Our trip is quickly being redeemed in the friendly and colorful town of Yangshuo. We arrived before sunrise from our overnight train ride and cleaned up a bit, and then sauntered out for a morning look around. It's a small, pretty town with Westerners aplenty (There are several English language schools here) so it was easy to feel comfortable walking down its stone-paved streets.
And then we looked up. Wow. The entire town is surrounded by these incredible geological formations called karsts, which are apparently limestone remainders of a prehistoric, volcanic era. Each one looks like its own mini-mountain, about 30-50 stories high, streaked with black and tan and topped with trees. This region has the largest collection of such features in the world. Ammy told us there are about 1,000 in the area, so wherever you look these impressive mounds are rising up in the background. It is really cool!
We walked to the Li River at the edge of town, where the rock formations go on as far as the eye can see. It was a pretty romantic scene--the river and karsts; old women sitting under tall, fluffy bamboo grasses, eating oranges and playing cards; young women doing laundry in the river; bamboo rafts floating by, taking children to school. Thankfully, it was a far way removed from our nasty boat ride a couple of days earlier.
Our group met us for a small orientation and lunch (at Minnie Mao's Cafe--ugh! The puns!). We sat outside in the sun. It was the first time we could expose some skin to the rays this trip, and it was fabulous. Warm, comfortable, and well-fed, we were ready to enjoy a couple of days in Yangshuo.