Sunday, August 18, 2013

Meet the River Dragon (China trip part 3 of 6)

Our story continues on the way to Yangshuo (south of Guilin) where we spent 3 days exploring the natural wonders of this area (see Travel Map).

We left the Longji rice-terraces (north of Guilin - link to previous post) mid-morning and drove for 4 hours before we reached our next mode of transport - bamboo rafts. However, in this case it was the more modern version, made from plastic pipes and a motor boat engine. Nonetheless we still had an epic trip down the famous Li river with the exotic karst mountains embracing us from every direction. Scenery from the Li river occurs frequently in films, but if the mountains and their uncanny beauty seems unreal in the films, experiencing them first hand surpass any description in words. Hopefully our pictures and video do them some justice.
Modernized bamboo rafts on the Li river
Karst mountains on the Li river
Nothing can beat the utility of a pink umbrella
Nine horses mountain - How many can you see?
Rain pouring down
The Chinese 20 Yuan note displays the Li river scenery on the photos above and below

After the amazing trip on the Li river, we had another hour, on a reasonably bumpy road, to reach the Giggling Tree guest house where we stayed for 3 nights. The Giggling Tree is owned by a Dutch couple who renovated the old buildings and created a unique guesthouse. It has an excellent location (5km from Yangshuo town) and a lot of information on activities in the surrounding area are provided. Although we were surrounded by rural China, this guest house had a strong fusion with European culture (
Ronnie at the Giggling Tree

On the 2nd day in Yangshuo county, we started with a brisk morning walk through the rice-fields, fruit orchards and small settlements in the vicinity of the guest house.
Taking a morning walk -  rice field in the background and a water buffalo grazing

We had a light lunch that prepared us for our second river adventure, the beautiful Yulong river. Yulong translates to “encounter dragon” and according to our personal tour guide (Zheya :) it relates to a myth that when a dragon saw the Yulong river and its surroundings it was so enchanted by its beauty that it decided to stay there. Thus, while the Li river was awe-inspiring and magnificent, the Yulong river was beautiful and tranquil. We also experienced real bamboo rafts here, and the slow journey added to the peaceful surroundings. A bit of adrenalin was triggered by the 8 small waterfalls that the bamboo rafts had to master before we reached our destination and transferred to another exciting new mode of transport - tandem bicycles.
Bamboo rafts on the Yulong river
Ronnie the rafter
Dragon fly on the Dragon River
Another storm brewing
Stuck on the wall

Video of our river adventures:

Switching from the relaxing bamboo boats to tandem bikes we set out for a joyride through the rural surroundings. This was our first try on a tandem bike, and after a few testruns, we sorted out the mechanism and off we were to Yangshuo town for dinner and shopping.
Tandem bike in Yangshuo town
View from the back of a tandem bike

Reaching Yangshuo we were quite ravished and Zheya quickly located a promising looking restaurant (a selling point “we have air-conditioning”). The food was also fantastic and we had the honor of picking out our own delicious looking fish from a small aquarium where it was caught and subsequently prepared for the pot. Besides the fish, the dinner included, mushrooms, deep-fried shrimps, rice cakes, green beans with ginkgo seeds, and rice with pork cooked in bamboo wrapped in lotus leaves (delicious!). After we this scrumptious dinner, we had a evening of shopping before we took a taxi back to the Giggling Tree guest house.
The fish we chose from the aquarium in edible format (right), mushrooms (left)
Rice cakes (top left), fried shrimps (bottom right), bamboo-fried rice and pork wrapped in lotus leafs (centre)
Inside of bamboo-fried rice and pork wrapped in lotus leafs
Shopping in Yangshuo

The next day started with another tandem bike ride from the guesthouse to Yangshuo. We parked our bikes and got onto a bus that took us to our next activity - the Silver Caves. The silver caves stretch through 12 hills in the karst mountains and contains wonderful stalactites and stalagmites and crystal clear underground lakes.
Our second tandem bike (a bit small)
Silver caves
Reflecting pool in Silver Caves
Snacking for lunch after visiting the Silver Caves
More shopping in Yangshuo
Returning from the caves, we had another shopping spree in the streets of Yangshuo and we got on our tandem bikes back to the Giggling Tree. On our way back we stopped at an interesting restaurant for dinner. Surrounded by karst mountains and fields of lotus flowers, the restaurant consisted of several small “rooms” built on stilts on the water and connected by walkways. We had our own private room where we were served our dinner of duck, whelks with pork stuffing, tofu and vegetables, fried shrimp and rice. We also had some of the interesting asian fruits we bought on the streets of Yangshuo. The beautiful dragon fruit and the amazingly delicious manogosteen. It is the first time I tasted both of these fruits. The mangosteen really blew me away with it’s intense sweet and fragrant taste. I think this will be my new favorite fruit - it is such a pity you don’t often get these in the rest of the world. Apparently there are strict import restrictions due to the Asian fruit fly that may accompany fruits.
Dinner restaurant on the way to the Giggling Tree Guest house
Duck (in pot), whelks (front), tofu with vegetables (back)
Dragon fruit

After the wonderful stay in the valleys of the dragon river we left early the next morning for Guilin airport to catch a plane that took us up north to Shanxi province...



  1. hoe proe die whelks? of was dit net pork stuffing in die whelk skulpe?

  2. Dis pork en whelk wat saam gemince is en trug in die skulp gesit is. Baie nice. Maar hier is 'n link na whelks wat ek eet sonder enige vark (dis op die video op frames 1:44 to 1:46):