Cloud 9 is a traditional Chinese restaurant situated at the corner of the famous West Street in the tiny beautiful town of Yangshuo. Located in the south-eastern Chinese province of Guangxi, Yangshuo continues to be a beehive destination for many foreign and local tourists, rock climbers, adventure seekers, and hikers. The normal routine for people coming to this part of China is that during the day they can indulge in a myriad of activities offered by the beauty of this place, and then spend the evenings in West Street eating ridiculously good food, drinking plenty of good wine (or beer), and enjoying chatting to their friends. Yangshuo, and the surrounding area, is highly admired for activities such as water rafting, bamboo rafting (fun!), rock climbing, hiking on many of the surrounding dreamy hills, cave exploration (or even mud bathing in a cool cave if you prefer), cycling in the countryside, and fishing.
After a long tiring day there is no better way than to sit down, relax and while away your evening in good company while providing your body with good healthy food. Cloud 9 is one of those places where you can do just that.
The restaurant offers authentic Sichuan and local Chinese specialities including ‘spicy beef with fresh mint and red hot chillies’, stuffed eggplant- you jia che zhe, and pork chops with garlic topping. One of the most popular dishes at Cloud 9 is the Yangshuo beerfish, a dish you have to try in Yangshuo as you are not able to find it in other places. The fish is preferred to be from the River Li, and is cooked while soaked in a wok full of local beer (normally Yangjing beer). The restaurant’s signature soups that are prepared fresh everyday are also popular. Try the duck and gingko biloba nut soup, which takes 3 hours to make. It’s so good that you just can’t get enough of it. One has to bear in mind that it’s the extra freshness and the high quality of the ingredients that make the Cloud 9 a more special dining experience. All the produce is homegrown in private farms in and around Yangshuo, with the vast majority of the meat and produce being organic or free-range.
The restaurant is nothing new when it comes to reviews, as its already been mentioned numerous times in Lonely Planet and various others as being the place to dine at when in Yangshuo. The true remarkable thing about Cloud 9 is not just the food, but also the people behind the restaurant’s being and the people who have made Cloud 9 that it is today.
The history of Cloud 9 goes all the way back to the late 1980s (around 1988), when inspirational founders husband and wife, William Lu and Linda Liang, originally set up one of Yangshuo’s first bar at the corner of Chenzhong road and West Street (it was known as Countryside Cafe). As William explains that in those days, Yangshuo had a very different clientele attraction: ‘There were more Westerners than the local Chinese traveller in those days’ says William. ‘Most of the guests were professional rock climbers and serious hikers who would look more like hippies because of their dreadlocks, and their lifestyle of smoking and playing the guitar in the evenings in slow rhythm to, say Bob Marley’s music. In those days, Yangshuo really felt like a hilly retreat, similar to that you may experience in, say, Nepal, Northern India (Manali and Leh), or the Himalayas’. William and Linda have become somewhat of a celeb couple in Yangshuo because of their inspirational business ventures that continue to provide the best customer service in the town.
However, as the economic and social demographics of China have dramatically changed over the past few years, so has Yangshuo. The former sleepy town has started attracting more Chinese visitors rather than westerners, and the main West Street becomes alive and loud with many shoppers. There are a lot of bars and clubs nowadays as well. The Chinese tourists are more into the less adventurous activities like shopping, sightseeing, photography, riding the boat along the River Li and so on.
Because of this change, William and Linda transformed their bar into the restaurant, Cloud 9, which it is nowadays. Apart from the Cloud 9 restaurant and cooking school, they also own and operate 7th Heaven restaurant, and the Snow Lion Resort, which is located amongst beautiful scenery around 2 km south of Yangshuo. The resort offers rooms with western-style amenities, private balconies, and wireless internet. The 7th Heaven provides arguably the best muesli with Greek yogurt in town. That hot Cadbury’s chocolate with brandy is just inspiring.
Throughout the years both William and Linda have built a strong rapport throughout the community, and many of the foreign guests are regular returners who treat William and Linda like brother and sister. This is perhaps the key to the success of their entrepreneurial venture because it’s the personalised service that they offer to their dinars. The restaurant is not only seen as the place to dine for just Westerners, but it is the preferred favourite for the locals alike. In addition, everyone is aware that if the local people prefer to eat somewhere then it must be of a good quality.
The tables on the balcony overlooking West Street are the most popular because then you get to be part of the action of West Street’s hustle & bustle. A good dish to share with a group of people is the local hotpot, Sichuan style. It's a pot with two kinds of soup, one spicy, the other is not. You will boil your vegetables, meat, and other ingredients yourself. Though for those who do not have a spicy tongue, then go for something less spicy such as chopped celery with lilybulbs and nuts.
However, the brand of Cloud 9 is much more than just a simple Chinese restaurant. It’s also one of the best Chinese cookery school's in Yangshuo- again an entrepreneurial venture of Linda, who is a very popular and well-liked master-chef herself. Cloud 9 was officially the first Chinese cookery school in Yangshuo, and all die to the fruits of labour of both Linda and William. One may say, well there are a few cooking schools in Yangshuo- but the fact of the matter is that the Cloud 9 cooking school is the best- this is official. The Cloud 9 cooking school has two fine locations in Yangshuo. The first one is combined with the Cloud 9 restaurant, and the second cooking school is located at the Yangshuo Snow Lion Riverside Retreat on the sleepy shores of the beautiful River Li.
There are two cooking classes offered daily (one in the morning, and one in the evening), and prices depend on what kind of dish you (or your group) want to prepare. Linda’s staff are all trained to international standards. Because of the high quality of the materials, cooking utensils, ingredients and the sheer integrity and professionalism of the trainers, the cooking school attracts many people from the USA, mainland Europe and other parts of South-East Asia. The costs for the courses are reasonable. The fun part of the whole cooking experience is that the students get to eat their own created dish after the cooking experience. Its fun, interactive and allows the participants to enjoy an experience of a lifetime in a good ambiance. Even if you are not a fan of cooking, then it is definitely worth a try because you will enjoy that extra positive energy of trying something new in new surroundings, and will be able to make new friends too. On the whole, Cloud 9 makes eating out in Yangshuo a real adventure, and an experience to cherish for a lifetime. For most visitors, after a trip to Yangshuo, it’s exceedingly hard to adjust back to their hectic life where they are surrounded by the daily hustle & bustle of a busy populated city such as London, New York or Beijing.
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