Happy Year of the Snake! 新年快乐!

The hills along the Li River in Yangshuo, Guangxi province.

YANGSHUO, GUANGXI — This year I am spending the holiday in this picturesque town nestled in the karst ranges of Guangxi province. It’s my second visit and less rushed than the first.

My companions on this visit are two Australians from the Sunshine Coast, Judy and Susan. We were all teaching in Jiangmen until last Thursday. This is Susan’s ninth visit to Yangshuo 阳朔, so she’s our tour guide.

While not as toasty warm as Jiangmen, Yangshuo is still warmer than Jishou, which was getting sleet and snow a few days ago.

We’re staying in a small hotel near the bus station called Fawlty Towers, run by a Chinese family whose members include Basil and Manuel. (Google “Fawlty Towers” if you don’t get the allusions.) It’s snug and has free WiFi.

To get here, we took a sleeper bus from Jiangmen. These coaches fit about 30 passengers in reasonably comfortable berths for long journeys. Ours took about 10 hours overnight. We arrived around 6 am not completely rested but not brain dead either.

It being the Spring Festival, Yangshuo is much quieter than when I came last spring with a class trip. Many shops are closed and only a few eateries are open. That will change in a couple of days, once people have done their obligatory visits to relatives and friends. Hotel prices will also drop — thankfully. This room is costing $30 a night, twice the normal rate, but I can’t complain too much either way.

Yesterday we took a walk into the countryside. It’s a rare moment to be in China and be practically alone. We ran into a few local people carrying groceries home and a few foreigners — two young French couples and a pair of Aussie retirees — but pretty much we could enjoy the peace and quiet to ourselves. There were acres of orange and tangerine trees and a lot of new construction — probably vacation homes or hotels. How long that little stretch of road remains quietly bucolic remains to be seen.

Susan and Judy plan to stay here till the 17th, while I may travel onward to another place once I weigh costs. Possible destinations are Beihai on the southern coast and Hanoi, Vietnam, which is not far from here. I have until the 22nd, so I have time to travel still. I’d rather not waste it.

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