Traveling with Kids | Yangshuo, China
Time for another Traveling With Kids post and this time I decided to write a little more about our amazing trip to China a few years ago. A few posts back I wrote about our time visiting the Longji Rice Terraces and this time I wanted to share a bit about the time we spent in the Yangshuo (Guilin) area.
Yangshuo is a small town located in the Guangxi County (South Eastern China) and is surrounded by picturesque mountains and bordered on one side by the Li River.
We decided to take a 24 hour train ride from Beijing down to this area and I have to say that this was a huge highlight for the kids. We took a “soft sleeper” which is a private cabin with 4 beds (and which is by no means “soft”). By taking the train instead of the plane we got to see so much of the Chinese countryside and we all loved just gazing out the window at the picturesque and diverse landscapes.
One of my kid’s favourite things about the train ride? Going to the hot water urn and making noodles for their meals.
For our time in Yangshuo we hired a Belgian tourist guide living in the area to help us plan our trip. He arranged our taxis, hotels, private guides, meals, bike rentals and some tickets to special events. It actually wasn’t very expensive for his services and it made our time there so relaxing and stress free.
When we arrived in Guilin a private taxi was waiting to take us to the small town of Yangshuo and our hotel. When we arrived at The Yanshuo Village Inn we were greeted with a sign on the door welcoming us, a plate of fresh watermelon, a pot of tea and some cold towels to cool off (it was about 45 degrees while we were there). We had never experienced such a welcome anywhere!
Our rooms looked over the famous Moon Hill and were extremely clean, comfortable and stylish. The first night we settled in, went for a stroll around the small town, took some photos of the kids with a dressed up monkey (followed by a hose down with antibacterial gel) and got to bed early.
The next morning our private guide arrived at the hotel and we picked up the rental bikes that we would be using for our stay in the area (one being a tandem). We then started off on our first of many cycle trips. We spent the day cycling along the Yulong River and admiring the stunning typical conical mountains that you find in the Yanshuo area.
We stopped at a wonderful little restaurant called The Giggling Tree and ate an amazing lunch before heading out for a 2 hour downriver rafting tour on the Yulong.
We were appointed two bamboo rafts with raftsmen for the tour and were told to purchase several of these bizarre looking water shooters. Apparently part of the experience is hosing down fellow rafters and being hosed down yourself. In that heat it was very welcome and it was great to interact with other rafters (who were all Chinese tourists).
All along the trip downriver there are floating restaurants and photo booths (they take a photo of you coming down a little water fall and by the time you arrive at their booth the photo is printed and waiting for you to buy it). The kids had so much fun doing this and ended the trip completely soaked. When we arrived at the end our guide and our bikes were waiting for us so we could return to the hotel.
That evening we went to the famous Liu Sanji Show by famous director Zang Yimou (he did the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics). The show is a piece of outdoor theatre that uses the Li River as its stage. There are over 600 locals who perform in the show and there are no words to describe how unbelievably amazing it is. This is an absolute must for anyone visiting the area. The kids sat for the entire show with wide eyes and hardly breathing. They kept telling me they couldn’t believe how beautiful it all was. I agreed with them.
The next day we had arranged another bike trip. This time our guide took us into the countryside and through small towns and villages. We stopped and visited a typical farm where they showed us how to make tofu using the old grinding wheel method. The kids loved cycling along the dirt roads and through the rice fields. We really got a taste of typical rural Chinese life on this ride.
The following day we made our way to the bigger Li River where we took a tour down the river, visited some underground caves and ate at a restaurant where we actually had to choose the (live) chicken we were to eat for lunch.
We also stopped off at the famous little town on Xingping where we wandered the streets of the little town and then watched a traditional cormorant fishing ceremony. We were definitely feeling really bad for those poor birds with a string tied around their neck so they couldn’t swallow the fish that they caught.
One thing I’d like to mention is the fact that while we travelled through China we were all (especially the kids) constantly being photographed by the locals and Chinese tourists. At the beginning it was funny. At the end of the trip the kids were running away and hiding from the “paparazzi”. At a certain point we actually found ourselves surrounded by about 50 people who were asking us for our autographs. We usually obliged and let the people take our photos but sometimes we just really had to decline because we were running late or the kids were fed up. Nothing too serious but something to keep in mind if you’re thinking of traveling to China.
Overall this part of our trip to China was really one of our favourites. We got to see so many beautiful sites by bike, eat so many wonderful meals and we got to meet some lovely locals as well. The Chinese love kids and are so welcoming and helpful to families. We are really looking forward to returning to China in the hopefully not too distant future.
Stay tuned for my next Traveling With Kids column where I’ll be writing about our experiences with house-swapping.