Pru Goudie has visited China a couple of times and climbed the Great Wall of China, stood face to face with a fearsome army of Terracotta Warriors and checked out the glitz and glam of vibrant Shanghai. So, this month when she returned she decided to venture into new territory and visit Guilin and Yangshou and here’s five top highlights from her recent trip…
Lijiang River is the essence of Guilin beauty with its 200 million year old limestone karst formations and if you are in this area the one thing you would not want to miss is taking a boat trip down the jade ribbon which is the River Li from Guilin to Yangshou – an approx 60km breathtaking sailing experience. The boat trip varies in length of time depending on the water level, with ours taking around three hours. We were treated to spectacular landscapes, elegant hills, waterfalls and the bustle of local raft men on rafts selling fruit and authentic food dishes en route.
The food in China is truly delicious and far superior to anything I have ever encountered in any local Chinese restaurant outside of China. Each province promotes something unique to them and we were treated to the most delicious dishes such as stuffed pumpkin flowers filled with pork in a rich pork broth, sword fish cooked in local beer with tomato and peppers, bamboo stick rice, carp fish from the rice fields cooked with chillis and taro root, crispy chilli beef with bamboo shoots, and of course dumplings both fried and steamed. Even the sweet and sour pork, lemon chicken and seasonal vegetable dishes that made it to the table did not resemble any of the usual number ’35, 54 or 72’ dishes you’ll get on a Western Chinese Menu – locally sourced food in China is a highlight of any visit, it’s cooked with love and it does them proud!
Surrounded by karst peaks, bordered on one side by the Li River and with a population of approximately 30,000 locals Yangshou is a gorgeous little UNESCO world heritage centre. This stunning little pocket is worth a good two-night stay just to wander through the labyrinth of streets, crossing stunningly old bridges over waterways, interacting with the locals and bartering in the local shops and markets. I found the local people here relaxed and friendly, many of whom spoke fairly good English. Best time to visit the market is late afternoon to early evening as after dinner they become very crowded with local tourists who prefer to shop when it cools down.
I’ve told you about all the delicious food you will be eating in China – so you can scoff until your heart’s content in the knowledge you will be burning all the extra calories off! We hiked alongside the Rice terraces of the Dragon’s Backbone in Longsheng climbing approx 1000 steps where we met the Zahuang minority tribe along the way and viewed a coiling line of terraced fields that starts from the mountain foot up to the mountain top. Another highlight for us was the 5 kilometre bike ride from the Yangshou to Moon Hill where we cycled through local towns and over ancient bridges with clear greenish water and reflective hills either side, poppy and sunflower LOVE fields and stunning architecture in abundance. It’s not hard to find a bicycle for rent in China and it’s well worth the energy to get out and explore the countryside!
Shopping in China is always a good choice – whether it’s negotiating a bargain in Silk Alley or Pearl Market in Beijing, buying the obligatory Terracotta Warrior in Xi’an or hunting out local specialities in Yangshou. Chinese people are clever with their hands so exquisite handicrafts are plentiful. The locals love to bargain so don’t disappoint them, use your humour and smiles to get the price you want to pay and you will return home with a suitcase full of memories and affordable souvenirs.
And finally, on leaving this wonderful country be sure to pick yourself up a bottle of local rice wine or ‘Fire Water’ as it’s known locally so you can put your feet up with a shot of this pungent, weird but wonder rocket fuel, look through your photos and savour your memories of China!