Yangshou, the center of backpackers and foreigners in general throughout the whole of China. A city where Chinese are a minority compared to the large number of tourists. A place where you can get western food as good as at home. Or so Lonely Planet had told us. We entered Yangshao to find out that none of these things were true. I must agree with some other bloggers who called their Lonely Planet, Lying Planet. Yangshao for the most part was a quiet city, not a rowdy backpackers’ town as I had heard. There were at least fifteen Chinese to every foreigner, and they were still obsessed with grabbing Asher for pictures, a skill which it seemed no Chinese could master since Asher would bolt away and hide every time anyone got remotely close to her. Definitley not a place where foreigners are as commonplace as Chinese. Aside from the tours on the Li River, the Yangshou Mud Caves, and so forth, all that there was in the quiet town of 300,000 was a single street packed with restaurants and discos. As I would soon find out, this is where we would be spending most of our time. On our first night we walked down the long street, awe struck by how many discos could be packed into such a small space. We checked out a few restaurants and then decided on the China Cafe, which looked as if it could be quite good, since it was stuffed with people. We ordered a good deal of food, and found that at least the guide books were right on one thing, the food was amazing.
The China Cafe had somehow managed to master the art of Italian cooking, since the pasta, lasagna, and pizza were the kids’ favorites. Kieran for the first time ate a decent amount of food, well maybe a bit more than a decent amount, he stuffed in the pizza and lasagna. Despite their Italian food, they still needed to work on the traditional hamburger; my mom ordered one and got a frozen meat patty on a bun with maybe ten fries to accompany it. For the rest of us we found that the China Cafe offered good fried rice, sweet and sour pork, and staged the best sizzling beef plate we have yet to taste. We managed to buy two fried rice plates, sizzling beef, sweet and sour pork, three cheese pizzas, a plate of pasta, garlic spare ribs, roast goose and beef noodles for under twenty dollars, finally cutting down on food costs after insanely priced Australia and New Zealand, I mean three bucks for a candy bar? Come on Aussie! All around us were other restaurants with live music. To my disappointment not a single drum set was to be found. All the bands used tambourines and keyboard beats. Their ability to play was alright, but as for the singing, um, let’s just say that half the time I thought some drunks were doing karaoke. We also noticed that every band at some time played a collection of American 60′s through 80′s hits, a fact that made me want to jump off a bridge again. The discos were hopping, people packed into them to show off their dancing skills. The problem is that in a country where the only indigenous instruments are flutes and a single string instrument, you don’t build a good rhythm base among most people, and so most end up dancing like McKane, Kieran and Asher, a lot of jumping around with no real connection to the beat. But for the younger kids this proved to be the most fun thing of all. At the first disco we passed we saw a very fashionable man outside bouncing to the music in an interesting fashion and yelling at people to come to his disco. We decided to have some fun. Mac and I hopped up. I started doing various odd moves while Mac jumped around of course! The man didn’t like it at all so we left him. The kids continued to dance in the front of this disco EVERY night and drew in huge crowds. Every time they came the man would go inside get a beer and come back out, while his female colleague loved the kids and told them to come dance any time they wanted. Aside from eating at the China Cafe every night (we only ate at another restaurant for dinner once and it paled in comparison, even the director of the Yangshao English school had told us China Cafe was some of the best food in town)
The other main attraction was an arcade like area dedicated solely to a game called ‘Street Ball.’ It’s basically one of those basketball games like at Chuck E. Cheese’s where you try and score as many baskets as possible in a given time limit, and if you do well enough you move on to the next round. We spent hours playing constantly challenging each other to see who could get the high score, our dad basically owning our faces in every time. But even the great Tom couldn’t stand up to the Asian women who consistently made 15 or 16 baskets in a row with little to no effort. We finished up in Yangshao with one last night out. We ate to our heart’s content in the China Cafe, danced and created a giant crowd at the disco, and took the little kids to get lollipops. We bid farewell to Yangshao with a good impression made inside us. If one ever goes to China and is searching for a place to relax or have a good time, come to Yangshao. There you should find something for everyone.