Yangshuo was our first destination inside China. Since leaving Hong Kong we've managed to learn a few words of Chinese (thanks to Byki and Rosetta Stone on the netbook) and found the people to be very friendly. We really appreciate the ability of all train ticket office staff so far to speak English as the main stations are hectic.
Travelling through China on the train has been an experience in itself, first on a 12-hour journey to Yangshuo in a 'hard sleeper' - basically economy class with 6-berth units in an open carriage, then on to Chengdu; a 26-hour journey in a 'soft sleeper' - a more expensive (economy class was not available) and comfortable 4-berth with a door and independent lighting controls etc. We might pay the extra for future journeys in any case!
Yangshuo was a nice town, set in countryside dominated by large limestone hills seemingly thrown up at random by the earths crust - these hills feature on the 20 Yuan note of the Chinese currency.
It's easy to imagine the town thriving in the height of summer, but it was relatively quiet when we arrived in early March - and that meant we got constantly pestered by the local agents and peddlers for tourist activities. It was a tourist trap but that didn't stop us enjoying a boat trip up and down the Li River where you can really see how farmers/country-folk and their animals live along the banks, and a cooking class to make dumplings, ' beer fish' (a local speciality) and chicken kung po - if anyone want the recipes give us a shout. We didn't take any photos (as we were as asked not to) but the trip to the local market in advance of the cooking class was one of the highlights. We learnt amongst other things that dog meat is the most expensive meat when compared to beef, chicken or pork, and there were even dogs being skinned in boiling water and blowtorched ready for sale as we walked past.
We also did a little bit of cycling which was intended to be relaxing in the countryside, but we found a unique route that took us towards what look liked a militant roadblock - so we turned back and headed into town at pace! With the roads (and pavements) full of motorbikes, mopeds, cars, trucks, 3-wheelers and other cyclists, cycling around the town is more hazardous than relaxing. Lane discipline is only in straight lines (when not overtaking, which is constant) and does not apply at any sort of junction when it really is a free for all. Being a pedestrian is just as hectic, the Chinese don't bother with the marked crossings, nor stop for anything.