February 12 Yangshuo, China

Yangshuo used to be a very small city surrounded by many karst mountains and beautiful scenery near Guilin. In the 1980s, many foreign backpackers were drawn here by the introduction of the city in the “Lonely Planet” book. Nowadays, there is no shortage of mainland Chinese tourists. Jeff took the photos below of the famous Moon Hill outside of Yangshuo when we were on the bus going back to Yangshuo from Yingzi Cave.

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Moon Hill near Yangshuo with New Year Lantern decorations hanging from the trees in the foreground

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Close up of Moon Hill

I found this paragraph online on a English website for China tourism, describing the town of Yangshuo. The paragraph is in blue type, my comments on what I observed are in black type.

Yangshuo is not a typical Chinese town and does not have the big-city feel as in most other Chinese cities. Actually, it felt very much like Longhua did, when I came here on my first visit to China! That means it is relatively air and noise pollution free, cars and buses were honking, and they were all idling because every street had a traffic jam where vehicles were not moving. Drivers were driving on the wrong side of the road, and on the sidewalks. People were parking their cars wherever (on the sidewalk, in the street blocking traffic.) Vendors were everywhere, on the street, the sidewalk, and in front of stores, making it very hard to walk anywhere. very clean (by Chinese standards). Nope! it was dirty, with lots of trash on the streets and sidewalks. In fact, there was more trash on the streets here than in Guilin. and does not usually suffer from endless massive traffic chaos.  It was suffering from massive, endless traffic chaos when we were there! It is much more like a vacation town, with wonderful restaurants and shops and again quite developed by mainland Chinese standards. The worst two meals that we ate on the entire trip  were in Yangshuo! Yangshuo has a reputation as a foreigners’ village in Southern China and is a major stop on the trail of many independent travelers.  We did not see very many foreigners (I saw only two other Caucasians during my time there.) It is also a nice place to stop and explore the local countryside by bike or even try your hand on the world class rock-climbing sites. From what I saw of the bumpy country roads and Chinese drivers, I would not recommend trying to ride a bike anywhere around Yangshuo!

When we drove back from Yingzi Cave, our bus driver was stopped on the road leading into Yangshuo by three lanes of non moving traffic. Cars and buses were stopped trying to get into Yangshuo on the right shoulder of the road, the right travel lane (the one that vehicles should be using) and the left lane (for vehicles going the opposite direction.) In fact, cars trying to go the other way were having to drive on the left shoulder of the road. Our bus driver did a u-turn, and drove up the shoulder to another road into town. This one also became filled with non moving traffic before we got back into town. So our driver turned around again, and took us down some very narrow (about bus width) side streets, backing up whenever a street was blocked and going down another one, until we got closer into town. Meanwhile, our tour guide was on his cell phone, frantically calling around, trying to find a place for our group to eat dinner, as it was already dinner time, and it was clear that we were not going to make it back into the center of town where the restaurant with our dinner reservation was located. He managed to get a table for our group at a nearby restaurant (fortunately we were a small tour group, with just ten of us.) We got off the bus and walked to restaurant.

It was a very mediocre meal, and Jeff and I ate quickly, as we had tickets to the show at 7:15 pm. We were the only ones in our tour group going to the show. Everyone else had already seen it, or did not want to sit outside in the cold weather for 1 1/2 hours to watch the show. So we walked down the street, following our tour guide,  dodging cars and walking around vendors,etc.

Directed by the great Chinese director Zhang Yimou, the Impression of Sister Liu show is a perfect combination of the Li River scenery and the ethnic culture of the Zhuang, Miao, Dong and Yao minorities. It takes place on the water of the Li River, and the karst hills behind it are the perfect backdrop. They are even lit up during parts of the show!

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Audience members

Audience members sit in outdoor stadium style seating for the show. Everyone was given a plastic raincoat when they entered in case it rained. Most of us (me included) were wearing the raincoat, as it gave another layer of protection from the cold air! Fortunately, it did not rain during the show.

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Ann wearing her plastic raincoat, reading her iPad before the show

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Members of the Dong minority in their native attire

Most of the show performers were members of the Dong minority group in China. They were wearing their traditional attire. The women love to wear silver, and the men are mostly fishermen. The show performers were actually not acting; they were just singing and dancing to the songs of their cultural traditions.

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Woman of the Dong Minority

Jeff did a great job, taking all of these amazing photographs in the dark during the show

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A woman of the Dong Minority

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Men of the Dong Minority in their traditional attire

Here they are recreating a “war scene” on the water.

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Men of the Dong Minority recreate a “war scene” on the water

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Here they are all “dead”, lying down on their boats

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Dong girls singing in their traditional attire

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Sister Lui dancing on the moon

Neither Jeff or I know the story behind this dance of Sister Lui on the Moon. And their were no English explanations about this Dong myth.

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Dong women in their “silver LED light” costumes, with their reflection on the water

This was so beautiful!

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Here they are the the LED lights turned off

In this final scene, you can see the karst hills lit up behind the performers!

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Final scene from the show

After the show, our tour guide met us near the front gate. He had hired a man with a passenger carrier attached to the back of a motorbike to take us all back to our hotel. I was very glad to see him, as I knew we were fairly far away from the hotel. I sat facing backwards in the little carriage, as I knew how our driver was going to operate and I did not want to watch him do it! Sure enough, he drove between idling cars and buses (traffic was still not moving on the road), on the sidewalk, between cars parked in front of stores and around vendors’ carts. In summary, he did exactly what he had to do to get us back to the hotel in 20 minutes! If we had tried to drive it would probably have been midnight before we made it to the hotel, and it was too cold to want to walk for an hour in the dark along those congested streets!

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