Yanshuo and its street restaurants

Heading out from my apartment each morning, I would walk past the local merchants selling fruits and vegetables, meat (above), bicycle parts, the metal worker was busy welding metal frames and fittings, the laundry lady was weighing and folding clothes, and people on bikes, on motorcycles, in tractors, and walking down the street made each day a busy Chinese day.  As I walked from the apartment at the border between the “tourist zone” and the suburban apartment district, I would smile and nod to my neighbors and in time they all got to know me.

My landlord, Mrs. Lee was a nice enough lady and though she spoke no English, I could always get a thought across with a smile, the tone of my voice, and some cards that had phrases written in Chinese.  Carrying cards with simple Chinese phrases is an ingenious way to get a thought across. Just pull a card and hand it to the Chinese person; “I like my food spicy with garlic,” or “I want a quiet room away from the street,” and “I am a vegetarian, do not add meat to my dish.”

I often saw this grandma outside tending to her grandchild while its parents were at work.  On a weekend day, I saw her daughter cutting her hair in the street.  I really enjoyed the Chinese people, they were much friendlier than I had thought and much more generous than I had ever imagined.  And, very importantly, the cities are safe.  Crime is almost non existant and I always felt safe walking the streets without fear of theft or violence.

Down on the main street in town,  I shot this photo of a “typical” mid-morning in Yangshuo.  The Chinese people in the foreground are likely tourists from another part of China.  Just off to the right of the photo is the walking district where most of the Western catering businesses are located.  Just beyond that is West Street lined with cafés, bars, little shops, and of course thousands of tourists.

At my favorite restaurant you make your dish to order: you take some chopsticks and put onto your plate whatever you want to be in your dish.  If you want broccoli, you put one piece of broccoli on your plate, if you want carrot, you put some carrot on your plate.  When you are done, you have one small piece of each ingredient that you want in your dish.

The host then measures out how much of each ingredient to make a “balanced” dish and then takes it back to the kitchen and the chef throws it into the wok.  The food is usually cooked in about 5 minutes.

Nearby is a rice pot and you scoop out a bowl of steamed rice and pour yourself a cup of hot tea and have a seat.  And then you eat when your main dish is brought out.  The food was quite divine in taste and the locals were friendly and genuinely curious of the tall Westerners eating in their local hangout.  Each day I got to know some of the locals that frequented the place.

And the cost for this divine meal?  About .80 cents US.  Considering that the cost of an apartment is only about a hundred dollars a month, that everything is walking distance and the food is so wonderful tasting, it is easy to see why so many expats come here to visit and stay for months or even years.

If you are visiting Yangshuo or living there, be sure to try some of the local restaurants.  Not only are they affordable, but they have wonderful food and friendly staff and patrons.  If you are not sure how much to pay, just watch the locals and pay what they pay.


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