Yangshuo – glorious landscapes and activities aplenty

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Not a bad view, is it? This splendid image welcomed me every morning during my recent, 5-day stay in Yangshuo, Guanxi province, where I went on a school trip. It wasn’t a leisurely trip at all, very early starts and late finishes with lots of activities every day. I was going to bed shattered…yet happy. Time spent with the kids and this beautiful area more than compensated for the tiredness.

This was my second stay in Yangshuo with the last one happening almost exactly a year ago, also as part of a school trip and even though the surroundings were familiar to me, I was just amazed by them this time as I was the first time I saw them.

Yangshuo itself is a fairy small town with little to offer unless you’re into crowded, unbelievably commercialized streets and various ‘Western’ bars and restaurants. However, it is a great base for exploring the area.

West street, Yangshuo

West street, Yangshuo

There are tens of hiking trails, leading through valleys, villages and caves. Cycling is one of the most popular activities and so one can easily find bicycle rental shops and suitable routes although hardly any properly- signposted ones.

Another fantastic activity right on the doorstep is caving. Not one for those afraid of the dark but if that doesn’t bother you too much and, most importantly, you equip yourself with a head torch, you’ll find many easy-to-medium level caves scattered around the area.

If you are one for adventurous sports, you may want to try kayaking or climbing.(I realize that many wouldn’t classify kayaking as adventure sport but I do). The Li river is famous for its breathtaking landscapes and peaceful waters so if you fancy something a bit more exciting than the standard and widely-available boat/bamboo raft cruise, hire a kayak or join a group. I did not try climbing as I’m too much of a chicken but my students did and thoroughly enjoyed it so if some city-kids can do it, most would.

The area along Li river

The area along Li river

For me, the best part of the trip was a visit to Fuli town, within Yangshuo, a place most known for production of fans. The process can be witnessed all over town but is particularly noticeable in the old town. Complete with huge fan papers drying outside in the sun, old ladies sitting on porches, Mao pictures staring at you from every open door, Fuli is charming and old-fashioned. Not many tourists go there and perhaps the town is better for it. We wouldn’t want another Yangshuo!

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Fan-painting fun

Whilst in Fuli I had the pleasure of attending a fan-painting class. Those who know me, know that I love to draw and to paint but I hardly every do it nowadays so imagine my joy at being able to design my own fan! It makes such an amazing gift! The workshop we visited was one of Mr.Su-the only still dealing with the whole process of fan-making. There are plenty of other workshops, which offer fan-painting classes but they will only focus on that activity and won’t necessarily demonstrate how the fan is actually made, which my students and I found very interesting.

During my stay, I had to go camping one night and having had a pretty terrible experience last year, I wasn’t particularly thrilled about it, however once I saw the amazing site, I immediately forgot my worries and joined in with the kids to make the most of the location and the whole situation.

Morning mist over our campsite

Morning mist over our campsite

I wouldn’t recommend Yangshuo for what it is but for what it has to offer and that’s plenty.

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