Yangshuo: My moment of Zen
Though the earth is rich with remarkable features, there are certain places where it is served on a silver platter. My wife and I, along with a friend of ours, traveled by train to the city of Guilin, the most common entry point to Yangshuo. It was a 12-hour, overnight journey departing from Shenzhen. We pulled into the station as the morning began to sweep across the city.
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Rather than choosing a bus to take us the rest of the way, we opted for the slower, but much more scenic method. We floated into Yangshuo on a modest vessel made from 10 lengths of bamboo fitted together into a raft, with bamboo chairs resting on top, and the captain of the ship operating a small motor at the back. The landscape slowly revealed itself until we were completely immersed in it. In quiet moments like these the silence feels more like music than an absence of sound.
Rolling hills, golden rivers
Famous for its natural landscape adorned with limestone hills, Yangshuo possesses a humble and effortless brilliance. Each one of the 200+ hills is a sculpted masterpiece; each one contains more words than a poet could dream, each one is an ornamental chord strumming the song of nature’s own sweet voice, and each one of the majestic limestone hills seems to hold an a ancient and everlasting tranquility.
The hills are not alone in their beauty. The landscape in which they live is adorned with rivers that reflect golden light, and fields that slope and contour around ancient villages and farms. They exist within a pale sky that paints a misty streak across the horizon, and a soundtrack textured with animal calls and the dancing of branches, and a soft breeze carrying earthy scents, free of pavement dust and smoky exhaust. In this area one can find a laid-back calm that loosens the pinch of stress that often squeezes the breath of so many city dwellers.
Staying in Yangshuo
Cradled within Yangshuo county is the town of Yangshuo, where many travelers stay. Our accommodations were outside of town at the Yangshuo Village Inn (associated with the larger, more luxurious but equally charming, Yangshuo Mountain Retreat). The room, which was part of an old farmhouse, offered a cozy setting in which to enjoy the colors and textures of the surrounding countryside.
One of the many great ways to take in the area is on bicycle. We rented bikes from our hotel and rode them first on paved roads, then onto gravel roads, and then onto dirt trails. We rode them through villages, over bridges, between hills, past chickens and pigs and water buffalo. We rode them through rice fields and along riverbanks. We are so often shadowed by the towers of modern life that no light is able to reflect off us, shine through us, or fill the space around us; riding through the scenery and the open air felt as though the countryside was endless and forever full of light.
Moment of zen
My own moment of zen was found on the last day at the top of Moon Hill, when I gazed across an endless view that seemed to contain all of Yangshuo. It was a wet morning when I started up the hill; concrete steps along the way glistened beneath my feet, making the leisurely walk a little more treacherous. Moon Hill is named because of a natural feature crowning its peak. From below, a large lunar shape hole characterizes the hill. From up top it feels as though you are standing on the moon itself, and staring out over the world from a quiet distance. I stood at the peak when the first drops of rain started drumming on the trees. The full weight of the green paradise came washing through me like soundless waves foaming on a shore, and then receding like fingers on soft skin, as I listened to the music of wind, the rain, and the birds.
Back in Hong Kong, sitting on a rooftop in Central typing these words, as the relentless sound and taste of traffic and construction coughs into the air, I am reminded of my trip to Yangshuo, and the moments when the quiet hills accepted me into their kingdom and the gentle wind that had passed through millions of leaves contoured around me, and continues still through millions more.
hour train ride to Guilin
4 hour boat ride to Yangshuo (the alternative is a 1 hour bus)
Train - RMB 249 (for a hard sleeper; about RMB 430 for a soft sleeper)
Plane - RMB 750
Raft - RMB 250
Hotel - RMB 350
Food - RMB 30-60
Beer - RMB 15
Bicycle Rental - RMB 20
Activities in the Area
Hot air Balloon
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