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Foreigners feel at home in quaint Yangshuo


09:45, November 05, 2012

Although they are far from their hometowns, several foreigners in Guilin, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, have found themselves a new home in the quaint tourist town of Yangshuo.

Ian Hamilton, a 43-year-old South African who came to China 10 years ago, discovered a 100-year-old courtyard home in the town in 2009 during a visit. He decided to rent the house and renovate it, much to the surprise of locals, many of whom have opted to move into modern concrete homes.

"It looked rather dilapidated at that time, but it was so charming," Hamilton said. "I was strongly urged to renovate it. Otherwise I was afraid I would not see it again."

Hamilton's family was puzzled as to why he would invest his own savings in restoring a dilapidated old house in a remote region of China. However, Hamilton was determined to save the home, as he had decided that it might be a good place to live in.

Hamilton fixed the walls and cornices, restoring the building's original design. He scrounged for furniture and materials in Yangshuo as he restored the home.

"Yangshuo is culture-loaded, and you can easily discover treasures here," he said.

While Hamilton came to China as part of his work at a European travel agency, fellow Yangshuo resident Stephen Cramb's love of martial arts brought him to the country.

As a child growing up in Australia, Cramb was fascinated by the films of Bruce Lee. He has since studied at the feet of multiple kung fu masters in China, learning several styles and techniques.

Cramb runs a small motel and practices kung fu in the woods of Yangshuo every morning, finding peace in the town's rural surroundings. However, Cramb also works to serve the town by volunteering as a law enforcement assistant.

"I felt I must do something to return the hospitality of the locals. Some foreign visitors are afraid to deal with Chinese cops because of the language barrier. Someone like me can make a difference," he revealed.

Roland Spoormaker, a 29-year-old Dutch filmmaker, has also been trying to make a difference in Yangshuo. A motel owner himself, Spoormaker recently created a promotional film for Yangshuo to boost the town's international appeal.

The film was recently displayed at Times Square in New York City. "I just did what I usually do in the video," Spoormaker said. "Europeans always feel stressed, but living here is more relaxed."

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