Yangshuo is a stunning tiny town located in China's south-western Guangxi province. Lush green fields, villages, and sleepy hills that often look like the outline of animals or other wonderful creatures surround the town. Just like the other cities in China, the economic and social demographics of Yangshuo have changed a lot since I last went there in 2003. This tiny close knit community of around 320,000 inhabitants, comprises of various ethnic groups such as the Zhuang, Yao, Miao and Han, has blossomed since the Sui dynasty some 1,400 years ago. West Street is a 2km stretch located right in the heart of the town, and is hideously crammed with shops, pubs, cafes, and hotels. In 2003 there were a handful of hostels, and West Street was very quiet, and would only come alive at night with a few foreign owned bars and cafes that were filled with foreign hippies, hikers and rock climbers who would perhaps have a few drinks, play the guitar and plan their next day's rock climbing session.
Nowadays, however, West Street is more of a tourist hub for Chinese people rather than the foreign rock climbers' retreat it used to be. You won't see many hippies, or western rock climbers with dreadlocks nowadays, and you certainly won't see any hippies smoking while playing Bob Marley music with their guitars like you used to do in years gone by. Yes, there are rock climbers and hikers still around, but the vast majority of them don't reside at West Street. The famous Cloud 9 restaurant is still there at the corner of the street, as well as the popular 7th Heaven hostel and restaurant.
The tourism business in Yangshuo has become so successful that its paved way for even local village families to allow western investors to renovate their village homes into bed & breakfast retreats. An example of this has been set by a lady known as Ms. Shelly. A popular figure among the local community, and somewhat a champion of the birth of the guest house in Yangshuo Ms. Shelly is the Managing Director of the ever popular boutique 16-all suite roomed Yangshuo Riverside Retreat located in a sleepy village just a 5 minute walk from the hustle and bustle of the town centre.
West Street itself is a Mecca for souvenir collectors, and there are plenty of the weird and wonderful collections of everything. Here are a few examples: There is a shop that sells matchsticks, where the matchstick boxes depict all kinds of issues, and figures of anyone (including Hitler, Bin Laden, President Obama, Hugo Chavez, Chairman Mao, and many others); a shop that sells all kinds of Russian things (some unmentionable!); lots of stalls that can make you personalised T-shirts (including those with portraits of Bin Laden, Saddam Hussain etc. (don't know why its popular here); and even handmade pottery. For more check out these photos of the infamous West Street in Yangshuo!
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