No one drove in their lane in Yangshuo. In fact, they frequently drove on the wrong side of the road. At the roundabouts it was a strange harmony of cars, buses, scooters and bicycles weaving in and out unscathed. Truly a madness that was hard enough to dodge as a pedestrian, so I couldn’t imagine joining in on a scooter.

Mark and I wanted to explore the countryside so we decided to take it easy and rent a tandem bike before trying out anything with a motor. The tandem bikes were popular among the Chinese tourists visiting Yangshuo, so we thought we’d give it a try too. Our hostel host warned us that morning to only rent the newer looking bikes, but our choice would have really disappointed her. Somehow we ended up with the oldest tandem bike we could find, with bubble wrap and tape wrapped on the rusty bars, which I assumed kept it from disintegrating any further.

Driving in China, Renting a scooter, Yangshuo, Xingping,

I’ve been on a tandem bike only once before and that was several years ago in a parking lot. So it was terrifying to think we were going to ride this Frankenstein of a bike through the chaotic city streets on our way to the countryside.

Mark took the lead while I rode on the back and by the time we wobbled into the street it had started to rain. Being so much taller than me and with his rain jacket flapping in my face, Mark completely obscured the view directly in front of me. So there I was- on a rusty tandem bike, in the rain, in no-rules traffic, riding blindly…in China. The odds were surely against us. How did those Chinese tourists make it look so easy?

Although I didn’t enjoy riding the tandem bike, Mark made sure we safely made it through beautiful villages and surrounding karst peaks. The next day we were indecisive whether we wanted to splurge on a scooter rental. I was wary about what kind of experience the scooter would bring considering how much I disliked our ride the day before.

Driving in China, Renting a scooter, Yangshuo, Xingping,

We really wanted to see XingPing, a village quite far away that was only possible to visit alone by scooter, so we decided to check out rental options near our hostel. Mark tried out a Yamaha shown to us in a back alley and after a few slow starts he felt confident enough to go for it. I went along, knowing that if I survived on the back of a tandem bike, then I could probably survive the scooter. It wasn’t until later that Mark confessed that the last time he drove a scooter was when he was 12 years old through an open field.

The scooter came with one helmet, which I gladly helped myself to. Out of the hundreds of other scooter riders in town, I think I was the only who was wearing a helmet. But I didn’t care, I didn’t want to die. Starting out on the road we found that the no-rules traffic was actually helpful for Mark to re-learn how to ride the scooter, not needing to stop and start and driving how he wanted without getting in trouble.

Driving in China, Renting a scooter, Yangshuo, Xingping,

Even though I had my fears, the scooter ride ended up being the best 140 CNY ($23 USD) we’d spent yet. It was so much better than the tandem bike ride since it wasn’t raining and I could actually enjoy the view in front of me. It provided us with a cool breeze as we rode on a hot day, and a quick getaway when approached by hagglers on the city streets.

We spent several hours riding to XingPing, along the Li River, back into Yangshuo and down to Moon Hill, an iconic spot in the area. On our way to Moon Hill we came upon an accident in the middle of the highway that looked like a three-wheeled bicycle pulling a cart had collided with a scooter. By that point, speeding along the open road, we figured we might be pushing our luck and it might be time to return our rental. With that we happily looped back to Yangshuo with no accidents or injuries to report.

Our confidence boosted from a successful first ride, we look forward to the next one, maybe in Southeast Asia in a few months. As for tandem bikes, I’ve gladly retired from them.

About The Author

Britnee traveled around the world with her husband on a shoestring budget for a year. A few of her favorite destinations include Scotland's Isle of Skye, Chile's Torres del Paine, Bolivia's Salt Flats and Nepal's Annapurna Circuit.

8 Responses

  1. Living Valencia

    I feel a little jealousy. My wife and I are stuck with our jobs. Congratulations four your brave decision, keep enjoying the trip.

  2. Catherine

    This is so exciting! I think riding a motorbike in SE Asia is one of the parts of my travels I am looking forward to most! The daredevil thrills from being on a motorbike plus the freedom to go where you want and do what you want – I could squeak from excitement! Glad you survived your first motorbike ride and it’s left you eager to try another :)

    • Mark Johnston

      Haha, scooter is far from a motorbike, but I wouldn’t mind graduating to that one day!

  3. Nick

    Thanks for the article. Was it hard to find scooter rental companies when you were there? We’re heading to China for 6 weeks at the end of January 2015 and would like to hire a scooter to get out into the country and see the awesome landscapes. You’ve given me hope as it’s been hard to find info about renting scooters there.

    • Mark Johnston

      Hey Nick, thanks for reading along. I wouldn’t exactly say we rented from a scooter company, more like an old woman who had a couple of scooters parked in the alleyway outside her house. But the price was fair, there was a full tank of gas and it had brakes that worked well. In Yangshuo there were people like this everywhere renting bicycles, scooters and motorcycles to tourists, but that was a smaller, more popular tourist destination that was easy to explore. I’m not sure how it would be in a much larger city as we never looked into it elsewhere and you might have to go through a more legitimate “company” if that’s where you’ll be starting. Good luck and stay safe!

  4. Johnny

    I have actually been to yangshuo. When we were there we rented bikes and went to the rolling hills. I loved the scenery there. It is truly one the most beautiful places I have seen. I would love to go there again. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Nelni

    Great article and both of you looks great.

  6. Vario

    Hopefully, my wife and I have free time so it could be like you.