West Street has many restaurants and cafés to choose from, to the point where the choice can become overwhelming. Our goal was to find local, authentic cuisine that catered for vegetarians (although some Western food did creep into our diets). Luckily, we had a local friend to show us a few hidden-away places.
Here’s a list of my top 5 places to eat or drink in Yangshuo:
1. Secret Garden: my favourite place to eat and drink is actually in Jiuxian village, in Yangshuo’s surrounding countryside. Jiuxian village was built during the Qing Dynasty and its ancient stone walls make it all the more special. After parking our bicycles outside the village and wandering around, we stopped for a drink at Secret Garden – a restored boutique hotel. Their back courtyard provides a leafy, tranquil oasis for quiet contemplation. Alternatively, it’s great place to sip their fresh juice and eat their healthy Chinese vegetarian food after a morning spent cycling through the neighbouring rice fields.
Location: Jiuxian village is approximately 30 minutes bicycle ride west of Yangshuo.
2. Yunnan Arabica Coffee: this café in town is for the coffee lovers – they sure know how to make good Arabica coffee. They boast Chinese grown coffee beans from the Yunnan region, as well as beans from Africa and Central America. Plus they have all the necessary accessories if you want to buy a bag of coffee and make it at home. You have to pay for the luxury of good coffee, though. However, you do get access to really good VPN wifi. We went to Yunnan Arabica Coffee almost everyday to drink coffee and check our emails.
Location: just past the new shopping precinct on Chengzhong Road.
3. Gan’s Noodle House: this small, Chinese eatery makes vegetarian dumplings and hand cut noodles with vegetables. That’s primarily why we went there – and we weren’t disappointed. Gan’s Noodle House has picture menus to help you to choose what to order and is ridiculously cheap. Like many of the local eateries, they unwrap new crockery and cutlery from their shrink wrap plastic for you to use – a local custom to try and ensure cleanliness and sterilisation.
Location: the noodle house we went to was not too far from West Street, across from the Indian Restaurants. Apparently there is another noodle house with the same name near the petrol station on Pantao Road.
4. Lucy’s Place: this café/restaurant is popular with Westerners. They’re open early for breakfast and offer a mixed menu of Chinese and Western cuisine. Add to this, their value for money prices and the free wifi access. Lucy’s Place also turns, conveniently, into a bar at night. If you’re feeling culture shock, then this is place for you.
Location: Guihua Road, just past the new shopping precinct and close to West Street.
5. Local oil tea: head to one of the local restaurants outside of the tourist zone to try oil tea (see photo above). The ethnic people from the mountains used this tea to keep warm during the winter. It has a light green colour from the smashed tea leaves and is flavoured with garlic, salt, ginger and chilli. To the liquid, you can then add your choice of spring onions, puffed rice, peanuts and more salt. Oil tea has a unique flavour so you’re either going to love or hate. Give it a few sips before you decide.
The restaurant we went to set up a table outside for us and busied themselves connecting electricity cables so that the electric hot plate would keep the oil tea hot. We also ate fried potato noodles, vegetables in vinegar and some strange tofu.
Location: we went for a big breakfast at one of the restaurants on the other side of Chengxi Road, past the Bank of China. There are lots of restaurants in that area that cater for the locals and not tourists.
Photo: traditional oil tea served in sterilised plates straight out of its shrink plastic wrap, Yangshuo, China.