On weekend evenings, Yangshou's tourist district turns into a very loud party district, rivalling New Orleans' Bourbon Street for noise and crowds. Dozens of bars and discos pump out loud music, which can make it hard to get a good nights' sleep (our hotel provided free earplugs). The pedestrian streets get very crowded, which makes it a challenge for groups to stay together. On the bright side, it's a great place for lovers of nightlife!
When you go to the river Li tours remember to wear sandals or even go barefoot. You (specially your feet) will get wet 100% sure, so better to take precautions. Most of the boats can store your belongings on a plastic bag and hang them to kee them safe.
When you go to Xinping to take the boats along the river, you will find first some big boats. These go SOUTH towards Yangshuo and this part of the river is not so interesting.
Keep alking to the right, cross the little river you will find and look for the small bamboo boats. These go up NORTH where the nice landscapes are.
Security in China seems not to match western standards everywhere: In a river, a bridge less than two meters wide has no lateral protection.
I saw no car crossing it, but motorbikes and people shared the narrow space, obliging to additional precautions.
At first look China seems to be calm and peaceful, everywhere we see organization and progress, while the guides congratulate the government, that "started to fight hunger, and now is opening to free initiatives". Is it really true?
It's impossible to hide the tensions growing between the progressive sectors of the population, and the poor rural areas. The strong regime disguises it, but... how long?
In Yangshuo we faced the hidden China.
In a paradisiac place hundreds of policemen were... controlling the population. It was difficult to get an explanation, but we got it:
The inhabitants wanted to take profit of tourism, renting their rafts to tourists, selling food, drinks and crafts, as in any place where tourism is an opportunity. But not there.
It seems that the government has plans to explore the site, so, the locals must stay out of it. The faces revealed the rebellion, and the proportion of forces (3 or 4 policemen for each civilian) showed that they where not easing things.
We were not disturbed, but the pleasure of the best sights in China was "stained" by the tension around us.
We were alerted to the danger of mosquitoes in China, specially in the night trip to see cormorants fishing.
Well, we had some mosquitoes, but were not seriously bothered by them, maybe because, in this trip, following suggestions, we used too much repellent. But they were there, yes they were!
Clouds of them, by the lights!
Everyone knows Chinese eat cats and dogs. Hearing it one thing, but to see the butchery of it is another matter.....I wasn't prepared by this gruesome visual challenge until I innocently ventured into their wet markets to check out what the locals eat! If you are a pet lover, you will be most upset and disgusted by this scenery. It is hard to believe outside the market, Yangshuo looks like a perfect picture of heaven on earth, but inside the wet markets, a pure hell awaits those innocent and defenseless cats and dogs. I am not going to argue whether it's right or wrong to do so, as this is the culture in that region. But you are out to enjoy a good holiday, and frankly does not need this picture to remind you of your holiday, better believe me on that, absolutely X rated and not for the faint-hearted and kind at hearts.
I just want to call the attention of all VT members that, when visiting the busy Western street in Yangshuo, which you will no doubt go there as most people do. Be very wary of pickpockets! They usually worked in pairs, wearing similar color shirts as some kind of identifications amongst their own pack. Usually are men, looking lost and out of place in the street, they usually tried to be near you she you are shopping and looking at things. Carry your bad in front of you and always have your hand on the opening of your bag to protect from them. U do not need to know how troublesome it is if you lose your travel documents when in China, especially in a small city where your embassy does not have an office there.
My friend warned me about it. Lonely Planet warned me about it. But I was a seasoned traveler, cautious and cynical. And they still got me.
If you are coming by crossing the border from Hong Kong to Shenzen and then taking the overnight bus to Yangshuo, be very careful. There are skilled pickpockets working the train and bus station.
I had my passport and a case of DVD's taken out of my backpack. Luckily, the passport had no value to them and they threw it away. Less than five minutes after I discovered the theft, a policeman came running up to me with my passport. I was VERY lucky.
Cycling is meant to be a big thing to do on a Sunday in China and it was a Sunday when I did my cycle trip out of Yangshuo as to see the sights. I cycled out of town along with a whole load of other cyclists in their teens and early 20's riding tandems and more basic bikes. I reached the bridge over the Yulong River where dozens of teens were gathered at.
Beware of pickpockets especially when you are traveling by bus.
When the bus that we were on was going into Dragon Back Hill Tunnel (which was dimly lit with orange light) to Xingping, we noticed there was one pickpocket trying to slit open a bag of one of the passengers. There are usually more than 1person during this operandi modus.
This is not a Danger Tip but more of a Warning when ordering to prevent wastage. The portion served is really big as such do not over-order your food. As a guideline, even for big eaters, an order of 2 dishes for 2paxs is really enough. See picture attached.
** China's food is usually slightly more oily and salty than the usual.
While walking back to school with a friend at 11 PM along the Li river in a dark and lonely spot, two men ran up behind us to steal our purses. Being tai chi students we fought them off. If you get mugged, don't bother going to the police, it's a waste of time. After talking about my experience, I met two more people in ONE WEEK who had been pick-pocketed by pros (on West Street) AND a woman who had had her purse snatched off of a table outside of a restaurant. So, don't put your purse down, watch-out for the pick-pockets (the man who was picked had his money in his front pants pocket and he didn't feel a thing) and be very careful in dark, isolated areas. Fortunately no one had knives or gun with them.
We arrived in the middle of Yangshuo town via a mini-van. We had not booked our hotel but knew where we wanted to go. Unfortunately, we did not have a map and had only a vague recollection of where the hotel might be.
A young man offered to "help". He told us that he worked at the hotel we wanted to go to and it was undergoing renovations and was closed. It was also a long way to go to. He offered to show us another hotel which was just as good but cheaper.
I went with him and had a look at it. Actually, it was OK but we did not fall for the scam. While I was away DH bought a map and found that the hotel we wanted was only about 100m away so we told the young man we would go check the other hotel first. He left us very soon after that. Duh!
These guys are everywhere in Yangshuo town, from the moment you alight from the bus till the moment you leave Yangshuo.
Most of them are trying to make a living by introducing hotels/services and get a small commission.
What I did was - Just walk past them without saying a word (I know this is rude - but it works 95% of the time). Imagine being swarmed by these guys and saying NO all the time - very tiring.
I did however had a light moment with one of the them during my stroll... The lady offerred some tours which I had done but she wouldn't believe me. So instead of trying to convince her, I showed her a small brochure about Malaysia, insisting that she sign up a package with me before I will agree to sign up with hers. :-) (btw I'm not a tour operator - just pick up a brochure from the airport)
Soon she realized that she's not going to sell me anything - therefore she left.