I first passed through Yangshuo in 2003, stealing a few days to see some more of China after a basketball tour with the Melbourne Tigers. I’d heard about this new climbing destination in the south of the country and just couldn’t resist the opportunity to scratch my climbing bug and check it out.
Not long after arriving in Yangshuo, enjoying a spicy hot pot on the street with my Chinaclimb guide for the following day Tommy, had I met the marvellous Monkey Jane.
Tommy: Hey Grant meet my friend Monkey Jane.
Monkey: “Hi, where are you staying?”
Me: “Hey. Some hotel up the road”
Monkey: “How much they charge you?”
Me: 30 Yuan
Monkey:: I charge you 25 and have lovely Finnish climbing boys stay there. Go get your bags”
How could I refuse? With that, I went and got my backpack, set about a memorable week of climbing and partying at her brand new Guesthouse with Finnish adventure junkies Kalle and Juha , ate copious amounts of mouth watering dumplings at Mrs Yan’s and fallen in love with this awesome little town, its people, its culture and the good times.
It was the start of a love affair with Yangshuo, with Monkey always playing the host for the many friends and family I’ve brought with me over the past 15 years.
Yangshuo is a town full of characters, though none are better than my old mate Monkey. Hailing from a small riverside village creatively named “riverside” (He Bien), in 2003 she opened her first guesthouse with the help of a ¥5,000 loan from an Uncle at the ripe old age of 23.
As one of three kids to a single mother growing up on a farm, life wasn’t easy for Jane, who through her guesthouse took on the role of bread winner for her extended family from a young age, employing most of them at some time or other. Her tough, uncompromising entrepreneurial spirit, openness to the wider world and love of a good time with her many friends and family has brought her much success, respect and standing within the Yangshuo community and around the world. The locals don’t call her “da dong” (big boss) for nothing.
Hundreds, if not thousands of young backpackers from all of the world have travelled through her digs over the years, lured by her cheap no-frills rooms, cheap beer and the chance to score a coveted “Monkey Jane’s Beer Pong Champion” t-shirt.
Her rooftop bar, the first of now many in Yangshuo, is an institution. A grimy low tin roof that screams at you with each downpour, walls adorned with the pissed ramblings of backpackers after a few too many snake shots, the best beer pong table in Yangshuo taking centre stage and, until lately, a million-dollar view taking in the town, river and surrounding Karst peaks.
With a bigger hotel having been built next door stealing much of that million-dollar view away, a lease fast approaching its end and a desire to get back to her country roots and enjoy the quiet life, Monkey went looking for a new challenge. Enter Pubutang!
When she called me up one day asking if I might like to help her out in this new venture of hers, I just had to check it out. Not long after my first visit to Pubutang, once again, I just couldn’t refuse!
It’s a real privilege to join Monkey for this next big step in both our professional lives in the development of the Pubutang Café and Guesthouse. While we are now business partners, I have no doubt we will always stay great mates.