fear Id be left) and then around the time we should have arrived, I started to get nervous that I was on the wrong bus. But eventually, we arrived (hour late) and the bus just pulled over on the side of the road and the guy yelled out “Yangshou”. I then guessed the direction into town and walked 1.5 miles to my hostel. Yangshou transportation is pretty easy. Biking is easy in terms of traffic (comparatively) but got pretty hilly out of town (and I was on a single gear/speed bike). Getting a bus was pretty easy as well, just say the town name and someone will point.

LODGING: 4/5 stars
Green Forest Hostel. Amazing hostel, felt like a hotel. Very clean, made from recycled materials, has a giant deck with a great view and extremely friendly and helpful staff. The beds are also very soft! Did have an issue with my key not working and my beds being stripped by other guests but they fixed everything right away. My only complaint was that there wasn’t hot water the second night to shower with and the rooms were freezing! There were heaters but didnt seem to do much. Also a “parade” goes down the street right outside the window playing loud drums and firecrackers every morning at like 8am. I thought it was gun shots at first and people were yelling. They throw yellow papers in the air and light these firecrackers. Then there are banners, people walking backwards who bow to this thing being carried by a bunch of men (almost looked like a casket). There is loud music and drums also.
Walking streets is a fun guessing game and memory of a map. If you find a street sign, they usually have the english name as well but there arent always street signs. Ive learned to go by landmarks. I look up the route, and remember a McDonalds or bus station or gas station. Then walk till I find those and use those as my point of reference to find my way.

GUANGZHOU: This seemed to just be another big city in china. China has skyscraper apt buildings that are huge and reminded me of the movie Judge Dred. Its very crowded and I’m not a huge fan.
But transit in this city was also very easy to figure out and navigate. You need small bills for machine so I first had to get change. Then its really cheap (2-4Y), you get a plastic token, scan on the way in, deposit on the way out (had to observe people doing this first to know what to do). The subway is very crowded though and with my heavy big bags, it was not fun. I mainly just spend the night because I thought the train and customs would be more difficult than they were. I was able to catch up on the blog though and do laundry.

YANGSHOU: The bus ride here was all mountains and peaks, very pretty. Id recommend staying here, the town is fairly small and in a gorgeous setting. West street is the main strip and the tourist section and is very pretty to walk through with little shops/bars/restaurants and creeks. The karsts are gorgeous and they light them up at night.
I think this place is better to visit in warmer weather because most activities are outdoors/water ones. You can rock climb, take bamboo rafts, mud bathes in caves, raft, etc. I didnt do any of the caves but there are tons and they light them up light rainbows. Id highly recommend renting a bike (do it through hostel) and exploring the area.

Impression Sanjie Liu: Id really recommend the show. It is like 600 of the villagers doing this hour long show directed a famous director who did the Beijing Olympics. Of course, its all in chinese and a bit pricey but I thought still worth it.

Fuli/XingPing: I biked to Fuli and my legs hated me for it. It is a hilly bike ride and upon arrival, I thought my efforts werent rewarded by the town. It seemed mainly to be a big market near the river. The 5 mile ride was pretty though it is a main road.
XingPing I took the bus to and is a pretty ancient village. The architecture is amazing and while it is becoming more touristy, still has its small fishing village vibes. The view of the river from this town is actually on their 20Y bill. People from my hostel hiked 4 hours to the next town from here but I after my intense bike ride and mountain hikes the day before, I didnt attempt. In XingPing, they have english signs but they are written in chinese sounding english which made me laugh. Also, they do their laundry in the river (soap cant be good for environment but river is actually clear). The bathrooms are just cement closets with a hole in the ground that leads to a big water basin behind it. And next it are people’s gardens so I guess it works as fertilizer. But no toilet paper and only sometimes a door.

Moon Hill: I biked about 5 miles to this attraction and it costs about 15Y to get in. Old ladies try to sell you water (even at the top). This is not an easy climb. It is steep and pretty much all stairs to the top. Nice views at the top though.

CULTURE: There is a lot of spitting and snot rockets happening (as I was warned). Now, I noticed a lot of people smoke, a lot of people have chronic coughs and there is heavy pollution so that is my justification for the need for this. I have never even felt the need to spit as much people do around here. Also, there seems to be more workers than needed in every job and so that is also theory as to why people just throw trash on the ground (its someones job to pick it up). Its very strange to watch though. The language barrier has become a game of guesses and hand motions. I had a full conversation with someone through google translate in the hostel. Ive been trying to learn words but it still sounds like jibberish to me. Ive learned: thank you, ticket, please, yes, no, hello, bye. Everything else, I just point.

BUDGET: Feb 17-21
Lodging: $26
Transportation: $60
Food: $15
Laundry: $1

TOTAL: $134