Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Yangshuo, the badlands of China...

Yangshuo's main drag

Mega city after mega city, it was time to head to the country side of China for a quiet relaxing break before the next mega city Hong Kong. Yangshuo is a great little town sort of on the way from Shanghai to Hong Kong, but unfortunately is far from quiet. This town is small, but is one of the major tourist spots in China. The reason it is so popular is that it is in amongst some of the most bizarrely amazing scenery around.

The Yulong River, farmland on the side, karst hills to the back

The Yi River looking north

I spent only a night here, but arrived early in the morning and left late at night so got in two solid days of adventure. Not wasting any time I checked into a nice cozy hostel, the Yangshuo Senior Leader Hostel for only 30 Yuan. As soon as I checked in I walked out to explore the town. The reason I wanted to explore is obvious if you take a look at the photos with this post. The attraction is the Karst landscape, these are limestone formations that have been eroded away to leave unique shapes. These karst formations are a lot what people might think of when they think Chinese landscape photos or paintings.

Reflective tower

An abandoned village

The river flowing out of the middle of Yangshuo

After a short explore around town I went and hired a bicycle, old school of course. Then headed out to explore the karst scenery through the local country side. There is a bike track set up that goes along the Yulong River that can only be described as uniquely incredible. Once out the busy little tourist town, you ride around centuries old farms and little villages that could be imagined to have never seen civilization before.

The track round the countryside got much more narrow than this

Animal cruetly: the bird is tied to this stick, so don't give him money for a photo

Ultimate old school bike, perfect for dirt tracks

Along the track the markings got rather long in between each one, and so it wasn't long till I was pretty lost. But just as I got lost, a young Chinese couple came riding up behind me. One able to speak a small bit of English asked me if I knew where I was going. I was lost, but it seemed not as lost as they were. So decided to lead them further along the maze of tracks until we eventually found the signs marking the main track again.

The expensive way to see the hills

Bike team

It took till about 6pm to find our way back to town. The ride was much longer than what we'd thought and we met others along the way who were giving up and returning the way they came from. But we completed it thanks to my great navigation skills, and also thanks to my new Chinese friends for paying for the raft ride across the Yulong River. Hungry after finishing we went out for dinner. Being with people who could speak Chinese was fantastic. They ordered up the best food on the menu, and got an interesting fish dish that I would have never been able to order with all of my zero Chinese ability. Following dinner we went out for a beer, then once things got awkward after we ran out of simple English things to say we parted ways.

Yum, fish with flavour

Pool takes the place of awkward conversation

Not a ripple on the lake

Unfortunately the next days weather was rather below average with a bit of precipitation. So instead of going on another bike ride up the Yi River, I just walked around town and bought some gifts for the folks back home. Not being able to resist photo temptation I went for a short walk along the Yi River just on the towns side to get more amazing shots.

A miniature karst hill

Yi River

Yangshuo reflects on the town lake

This karst scenery was truly amazing, and worthy of a bit of science, from the good old reliable wikipedia:
Karst landforms are generally the result of mildly acidic water acting on soluble bedrock such as limestone or dolostone. The carbonic acid that causes these features is formed as rain passes through the atmosphere picking up CO2, which dissolves in the water. Once the rain reaches the ground, it may pass through soil that may provide further CO2 to form a weak carbonic acid solution: H2O + CO2 → H2CO3. Recent studies of sulfates in karst waters suggests sulfuric and hydrosulfuric acids may also play an important role in karst formation.

This mildly acidic water begins to dissolve the surface and any fractures or bedding planes in the limestone bedrock. Over time these fractures enlarge as the bedrock continues to dissolve. Openings in the rock increase in size, and an underground drainage system begins to develop, allowing more water to pass through and accelerating the formation of underground karst features.

Somewhat less common than this limestone karst is gypsum karst, where the solubility of the mineral gypsum provides many similar structures to the dissolution and redeposition of calcium carbonate.

A man takes his ox out for a walk

The locals float under a beautiful bridge over the Yulong River

After a pretty long wait, I finally got on my 9 pm over night bus ride to Shenzhen. The final stop in China before Hong Kong, then home. With only a few days left before returning home I was getting more and more excited about seeing friends and family.

This is the over night bus to Shenzhen, they are mental, and only worthy of one ride in your life

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