We took the boat trip from Guilin to Yangshuo. An bus picked us up at our hotel in Guilin and others at a few other hotels, then it took us to the boat docks which turned out to be some 30-40 minute drive south of Guilin. There was a guide in the bus who spoke only Chinese, and more or less continuously (and loud) for the full 30 minutes. At the boat docks we were instructed where to find our boat (#19). Finding it went without problems (there were around 50 boats there, leaving at around the same time!), however in the boat there turned out to be some problem with our seats which were already taken so we were moved to another boat (slightly less nice, no tablecloths for instance). In the chaos our tickets disappeared and of course noone spoke anything but Chinese. During the boat trip two different "guides" kept speaking (Chinese only) in a microphone at a *very* high volume. We had no choice but to use our headphones/earplugs and try do dampen the sound with some music. I tried to escape to the roof platform but on the way I had to pass another guy speaking (loudly, in Chinese) in a megaphone. In the end my coping strategy was to sit tight at my seat by the window, music in ears, focusing on the beautiful landscape. Unfortunately I had to close the window in periods because of the fruit vendors that anchored their bamboo rafts at the boatside "in-flight" (rather cool, in fact) but when the boat sped up water would then splash inside.
We knew that lunch would be served but we could not get information about when and how. Someone walked around with a menu and some passengers ordered from that. Later someone came around serving small dishes that turned out not to be included in the ticket price. Towards the end the lunch was finally served, consisting of a steel bowl with a rather cold rice dish, the cheapest imaginable lunch, especially considered the incredibly steep ticket price of 300 Yuans per person.
In short, our recommendation is: Avoid the boat trip and find some other way of enjoying the beautiful landscape. Maybe a bamboo raft or at least make sure you get a boat with guides speaking a language you can understand and that serves some decent lunch for the price. We stayed at a hotel in Yangshuo by the river a bit outside the city centre, and the breakfasts on the patio and a late cup of tea on the balcony among the magnificent mountains and butterflies was outstanding. We went by bicycle to Dragon river and from there one can take a bamboo raft (real bambo, not the plastic ones seen on the Guilin-Yangshuo-stretch) to Yangshuo city, takes about an hour and the scenery is just as amazing (at least from what we could see from our bikes).
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