The last 9 days I spent in Yangshuo a small town in Guangxi province, in the southwest of China. It's an absolutely beautiful place because it is surrounded by karst mountains. I suggest you have a look at the Flickr photos for it
to get the idea. I also added a bunch of my own photos to it. There a three rivers nearby where you can take a boat ride or on tiny rafts made of bamboo. It's a big tourist spot but it's just great to be here. In the last ten years Yangshuo become a favourite place for western backpackers and there is a whole street catering for their needs with hotels, hostels, cafes, restaurants and bars. Competition especially now in the off season is hard, so you can get a single room for 30 Yuan. I stay in a really nice en suite dorm on my own for the whole time and pay 20. You can rent bikes and explore the surrounding countryside on your own or with a local guide. There are loads of places to get good breakfast and other western food for dinner. I've done several bike rides on my own, normally people stick to the treks along the rivers where it is flat, but I also ventured into the hills which was quite a bit of work because there are no roads and getting both up and down the hills required some riding skills. After a few days I met Jacqueline, the Dutch girl I had already met four times before at various placed in China and we started doing things together. The bamboo rafting was nice but I would've loved a bit more white water. The water levels are not high enough at the moment so the raft has to be carried over several small dams and you splash down into the water on the other side. We also went to a big cave, deep in it there is a big mud pool where we went bathing, that's a lot of fun. You are completely covered in mud and can slide down into the pool. The views from the top of the karst hills are even more impressive than the ones the ground. I also did a boat ride and some local walks. On one occasion I lost my wallet, the first time ever, it only had some cash and an expired credit card in it though. At night I usually go to Monkey Jane's rooftop bar, a nice place on the sixth floor off the tallest building in town. I had heard about this place from a Canadian guy in the hostel in Beijing and expected a loud party place but at least right now it is fairly quiet and a good place to meet people. There is a campfire at night and great views over the town during the day. I met several people during my stay, mostly other backpackers. On on bike ride I met a group of locals, a Chinese English teacher and his young adult students. We walked together for the rest of the afternoon and then the negotiated a 5 Yuan haircut for me at a local barber. We also went out for dinner together. On several nights local school kids approached us and ask for our names, countries and hobbies. Some of them invited us to their school. So some days later Jacqueline and I walked out to the Yangshuo middle school at the city limits and after a while found some of the girls who invited us. It's a big school with over 2000 students, they shows us the campus and their class room and then let us to their dorm. Most students are not from Yangshuo but from surrounding towns and villages. They go only home on weekends or even once a month if their parents live further away. They served us dinner from the school kitchen and ask us to sing and dance! Thing about it, me alone in a dorm with fifteen 16 year old school girls, I used to dream about such things. But they all look very young and I could easily be their dad. At 7p.m. they had to go back for more classes and asked us along. It turned out their teacher didn't show and they asked me to teach them English. So there I was, totally unprepared, no experience as I teacher trying to teach 68 Chinese teenagers. It actually wasn't too bad and even fun but I ran out of things to talk about after some time and was glad when the hour was over.