From the outset this was one destination that was fixed uncompromisingly into my itinerary. Yangshuo and the surrounding area has become synonymous with the China of Kung Fu movies and tourist propaganda: a maze of closely packed limestone peaks erupting skywards out of a flat country plain. This is a far more undulating scene than the jagged peaks I saw at Zhangjiajie (post in the making). However more importantly, it is less of a hit with the domestic tourist industry, which made for a welcome break from the almost daily fights for peace of mind under a barrage of megaphones and gawking tour groups.
One thing that Yangshuo did have that Zhangjiajie was lacking in though was Western tourists, yes whenever I asked people who had been to southern China where it was that they had gone, Guangxi province was named dropped more frequently that anywhere else, and it showed. The town had a much higher percentage of European and American travellers than anywhere else I have been so far which, coupled with the neon lights and blaring music of West Street, gave the city the feel of a South East Asian party town, with all the touts, trappings and snake hearts that came with it. Yangshuo itself was not a huge draw.
But then there was the countryside.
Speeding out of town on a rented mountain bike (£2) you are suddenly transported to a schmorgasborg of thick green vegetation. A tropical landscape that is wonderfully ambiguous, squint and you could be anywhere from India to Borneo. Only the dramatic natural skyline that punctuates the rice paddies reminds you that there is only one place on earth you could be.
Winding my way through this maze of visual orgasm, the characters I met along the way were equally as maverick; a Mormon sinophile, the outrageous 'Monkey Jane' (who smokes a pack of twenty while she works out), and the elusive Mrs Moon of Moon Hill.
It was with two such oddities that I set off north to the Longji rice terraces for the last 24 hours of my stay (I pen this from my taxi up to the Guangxi highlands). Updates to follow forthwith… Internet and availability pending.