My parents were in China for three weeks in September 2016. My mother’s greatest wish was to get on the cruise on the Yangtze River, but it turned out to be a bit too expensive and time consuming.
So what do you do when your parents come travelling from the other end of the world to visit, and you want to show them the best of China in a nice and relaxing way?
I booked flights direct from Tianjin to Guilin, where we spent the night at a decent hotel the first night. Nothing fancy. My son thought it was a bit creepy because of the heavy chinese decor and was worried we would have to eat dumplings for breakfast. ( Nope he is not that adventurous when it comes to food). Of course I had already checked the breakfast out on Tripadvisor first and found pictures of scrambled eggs and toast. There are limits to how much I want to challenge myself in the morning with hungry and picky children.
Guide and transport
I found an English speaking Chinese guide through my network here in Tianjin. She arranged for transportation to and from our hotel in Guilin. She bought tickets for our Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshou, picked us up at the hotel in Guilin after breakfast and came all the way with us Yangshou … first on the boat, where she entertained us with stories of the many names that the Chinese have given the mountains on this famous stretch of the Li River. She also took the mandatory picture of us in front of the famous “money mountains”. The motive of the famous painting printed on China’s 20 RMB banknote. Tickets, transport and guide cost us a total of 2,500 RMB.
The Giggling Tree
I booked two rooms at a great bed and breakfast on the outskirts of Yangshou called The Giggling Tree. The good thing about this hotel is that it is located in the middle of some of China’s most beautiful scenery. Rice fields, mountains, rivers and pristine village life all the way around the hotel. In addition, the hotel arranged plenty of exciting tours at reasonable prices. There were lots of bicycles in fine quality for children and adults, there was a nice pool with stunning views, plenty of delicious food – both Chinese and Western dishes, and I simply loved the atmosphere and decor of the place. The place is run by two Dutch entrepreneurs who traveled around the world as social workers for many years before they fell in love with a cluster of old village houses near Yangshou. I have a weakness for small hotels which run by entrepreneurs who made the impossible possible.
The Giggling Tree in Yangshou is a fine example of just that.
After 4 days where we ate all meals besides one lunchat the hotel, bought tickets and transportation to the famous light show and transfer to the airport in Guilin, we paid around 9,000 RMB for all 6 of us.
Light show is a must see
I quickly found out that there is a specific event in Yangshou you shouldn’t miss out on. The Light show on Li River in Yangshou . A gigantic set-up of perhaps the world’s largest natural stage with 600 local actors. It’s all in Chinese but it really doesn’t matter. The show is so amazing and the scenery so special. A total must see.
At the Giggling Tree we instantly felt at home, put everyday life on stand-by and soaked it all in. We particularly loved cycling around the area where the traffic is very light compared to the big city where we live. We cycled both into the market in Yangshou and around the small paths and roads in the area. The hotel had small leaflets with routes, you could follow, but we just had a look the map on the phone once in a while. It did mean that we once got trapped at the end of a road that stopped abruptly by the riverbank. It was not long before a few men on bamboo rafts sailed from the other bank and offered to take us and the 6 cycles across the river for a modest sum. So much fun. The children still talk about the time when two men on rafts saved us from a very long trip back the road we just came from.