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Yangshuo’s Charmed Existence

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Just over an hour south of Guilin,Yangshuo,with its natural scenery and laid back air,is a great escape from the gray and pollution of China’s big cities.

The town of Yangshuo is a backpacker’s paradise.Quirky souvenir shops and essential services like internet cafe telecom services,food guzzling corners and pharmacies abound.

Yangshuo town has flourished so swiftly that it is practically unrecognizable from thelatest edition of whichever guidebook you own-new streets have sprouted up with shops offering all sorts of comfort foods,and the main thoroughfare has been widened to accommodate the growing volume of traffic.Clusters of shops selling herbs,teas and daily provisions line the inner alleyways.

Following the cows hone after a hard day in the fields.

A lively hums throughout the cobbled streets.Young and old gravitate towards the new hot spots,especially along West Street(xijie),a 1.2 mile(2 km)stretch crammed with shops,pubs,cafe and hotels.Here’s where flickering neon lights have replaced red lanterns and the air is rich with band music and banter.

Yangshuo’s subtropical weather,characterized by temperate summers and winters,encourage the travel-weary to lounge by numerous street-front cafe enjoy a banana pancake and sip an ice-cold beer or two.

The western face of the remodeled town is juxtaposed with the eastern charm of the postcard-perfect natural scenery.Dotting the horizon are craggy tree-covered mounds ranging from more than 300 to 1,000 feet(100 m to 300 m)high.

This little county of some 300,000 inhabitants,comprised of various ethnic groups such as the Zhuang,Yao,Miao and Han,has blossomed since the Sui dynasty some 1,400 years ago.

Glimpses of the rich cultural background can be seen in the many shops selling local products such as talcum,silk,huge wall fans,scrolls and exquisite pottery pieces.

Enriching the land are the pristine waters of the Jinbao(jinbao)and Li rivers(lijiang ),the latter winding some 35 miles(56 km)through Yangshuo,connecting it with Guilin.The river is central to Yangshuo’s prosperity;river water is funneled to irrigate the lush fields.Most locals still work the land on the paddy fields and in the orchards punctuating Yangshuo’s many peaks,though a growing number of locals are involved in the more profitable tourism industry.

Walking,biking,rafting or swimming are several ways to appreciate Yangshuo’s charms.

To beat the noonday heat,take a leaf from the village children frolicking in the clearriver waters,often seen watching over a herd of buffaloes or wielding homemade fishing rods fashioned from bamboo.

Bamboo groves and willow trees line both banks of the waterfront,and locals use the ight but hardy plant to build wafer-thin rafts to fish,rinse vegetables or ferry tourists from one embankment to the next.When visiting the water caves,these bamboo river taxis will bring you close up to stalactites as they slide effortlessly beneath dipping limestone canopies.

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