Whether you’re an old timer or a novice in China, your first time in Yangshuo will certainly surprise you, in both good and bad ways.
Upon typing ‘Yangshuo’ into the search engine, you’re hit by hundreds of pictures of column-like mountains towering over the Li river, paddy fields, and boats gently cruising along the beautiful countryside views. This is Yangshuo. However, there is so much more to it. Here are 5 things to help you prepare for your time in Yangshuo:
1. The landscape will blow you away
Okay, so Google can tell us enough about the Yangshuo countryside and mountains so I won’t bang on about it. But I will say that nothing can prepare you for the incredible beauty in which you’re immersed. Whether you come in by train, bus or car, the size and vastness of the landscape hits you immediately, as well as the hundreds of peculiarly shaped mountains dotted around. Looking from the outside, it’s hard to believe that there are cities and towns tucked away throughout the mountain range where people live the usual hustle and bustle of daily Chinese life. It’s easy to get caught up in the serenity of the area that seems to be never-ending. However, once you’re amidst the markets, crowds of people and scorching heat, the mountains surrounding you almost appear claustrophobic. That’s when you know it’s time for a bike ride out of town.
2. Hot & Humid
Since China is so big, the temperature changes dramatically on where you go. Since Yangshuo is in the South of China, temperatures in the summer rarely drop below 30°C and don’t drop below around 5-10°C all year round. You’re packed into the mountains so you’re very protected from any winds coming by, which just increases the heat even more. And if that isn’t enough to make you sweat, the 85% humidity ensures that you are 85% sweaty most of the time. Air Conditioning and showers are about to become your new best friends.
At the end of a particularly hot and muggy day, you’ll probably be blessed with a wonderful tropical storm including heavy rain and heat lightning, which is always a great show to watch, and means that it will have cooled down afterwards.
3. Tourists, tourists, everywhere
Previously a secret backpackers hideout, Yangshuo has now expanded significantly to cater for both Western and Chinese tourists. Whereas in some countryside towns in China where you’ll be delighted to see another Western face every few weeks, Yangshuo certainly has an abundance. No secret paradise can be kept too long, and therefore with the influx of tourists came an influx of infrastructure, as well as McDonald’s, KFC, and Starbucks. This also means that life can be very practical since there is a travel agency and bike rental place on every corner – just make sure not to get ripped off.
Want to avoid the tourist traps? Do some research and head out on your own. Most things the travel agencies offer, you can do by yourself!
4. It’s more expensive than your average Chinese town in the countryside
With a large amount of tourists comes the relatively large price-tag on Yangshuo life. Whilst it is still China, and therefore a lot cheaper than most western countries, it will be significantly more than what you expect of a small Chinese town in the middle of nowhere.
This can be avoided by shopping and eating out of the town centre and doing things more independently than going through tour guides etc.
5. Bars & Alcohol galore – Prepare your livers
There’s lots to do in Yangshuo; climbing, hiking, going for rides, caving, exploring the city etc. But in the evening, there’s one thing most travellers and expats have in common, and that’s to chill out from a day in the heat with a nice cold pint (or several), play some table football, and have some good conversation.
Luckily, Yangshuo has a lot on offer in terms of bars. There are lots of Chinese tourist bars, and even some clubs on West Street, but if you’re after good music and alcohol, some of the best places are Bad Panda, Kaya, Mojo, and DMZ. By grabbing a pint of draft at DMZ, pulling up a chair outside and chilling by the river, it’s very easy to get caught up in the chilled out holiday vibe of Yangshuo.
The main lesson that a lot of people learn in their first week of Yangshuo life is that its charm and character make it extremely hard to want to ever leave. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with sticking around, and discovering what else Yangshuo has to offer.