Yangshou has thoroughly impressed me since our arrival a couple of days ago. It’s the sort of place where I feel ashamed of myself for not knowing it even existed before arriving. Despite the fact it is fairly touristy and the bars and restaurants are Westernised it still feels like Yangshou has kept its secluded aura of being a mysterious town in the depths of the towering Karst mountains.
On the 18th March we were feeling the effects of last night and had a much needed lie in. On the agenda today included some luxurious pampering as well as some exercise.
We started off with the latter, we got one of our drivers to take us on a 15 minute bus ride to Moon Hill. The rocks had eroded over a period of a time creating a moon figured shape within the mountain. We sweated blood and tears climbing up the uneven, jagged and distant 800 steps before reaching the top which gave us the most perfect view of the surrounding area. On the way down the mountain the unpredictably of the steps caused a couple of casualties, mainly Georgia slipping on her backside and smacking her elbow, luckily no one got hospitalised but I couldn’t guarantee saying that before we started.
We met our tour leader Sally at the bottom and she guided us to the nearby caving complex. It was discovered in the 1980’s and since then it has been a haven for local and foreign tourists. We visited on a Friday which meant that it was quite busy. Sally mentioned that on the weekends Chinese tourists flock down in there thousands to discover the hidden treasure of their country previously unknown up until 30 odd years ago. We began by having a tour of the caves, every so often we would come across stalagmites with very interpretive representations of animals or the Buddha, nevertheless it was really well presented with colourful lights illuminating every corner. As we continued we were able to try out the mud baths within the cave. Supposedly extremely cleansing for your skin we gave ourselves a good scrub and enjoyed playing in the very abnormally textured sludge. When Chinese tourists visit the caves they don’t go into the mud baths so when we were in it the tourists would walk past, maybe 40 at a time and take pictures of us. It unnerves me to think that somewhere in China there is a man with pictures of me half naked covered in mud on his computer.
To rinse ourselves off we walked towards the hot springs. We stayed in the warm water for a long time soaking up every minute of pure relaxation. It was very relaxing. After getting the minibus back to Yangshou we had some dinner and then went to a local therapy parlour.
Me and a couple of the lads tried hot cupping which was 35rmb (£3.70) each. They have about 20 cups where they ignite with a blow torch and quickly stick on your back. It is an unfamiliar sensation feeling like your back is being pulled apart bit by bit. It captures and releases the bad toxins in your body however, of all the therapies world wide I am quite sceptical of the legitimacy of how effective hot cupping is. I tried explicitly to ask if this is scientifically proven to have any positive effect as I am writing this 2 days on my back feels worse than it did. Anyway, my back came out the worst looking, although the bigger cups which I had done seemed to have a more painful effect than the smaller cups a couple of the other lads had.
After leaving feeling confused why I paid £3.70 to be in pain and to have an ugly, spotted back for the next 3 weeks we went on another legendary night out in Monkey Janes playing some card games and beer bong before being escorted to the ‘happening’ clubs in Yangshou which turned out to be all gay bars. It did take me quite a while to realise, the give away was when I got groped by about 4 blokes whilst walking to the kitchen to ask for some more popcorn to be placed on our table. Oh I forgot to mention, this whole night was completely free. Monkey Jane had been playing online bingo (or a similar Chinese version) earlier in the evening and had won about £1600. Bearing in mind only 24 million people out of China’s 1.25 billion earn more than £200 per month this was a huge amount of money. So at her bar she gave us free beers and shots and paid for all the beers at the clubs for us too. What a legend.