Following our rafting journey, we spent two days in Yangshuo, a smaller town about 60km south of Guilin. Yangshuo is famous for being a "backpacker's paradise," and has an abundance of Western restaurants, mostly centralized on "West Street." We enjoyed relaxing there and haggling with vendors set up along the street. We stayed at a small hostel, which felt more like a homestay, as the owner and his family live there and put a lot of work into hosting guests (including nightly multi-course dinners.) It was tucked away toward the edge of town and from our balcony we had great views of the local neighborhood and surrounding peaks. There, we enjoyed conversations around the dinner table, with at least 8 nationalities and nearly as many languages represented.
On our only full day in town, we rented a tandem bike and headed into the countryside - a "must-do" for any visitors to Yangshuo. The scenery was breath-taking and we felt adventurous, making our way with a small map and a lot of help from friendly locals (one pictured here.) We also stopped at the "Moon Hill Cafe" for lunch and a great view. That night, we headed to the river, where we had enjoyed an impromptu fireworks show the night before and where, this time, we were able to get up-close-and-personal with cormorant fishermen and their birds. (There is a long tradition of fishing using cormorant birds in this area. The birds are trained and are loyal to their owners. When they go out, they dive for fish, but have a rope tied loosely around their neck to prevent them from swallowing any. We were told, though, that the birds are given every seventh fish they catch, in order to keep them loyal.)
We caught a public bus to head back to the Guilin airport, but were too late to get a seat. Instead, we were told to sit in the aisle on inverted buckets for the 1 1/2-hour ride. This, plus the bike ride, made for a lot of looking at the back of Jeff's head for me on this trip! You may notice that in these pictures: http://hsinchina.shutterfly.com/787.