First off for us was the Reed Flute Cave, which was quite good, just a regular cave really with nice illumination here and there.
The definite highlight for us though was their, shall we say, ambitious attempts at labeling the different rock formations. You get this quite a lot at places like this; the rocks aren't interesting enough by themselves so the organisers try to convince you that they look like different things, usually just simple, ambiguous objects like candles or vegetables, but they really took things to a new level here. I don't know where they got their ideas from, but we couldn't make out any of them!
Some of the highlights being:
We were thankfully able to control ourselves, while in the park at least...
Well, I thought it was interesting anyway.
After the boat trip, we had a nice walk along the river and then on to our last stop of the day, Brocade Hill. It seemed to be a pretty happening place too with lots of activities and attractions on the way up, like caves, shrines, a 5D cinema (???), but at that stage it was around half 5 and we were eager to make it up to the top for sunset.
The sun didn't actually end up setting for another hour and a half...
We did have plenty to keep us occupied though while we waited for the sun to go down, with streams of locals coming up wanting to take pictures with us! This has happened to us a couple of times on our travels, the odd person now and again, but here they were practically queuing up for us! We were only delighted though, a nice ego boost, even if they only wanted us for the colour of our skin (and the shape of our eyes!).
Afterwards, we cycled back to the town, parked our bikes and took a stroll through the open-air markets, which sold your usual scarves, jewellery, paintings and all of that sort of thing. But there was a very nice ambiance around the place, much different to the big city feel of Guilin. For the remainder of the evening, we just got some food and chilled out in a couple of rooftop bars. And although that only marked the end of our first day in Yangshuo, it was the first and last day for our Scottish comrades, so we had to bid them farewell before cycling back to our accommodation in the dark.
The next morning, we got up, grabbed some brekkie and then tackled the Dragon Bridge once more! This time we took the much less scenic, but much less confusing main road for most of the journey, before veering off into the countryside and finally reaching our target at the third attempt.
And we're glad we gave it another shot, as the surrounding scenery was some of the best we had seen. As I mentioned before, on the surface it was quite similar to Guilin in terms of the vast, undulating limestone peaks, but Yangshuo definitely won hands down for its natural and untainted beauty. This area in particular along the riverside was especially beautiful. Rivers always make things look better anyway, but the quiet trail of bamboo rafts floating downstream certainly added an extra level of tranquility to the scene.
On the way back, we decided to try the scenic route again, with the logic that it should be a lot easier to go to Yangshuo than from it. It was basically just a case of following the river all the way, and the plan was going pretty well, leading us through some tiny villages and beautiful countryside, that is until I got a flat tyre... Being in the middle of nowhere is great when you're free and easy, not so much when you need help.
It was also the second time in a week that I got a flat tire, after the same thing happened to me in Halong Bay!
At that stage, we were probably about 9km from Yangshuo and not entirely sure that we were going in the right direction, so Aisling cycled on ahead in search of help while I just wheeled along slowly behind her. Eventually she came across a local man, and although he had no English, he did have a bamboo raft. He also seemed to understand our problem, so we followed him through the fields, down to the river and climbed aboard. Next stop, Yangshuo!
Well, not quite. He actually just brought us across the river to a little place called Yima Village. We were, I guess, one step closer to home but still had a looong way to go, and my bike was still out of action. On the plus side, we were in a village now, instead of just wandering the countryside, so had a better chance of actually finding some help. And after enquiring at a guesthouse and an English school to no avail, we finally stumbled across a bike repair man in a little stall at the side of the road who promptly (and cheaply) patched me up, and pointed us in the right direction. Phew! We were back on track! We came across the roadworks too that had halted our progress the day before, and spotted a little path that looped around them. It turns out we could have gone through the day before and never knew it!
Oh! I nearly died as well! For realz! As we were coming along the main road back into Yangshuo, I was cycling alongside a trailer full of rubbish. The driver obviously mustn't have seen me as she veered out to the left, knocking me off balance. I instinctively put my foot down and just about managed to keep myself upright. It was a good thing too as, if I had fallen, that was me gone for good under the oncoming traffic. Someone was definitely out to get me that afternoon.
The following day, and our last in Yangshuo, was just as enjoyable although thankfully less threatening. We grabbed some bikes again (different ones this time) and headed off to Moon Hill, which was just the same as all the other peaks around, except for the big circular hole in the middle.
It was a long way up to the top, especially under the hot sun, but again worth it for the views below and to see the Moon Hill itself up close. We even met some people rock climbing at the top, inside the circular cut-out. As tourist attractions in China go though, it was very quiet, so we decided to find a secluded spot and make another video diary:
Well, what we thought was a secluded spot. This is actually one of our favourite ever video diaries, just because of our unexpected guest. She was a hoot! And we actually did buy some postcards from her afterwards!
Serious respect to her too. She must have to walk up and down that hill several times a day while we struggled to do it once! Ah well, there go our dreams of selling postcards on Moon Hill!
And that was the end of our time in Yangshuo! That night we got a sleeper bus to Shenzhen, and when we landed the next morning, we hopped across the border back into Hong Kong. Home sweet home, for just a day, with a flight to Osaka the next morning. Part 1 of our summer holidays done, plenty more to come!