In 2006 the Dutch travel show host Chris Zegers visited Yangshuo, a beautiful town in the Southern province of Guangxi, China. He predicted that it wouldn’t take long before the masses would discover this place and, Chris, I can tell you my man: you were damn right!
If everyone does it, it must be fun!
Since the beginning of our trip we have been amazed by the number of Chinese tourists (always in groups and preferably travelling around in big buses) that we saw EVERYWHERE. You can definitely tell that the middle class in China is growing alongside its economy and they sure love to explore their own country. Anyway, Yangshuo was of course no exception, and to be honest it is kind of nice to see all those Chinese people acting like excited tourists. Where we “westerners” often don’t want to do things when travelling because it is too “touristy” and boy, “what if we do stuff that our friends or neighbours have done also?”, the Chinese don’t care if they’re original or not, they just think, well, if everyone does it, it must be fun!
Dutchies & their bikes
On our first day in town we rented bikes and I pretty much got carried away when trying to map out a route… The man carefully stated that it might be a bit challenging doing the big (like very very big) loop, but decided to just go with my enthusiasm and so we got on our bikes and drove off. After half an hour or so we figured out that the map the hotel gave us was using different scaling for in-town streets and out of town roads. OK, so then it was going to be a long trip. No problemo, it was only 37 degrees and who doesn’t like a heavy work out in crazy heat? Right. After yet another half hour we were confronted with an even bigger challenge: it was uphill, and then around the corner again uphill, and around the next corner some more uphill. Yeah, that was the moment we decided to leave my route for what it was and just do the smaller loop (which turned out to be not even that small). The countryside around Yangshuo is extremely beautiful with dramatic karst peaks and the Li and Yulong rivers meandering between them.
The next day we did things a bit more relaxing and cruised along the Li river on a bamboo raft which is highly recommended when visiting Yangshuo since it is a very nice way to see the magnificent landscapes while you’re hanging back on your own little boat.
The rest of the day we walked around town a bit and just basically, we’re doing things like we’re actually on a holiday :). We’d been hopping around for quite some time now and it was really nice to just sit back and relax and enjoy the atmosphere.
Bye bye bike
On our final day in Yangshuo we rented a scooter and decided to do the big loop after all, but in a more, let’s say, convenient way. We were sooooo thankful that we had decided to stop challenging ourselves on our bikes the other day since it took us really really long to finish the entire route, even on a scooter… And yes, I did a few km’s as well (and told the man only afterwards that it was my first time riding a scooter ;)).
And as if all this relaxation and holidaying wasn’t enough, we treated ourselves to a nice Chinese massage at the beautiful Yangshuo Mountain Retreat. A perfect end to a wonderful couple of days in China’s paradise!
The sleeper bus
Unfortunately our relaxed after-massage-muscles had a big test coming up, since the next, and final, part of our trip was a sleeper bus (yes, a bus) to Shenzhen, which is on the border with Hong Kong. Yeah baby, HONG KONG! OK, let’s stall the excitement for a moment and stay with the bus because this wasn’t just any ordinary bus. Not even any ordinary sleeper bus. This was a bus with bunk beds. Yes, actual bunk beds. On a bus. That’s right. And if you think that sounds comfy: it’s not. Not at all.
Hong Kong Baby!
So after a night on very very bumpy roads we arrived at Shenzhen, and not, like they had told us at the hotel, at the actual border with Hong Kong. “You get off the bus and just walk across the border”. No no no, we first had to find our way to the border, and thén we could walk across it. Anyway, in the end it took us some time but when we arrived in HK all the frustration was gone. WOW. What an amazing city! It has the hustle and bustle of a massive city like New York combined with beautiful surrounding mountainous area. And the major British influence combined with the mess and craziness of any big Asian city gives it a very nice orderly but chaotic vibe. LOVE. Love love love. Our first stop was lunch at Wooloomooloo which was recommended by my old friend and current HK resident S. And what a recommendation! It has the best view of the entire city so it was an amazing introduction to what HK has to offer.
In the evening we had drinks with our friends which was really nice and they gave us loads of useful tips for our weekend in the city. Afterwards they took us to Din Tai Fung for dinner which has the best dumplings in town and is also awarded a Michelin star. So two great meals on one day, in the awesome city of HK, life could be worse I guess!
The next day we slept in a bit and then crossed over from Kowloon (our hotel was in Mongkok, Dorsett Mongkok – very nice) to Hong Kong island and explored this part of the city. At first by taking one of the old trams that go all the way from east to west across the island for 2.30 HK dollar (€0.19).
Of course we also went all the way up to Victoria Peak, and thanks to our insider’s tip, we took a cab up and enjoyed way better views than the ones from the (very expensive) cable car.
After sunset we took the Star Ferry back to Kowloon and we had timed it perfectly since we were on the boat the exact moment the daily light show, the Symphony of Lights, started. Nice.
What to do on the final day of what has been an amazing trip of a lifetime? That’s right, you go to the beach and try to ignore the fact that your flight is leaving at midnight! After we packed our bags for the last time and checked out, we headed to Deep Water Bay, another great insider’s tip.
Why do all good things come to an end..?
And it sure was a very nice way to end our amazing 24 days in China and North Korea. Beijing – Pyongyang – Kaesong – Pyongyang again – Beijing again – Pingyao – Xi’an – Yangshuo and Hong Kong as the show stopper. More than 4700 km by train and bus. WOW. What a trip! So many things we’ve seen, so many people we’ve met. It’s gonna be hard to top this one! But I’m pretty sure every new destination will be another amazing experience, so my final words are: ON TO THE NEXT ADVENTURE!