Rather than shell out for the hotel breakfast (which didn’t have many interesting Chinese options), I opted to just set out by bicycle and look for food along my way. With a not-to-scale paper map and some directions from the hotel receptionist, I was on my way. On the silly pink bicycle he insisted would be best for me.
I rode thru countryside, and by the occasional restaurant, but all were totally empty. No customers eating hot bowls of anything, or steam trays with hidden treasures to be investigated. I’m not sure whether I was on the right “bike route” or not – it was a narrow country road, paved, and at times it was nice and peaceful. Other times, tour buses, trucks hauling bamboo rafts back up river, and other vehicles made it less pleasant. My bicycle had just one speed – leisurely. Maybe the receptionist was onto something after all.
I rode past the first couple of bamboo raft places, and at the farthest one up, tried to understand the options for dealing with my bike. Lonely Planet said you could bring bikes ON the rafts, but apparently that is no longer the case. Could I park my bike here somewhere and get a ride back? Unclear. Another girl in line was helpful with translating but it didn’t seem like the raft operators really cared to make it easy for the likes of me. So, I decided to forego the raft ride (it was relatively expensive, time consuming, and went through the same areas I’d just ridden through).
I was also getting a bit “hangry” and was hopeful that, as it was getting to be lunchtime, I’d be able to spot a popular place to eat. No such luck along the country roads, but at one point, I wound up at an intersection with good signage. To the left, Yangshuo. To the right, back to my hotel. Well, why not go back into town? I hung a left and rode some more, and eventually wound up in Yangshuo, but on a less-touristy street. I saw a couple of restaurants filled with people eating. Parked my bike and checked it out. I pointed at several things that looked vegetable-heavy. 10yuan for a plate of food and fill your own bowl of rice. Not bad!
After lunch, I parked my bike closer to the center of town, found some tasty baked goods, and walked around a bit. Eventually decided that I wanted to get “home” well before dark, so rode back to the hotel (only taking a couple of wrong turns along the way).
The hotel’s lovely rooftop bar/restaurant is apparently now only open for breakfast, but the receptionist said that I could have a drink up there, they just didn’t have any food. So, I brought some snacks of my own and enjoyed a quiet sunset on the rooftop.
Although I wasn’t very hungry, I thought I should really try the “beer fish” that is so popular in the area. I walked a few minutes to a nearby restaurant that had it, and ate on their massive (but nearly empty) patio along the river. It was tricky to eat, but quite delicious!
As I was eating, some fellow guests from my hotel stopped in and ate, too. As they were heading out, we chatted a bit – they’re from the US and living in another city in China (she’s a science teacher) and have been exploring other areas when they can. When I asked if they were also heading to the train station in the morning, we arranged to share a car. Win!