Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring Break Part 2- Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

I am a bit of a "Beijing Expat Blog Stalker". That is, if I find out that another expat here in Beijing has a blog I bookmark it and check back often. By doing this I have found out some really good information and reliable tips . . . like where to stay in Yangshuo! After you read this blog post you will want to stay at the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat too!
On a small country rode you arrive at the retreat.
Yangshuo is about an hour and fifteen minute ride from the Guilin airport. Friends had spent a day or two in Guilin and recommended we just skip it and spend all of our time in Yangshuo, a small town on the Li River. 
Upon making our reservations about six weeks in advance we found out a couple of things; first, they require paypal advance payment in full (a little nervous about being scammed) and second, the customer service was very good as we emailed back and forth several times. In one of the emails they offered to arrange airport transportation. This cost 300 yuan ( about $45 USD) and I got to live my dream of seeing my name on a sign as I leave the airport. Don't you ever wonder who those cool people are that have drivers meeting them?
The retreat is made up of three buildings.
A little farther back you can appreciate the immense mountains that the retreat is at the base of.
Sure enough! My name was on a sign, held by a man who led us to a car/taxi. In Yangshuo, the taxi's are not specific looking taxis like in Beijing. I thought a few times that when I get back to America I could help supplement our income by turning my mini-van into a taxi on certain days of the week...oh wait, I already do...I'm a mom!

And yet another picture of the amazing mountains behind the retreat!
When we arrived at the retreat we were taken back by the amazing calmness that immediately hit us. The terraced garden situated on the bank of the slow-moving YuLong river causes you to leave all your stress behind. Our room was not ready yet, but that didn't matter because they serve you ginger tea and a plate of homemade cookies to enjoy in the garden. Yum!

We were staying for three nights, four full days, a perfect amount of time in Yangshuo! Our bigger room was only available for the first two nights (this place books up quick) so our last night we were moved to two smaller rooms. The total cost for three nights, all the rooms, was a whopping $255 USD...a complete bargain!
Our large room, 103A, had a terrace entrance leading right out to the garden and river.
Ideal location!
Below is a video of our room. If this doesn't sell ya, I don't know what will!. . .
. . . yes I do! 
The amazing food! We soon realized that the retreat was where we would spend a lot of our time. Partly because it was so darn relaxing, but also because the food was so darn good (and cheap too)! Right off the lobby is a charming restaurant and bar area, with a cozy stone fireplace. You can eat breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner in the restaurant or in the garden. Some of the dishes that were "to die for" was the french toast, spare ribs in plum sauce and apple crumble. It was so great that any of us could order something scrumptious, charge it to the room and know we weren't breaking the bank. How often can you say that on vacation?
The entrance to the main building; the lobby and restaurant.

Where we ate most of our meals. Each morning we all had fresh squeezed orange juice.
The customer service didn't end on our email correspondence. The staff prides themselves on being like a family. You could feel this as you get to know the waitresses, the front desk clerks and the housekeepers. They just seem to love working here! Anytime you have a question or want tickets to "the show" (more on "the show" in our next post) they take care of it all for you. For someone like me who gets bogged down with details, this made all the difference in the world!

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For 20 yuan (3.50 USD) you can rent one of the retreat bikes for a half day, 30 yuan for a full day. We did this everyday. The countryside just calls for you to go out and explore it. More on that here

E getting ready for a ride.
It was so fun to find out that E's math and core teacher was staying at the retreat at the same time we were! Her and her husband are both teachers at ISB, D actually had the husband for math too. We enjoyed getting to know them on a more personal basis. You can't help but make acquaintances with the other guests at the retreat, it is all part of the family atmosphere. 

The Yangshuo Mountain Retreat also prides itself on being a sustainable hotel. They take green to the next level. You will not find anything consumable (except for my non-metal/plastic water bottle. Shame on me), except toilet paper, here. Speaking of toilet prepared, if you go, to not flush any toilet paper down the toilet. It actually is common here in China due to the poor plumbing. It is amazing how instinctive it is to flush toilet paper! 
Most of the furnishings are local bamboo and they wash the restaurant cloth napkins right there in the river. A much more simple way of life.
D really enjoyed sitting on this bamboo raft and paying with stuff he found on the river bank.
On our last day, the sun was out, and it made for a glorious day! Since it is in southern China, the temperature was tropical and moderate the whole time. A nice change from the Beijing chill.
Our flight did not leave Guilin until 9:00 pm so we played badminton, ping pong, read books and relaxed. 
Please come and visit us so we can take you here!
Next up, our excursions!

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