My research on getting from Hong Kong to Yangshuo turned up three options:
1. Fly from Hong Kong or Shenzen to Guilin, and take a bus form Guilin to Yangshuo.
2. Take the metro to Lo Wu, the border between Hong Kong and China. Cross the border into Shenzhen and take an overnight sleeper bus from Shenzhen to Yangshuo.
3. Take the train from Shenzhen to Guilin, and take a bus from Guilin to Yangshuo.
Flights were too expensive, there is only one train a day between Shenzhen and Guiling [and it takes all day] and John wasn’t keen on the sleeper bus due to the berths being a good deal shorter than he is. So we had to find another way.
As it turns out, you can also take a fast train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, another city in southern China, and then a bus from Guangzhou to Yangshuo.
The train takes about two hours, and you do all the Hong Kong customs stuff at the train station in Hong Kong. The trains leave from Hang Hom station in Hong Kong and you can buy tickets at a few different places in Hong Kong. We’d tried to do it the night before but those ticket offices had closed at 7.00pm. Luckily we had no problem getting tickets on the first train upon showing up at the station at 7.00am. Note – they take cash only. We had to take more money out just for the train ticket.
From Guangzhou there are fairly regular buses to Yangshuo. However, you do need to travel between the train station and the bus station. It’s easily done by the metro, which has ticket machines with an English option and English/pinyin names at each metro station.
Once at the bus station it’s a matter of hoping like hell that someone speaks enough English or understands what ticket you want. We found saying ‘Yangshuo’ at the ticket desk worked. They quickly found the one person who spoke a little English anyway.
Unfortunately the next bus was full. We bought tickets on the one after, leaving at 1pm. That meant we had about two hours to kill at the bus station before we could get our bus. We’d had sandwiches on the train, bought with the money we got back after handing in our Octopus cards [Deposit and balance less a HKD $9 fee], and I was still content with that. John went off looking for food and discovered when he got to the counter that he was actually at KFC – the menu was so unfamiliar that he hadn’t realised.
It was a bit crazy trying to figure out where to go in the bus station. We’d been told the gate we needed, but there were so many buses going from that gate and there were no English signs. In the end we hung out right next to the gate and kept annoying the girl there by thrusting our tickets at her and hopefully asking ‘Yangshuo?’
She did her best to ignore us.
We had our China book in hand and eventually I figured out that one of the signs said ‘Guilin’ in Chinese characters – this was most likely the bus we wanted as it would go through Yangshuo on the way to Guilin. We were trying to remember the characters and we decided that the characters looked like a B beside a window and roadkill on the bridge. It might sound ridiculous, but it helped us to recognise them! When a bus pulled up with those characters we knew it was finally us.
Online research had claimed the bus took five hours. Lonely Planet claimed ten hours. We figured it would be somewhere in between, and six and a half hours later we arrived in Yangshuo. The bus didn’t take us to the bus station, which would have been helpful, but dumped us at a petrol station a fair bit further out. We ended up taking a taxi as by then it was dark and getting close to 8pm. We were tired, hungry and grimy and just wanted a shower and something to eat!