China - A Planner's Journey

Countryside Trips

Two trips into the countryside are most memorable from the stay in Yangshuo. One was to Yueliang Shan (Moon Hill) just a few kilometers south of the village, a peak with a large natural hole through it near its summit, and the other to Xingping Town, about an hour's bus ride north of Yangshuo, on the Li River. The central area from which many of these trips are launched is the bus station area, with its large plaza, at the intersection of Diecui and Pantao Roads.

Moon Hill

We left Yangshuo about 7 AM by bicycle for Moon Hill. This is a karst formation with a half moon hole of 15 to 20 meters diameter near the top. The hill rises about 350 meters from its base.

The changing scenery kept competing with the requirement that I keep the somewhat rickety bicycle on the road and functioning. Rice fields and family compounds down dirt or gravel pathways, such a multitude of magnificent peaks arising straight up hundreds of meters from the labyrinth of valleys. Beside pauses for the scenery, I had to stop once to adjust my seat to the maximum height and once to put the chain back on the sprokets.

We biked for about an hour thru busy streets and then country roads. The whole distance we saw people, karst peaks, rice fields and an occasional water buffalo. I noticed that the sound of this rural area is much richer than ours. To my ears came the sounds of chickens, ducks, cormorants, dogs, people talking, birds, a multitude of vehicles - motor or person driven. People we met greeting us with smiles and hellos.

We followed the Yulong River for a while until we reached a landing. At that place we switched to bamboo rafts, with the bicycles resting at the rear. Chinese boatmen pushed and guided the rafts down the river with poles. Passed a boatman dressed in business casual poling his cormorants across the river. One of the more interesting experiences was traversing some five weirs that dammed the river's flow. Just needed to raise your feet at the point when the raft tipped forward with a plop into the water beyond the weir.

At the end of another hour we got off the rafts with our bicycles and biked some 20 minutes to a little inn at the foot of moon hill.

At the restaurant I ate a local breakfast of pork dumplings and a mango milk shake - not sure if the latter was local cuisine. The lunch setting was on an outdoor terrace lined with flowers and above the road.

After lunch I climbed Moon Hill with about half our party. We were accompanied as far as the hole by local women who fanned us - it was hot and sweaty. We bought sodas from them at this view point. Ultimately, we continued our climb sans the Chinese ladies (they declined to go on), to the highest point on the hill. The views were awsome, although hazy - whether from smog or moisture I do not know. The smells were clean and refreshing from the surrounding woods.

The bicycle return to Yangshuo was by a quicker, more direct route.

Xingping Town

The ride to Xingping was fast, passing other vehicles frequently. It appeared that many former rice paddies were being converted to orchards in recent years, given the size of the trees.

Ironically, once we reached Xingping we had to wait some time before we could board the boat. The boats could not leave right away because of some bureaucratic rule instigated by Guilin boat companies to reduce the competition.

The delay turned out to be beneficial, since it enabled me to observe incidents and scenes that I would have missed otherwise. Pointed out by our guide was the resemblence of the scene on the 20 Yuan Chinese paper money with the scene visible across the river.

Next I saw a bunch of school boys coming to the river with their laundry and washing it. A good sign for male responsibility and sexual equity in China?

The boat landing where we waited was a bend in the river. The closest peak was a vivid demonstration of this river's power. The river had cut a distinct notch in the cliff at water level just down stream from the boats.

Out in the river I noticed one of my favorite sights, a cormorant fisherman in his boat. A string is tied around the cormorant's neck to prevent swallowing of fish. Smaller fish are given as rewards later.

Finally, the go ahead was given and we boarded our boat that was waiting below. The views were spectacular. New ones appeared at the rounding of each bend in the river. The nearby peaks sometimes rose right out of the water. Even saw a water buffalo being bathed after a hard day's work,

We passed small bamboo boats which were restricted to Chinese passengers. Not sure, if the reason was safety, why they were not banned for use by China's own citizens as well.

The setting sun added a fantasy quality to the scenes as evening approached.

The boat traveled up river toward Guilin, ultimately turning around near Tiger Hill. For a while we thought we might be stranded when the motor stopped, but ultimately the problem was fixed and we returned to Xingping.

Click on the box to the right to generate a series of photos taken on these two countryside trips.

H Graem © 2007