After being swayed by Hostelworld reviews I decided to stay at a small town/village called Xingping about an hour away from my intended destination of Yangshou. This was an excellent decision.
Let me take a moment to praise this hostel. For starters, it has toilet paper (if you know anything about budget traveling through Asia, this is a major indicator of class). This is the first toilet paper that I have seen since I have been in China...and get this, it's THREE PLY (insert applause here). It is homey little hostel right along the Li River and has warm showers and famous oven-fired pizza. The first night they played an independent movie about absolutely nothing. Not even a trace of a plot. Awesome. I met the girl that chose the movie and we instantly bonded. We spent the rest of the night talking about important issues like communism, China's conflict with Japan and why some toddlers in China wear pants that expose their butts (seriously, this seems very impractical and just plain messy). [Strange sidenote: one of girls that worked at the hostel came up to me and asked if I was from Japan before I mentioned anything about Japan to anyone. She said my mannerisms were very Japanese but she was confused by my...Caucasian appearance. ] Kung Fu Panda and a climbing video were on the 2nd night. I believe I've made my case.
Once I arrived in town, I strolled through the old streets and then made my way to the river to eat some mystery fruit. All of a sudden a couple of Singaporean guys asked me if I'd like to join them on on a free bamboo raft. My mom always told me not to get into strangers' cars but I'm pretty sure free bamboo rafts are fair game so I jumped in.
Cormorant fishing is a unique activity in Yangshuo and Guilin. The fisherman rows slowly on a simple bamboo raft with several trained cormorant birds. A piece of grass is loosely tied around the bird neck (or tethered with rings round the base of their necks) so the bird can't swallow big fish. When the cormorant bird catches fish and stores it in its mouth, the fisherman will hook the bird on a stick and empty fish from the bird mouth and then put the bird back in the water to continue fishing. We found a fisherman that agreed to let us take photos of him during sunset. Win! The fisherman let us hold the bird but when it got to my turn it, well, it kind of attacked me (I don't seem to have a lot of luck with Asian birds). Turns out my blonde hair alarmed the bird and now I have a small gash on my eyelid (mom, it's very small and I'm still being smart)...small price to pay. I guess blondes don't always have more fun. After that, the gentlemen treated me to a traditional Chinese dinner and invited me in a sunrise boat ride the next morning...accepted.
The next day I got up bright and early and met up with the guys. We went along the river, got some sunrise photos (which didn't turn out to be all that great because it was foggy) then we proceeded to get some dumpling soup in the market for breakfast. We then parted ways and I came back to take a nap. Yes, a nap. Naps are a clear sign that you either you are dying or you have an amazing life. I would categorize myself as the ladder. When I woke up, a girl in my room really wanted to talk to me but she didn't know a word of English so we spent the next hour passing back and forth her phone translating messsages...xie xie technology. I then wandered through some markets, orange orchards and down the river. When it came time for sunset I hiked up Laozhai Hill and sat in silence as the sun fell below the mountains in silence.
When I was young, my parents taught me a phrase so I would be able to pronounce my l's and it stuck with me (maybe I was born Asian): lucky ladies lick their lips. It could because my chapstick is deep within my backpack...but one thing is certain. I am lucky.