The town of Yangshuo is a well-known stop on the backpackers trail. It is all about the scenic karst formations in this area. And what better way to explore the beautiful countryside then by bicycle?!
There are several places in town where you can rent a bike and you can find information on different routes.
We gave cycling around on our own a try but it wasn’t what we had expected. It is nice to be adventurous but it is not cool when you are constantly doubting if you are still going in the right direction or whether you are even allowed to cycle where you are.
After that first day of doubting where to go and cutting the trip short we decided to find a guide for the next day. And that was one on the best decisions ever!
We stayed in Fawlty Towers hostel and they connected us with a lovely young girl named Ji Fan. She asked us what we wanted to see as there are many interesting site in the area. As you agree on a price to pay her for the day it doesn’t matter for her where she will take you or how long you want to stay in a place.
We started at around 8.00 o’clock while it was still an acceptable temperature. Once we left the town behind us it is only lush green rice fields and bamboo around us. Straight away she takes us on a path that we ourselves would never have considered as a path. It is very narrow but fun and leads us through rice paddies. After about an hour we stop near a river with bamboo rafts. It is a very relaxing and welcoming cool activity floating down the river. For about an hour we let the scenery pass by, dip our toes in the water, hold on to the raft at the small rapids and cool down a bit. Ji Fan is on another raft with the bikes.
Once back on our bikes we pass the Buddha cave but leave it for now. As we want to climb Moon hill. Getting on top of the hill to stand underneath the arch is worth the sweat. And it is only an hour hike. The amount of butterflies up there was amazing and we saw a lot of tiny frogs. The size of your fingertip!
For lunch Ji Fan takes us to her father’s home. In his very basic kitchen they prepare a feast of a meal. She asks us to join here and pick our lunch from their garden. We get some eggplant, green peppers, water spinach, courgette flowers and a type of melon. It doesn’t get any fresher!
I never sampled courgette flowers stuffed with flavourful rice before. It was amazing.
After lunch we cycled passed the river. We passed villages were we stopped to buy some water and ended up drawing some animals for the local kids. We also stopped when we saw some ladies walking their water buffalo. They encouraged us to come closer and to even touch them! They have tough hairs like some pigs have. Their skin looks more like that of a pig than of a cow.
Ji fan finds us a spot in the river where it is save for us to swim and we quickly dip in. It is a hot day and it is really nice to be able to swim in the river. And then it was time to go back to Fawlty Towers hostel
Ji fan was such a lovely girl and we had a great day with her in the Yangshuo region. We discovered that she had never entered the second part of the Buddha cave and she would really like to. So she shyly comes up with a plan. And she kept saying…but only if you like!! She offered her services for free the next day if we would tell at the entrance of the cave that she was our guide and we wanted her to come along with us. So she could enter for free and see the second part of the cave. The girl lives here and does not have the money to see one of the major tourist attraction in her own backyard!
Needless to say we of course said yes and spend another fun day with her.
So how are you going to get such a fun experience yourself?
Well, I don’t have Ji Han’s phone number unfortunately but there are many guides in the town Yangshuo. The trick is to pick the right one. Ask other travellers if they can recommend anyone. That is always the smartest thing to do. Talk to the boy or girl and ask if the price for the guiding is for the full day or for a maximum distance. Do remember that you are not booking a tour so entrance fees to several places are still to be paid. Ask what the options can be for lunch. If you want to eat at someone’s home they need to know that up front. And it is not always an option.
When in Yangshuo, leave town!! Get on a bicycle and explore! It took us 4 days cruising the area before we decided we had seen enough.