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.
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.