The countryside around Yangshuo is so beautiful that it features on the 20 yuan banknote. Our tourist map helpfully pointed out the exact bend in the river featured on the note. We, along with lots of others, passed by it on our bamboo raft.
We’ve been having a great time here cycling to villages through beautiful countryside and taking bamboo raft rides on the rivers. There are quiet tracks between villages, off the main roads, which we can cycle along. Despite the numbers of tourists in town and on the rivers, we’ve pretty much had the cycle tracks to ourselves. It has been pretty hot so maybe we’re mad to be on the bike paths rather than on the water.
Some of the paths have taken us along by the rivers and others by the rice fields and all the while we’re surrounded by these amazing karst peaks. Its like moving through a traditional Chinese painting. I’ve really enjoyed being in control of my own means of transport too and happy to get some exercise in beautiful surroundings.
The town of Yangshuo itself is really touristy and full of cafes and bars, of varying quality. Overall we’ve been pretty disappointed with the food here but we did find a most excellent place called the Yak Cafe. It’s run by a Canadian man and his Chinese partner and they serve the most delicious food in all of Yangshuo. I’ve been having french toast with maple syrup and muesli with yogurt for breakfast most mornings (more fibre which is great). After returning from our bike rides, hot and hungry we’ve had veggie burgers and fries and Tibetan pizza and fresh watermelon juice. All absolutely delicious.
Yangshuo is probably the most touristy place we’ve visited in China. There seems to be tourists everywhere but a lot of the people we’ve spoken to have told us that business is way down this year. A few people mentioned that the difficulty that tourists had getting visas (because of the Olympics) might go some way to explaining the drop.
Yesterday, Susan and I were out cycling along a picturesque river towards a 400 year old bridge. It was lovely. We were cycling just fast enough so as to create a bit of a breeze but not so fast as to be wasting energy and causing a sweat. The landscape was beautiful with all those broken teeth karst mountains dotting the scenery. We didn’t see any need to hurry.
For some reason or another I happened to look at my watch – not for the time but the day. I noticed it was Monday which made me smile. I hadn’t had that mild dread the night before and I hadn’t deliberately started the day with low expectations so that I wouldn’t be too upset or surprised when my day went badly (you might get the impression that I don’t normally like Mondays and you’d be right). Come to think of it, I haven’t dreaded a Monday for almost five months now. All of this left me feeling pretty happy with myself – I felt like I was on holidays again.
I know that I might be coming across a bit smug and I’m sorry for that. The truth is I don’t feel smug at all – more relieved than anything. In the last few weeks all of this traveling malarkey has been feeling a bit too much like hard work. I know that people who actually are working right now might find that a bit hard to take – I’m whining and I know it. The reality is that Susan and I have been getting sick quite a lot lately. It seems like pretty much every day has been devoted to just trying to look after ourselves. We’ve been finding it hard to gather the energy to pack and then lug our bags around and we’re certainly sick of having to sort out train and bus tickets in China. It’s been a bit difficult at times and we’ve been starting to ask ourselves what we’re doing…
Staying put in Yangshuo for a week has sorted all of that out for us. We’re feeling healthy again for starters. But for me, the moment came when I realised it was a Monday and I was on the bike, in beautiful countryside, far far away from the office where I would normally be spending my weekdays. For Susan, I think it was a succession of fibrous breakfasts that did the trick.
We’ve stayed here longer than we intended. It’s been great to be in the one place for a while. It’s been great that everything’s been so easy here. It’s great not being sick. And most of all it’s been great to get out into the quiet countryside and feel like we’re on holidays again.