I had never heard of Guilin let alone Yangshuo but while doing research on the trip for our visit to China I went on the Banyan Tree site as I like the brand very much to see where they had places. We had stayed with them in South Korea and I was impressed by their level of service. That’s how I came upon Yangshou and discovered the Li River the and the Karst mountains.
The whole area is stunningly breath taking and so so unexplored. The drive from Guilin to the Banyan Tree took about 3 hours on very good roads. The scenery was jaw dropping and we had a really great guide with a driver who talked us through the villages and history as we drove past.
The Banyan Tree resort is heavenly. Its very well laid out. On arrival we were greeted with a ice cold towels and drinks then taken to our suite by a golf cart. We had chosen a Karst view suite that overlooked the magnificent rocks, the river and artificial decorative lake. The suite itself was large with a big bathroom sitting area in the bedroom and a terrace that we sat on every morning.
After the bustle of Chengdu this was very peaceful with only the sound of birds. The resort is very well spread out so you get this sense of intimacy and space. There is nothing harsh or commercial although it was a very slickly run resort.
I had arranged through the hotel prior to our arrival to what they referred to as a destination dining. This was an intimate 2 people dinner cruise along the river at the foot of the resort. It was just so so romantic. A beautiful small raft- boat scattered with rose petals and low banquets , scattered cushion with lit candles. It was magical.
We had our own butler and waiter. I had chosen what were wanted to eat , a selection of dumplings stir fried vegetables and chicken. The chicken here is free range and local so it actually tastes of chicken rather than the supermarket type we are used in Europe. This was all beautifully served as we cruised down the river. The stillness and quiet is what hits you first. The imposing Karst mountains and one side and fields on the other with cows and locals tilling the fields. It was like being in a different era and a perfect end to day that had started at the crack of dawn to catch a flight to Guilin.
Every morning we took some kind of cruise for 2 on different parts of the Li river. The word cruise suggests some large boat but these were non motorised bamboo rafts and the quietness really enhance the gorgeous beauty of the landscape. I think they are well worth doing.
We also went to the Xingping Ancient Town that its being sympathetically revived with small artisan shops and cafes. We stopped and had some freshly pressed mango juice. Everything here is pretty laid back. I had very much wanted to visit typical home of communist China and we were taken to visit and old man who told us stories of his life before communism . The house was tiny , two rooms one for sitting and cooking the other for sleeping. It was fascinating. This was not on any tour guide but I had asked our guide if it was possible and after some time she arranged a private visit.
Our afternoons were spent lazing by the pool which again was so calm and peaceful with great bar food and service. Another time I had a superb spa treatment of scrub and body massage. It was sublime.
In the evening we ate at our hotel primarily Ming Yue which served excellent food and we tried so many different vegetables that we had never come across. Yangshou is not the kind of place that you pop out for dinner which suited us fine but it is being developed and I noticed several designer brands beginning development which is understandable as the area is so beautiful.
One evening we went with fisherman to watch their Cormorants large fish catching bird. Dark deathly quiet with only the lanterns lighting the boats it really was something to see these old men with their birds catch fish. Its really worth doing it.
Breakfast is what breakfast should be. This was the only time of day that the we felt the presence of lots of people. But again the service is so goo that everything works smoothly. Buffet style with every conceivable breakfast item you can imagine. Eggs pancakes cooked to order. A multitude of fresh juices, an enormous array of pastries. Chinese noodle and vegetables. It was very good.
We were sad to leave as we had such a great time relaxing seeing things we never saw before trying fruits we had never heard off. It truly was a mesmerising experience.