The sun pounded down on us as we cruised down countless rice paddies. At this point in our journey to the ancient Dragon’s Bridge we were helplessly lost. Our salvation soon came in the form of a local woman who would lead the way. But, I’ll get back to that later….

We decided to stay in a bit of a nicer place in Yangshuo, The Yangshuo Culture House. The hosts offered a nice room, three meals a day, and a host of activities including Chinese, calligraphy, mahjong, and tai chi lessons. But since our time was short we skipped the activities and just rented a bike to see the countryside. We highly recommend it to anyone spending some time in Yangshuo. The nightly dinners with amazing food and family atmosphere were a highlight of our stay. We met many interesting people around that dining table, learning about their travels and lives.

Our first days adventure took us on a tour alongside the river Yulong. The path was easy; the scenery was beautiful, and of course, there were the locals who every time we stopped surrounded us—mainly wanting to sell us hats, flower tiaras, or trips down the river on bamboo rafts. We ignored all these guys and kept our focus on our destination, Moon Hill.

Finally arriving after a few short hours we found ourselves at the base of the trail leading up to Moon Hill. Unfortunately we were not alone, we were greeted by two women selling soda and water. It was a nice service they were offering since it was hot out and the climb ahead of us was pretty steep, but we came prepared with plenty of water. We politely declined their offers. I’m not sure “no” is in their vocabulary since once we started up the hill they continued to follow us. One of the ladies was easy to shake since she was like 80 and could not keep up with our pace, but the other was a spry 60 and kept up with us easily. Up the hill we labored with a constant stream of “no’s” flowing from our mouths while she fanned Jodi at every resting stop. Along the way we passed a few other westerners on their way down with their own local companions in tow.

The view from the top was great. An arch in the hill formed the moon image and you could easily see the surrounding villages. We took pictures and admired the view while our local host rested. As the three of us started our descent, it soon became obvious that it was going to be tricky to get down. The steep stone steps were quite slick from some previous rain. Jodi slipped a few times but luckily our little friend saw her chance to give Jodi a hand (if she needed it or not). She grabbed Jodi’s arm and with the stability of a mountain goat carefully guided Jodi down the stairs. After something like this, it is hard not to buy something. Just the sheer tenacity to follow us all the way to the top was impressive. So, we bought a bottle of water and she seemed pleased.

One other classic trip in Yangshuo is to ride out to the Dragon’s Bridge, which was built in 1412 and hails as one of the largest bridges in the province. Even though we had a map that clearly showed a trail to the bridge something happened and the trail that we were on became a maze of small trails spider webbing through small villages and rice paddies. It didn’t take us long to get totally lost in the twists and turns of multiple paths. Positive that we must have passed the bridge, we decided to ask a local woman who was riding by us. By sign language and frantic map pointing she finally figured out our destination and pointed us further along the path that we were traveling. I’m not sure what happened but she ended up riding with us the whole way to the bridge. Saving us hours of countless time in wrong turns.

Unfortunately the bridge wasn’t that impressive, just a nice old stone bridge. But so far the ride had been fun and cruising down through rice paddies is always beautiful. We decided to cross the bridge and take a different way back. Of course, we quickly got off course again and found ourselves on a path no wider than our bike tire. We decided the smart thing to do was to backtrack a little and find a wider path. We were walking our bikes on the path when the next thing I heard was a crash and a hail of curses as Jodi tipped over into a dirt field; she rolled her ankle. A bit upset but mostly unhurt, we moved on.

Finally reaching a path wide enough for a bike, we started off again. This path was bumpier than any trail I’ve ever been on. Instead of riding the hardcore mountain bikes we needed, we sat atop typical 13-year-old girls street bikes. With her injured ankle, it didn’t take long for Jodi to take another tumble off her bike. This time curses were followed by screams and sporadic kicks to the bike. A full tantrum unfolded right in the middle of the rice fields. But the screams soon faded and we were off again. Soon we came upon a bridge that would lead us back into town. Just as we were crossing we noticed what must have been hundreds of Chinese tourist floating below us in bamboo rafts. Their umbrellas creating random colorful splotches on the river. It was quite the sight to see.

As our final night approached, we decided to take in a night show. This was no ordinary theater production. The stage was a lake and the backdrop was five illuminated hills in the distance. Six hundred fishermen and locals filled out the huge cast. Colored spotlights filled the sky as boats danced and people sang. The final act consisted of hundreds of women in lighted outfits singing and dancing out on the water. We couldn’t understand the whole story but the singing was great and light effects were pretty cool, thus ending our stay in Yangshou with style.

More pictures from our visit to Yangshuo, China, can be seen on Chris’ and Jodi’s respective flickr pages.

2 Responses to “Getting lost in Yangshuo’s rice fields”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Jodi, another bike ride?! Have you learned nothing? ;)

  2. Carol F says:

    I think this area is the one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Your pictures of the tenuous mountain villages clinging to the terraced fields are wonderous. Thanks