The town of Yangshuo (陽朔) is the end of the line for the Li River cruise.
Many tourists get off the boats and then jump on buses to head right back to the city of Guilin. But Yangshao is a cute place to hang out for a day or two.
With the beautiful surroundings, numerous backpackers, and stores catering to visitors, it immediately reminded Jason of Banff.
There are tons of activities including bicycling, rafting and mountain climbing available through rental places in the town. Unfortunately, the rainy weather nixed any thought of that.
There is a surprising mix of east and west in Yangshuo. As we walked down West Street, the pedestrian mall in the centre of town, vendors with perfect English sold tuques, North Face jackets and jewelry. There are several English pubs, French cafes, and even a German schnitzel house opened by foreigners who’ve moved here.
We avoided those and went to the second-floor Mei You Cafe, right next to our hotel. It turns out there are three locations of Mei You — all with subtle differences.
Mei you (没有) in Chinese means “don’t have.” The two branches on West Street have cheesy English signs in what I call chopsticks font that say, “Mei you warm beer. Mei you lousy food. Mei you bad service,” along with a terrible caricature of a Chinaman wearing a rice-paddy hat.
Not normally a place I’d rush into, but it came highly recommended for dinner. (The West Street locations also do Western-style breakfasts.)
The food was quite good, especially the Yangshuo specialty of beer fish. A carp from the Li River is braised in a sauce with beer, chiles, garlic and oyster sauce, with tomatoes, green onions and bell peppers added later. The dish was gigantic!
Depending on who you talk to, there’s also a rumour that some chefs make the fish swim in beer first before cooking it. Unsatisfied with the too-faint taste of beer, my parents asked our local guide where the “real” beer fish was.
That’s how we ended up heading to Mei You’s third location on FuRong Road where the locals go. When I asked what the difference was between the branches, our guide said, “The chef!”
There’s also much less kitsch and no cheesy slogans or grinning Chinaman on the sign. The food was good at the first Mei You, but it was noticeably better here.
The beer fish was just as big, but packed more flavour and you could taste a bit of the beer amidst the slight heat and sweetness.
We also got a fabulous sizzling eggplant dish spiced with cumin and oregano — no doubt influenced by Muslim cooking in Xinjiang in northwestern China — that was a bit tastier than the black-bean, minced pork, egpplant dish we got the day before at Mei You 1.
The beer fish was great, and I wasn’t complaining about having it twice in two days.
FYI, the first meal was 240 yuan ($44 CAD) for four people, and the second was 225 yuan ($41 CAD) for five.
Mei You Cafe, Yangshuo, Guangxi, China.
FuRong Road, phone 0773-882-8199
86 West Street, phone 0773-882-8897.
111 West Street, phone 0773-882-1167.