If you think that the roads in China are mainly broken dirt roads then you have certainly been watching too many Hollywood movies. China, for me, has one of the best road infrastructures in the world with most roads being less than a couple years old. Why? Well cheap labour costs and cheap material costs allow each province to fix large holes in the road for a fraction of the cost in the UK.
So what are we left with when we combine China’s countryside, roads and quaint little villages? We get possibly the best motorcycle route in the world.
I had only once hired a “vespa” in Thailand and taking it off road was the most stressful thing imaginable and I vowed never to do that ever again, however, the roads here were perfectly smooth and so had no quarrels about it.
I was joined by another student at the school who was from Germany. We hired a motorbike each for 60CNY (£6.7) a day which was incredible value for money. After geting past the language barrier and asking the sales woman to repeat her Chinese sentence several times and speak slowly we finally got to leave. All I had to do was leave my driving licence as a deposit. The reason I found her so hard to understand was because Yangshuo has its own dialect which is rather tricky. The first time I noticed it was when I had just arrived and had wanted to buy some apples. The fruit seller replied “si kuai” which in standard Mandarin means 4CNY (£0.4). However in Yangshuo, the locals cant pronounce the letters “sh” and so the word for 10 which is “shi” defaults back to “si”. So the word for 4 and 10 here is “si” and so having to make an educated guess each time.
We got on our way in no time and I easily picked up how to ride the motorbike again. I remembered from last time and so wasn’t so shocked at how heavy and fast it went. We took the back roads through some small villages and rice fields whiles we took in the amazing scenery and all that we could hear was the sound of the engine revving up and down the hills.
Every now and then we would also come across these small pagodas which on the map show up as scenic spots.
We wanted to go to a village called Xingping as I’d been there last year and it was a really nice little village. We had been driving for a while until a sign said to turn right off the main road onto a sort of dirt track. It was extremely muddy as it had rained heavily for 2 days the day before, however, we were determined. Only when our motorbikes started getting stuck in soft mud did we start to realise our mistake but we continued on hoping to take another way back. After which seemed like forever the map on my phone showed we were nearly there, however, to my surprise the road led straight into a river. I rechecked the map but this time zoomed in a little more and to my horror realised that the only way to cross to Xingping from Dahebei Village was to get a Bamboo boat across. Not only would it have been near impossible and dangerous to get the motorbike on the boat, all services had been stopped that day due to the current being too strong from the rain a few days before. My German friend had said he had been on low petrol for a while and I had hopped we’d be able to fill up in Xingping. Not only were we stuck in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere, but had to go back the way we came up steep hills. I must have asked several villagers “jiayouzhan zainali” meaning “where is the gas station” until one of them said that I could buy one in the local shop. We headed to the local shop which was a small wooden shack under the trees and the old woman brought out 2, 1.5L litre coke bottles with petrol inside. 34CNY (£3.8)for both, the shop saved us a lot of hassle. Now all we had to do is make our way back to the main road.
Going back, even though it was up hill surprisingly took half the time due to the fact that we could just race up the hill whereas going down we had to worry about skidding downwards. To our relief we made it back to the main road in one piece with lots of time to spare. We decided to head to a town called PuTua which took us around an hour, we then filled up and headed back to Yangshuo.
During the bike ride, the vibration of my German friend’s motorbike had unscrewed the rain cover from his bike (mine didn’t have one) and so came lose. I found a small motorbike shop in PuTua and went inside to ask if they could fix it. They agreed for a small price of 10CNY (£[convert number=10.0) and were extremely helpful with directions to the nearest petrol station as I was running relatively low after having to go back up the dirt track hill.
After leaving the motorbike repair shop we finally found the petrol station and filled up. Once we had enough petrol we were stress free and finally enjoyed our scenic ride home.