Yangshuo III: Moon Hill & Finding Fuli

Written by Feb 10, 2007 23:02
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Yangshuo III: The itinerary

The first day of August was to bring with it the hottest temperatures so far in Yangshuo with highs of 36°C. Yesterday’s excursion had resulted in sunburn and so suntan lotion and hat were necessities, as was the museli and pancake breakfast we indulged in yet again.

Today’s rough plan consisted of cycling out to explore Moon Hill (月亮山) and then finding the village of Fuli. We hired the identical bikes we’d used the day before, they’d weathered our substantial cycling well and the vendor was only too pleased.

Although I hadn’t seen any pictures of Moon Hill, I was intrigued by its description as being a pinnacle with a moon-shaped hole in it and just had to go and investigate it for myself. Fuli is a small village located near the Li River and according to some people we had met was well worth seeking out as something a bit different, we took their word for it and added it to our itinerary.

[Image: Scenery On The Way To Fuli]

Yangshuo III: Moon Hill

Moon Hill was easy to find, located off the main highway heading southwest out of Yangshuo and on the same road as another well-known attraction, the Black Buddha Cave (黑佛洞). It took us about an hour to cycle out there, including numerous photo-stops to snap some of the marvellous scenery en route.

Aptly named indeed, Moon Hill is a triangular pinnacle of limestone pointing into the sky, with a large semi-circular hole cut in its centre. The sky is clearly visible through the hole and it does indeed appear to be the crescent of a fat moon.

The path up to the “moon” itself is not too difficult to negotiate and winds through trees and bamboos of welcome shade, although there are steps in abundance: we counted 789 before giving up. A small but determined army of locals patrol the steps ready to ambush climbers. I had to promise one lady to buy a bottle of water on the way down to stop her from following us, I already had a full bottle with me and didn’t need another!

[Image: View Of Moon Hill]

Yangshuo III: A glorious panorama

If ever a steep-stepped climb merited climbing, then surely this must be it. The views from the “moon” were astonishing, the rivers, villages, fields and shrub-dressed limestone pinnacles stretched into the distant haze.

A couple of the drinks sellers who were at the top of hill pointed us towards a muddy path almost hidden by undergrowth, and motioning to the top of the pinnacle itself. Again, we heeded their advice and made our way upwards. The path was unkempt and slippy, bamboos pulled at our hair and clothes and branches and rocks were constant obstacles. We emerged at the top of the pillar on a small stony outcrop to a dizzying, uninterrupted panoramic of the landscape.

It really is like being in a helicopter and having a birds-eye view of Yangshuo. The Yulong River curling like a white ribbon, the painted squares of the rice fields, the miniature villages and the limitless peaks scattered like the spines of dragons against the sky. From here it is impossible not to be captivated.

[Image: View From The Top Of Moon Hill]

Yangshuo III: Cycling To Fuli

The extravagance of the view compelled further exploration and we were soon on our way again and heading East along the Li River in search of Fuli village. In the roaring heat, we cycled through some of the most splendid areas that Yangshuo had to offer:

Water buffalo cooled off with only their heads above water in roadside ponds.
Bizarre, mechanical, home-made tractors passed us from time to time.
Bamboo-edged water meadows hugged wide shallow streams.
Rice plants stood like tiny soldiers, row upon row, field upon field.
The electric green of vine leaves covering bamboo frames.
The harvested straw stacked in house-shaped piles.
Great sprawling trees and brown-bricked villages.

It was about noon when we stopped to have lunch in a grassy field, a few trees gave us their cool shade and a snake, perhaps a meter long, whipped by.

[Image: Scenery Cycling Towards Fuli]

Yangshuo III: The Li River, again

With the help of surprised locals, who must not be so used to having foreigners asking them directions, we cycled onwards towards our vague destination of Fuli. We’d strayed far from the river and it took a good couple of hours cycling to reach it again. When we did, we were a couple of hundred meters above it on a cliff edge.

The river swept in a wide bend and a procession of boats was struggling against the current, their engines battling and emitting great gasps of brown smoke.

We took a small dirt path that lead down to a few secluded houses, then a great sandy beach where bamboos threw their shadows. Opposite us was a vertical stone cliff and moored against a small jetty was a dilapidated boat. The river here was a narrow jade band and the current mellowed, I took a welcome swim. Cows and ducks were our companions: we marvelled on the peace and solitude, since we had begun our trip this morning from Moon Hill we had hardly seen another living soul.

[Image: Secluded Spot, Li River]

Yangshuo III: Crossing the Li River

Reluctantly we moved on from our piece of paradise and followed the pointed finger of a wandering local farmer towards Fuli. The afternoon wasn’t waiting for us and the sun was beginning its descent when we reached a village that butted right up to the river. From here we could take a ferry across the river to our destination.

It barely seemed worth it here, the river so narrow it might have been quicker to swim across it, but the current is deceptively strong. It was here that we saw more people than we had for the rest of the day put together, perhaps 20 other people (all Chinese) and their bicycles caught the ferry for the 3 minute ride across. At the far side we had to negotiate a steep bank with our bikes in tow!

[Image: Inside The Ferry]

Yangshuo III: Reaching Fuli village

The village of Fuli in the late afternoon light was labyrinthine and the streets almost deserted, our fellow passengers having melted away. The stepped street leading directly from the ferry was filled with small shops selling paintings and ornate fans presumably for the tourists that make this crossing, but beyond this village life continues regardless.

Life seemed to be about children, their curious faces appearing in and out of doorways and the calls of their parents. Peanuts are spread out along the path drying in the heat. The local men are dressed in t-shirts, wiry and lean, with cigarettes in hand and conversations on their lips.

Houses are two or three stories at most, typically tumbledown and various in colour and style. An old man is perched on a stool in the street with a huge wok; the steam rising from it smells delicious. Piled up along the pavement are sticks to keep the fire going and a few body parts that we quickly figure out belong to a dog.

Women walk past with children slung around their waists or holding their hands and being pulled along; bicycles saunter by carting sacks of rice to homes and restaurants. We stop in a tiny café to drink a couple of beers and enjoy our part in this snapshot of village life.

[Image: Man Cooks Dog]

Yangshuo III: Evening in Yangshuo

It was early evening when we left and the temperature showed no sign of falling. It was a good hour’s cycle westwards back to Yangshuo town along the main road. A few men were still out fishing but the cruiser boats had returned home to their moorings. The sun was turning that cosy evening colour and casting its light along the river in magical fashion.

Yangshuo was just coming alive, as it does every evening, the hotels disgorging their occupants in vast numbers to fill the streets. The night markets thrummed with custom, stalls hung with fairy lights and sold a variety of souvenirs and locally made handicrafts. The restaurants spilled customers out onto the streets and there was a truly festive atmosphere of the kind when lots of people get together and eat and drink.

Yes, there’s a plethora of Western style restaurants here, but you can just as easily eat with the locals. We went to a tiny restaurant and sat on low stools at a table on the pavement outside. We chose from a selection of meat and vegetables and the café then cooked them up over an open fire in great stone pots filled with rice. It tasted delicious and with a couple of bottles of the local beer set us back less than 20RMB in total.

[Image: Inside The Tiny Restaurant]

Yangshuo III: A place of enduring memories

It’s worth remembering that every one of us who travels bears some responsibility for the changes wrought upon the places we visit. There’s a tendency in all of us to want places to remain the same, but change is inevitable and reminds us that we should treasure our experiences there all the more.

At the beginning of these articles I mused on the dwindling appeal of Yangshuo, but my experience there proved beyond doubt that it’s quite easy to slip through the crowds and find a traveller’s oasis. It may take us a little more time and effort to find what we are looking for, but this only sweetens the discovery.

- The sun on the water is almost blinding. A man in a small boat with a typical wide circular straw-hat poles his way on the river, silhouetted against the primeval limestone land. This remains one of my most enduring memories of the peace that can still be found in China and Yangshuo is as good a place as any to enjoy it. -

[Image: Man And Boat And Li River - Peace]

 More Yangshuo Travel Reviews
1. Yangshuo I: A Curious Cruise on the Lijiang LEMONCACTUS from CN Feb 10, 2007 22:02
2. Yangshuo II: Exploring the Yulong He LEMONCACTUS from CN Feb 10, 2007 22:02
3. The Green Hills of Yangshuo -- Part 2 CHYNAGYRL from CA Dec 2, 2006 22:12
Comments (1)


Feb 25, 2007 17:49 Reply



Your commentary and writing is very beautiful, as are your photos !!

I also want you to know, that I often think about the quote in your profile...... Mark Twain says it all for me: travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrowmindedness.

I wish more people in life and in this forum, would adhere to that idea !!

Roger :)

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