Last Easter, I went for a three week break in China with my family. We started off from Beijing and went counter-clockwise through Xian, Chengdu, Yaan, Yangshuo and Shanghai before returning to Beijing. China has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Its one of those countries whose mere existence has become indispensable to the daily lives of every western man or woman, and yet, we know so little about it. Ok, don’t believe me, let’s do an experiment: look in the vicinity of 10 metres around where ever you are in the world and tell me how many things are labelled “Made in China”?
The point I am making is how influential China is to our day to day lives and yet how incomprehensible. I guess for that reason alone this trip was “one of a kind”. Does that mean I understand China and its people any better now? In fact no, if anything, I have come back with so many contradictory impressions of this country that it is difficult to have a clear picture. But, to be honest, at the end of the day I wasn’t expecting to return glorified in knowledge. All I wanted was a feel for the place. And the feel it is I got for it is a beautiful large bustling country with lovely smiling warm people wherever you go.
No trip to China can be complete without a visit to its sleepy backwaters and karst mountains of Yangshuo where the life still carries on at an easy laid back pace. You sleep under the constant gaze of the dark tall mountains and wake up with sun peeking from behind them. It is the only place in the world that matches my primary school drawing of the “Scenery” (as it were). If God made the world and put mighty Everest in the Himalayas then I am sure it was his child who made these mountains, with play dough no less, and strategically placed them all along the Li river.
We flew to the nearest airport to Yangshuo, “Guilin”, late one night in April and were taxied at high speed along excellent roads to Yangshuo. In the dead of the night we could barely make out the landscape outside. All we saw were faint silhouettes of the interesting looking mountains and even with that sneak preview we knew we were in for a treat.
For the next four days, we did nothing but float on the Li river, cycle along the tiny back roads, visit the numerous caves in the mountains and eat at “Kelly’s Cafe” next to our guesthouse. It was all very dream like but nothing prepared us for one evening’s entertainment that we had heard so much about “Impression Sanjie Lu” directed by none other than Zhang Yimou of Beijing Olympics and “House of Flying Daggers” fame. It is a great big musical production with over 500 singers, dancers, bamboo boats and cormorants in the backdrop of the karst mountains telling a folk tale of the fairy singer “Sanjie Liu”. The performance, the natural stage, the music and whole atmosphere was out of this world and should not be missed on any visit to Yangshuo.
There is not much in terms of travel advice for Yangshuo except that revel in its beauty and take in the sights while you are not left completely speechless and in awe of the surrounding landscapes.