The Chinese Countryside: Our Trip to Yangshuo, China

After Shanghai, we started our travels down to Yangshuo in the countryside of China. We spent 19 hours on an overnight train in our lovely 4-person cabin. Our neighbors, a Chinese couple from the Guilin area, spent most of the night to themselves. The beds were actually pretty comfortable, but the bathrooms were a little less so. I mean seriously…who can pee standing over a hole on a moving, clanking train? We ate some of our hodge-podge snacks for breakfast and made some tea. Around 9 am, the Chinese couple started to interact with us. While their English was limited, and our Chinese even worst, our conversation was mostly small phrases and charades. But we learned about their lives in China and enjoyed taking some cabin buddies photos together. Getting off at Guilin was a mad house! We quickly looked for a van that would take us to Yangshuo and 2 hours later, we were dropped off at a busy round about in the middle of the street with our heavy backpacks! We got up to our hostel which was slightly unfinished; meaning some of the walls weren’t actually put up yet, but our room was actually pretty nice. Our hostel was slightly outside of town, surrounded by green forest and only a few tiny houses. We freshened up and headed back towards town for dinner. The town of Yangshuo is much more built up than I imagined, and actually had a pretty big international and tourist scene. We spent the night wandering the streets, seeing light shows, performers on a stage, crazy food stands and really cute shops.

The next morning, we set off to see some of the countryside. Of course, the best way to do that in Yangshuo is on bicycles! Just at the end of town we found a bike rental place, grabs 2 bikes and headed off into the unknown. Riding in the town was absolutely crazy and terrifying, as road rules don’t really exist here. At one point we drove through a construction site just to avoid the heavy traffic! But just as we left the city behind, we were surrounded by beautiful green fields, stunning mountains, and the Li River. It felt as if we had jumped into the setting of Avatar! We biked through some pretty gardens, saw Moon Hill and a few small villages along the way. It was a perfectly warm and sunny day for a bike ride. When we got back to town, we decided to share a huge bowl of fish stew for dinner. We weren’t totally convinced that eating “River Sword Fish” was not going to make us sick, but the stew was actually pretty delicious! We even found some scrumptious rolled ice cream for dessert. As we were walking the city streets again, taking in all the sights, we saw a father lift his 5-yr. old son onto his shoulders. At first, I thought it was cute, the father protecting his son from being trampled in the packed streets. Then I realized that the father and son were watching a stripper performance through the window…what a Dad!

Even though our butts were sore from all our riding the day before, we rented bikes for another day exploring Yangshuo. We biked to a small village called Jiuxian to see what local life was like in the country. Well, we definitely got what we asked for, and it was absolutely lovely! We saw some really old buildings, farms, and cows with nose rings! But our favorite part was just walking and biking along the Li River. We loved watching the log rafts sail up and down the river, gliding through the striking mountains. We even saw a wedding on the river with the Bride and Groom floating on the rafts! It was a beautiful trip, and we felt that we truly saw the rural, nature side of China. For our last night in Yangshuo, we saw the sunset along the river and grabbed Indian food for dinner. It was my first time eating Indian food and it was one of the BEST meals we had in all of our adventures! We ordered the mixed platter, which came with a few entrees and a couple sides. Butter chicken, Dal Makhani, the butteriest naan – everything was to die for! Just writing about it is making me hungry! It was the perfect end to an amazing trip to rural China!

The next day, we had an amazing breakfast before heading back towards the train in Guilin. We planned to stay for 1 night here before heading off to Chengdu for some panda fun! After we dropped our bags, we went to see the Sun and Moon Pagodas and the Fir Lake. We actually found out that the amazing Indian restaurant we ate at in Yangshuo had another location in Guilin, so obviously we got more Indian for dinner. It wasn’t as good as the location in Yangshuo, but I think it did turn me into a huge fan of Indian food!

Matthew & Stephanie

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