THE SMALL TOWN OF YANGSHUO IS NOT AS SMALL AS I THINK IT WOULD BE. I came to realize that subjective measurement standards differ across countries and cultures. The low-key rustic charms stereotypical Yangshuo appeared to be a commercialized downtown with more traffic than the Dalin township back in Taiwan.
When I arrived last night, the streets were wet from days of rain. First, I had a tough time negotiating for a motorcycle ride to the Impression SanJie Liu performance site. This night show is Chinese director, Zhang Yi Mou’s masterpiece, a colorful interpretation of the Zhuang minority culture. Cold and drenched, me and my sore butts stood in front of its entrance disappointed because of a cancelled show. I then had to find someone who was willing to bring me back to my guesthouse, which is quite a distance from town. I ended my day with a faulty shower which tried hard to be lukewarm.
THE TRAVEL GODS HEARD MY PRAYERS. It was almost sunny the next day. My breakfast was done perfect, two eggs sunny side up, which I whole-heartedly believe to be a good sign. This was a perfect day for biking, so I hired a bike from the guesthouse, keeping in mind to choose one that has proper gears and brakes.
The staff were very helpful. They gave me a map to an exclusive secluded path that is only shared with hardcore cyclists. Wanting to steer clear from unwanted drama, this was the ideal way I would want my travel day to be. This path followed a countryside road, which was at times unpaved and muddy. It was not easy navigating the map on one hand while balancing the bike on the other. This was all worth it because I was rewarded with views of the Yulong River and the karst hills up close.
I once got lost and arrived at a dead end. I took a wrong turn a couple of miles back. Feeling lazy yet adventurous, I carried the bike on my shoulders and I trespassed through a stretch of rice fields. Out of nowhere, a kind old man appeared and gave me directions. Fortunately he was unarmed.
SATISFIED WITH MY PEACEFUL BIKE RIDE, I went on to explore the Yangshuo downtown area in the evening. A far cry from its quiet serene countryside, Yangshuo downtown is crowded and very touristy. Most people gather at West Street, a loud pedestrian only block of shops catering to travelers. My advice is to avoid the overpriced food and souvenirs here, and head to the many bars offering good quality live music.
I prefer tranquility to clamor all the time, but I do know that it is all about the balance. Yangshuo may seem chaotic at first, but there are pockets of stillness waiting to be explored.
The busy and noisy West Street