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PBDA China Partnership 2019: Yangshuo Puts on a Show

Posted on: March 13, 2019

Wednesday, March 13, 2:25 p.m., Yangshuo

Yesterday: Hong Kong to Guilin, 509 kilometers (about 316 miles). Total travel time: three hours, nineteen minutes

Today: Guilin to Yangshuo 83 kilometers (or 51.5 miles). Total travel time: three hours, fifty-four minutes.

We knew that today’s much shorter Li River journey wasn’t about efficiency, but about seeing some amazing scenery from a great perspective. Still, many of us wondered if it was possible for any amount of beautiful landscape to maintain interest for the better part of four hours.

Here’s what we discovered. First, we severely underestimated the citizens of the region feel for their geography. For one thing, our vision of “boat” fell far short of the reality. No mere floating platform with a few molded plastic chairs to rest your legs, this vessel was a multi-deck, comfortable-booth-laden, meal-serving, WiFi-broadcasting show-and-tell session.

And as we approached the ticket offices, it became obvious that everyone else from the region and around China was in on the secret of how amazing a place it was. Over twenty million people visit the site each year, most of whom apparently come on March 13.  Fortunately, the dozen or so boats lashed together three or four abreast suggested that the operators were more familiar with just how big a deal the place is than we were.

PBDA in Yangshuo China

PBDA in Yangshuo China

We also noticed a pattern from our visit to the caves the day prior re-emerging: the use of imagination was critical to understanding the place. In one cliff, the guide pointed out, one could see the shapes of nine horses if one looked closely. A solo rock formation looked like an apple. Both pride and a creative desire for their guests to see what they saw were critical elements to the success of the trip.

But the trip really was worth it, especially as a group our size was ideally suited to make sure no one missed anything. Of course the 360-degree view was enough to enchant most of the group for most of the journey, but as some of us got hungry, cold, or just ready for a break, there was always someone ready to call out, should one of those unmissable sites approach. This was the long game, and we really did enjoy playing it well.

A modest walk from disembarking point got us to our hotel for a quick freshen-up and then out again for some shopping at Yangshuo’s charming walking market. For many of our kids, this was their first time haggling. (Please don’t blame us if they try applying these skills at home as well!) Sure these were experienced vendors we were up against, but we were pretty canny, ourselves: shilling for each other and pretending to have found a better deal a few shops down. By the time we reach the “big show” at the Pearl Market in Beijing, we should be quite a formidable force.

PBDA in Yangshuo China

We weren’t entirely absorbed in the skeptical shopper role, though. Our new-found friends from the Study Tour (a student group out surveying foreigners and improving English language skills) provided opportunities to learn about each other and take a few photos along the way. Judging by others’ responses and picture snapping, blond hair was far more conspicuous than red vests.

Well, an early morning tomorrow means it’s time to start packing if we’re going to cram those extra goodies in our bags!

PBDA in Yangshuo China