Today was my first full day in Yangshuo. I think I am recovered from my zombie-like, sleep-deprived sleep of the previous day.

The hotel lobby which houses an add collection of painting, sculptures and memorabilia. Note the huge Mao painting on the back wall!

Before moving on with my observations, I do need to put on my art critic’s cap for just a moment and give you a verbal tour of the hotel’s art collection! In the lobby of the hotel, there is a bit of a gallery happening. Above the cashier is a massive, relaxed & grinning Mao wearing his usual tunic, staring down on all the foreigners. Its not bad actually, but the expression is awkward and just wrong. Spotting a grand piece of kitsch, the French hotel proprietor picked it up for a song. Equally as disturbing, and I’m sure cheap, was the frightening Mona Lisa hanging at the head of my bed. It is also painted by the same proportionally-challenged artist. The painter tried – and his skill and handling of a brush is admirable, but poor old Mona looks more ghoulish more than serene. Sadly no picture exists since I accidentally deleted it. But maybe that’s a good thing as Michelangelo rests a little bit more at peace tonight!

A woman on the street tries to sell me on a tour. Not working. OK, so now a picture book. Nice touch keeping it in plastic from the rain!

So what is there to do in this town? Plenty! There is no end of the locals wandering the streets, shouldering bags filled with brochures and maps, trying to sell you on any kind of trip you can imagine. Want to rent a bike? Plenty of those around to be sure – even the tandem bikes. Watching fresh tourist meat on a tandem is always good for a laugh. A word of caution though… start from the curb, don’t start in a crowd and make sure you are on speaking terms with your fellow rider. If not, it is cycling carnage! Want a boat ride? Any kind of boat can be had here, as Yangshuo is a river town and the river is the bringer of all life. I read that somewhere!

Beside locals selling you on tours and excursions, there are several, more official kiosks and storefront offices where trips can be put together, paid for and cars hired to ferry you around. Best you use one of these, as they are more legit’ and they will take care of all the details – something that is missing in the rush to push pamphlets in the hands of deer-caught-in-the-headlights western tourists!

A typical Li River tourist boat which can seat four. Note the new take on bamboo for the hull - white plastic drainage piping which is heated at the ends and bent upward.

Today I eased into the groove and settled on a boat trip up the Lijiang River – the Li River. It was raining pretty steadily on the river as the plastic drainage pipe, faux-bamboo-hulled boat chugged and wheezed on the start of its two-hour trip. The Li was choked with craft of all sorts, apparently unaware the rain was unrelenting and soaking all the dry tourists.

A good look at the lawnmower-type engines and the two-blade propeller on this craft!

The air hung heavy with brooding mist and fog. Out of the mists you could make out all the other awning-covered skiffs and their put-put-put lawnmower engines powering ridiculously delicate 2-bladed propellers at the end of 4-metre drive shafts. Despite the tiny blender-like propellers, these boats could move with great agility! Need to slow down?… Just tip the engine down, raising the shaft’s propeller out of the water and you quickly come to a stop in the on-coming current. Got to admit, it’s all that is needed here. No hi-tech gearing – that would just be overkill, and frankly a little garish!

The ride up the Li was stunning despite the weather. The meandering river wandered through and around the karst mountains and sheer cliffs that plunged hundreds of metres right down beside the boats. It was a bit of a spooky feeling seeing these landforms. Like Apocalypse Now, the river had it’s own life and rhythm, you could here the moan of Martin Sheen and Marlin Brando through the foggy drizzle.

Today, all colour had been drained out of the landscape in place of grayscale landforms. Colour would almost have been too much. The humped and rounded karst shapes, formed by water eroding the massive mountains of limestone left elegant and feminine shapes as far as the eye could see. Other than a similar type of geography in Vietnam, there is nothing like this anywhere. So when you are shooting these mountains, forget about getting the colour right, go for the subtle gradations in tone as the mountains overlap each other long into the distance. This is one area where well-exposed black and white photography is absolutely the right way to go, especially on a drizzly day!

At the end of the boat trip, you land at the shore of a tiny village where you are descended upon by people selling you fresh flower headbands (quite pretty actually), postcards, rain ponchos (more like brightly colored garbage bags with arms and what passes as a hood), and long pump-style squirt bazookas! I opt for a cinderblock room facing the street and drinking tea while keeping an sharp eye out for the local buses heading back to Yangshuo.

Extra seating in the return bus to Yangshuo!

Back in Yangshuo, after a bus ride so full that passengers sat on wooden stools provided by the driver, I shower and take a quick scan through my days photos before heading out to dinner. I didn’t shoot too many today, only about 450 so far – it was after all, a pretty dull day!

The Li River, surrounded by karst mountains on this dull, but magical rainy day.

Out on the streets I noticed there were several places in town catering to western tastes. On such place was the Red Star pizza restaurant. I ordered a small pizza and a bowl of pasta carbonara. The pizza was a surprise. It was hot, well cooked and tasty. The pasta on the other hand was a complete watery disaster though! No intervention, short of getting into the kitchen myself  and demonstrating could bring the carbonara back to life. I left it almost untouched in the thin red plastic bowl. Not bad though, a 50% success rate in western cuisine!

West Street as seen from my very non-Italian, Italian hotel balcony!

This morning I switched hotels due to booking issues with the Mid August festival. Just down the street was the Venice Hotel. To my knowledge, other than the stream running beside another street in town, there were no canals here, nor varnished gondolas. Ah! Yes! But there are vaguely Italian-style balconies above the street! My room is 303 and looked over West Street below. It is tireless form of entertainment – watching the garbage-bag-wearing people from above. Some walk hand-in-hand, others with hands behind their backs (these are mostly the Chinese), and still others picking at themselves, unaware they are being observed and even photographed! The fun never ends!



  1. Carleta Emerelda says:

    What a great web log. I spend hours on the net reading blogs, about tons of various subjects. I have to first of all give praise to whoever created your theme and second of all to you for writing what i can only describe as an fabulous article. I honestly believe there is a skill to writing articles that only very few posses and honestly you got it. The combining of demonstrative and upper-class content is by all odds super rare with the astronomic amount of blogs on the cyberspace.

    Over and above your writings are you photography and videos. It is like watching Discovery channel. My children love to watch what you filmed too!

  2. Ben Strong says:

    To begin with ,you have created a very beautiful template . You gave me an idea for a future blog that i want to build . In addition ,i trully enjoy your posts and your original points of view. Good Job

  3. Dorthea Sartori says:

    This is the best weblog for anybody who wants to search out about this topic. You realize so much its virtually onerous to argue with you (not that I really would need…HaHa). You positively put a new and positive light on China. I have been to China. Your blog must be essential reading for anyone wanting to go

  4. Chris Kitaplar says:

    Helpful information. Fortunate me I discovered your site unintentionally, and I’m surprised why this coincidence didn’t came about earlier! I bookmarked it.

  5. Norma Canditta says:

    Wow, superb blog format! How long have you been running a blog for? You made blogging look easy – and I know it is not. I tried – it takes so much of my time. The full look of your site is wonderful, let alone the content material!

  6. Hazel Schodtz says:

    I like Your Article about MAO, MICHELANGELO & LAWNMOWERS :: Perfect!


    I¦ve been exploring for a bit for any high-quality articles or weblog posts in this kind of house . Exploring in Yahoo I ultimately stumbled upon this web site. Reading this information So i am glad to exhibit that I have an incredibly just right uncanny feeling I found out exactly what I needed. I such a lot for sure will make certain to do not overlook this web site and provides it a look on a constant basis.

  8. Jared Kitapsec says:

    I¡¦m now not certain where you are getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend a while studying much more or understanding more. Thanks for magnificent info I was looking for this information for a trip

  9. Benny Birtwell says:

    You can definitely see your enthusiasm within the articles you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. All the time follow your heart.

  10. Toby Weeden says:

    This blog is fantastic! I like studying your articles. Keep up the good writing! You realize, lots of individuals are hunting round for this information, you can help them greatly.

  11. Elva Marder says:

    Fantastic publish! Very informative. Other travel journalists should read more of your work. You should proceed your writing. I am sure, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!

  12. Jeff Simpson says:

    You’re a good webmaster. The website loading speed is amazing. It seems that you’re doing an amazing job on it. Furthermore, The contents are a masterwork.

  13. Christen Mallie says:

    I am not sure the place you are getting your information, however great topic. I need to spend more time studying your work. Thank you for magnificent info. Great photos too.

  14. Stephine Scobee says:

    Love your blog!

  15. Dwayne Mckendrick says:

    very good most of your articles, many years of quality posts, i admire you in many things and i disagree in others, but still love your posts.

  16. Tyson George says:

    Highly interesting many thanks, there’s no doubt that your trusty followers may want even more reviews like this carry on the excellent work.

  17. Joshua Kerrigan says:

    This is a great post, I think you should turn it into a 2 or 3 part series.

Leave a Reply