Yangshuo is surrounded by Karst Mountains, winding rivers and beautiful scenery. The area around Yangshuo is renowned throughout China, if not the whole world, (even making it into the backdrop of Star Wars Episode 3), for its karst landscape where there are hundreds upon hundreds of limestone hills dotting the countryside. The beautiful scenery here is a common subject of Chinese paintings as well as the inspiration for poetry.
Arriving in Yangshuo after our first over night train experience we were all amazed at the breathtaking scenery that greeted us here.
We stayed in the Explorer Hotel which was among the first that opened more than ten years ago. It is right in the center of town, close to the river and West Street called ‘Global Village’ by the locals, which attracts tourists from all over the world to its many stores, cafes and restaurants creating an exotic and a somewhat chaotic atmosphere.
The streets here are well kept in the original style, capturing the tranquil atmosphere of this ancient town. Here you can also buy souvenirs, painted fans, embroidered balls, and even painted silk shirts. West Street is also famous for its delicious specialty foods, such as Beer Fish, Niang dishes and snacks like rice noodles and various glutinous rice cakes.
For lunch our tour guide Jay took us to Chongshan, a small local place for our first rice noodle experience. Noodles are an essential ingredient and staple in Chinese cuisine, quite cheap and extremely delicious.
The rice noodles were white and smooth with a very unique flavor. They are made from rice flour starch, round and quite thick, a bit thicker than the usual spaghetti.
We were served plain noodles in a steel bowl with some soy and meat broth. We then got to garnish our own dish with spring onion, cucumber and chili to taste. After eating our bowls of noodles we could fill our bowls with a soup that we then had to drink straight from the bowl.
Mom went a bit overboard with the chili in hers and suffered a bit. I think that after the first couple of bites she lost most of her taste buds for tears actually formed in her eyes. But other than an overdose of chili the noodles were extremely delicious!!
After lunch we went for a walk through the main part of the town and down to the river.
The Li River winds through the town and is surrounded by the most beautiful scenery. Along the extremely pure river, thousands of hills cover the horizon for as far as the eyes can see. It is with this magnificent scenery as a backdrop that we came across a Chinese fisherman with his trusty cormorant birds. Fishermen here have use trained cormorants to fish in rivers since about 960 AD.
The birds are taken by the fisherman at a young age and become bonded to him. They catch fish according to natural instincts but are prevented from swallowing all but the smallest fish by a ring placed around their neck during the fishing process. However, the birds are not stupid and refuse to catch more fish unless they are rewarded occasionally – typically with every seventh fish.
When a cormorant has caught a fish in its throat, the fisherman brings the bird back to the boat and has the bird spit the fish up. Though cormorant fishing once was a successful industry, its primary use today is to serve the tourism industry.
For dinner we went to a local place that our tour guide Jay recommended. We decided to order food for the table and have everybody share. Yangshuo is famous for its fish fried in beer so we jumped at the opportunity to order this delicacy. After ordering the fish we had to walk down to the fish tanks and actually choose the fish we wanted them to cook! After pointing to a random fish the girl then caught and weighed it for us. I am sure we couldn’t have asked for anything fresher!
Unfortunately the rest of our dining experience was a bit of a disappointment, fistly the dishes were a lot smaller than we expected and we were served our rice only after we had eaten most of the dishes.
Our tea we ordered arrived after we dinner and ended up being warmed up lipton lemon ice tea. I really thought that in china good and tasty Chinese tea would be available everywhere.
After dinner it was pouring down outside but we headed out to the Impression Liu Sanjie Show armed with raincoats. Luckily for us by the time the show started it had stopped raining and we didn’t even notice the light drizzle as the show was absolutely amazing and held our undivided attention.
Impression Liu Sanjie is an outdoor performance set with the real mountains of Yangshuo as the backdrop and using the Li River as its stage. The stage is a 2km stretch along Li River with 12 mountain peaks and the clear sky as the background. The theater therefore was named “Shanshui”, meaning mountains and water in Chinese. The performance in this natural Shanshui Theatre is a masterpiece combining an awesome natural stage with excellence in theatrical production.
It took Mr. ZhangYimou (the chief director of the project) three and half years to finish preparations for launching the show. His talent and creativity in bringing together the hills and water with the minority culture is widely acknowledged. The performance lasts for 70 minutes and more than 600 actors and actresses are involved – All the actors of the show are local people who have practiced meticulously.
Impression Liu Sanjie is produced by the same person that did the Beijing Olympic games opening ceremony and a must see if you ever have the opportunity.