Yangshuo: Earth’s Teeth

April 19

I awoke early and walked to the bus station. Along pedestrian-only West Street stores were closed, but restaurants were open for breakfast. The air was crisp and cool on this 50 degree morning in Yangshuo. Cloudy, but not wet, it had the look and feel of China: not a paradise, but a place of history and genuineness (even in this touristy location). I got my first glimpses of the terrain. Walls of rock towered behind the buildings, adding an enclosed feel to the town. I anticipated the beauty of these monoliths in the countryside.

I got on a full bus shuttling north to the popular drop-off along the Li River. Here was my starting point for the day’s journey. I had just two full days to take in the surreal scenery of Yangshuo. I spent each along (or on) one of its two main rivers. (The Yudong being the other.) My plan today was to ride a boat 14 km north on the Li and then go by foot the remaining 10 to the next town. Along this stretch is displayed some of the best scenery Yangshuo has to offer. And it started with a bang.

I walked down to the landing to see this:

There's the shot I was waiting for.

You see, this exact view has been teasing me since my arrival to China. I’ve seen it a hundred times on the back of every 20 Yuan bill:

A picture worth about $3.50.

And many Chinese were eager to stand in front of this view with bill in hand. Check that off the bucket list, I suppose. :)

Now it was time to get intimate with this scenery. And it’s time for you to join me on day one in Yangshuo, Guangxi, China.

These buggers were my transport:

All aboard!

Off we trolled and one thing that I cannot say (to my initial surprise) was that the ride was peaceful. The boat engine screamed a whiny roar “WAAAAAAAAA!” along with a whole herd making the same journey. It was cold, sometimes wet, and usually bumpy. I learned an interesting truth about the scenery at Yangshuo: such a backdrop has the ability bring out and magnify a variety of feelings. On this ride, I felt power and abrasion.

Steep rock faces

A violent meeting with the sky.

Earth's Teeth

It wasn’t too long, and we stopped. The intensity of the ride was an experience, but I was ready to settle into a hiking groove. Peddlers offered me trinkets. A cup of tea felt right. Abrasiveness evaporated and the richness of a Guangxi river trek replaced it. Behind the peddlers was a plain of sand and pebbles drifting gradually down into the Li. I looked down:

calming stones

Stones like this are offered in some therapist’s offices. Patients are welcome to handle them for a soothing motion. How these relaxing rocks are carpeted below these unsettling hilltops is a geologic wonder and an irony to behold.

And to add to the variety, a taste of the majestic was out in this pasture:

Fit right in.

Then the hike began, moving to the beat of Li River life. And now, more than natural beauty, an exposure to the ways of locals along the fertile banks was offered. They lived a pace you’d expect.

An older lady on the bottom corner, gardening the old-fashioned way.

Later, I moseyed over to an older gent who tended his bull. He seemed happy to have me come by and got a chuckle out of his bull’s shrug and huff in response to my attempt to pet it.

From earthly contrasts to human ones, the mellow that is emanated from these folks is a novel experience for most westerners. But compared to the noisy, horn-honking ways of urban China, it’s a true 180. It’s so easy to lose track of the joy of being when stacked with the concerns of kids, debt, etc. I don’t have to tell you this, I know. But I do have to say that the stress created due to these everyday concerns is really evident here. Because emanated is the peace hidden beneath.

Back to nature, each corner turned offered a potential postcard shot:

Something about the river parting these peaks! Depicted is the age-old battle of rock vs. water, the static vs. the flowing.

Apparently it’s good for wedding pics, too. Though you’d have to be careful not to dirty your dress getting here:

A totally different kind of beauty. No, not you, dude. Your soon-to-be.

I reached the end of the trek and was treated to one last view:

The fog covering the far mountain was a foreshadow of the following day.

The backgrounds of Yangshuo impressed me in how they bring out an array of emotions. You feel the dramatic, the intimidation, the awe, the calm, and the coziness of those who live amongst these natural skyscrapers. But if the first day was about breadth of emotions, then day 2 was about depth. Stay tuned for it.

And I hope you were able to experience some feelings of your own while reading. It’s a lesson in how our natural surroundings can speak to us and enhance our lives.

to new plateaus,



Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Culture, Society, Travel


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5 responses to “Yangshuo: Earth’s Teeth

  1. Owen Ekman

    April 19, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Fantastic photography – I know….how can you miss with a backdrop such as this, yet still these are wonderful shots.
    Things are going well here now. By God’s grace, a crisis has passed and life is returning to normal. You may have seen my post on FB about it; I’ll save the details for later –
    it was nothing short of a miracle. Peace – O

  2. molly miron

    April 20, 2011 at 3:09 am

    Thank you for the travelog.

  3. Pingback: Hao Hao Report
  4. Danielle

    August 13, 2011 at 2:06 am

    I lived in Huangshi, Hubei for a year teching English at Hubei Normal Univeristy. Seeing your blog is making me WISH I was back in my 2nd home. I hope to one day return and show my family the magnificent China and why I Love the country so much.

    Thank yous so much for sharing your blog!

    • Brandon Ferdig

      August 13, 2011 at 11:59 pm

      Danielle, you’ll really like an upcoming post about my time in Hubei, then : ) I went to Wu Dang Shan and studies Tai Chi for 8 days.

      Thanks for the comment! I hope to bring my parents out here one day as well.