Yangshuo is the where I have spent longest in a single place so far; 3 weeks. This is partly because I had planned to spend time here to climb and also due to waiting for Rob to arrive.
The town itself is rather touristy, West Street, the main high street is full of neon lights, stalls selling the usual tack, bars blaring out music and clothes shops selling ‘genuine’ articles which apparently all have “goretex, very good” (in a chinese accent). Hawkers walking around trying to sell you postcards, Dvds, watches (or watchey), books, tours, the lot. As annoying as they are after a while I become numb to them, palming them off with Boo yah xie xie (I don’t want thanks) seemed to work but I think it was largely the fact they recognised me as a repeat target.
It has a completely different look post 4am when the town shuts down (apart from KFC and McDonalds), you get an insight as to how quaint the city once was. A lot of foreigners work here, mostly for climbing or English schools. Being a place of beauty it attracts tourists, the majority being Chinese but also passing westeners. Re-reading it doesn’t sound like a place anyone would want to visit, contrary to my words the town seems to work. It’s a fairly laid back town, cheap and surrounded by amazing Karst Peaks making it the ideal place to relax. If you are sick of the town rent an ‘Alice’ for Y5 (50p), of course I mean bike (the bike name/brand) and cycle out 10 minutes and be amazed by the scenery.
My hostel, Showbiz had apparently been recently refurbished. I grabbed a dorm room as it was cheap and I enjoy meeting people that pass through it. Being on the 5th floor it soon tested my fitness but also meant it was a little noisy at night due to the rooftop bars. The beds were still hard, but good by Chinese standards, rooms clean and staff very friendly. It has a bar on top that is very relaxed with a pool table and charcoal table heater which was appreciated as the nights were getting colder.
I went Kayaking with 3 others from the hostel (for Y150), we were dropped off near Fuli and had to paddle a several K’s down the river where we were flagged down and caught a bus back to Yangshuo. We picked the 12 o’clock slot so it was warm and were lucky enough to have a scorching day. After some paddling I introduced some games in which we sunk a ship, I say ship as they were so wide making it almost impossible to roll. After a few more games , frequent swims and ‘lazy rivers’ we were caught by the bamboo raft sent down to take the kayaks back. He told us to hurry up so we feigned an attempt to speed up, a group that set off one and a half hours after us caught us up as we reached the finish line. They looked pretty tired and can’t have had much time to enjoy the scenery. It was nice to be in control and able to get so close to the peaks. I would recommend doing this but it’s more fun as a group and check the weather.
I met Ian who funnily enough climbs at the Castle Climbing wall (London) too, I don’t know him but subconsciously recognise him. He had a few days left and no climbing partner, we joined forces. It was good as he’d been here a while and could pass off any beta on the area and made finding some crags easier. JB and Aled from my hostel had never climbed but showed interest so rented all the gear, the deal turned out we offer our experience and they get to climb. We managed to get a few days good climbing in, after not climbing for almost 6 months I was easing back into it. When the sun was out the days are very hot, like and oven on the rock but the nights were starting to cool. After Ian, JB and Aled left I joined forces Dan from Devon for a few days before he heads to Thailand, Krabi, where I should hopefully see him again. I managed to get a few more days worth of climbing before resuming relaxing and Rob arriving.
A few days prior to Rob combing I get new room mates Ian & Patrick, here for 2 weeks from Calgary on a training/climbing holiday. They introduce me to aerial straps, the sort you’d see in the circus. I am amazed how difficult they are and require such strength in all areas of the body. This could be a new obsession and I’ll need to source my own set up. They are very active and give me a little push which I need as I was getting complacent in relaxing waiting for Rob. We wake at 4am to walk up the Tv tower to see sun rise, the walk only took 1 hour from bed to the top. After picking a roof we realise the best view is from the fenced off ‘trespassers will be prosecuted by the full extend of the law’ bit. In China we assume
this means being shot. We decide the view is worth it and traverse the fence and sneak up ontop of another roof; perfect, we can lie down and see the best view in town. After a few minutes we hear a noise and realise its the attendants house. He comes out and assumably says we shouldn’t be there, we successfully bribe our first official with £5, he’s happy and returns to his house. We are left with am amazing view as the peaks slowly appear and the wispy clouds given colours. We hear a knife being sharpened and decide its time to go before he asks for more money! He comes out to see us off and is kind enough to open the gate and sees us off with a smile.