Bewitching Yangshuo, part II: Loving and longing along Li river

“The river winds like a green silk ribbon, 

while the hills are like jade hairpins”

Chinese poet Han Yu (768-824)

The white-grayish clouds seem to merge with the gently flowing waters of Li-river, creating a visual art piece in front of my eyes. I consciously choose to hold my often quietly

passionate horses and leave my camera out of it.

Nowadays, there is something deliciously rebellious to only taking mental pictures and putting your entire focus there – deliberately, consciously, and fully aware that every hell YES to a certain decision equals a NONOPE to a different one. Just like you cannot not communicate, you cannot not decide – because even the choice to remain passive and not decide can be a decision with far-reaching consequences both for your own and for other being’s lives. 

Is it the energy of the poetic scenery all around me that makes my mind wander- wonder like this? No surprise there, after all, Li River is a gentle force of poetic beauty and inspiration to be reckoned with. 

Uncovering Lijiang River’s mystery

If Li River, the most written about waterway in China, was a person, he/ she would obviously be called Li. Li would be a mysterious being, maybe born in one of those foggy and elusive winter months, with a tantalizing, seductive, and deep gaze, with a deep-blue scarf ever so effortlessly thrown around their neck, with a few strands of dark hair falling loosely about his or her head.

Of course, Li would lounge around in bohemian teahouses, read forbidden books, discuss art with fellow mysterious beings, write alluring poems and ethereal music, and muse about life. Li would live on the inspiration alone that the river, the green and lush karst hills, and the rugged mountains pour out so generously day after day in Yangshuo county. Li would be a miracle being indeed!

Back to more grounded perspectives and to our leisurely walk along Li river, where we even get to admire the famous scene that became the inspiration for the background image on the 20 Yuan banknote! We also get to witness water buffalos leisurely grazing along the river bank, some of them carrying enormous backward-curving, crescent-shaped horns stretching close to an impressive 1,5 meters (5 feet) long.

On top of that, we get to take in the exotic sights of black cormorant birds with their long, curved, elegant necks and watch savvy-mean fishermen gone tourist-entertainers pimp out their birds for a quick shot along the river boardwalk. 

All the while our host, a passionate Chinese teacher, is dead set on instilling as much knowledge into us as possible, and so we learn new words such as “Měilì de” – beautiful, “ni kan” – look, and “Wǒ bùxiǎng” – I don’t want to, by the bucket load. As well as all about the intriguing meanings behind the Chinese language symbols. 

There is something profoundly enticing about the poetic richness of Mandarin, which literally means ‘speech of officials‘, a group of Chinese languages natively spoken across most of northern and southwestern China.

And while it’s so refreshing to take in all that new knowledge, it feels wholesome to balance the neverending stream of enthusiastically exclaimed Chinese words thrown in our general direction with some soul-soothing contemplation of the breathtakingly beautiful panorama in front of us. 

There is a fairytalelike, enchanted, and deeply peaceful quality to the mountain magnificence that we are privileged to lay our eyes upon. Painted in gentle shades of blue, lovingly covered up by elusive layers of mist, there is truly no-where I’d rather be.

Secrets in the air: The transformative power of true love

Can you find such peace within the realm of human relationships? While we continue to explore the natural beauty all around us, treasured memories of my beloved grandfather Werner come to mind. The peace and soul-deep love between us has carried me through many a storm since his passing fourteen years ago.

Soulmates come in many forms and shapes, is what the wind whispers to me in its melodious hush-hush voice while we meander through Yangshuo’s magical surroundings.  

Understanding between primary soulmates happens without words, from heart to heart, and soul to soul. That’s at least what my own heart and my experience tell me…and for your own truth, always orient towards your own heart as your one true north.

True soul love impacts us in ways that are deeper and more far-reaching than the mind could ever comprehend. True soul love just is, or it isn’t, and it can never be forced. No amount of begging, wishing, or prodding, can make a more loosely knitted kind of love wear the cloth of an ocean-deep bond. Love comes in many shapes, forms, and levels of strength and depth. It is always given freely and at the same time should never be given up on too lightly once it has made its way into our hearts. 

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Lao Tzu

Let the love for yourself and the love for another merge into waves of bliss, joy, laughter, and compassion, and voila – you’ll turn the mundane into the magical…When you choose to turn your back on contorted notions of love and experience for yourself, when you turn towards love and loving as the most healing and transformative journey and the rawest elixir of life, you can create bonds of true love that can give you wings and let rainbows manifest out of thin air.  

Love is the be and end-all of why we are here” – the  Chinese wind gets a more decisive tone to it and jolts me back into the present. Can you savor, truly savor, this wisdom on your tongue and soak it up with all you are?

Soaking it all up, Yangshuo-style

Breathing in the incredibly pure, innocent mountain air that clears the cobwebs of old thoughts and reveries out of your being surely helps in opening up to new wisdom and inspiration. You can feel your fingertips getting colder, your heart growing bolder. You might even want to smolder: I mean – graceful karst hills all around you, a wide expanse of mist-covered waters, layer upon layer of peaks shrouded in fine gauze, and floating clouds everywhere you look…

As one of the most represented landscapes in traditional Chinese paintings and poems, Yangshuo sure knows how to impress.

We continue walking, while our host keeps on eagerly instructing us in Chinese. All the while, we take in the melodious whispers of the shaddock trees, the sight of a tucked-away learning center advertising Tai Chi classes, and the graceful green bamboo trees gently swaying in the wind.

Siblings seizing the day

After five minutes of relative silence and contemplation, our host exhales loudly and exclaims “Wǒ èle, wǒmen chīfàn ba“. Man, my brother is intensely passionate about Chinese. What did he just shout into our ears? He notices my wondering gaze and quickly adds “I am hungry, let’s eat!” 

Yangshuo’s food scene: Of Steaming hot pots and snake sacrifices

With Rudolph-the-Red-Nose-Reindeer-looking noses from the cold and growling bellies, we make our way back to Yangshuo’s bustling town center and enter a casual-looking restaurant on bustling West Street. I reckon we shall leave the food order to the expat- expert, agreed? 

Twenty minutes and a cup of warming ginger tea with extra-large pieces of ginger later, a steaming hot XXL- large hotpot dish arrives. What a delicious-looking dreamboat! Ahem, steamboat. Mr. Teacher instructs us on how to prepare a Hotpot meal: there’s a simmering pot of soup stock in front of us, and we just take our chopsticks and dunk the different ingredients such as bok choy, crispy Chinese cabbage, and Chinese eggplant, tofu, mushrooms, and seafood into the pot.

Mouthwateringly tasty, an incredible richness of different flavors start to melt in your mouth and satisfies your palate like ooh yeah, more of this, please… While we hungrily devour the food,  my gaze wanders through the restaurant and my eyes meet …a pickled snake in a bottle! No kidding.

Chinese hotpot, a fun and interactive meal! Image by Vlad Vatnetsov via Pixabay

Original Yangshuo snake booze, anyone?

We ask the waiter about such a curious sight to behold, and find out that the snake has been marinated in alcohol for a very specific purpose: Dead drunk snake matey apparently alleviates knee issues! Does it? Does it? Please let me know about your experiences with homemade snake booze in the comment section 😛

Our very cultured host then goes on to explain that in China, it’s common knowledge that when you consume certain organs, these improve the health of the corresponding organ in one’s body. With a conspiratorial gaze, the China expert lets us in on a – pretty disgusting, really– secret, or better said, a real-life-horror-story…here goes: on some parties of the rich and famous, these fellows enjoy…cutting open a living monkey’s head and sip its brain! Freaky. At least from the perspective of our Western and animal-friendly-socialized brains…

Wow, we might need some booze to digest that latest story, hey? … Snake-booze, to be exact 😛 What more crazy adventures might mighty China hold for us? Stay tuned for our next post, when we will head out to have a very messy Chinese lunch with Chinese locals, learn why some Chinese nightclubs have moving floors, and explore Li River on a leaky bamboo raft, amongst many other things.

Back to you, dear reader: Have you ever been to China? If yes: What were your absolute highlights? If not: Where would you most love to travel to within the Chinese borders? As always, I would love to hear from you! Stay well and curious:)

Wanna shout me a juice, a book, or a tiny horse :P? Donations welcome:)


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Categories: Amor und Eros - Love and sensual living, Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel | Tags: , , , | 39 Comments

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39 thoughts on “Bewitching Yangshuo, part II: Loving and longing along Li river

  1. Qierida amiga!! How can i read more and on what’s I have to do subscribe.I am most confused.I want read more about Li river.what do I do,my dear dost!!🤔

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Most beautiful image of Li river❤

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Fabulous quote and the picture of the river is so beautiful, Maria. Loved it. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My dear Gypsy Soul !! Your new blog is Awesome but unble to read said last week for publishing a new post on this week.did you forget,meri yaar.!! Plz.try for that.for some minute,amigo querida amiga,come on my blog .I wrote some for you because i was missing you.jaroor aur jaldi aana.( come surely ‘n soon),meri jaan.(nahi to meri jaan nikal jaayegi) I will wait for you,my dear gypsy soul!!with much love and big hugs❤💕💕💕💝💕💕💕❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Maria, due to yesterday’s Thich Nhat Hanh’s passing, I just added more to that 2014 post! If you have time and inclination, here is the link. I love your site and perceptions, languages! Thanks and blessed be! 💖💞💝

    Liked by 1 person

  6. An exciting time for you, Maria Elena, your spirit and views of the world are always pieces of wisdom for all of us ~ and an exciting way to begin the new year. Wishing you a great year and one of health, positivity, and enlightenment. Cheers to you ~ take care.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ciao my friend, aww such magnificent and soultouching words of kindness once again, thank you mucho🤗🤗🤗! Very grateful for your friendship. Wishing you so much health, joy, and ongoing brilliance for this new year of the tiger! Hugs ✨✨✨


  7. Pingback: Aloha amigos: Gypsy News ’22 + on the sanctity of souls | A Gypsy at Heart

  8. My cara amica, how lovely it is to read you again. As always you manage to transport me to this world in China with all of my senses alive. Now I’m really not too sure about the snake booze and that freaky tale of sipping from the … I can’t even finish the sentence! How very bizarre. But I guess that’s the intrigue with many different cultures, including the Chinese. I loved your words on Love, so very beautiful and heartfelt. A beautiful post by a beautiful soul. Big hugs and tanti baci my friend. Glad you’re back!! xxx ❤️🥰❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ciao gorgeous, aw thank you so much for your wonderful Miri- words of warmth and kindness here! So happy to hear you enjoyed your multisensory travelride – experience all the way to China with the Gypsy Express cara 🤗 Always such a pleasure to have you on board! I know, the snake booze and the poor sipping-tale are stories that are a bit hard to swallow, aren’t they? Culture shock alright! My animal-loving heart was shocked, but my inner journalist needed to share this unusual experience! Thanks again so much for all your kind words here my dear. So glad to be reconnecting here with ya!! Big warm hugs ❤️🥰❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I feel your passion Maria for life, love, learning, and the Li River. Maybe not so much on the snake booze! May we love with open hearts. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A warm, revealing piece, great work. It’s good that you managed to pierce through those surface layers with the culture, so many don’t I feel. This brought back some great memories exploring Guilin and Yangshuo. It’s a magical place, being on the Yi River makes you feel like you’re in some epic movie. The food in China… my god…. second only to Indian cuisine for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there Leighton, wow such a beautiful feedback from you, thank you very much! It means a lot, cheers! I am very happy and grateful you enjoyed the read. You are right, the area has a magical and to me, deeply tranquil quality and feel to it. Very cool that you got to experience it for yourself! YES epic movie vibes, I agree! And yes… amazing food (I mean, those dumplings!!). Indian cuisine is amazing… and one of the best food experiences I have ever had was enjoying some street food in the middle of a hidden back road in Kuala Lumpur. Good times! 🙂 Have a fun day over there!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Love flows through your words like a beautiful, meandering river. Wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Gypsy dear!
    What a fab adventure.
    You certainly take great notes, or have the memory of an elephant.

    Was this a recent trip? Or was it pre-Covid.
    Whatever, a great adventure for sure.

    Never had snake alcohol, never will! LOL!!!!
    Yes, many of the Chinese medicine practices seem odd to westerners. Also, the fact that they will only use certain parts of animals, killing for a horn or gall bladder is not a sustainable practice. Many of the animals are endangered.

    I hope you are doing well, and keep doing well.
    Unfortunately, after the last 2 years, I’m not in a financial position to donate.
    LOL! I was thinking of doing a donate thing on my Art Gowns blog, for a new judy. They cost a fortune, and mine is on her last wheels.

    Besos y abrazos

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hola my lovely Resa artista!!

      It’s so wonderful to have you here:) Yes!
      Thanks so much for reading and sharing your impressions!! Yes to memory of an elephant, but as this trip happened quite some years ago, also yes to the abundance of notes! ✍️✍️✍️

      So happy you enjoyed the adventure dear. It’s a bummer that Chinese Medicine uses animal parts, I agree. I guess we do live in a very imperfect world in that sense… still too much dark mixed in with the light… which hopefully will transform soonIsh via individual responsibility and grounded healing work.

      Thank you for considering to donate!! 💚💚💚
      Why not do it for your ArtGowns blog? Great idea! 💚💚💚

      Hope you are well lovely! Gracias and talk soon,
      muchos besos 💚💚💚

      Liked by 1 person

  13. There are so many things to love about this post 🙂 First is you bring the essence of China back to me with your creative narrative, understanding of the culture, and the photos all pieced together so well. It has been more than two and a half years since I’ve been back and I miss is much… and this post makes me miss it even more 🙂 And the snake alcohol is actually quite good… miss it too! It is a part of the scientific arm of traditional Chinese medicine, so I trust it 😉

    Also, you mention something important at the beginning which is “there is something deliciously rebellious to only taking mental pictures and putting your entire focus there…” There was a major storm that swept through the village I live in Czech, and we were all on the doorstep watching with awe… I slowly tried drawing out my camera for a photo and a friend said “Randy don’t, just enjoy the moment…” so I did for a few minutes, and then I couldn’t help myself and had to take a photo 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there amigo, how are you? Wonderful to hear from you, thanks so much for your in-depth feedback here! It’s very cool to hear that you felt the essence of the Chinese culture was captured (well, some it of course – what a deep, rich and layered culture it is!). I know you have spent way more time over there than me, so it’s exciting to hear the post resonated with you! Also, speaking from a journalistic viewpoint – finally someone pro snake- booze 😛 It’s interesting to hear about your experiences here.

      And thanks so much for sharing your exciting experience in Czech also – man, I love a good storm!! And I can totally relate to your challenge re being in the moment versus being the photographer!! Such a pleasure to hear from you. Hugs to u in Czech/or the US! 🤗


  14. Nur

    My dear Maria Elena.. it is amazing how your posts teach me so much- above and beyond a travel post on Yangshuo but also on metaphors, cultures, poetry and life’s wisdom- you are truly a rich soul 💕 I love this line – ‘even the choice to remain passive and not decide can be a decision with far-reaching consequences both for your own and for other being’s lives’ which is my latest lesson on courage and the saying that loving someone teaches us courage… am also touched by your description on soul
    mates and how there is almost an inevitable magnetic force we cannot deny.. the past two months has been so much about this miracle of connections for me…I also like what you say about coconut and peach culture, I have never heard this saying but can see what you mean re US and China…. I love the dreamy photos of the Yangshuo landscape you have taken, it looks like movie stills and I am equally in gentle love with the serenity of Li River… I have only been to Shanghai and Hong Kong, both very different cities and I adore Shanghai.. and my goodness you are just glowing ever more… love the photo with your brother- hope this trip gave you both even more friendship and strength together… huge hugs for now…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Nur, thank you so much for your detailed comment and loving kindness here! I will email you a reply these days. Huge hugs gorgeous 💕💕


  15. Nice post about is situated at north border of our INDIA.all facts are intresting but there style of lunch and dinner are ugly.the snake and the monkey’s brain… they are eat already.i feel vomiting.only discription of the river Li is really amazing.China is a country of many folk tales which are interesting.thanks ,dear dost for sharing the new experience in the trip of china.much love and big hugs,Querida amiga💕💕💕❤❤❤❤💕💕love you and bless you🤗❤🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bahut bahut dhanyvaad, dear dost! Thank you for sharing your impressions here. I am glad you found the article interesting:) Yes the cuisine is definitely a bit different over there!! Little heads up – I am only occasionally on my blog at the moment, so answers might take a bit longer. Thanks again, much love, big hugs, and many blessings!💕💕💕❤❤❤❤


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