It all started two days ago with our hostel host telling us about a ‘secret beach’ (very cliche I know!). Yesterday morning we gathered some street food snacks, plenty of water and headed out on foot to find the beach. After three hours of walking in 30°C and 80% humidity we gave up and headed back to the hostel. Some spicy pork dumplings and a look at the next few day’s weather forecast later (100% rain), we decided to hire bikes and try again.
This time we were more successful, it took a couple of detours but eventually we found the ‘secret beach’ everyone had been talking about. A tranquil section on the Li River, surrounded by the karst mountains – the beach was well worth our very sweaty efforts.
There are two reasons I wanted to write this post; 1. to share with others visiting Yangshuo an ‘idiots guide’ on how to find the beach and 2. to talk about plastic in China.
How to find Yangshuo’s ‘secret beach’:
I keep putting ‘secret beach’ in ” because it isn’t really much of a secret. If you search for it on the internet there are many blog posts mentioning it and pretty much everyone in Yangshuo talks about it. However, despite this being the case, nobody makes it easy to find. People give directions like… oh there’s a long windy road and then a fork and you take a downward exit off this fork… blah blah blah… basically people confuse matters.
The easiest way to find the secret beach is to download maps.me onto your phone, search for ‘ShuangTan’ and save it. Then follow the map (on bike is the easiest way, but it can be done by foot) to the location saved. Simple! We found it the hard way, if somebody had told us this from the very beginning, we may of made it to the beach when the sun was shining rather than as rain clouds arrived.
China’s plastic problem:
Since arriving in China I have been very impressed with how clean it’s kept. On pretty much every street there are people wearing hi-vis sweeping up using brooms made from twigs. There are bins all over the place, most of them containing recyclable and non-recyclable sections and there are also machines which give money in return for plastic bottles.
Despite these efforts, plastic is literally everywhere. Everything you buy is double wrapped in plastic and then given to you in a plastic carrier bag. For instance, we get our fruit and veg from a stall, great fresh produce that is literally grown 100 metres away, yet they refuse to let you take it away without them putting it in at least two plastic bags. Another example, the pork dumplings we had yesterday. We got them to take-away and so it was given to us in a plastic bag, in a cardboard tub, with another plastic bag wrapped around it. The friendly guy who served us also gave us two plastic spoons each to eat with, he wouldn’t let us not take them. Their use of plastic is just extreme.
I assumed that because China are sick of our plastic waste being transported over here for ‘recycling’ that they would of implemented more efforts to reduce their own plastic consumption. I was wrong. The population of China is 1.4 billion. If every single one of those people produces as much plastic as we have been doing, and we’ve still been conscious, much more than others (no plastic water bottles, reusing carrier bags where possible, reusing wooden chopsticks instead of disposable plastic ones etc.), then the plastic problem is possibly greater than we think.
Visiting the ‘secret beach’ it was apparent that despite being clean, a lot of the waste still manages to make it’s way to the water. You could actually see bits of plastic in the river, the river in which locals were fishing, fish that would be swallowing the plastic, fish that we would eventually be eating.
A great part of the world seems to be making big steps to reduce their plastic consumption. For me, as China makes up a whopping 18% of the world’s population, they could definitely be doing much much more. It’s scary how much waste they are producing and it will eventually ruin many more beauty spots like the ‘secret beach’. I fear this is just the start of discovering on our travels the devastation that plastic pollution is causing.
But to end on a high note… we’re having a wonderful time. We have a couple more days left in Yangshuo before heading to Guilin and then onto Shanghai. Again, any suggestions for those places, let me know!
P.S For those of you looking at the news, we’re very lucky to be missing out on storm Mangkhut. It will not be reaching where we are and where we are going. Do not worry!