Welcome to the last post about the Deason families adventures in China. This post takes us to Yangshuo where Rob and his family rated on the Li River and got to see a bit of China’s countryside.
You flew into Guilin and traveled by road from there to Yangshuo. How were the roads compared to those in the States?
Our hotel arranged for a car and driver to take us from the airport to Yangshuo. It is wise to do that to avoid exorbitant fees for transportation when you land in Guilin. Yangshuo is about a 70 minute ride into the countryside. The highways are similar to those in the USA. We arrived pretty late into Guilin, so we saw very little traffic on the roads. Once we turned off the main highway however, the roads got narrower and bumpier. Even at 10pm we encountered people walking in the streets like in broad daylight.
Tell me about your rafting tour on the Li River. What was the highlight of the experience?
Yangshuo is known for its stunning landscapes. We booked a river raft tour along one of the most scenic stretches of the Li River. Each bend of the river presented a view more spectacular than the one preceding it. Limestone formations jutting from the earth make up the unique topography. Unlike mountains which rise gradually, these formations shoot up in distinctive shapes of domes or spires or even like hands. China’s twenty dollar bill depicts one scene along the Li River. The raft makes several stops along the way at small outposts along the river where guests can purchase food, drink and gifts. A photographer took our picture then wanted to sell us a print. We had plenty of our own photos so we declined. A Chinese couple who had been riding along in a raft next to ours insisted on purchasing it for us. I don’t know whether it was that whole “western beauty thing” or done out of gratitude for allowing one extra person in their party to ride with us. We returned to the river at dusk to witness a light show produced by the same team that created the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. To be honest, I was bored in stretches, but the moments of brilliant choreography between man, river, mountain and lights made it well-worthwhile.
The view from your room was absolutely amazing. Where were you staying, and would you recommend it to others?
We stayed at the Yangshuo Family Retreat. If you ever have a chance to go I’d recommend this place. We had a spacious, rustic room with a balcony opening to two limestone formations. It had an open bathroom like we experienced in Beijing, but they provided a mop, making clean up easy. One thing I liked and my wife didn’t, was that the retreat’s restaurant served more westernized foods. We gave ourselves only one full day in Yangshuo, thinking it offered only the river tour, but we wished we’d stayed longer. Visitors can take a boat cruise inside a cave and go swimming and rock sliding in underground pools. Yangshuo was a third highlight of our trip.
On your final day you biked around Yangshuo, what were some of the unique things you saw?
The hotel offered free bikes to go riding in the local area. We went riding our final morning in Yangshuo. I started out with my wife and daughter, but quickly gave up…not having ridden a bike in x number of years. Don’t judge me. They came back two hours later full of stories. They witnessed a woman washing her clothes in the river and old men carrying their loads on poles across their backs. Very old world.
Did you prefer the urban or rural parts of your trip?
We liked all aspects of China. I may give the edge to the rural area only because there are 1.3 billion people in China and they are all on the roads at the same time in the cities.
Do you plan on returning to China?
Our daughter expects to teach in China for another two years, so it’s possible we will return. Rachel described our visit as “Baby’s First China”; she says there is much more to see and do off the beaten tourist path. The flights are costly, but once you get there things are quite affordable.
For someone visiting China for the first time what are the top sites you would recommend?
Our top three experiences were the Great Wall in Beijing, the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi’an and Yangshuo. If your readers ever have an opportunity to go, they should definitely visit these sites.
Thanks so much for sharing, Rob!
Note: All photos in this post and the other posts from Rob’s trip to China were taken by either Rob or one of his family members.