Yulin Aston opened in 2006 and started off small. The student number exploded to over 700 in just a few short years. It is unanimously recognised as the forerunner in Yulin’s English training market. There are 12 classrooms over three floors. Our apartments are spacious, clean and new - and located a mere 10-minute walk from the school. All necessities are provided including western toilets.
Yulin city is in the far north of Shaanxi Province, not to be confused with it’s neighbour Shanxi Province. The region of Shaanxi in which Yulin is located is called Shanbei. Yulin itself is surrounded by 11 small counties and the total population including these counties is 3,516,300 people. It is a medium sized city and is not a metropolis like Beijing or Shanghai.
Yulin experiences a hot climate in Summer with temperatures ranging from 20-38 degrees Celsius. It gets much colder in Winter with temperatures from -10 to -15 degrees Celsius. These extreme temperatures are explained by the city’s proximity to the great desert in Mongolia.
There is a long history here and this place has seen much turmoil over the years. It has been the scene of battles during Chinese civil wars and during the Japanese insurgence.
Great natural resources have been discovered here. Although some here live a simple life, others have made their fortune from the massive local coal deposits. The abundance of natural resources has attracted big business. The shell oil company has supply and gas plants here in Yulin, providing lots of local employment. The availability of natural resources here has earned it the nickname “Little Kuwait”.
It’s location on the border with Mongolia has made Yulin a historically rich place. There are, therefore, many places of interest in and around Yulin. Here are just a few of them.
Places to see:
These local sites are easy to travel to and more than worth the trip.
Hong Jian Nao:
This is Shaanxi Province’s biggest inland lake. The scenery here is beautiful and boat rides can be taken around the lake. There are grasslands near the lake which make a nice camping or picnic site. Buses leave from the bus station to Hang Jin, then a quick bus transfer will bring you to the lake.
Hong Shi Xia:
This is one of Yulin’s most famous sites. It is a massive gorge between 2 mountains with a lovely river running through it. The stone of the mountain has a distinctive red colour. The gorge is naturally formed but there have been several man-made structures added to it. There are temples, look out points, bridges and many other structures. It is said that many years ago, poets and artists would travel here to reflect and take in the beauty of their surroundings. Travelling there is easy. It is a 15RMB taxi ride or a 1RMB public bus ride. It takes 20-30 minutes to arrive there.
Zheng Bei Tai:
This is a section of the Great Wall which was built in the Ming Dynasty. It served as a location to meet and discuss government affairs. There are very tall towers located at a few places along the Great Wall; this is one of those tall towers. There are several floors as well as an observation room at the top, where you can see for miles. Zheng Bei Tai is quite close to Hong Shi Xia and accessible by the same means of transport.
Ming Chang Cheng:
This is yet another section of the Great Wall. This part of the wall runs from Fugu County to Dinbian County, both of which are very close to Yulin. The parts of the Great Wall you see in Beijing have been fully restored with few original parts remaining. The parts of the Great Wall in Yulin are authentic and still ruined in several places.
Li Zi Cheng Xing Gong:
This is a palace built on Panlong Mountain in Mi Zhi County near Yulin. When Li Zi Cheng established the Shun Empire, he ordered this palace built to mark the occasion. It is said to one of China’s most unique palaces. It is painstakingly designed inside and outside. The gardens are kept in beautiful condition. Buses regularly leave from Yulin bus station to Mi Zhi. The palace is then a short walk from the bus station. Or you can take a taxi. Admission is 20RMB.
Bai Yun Shan:
This is literally translated as “white cloud mountain”. It is located in one of Yulin’s many neighbouring counties; Jian Xian. The mountain itself is a famous tourist attraction in the area. It has forests, temples and a clean water river that runs through it. It boasts ancient culture and beautiful views. Buses to Jia Xian are regularly available at Yulin bus station. It is then just a short cheap taxi ride to the mountain.
These are genuinely just a few of the places you can go to find out about this 5000 year old civilisation.
Food:Yulin’s food is famous around China. There are many local dishes which are unique to the city as well as dishes which can be found in other cities.
One of the more popular types of food during the Summer is barbecue. There are many delicious barbecue restaurants which you can relax after a day’s class, mingle with the locals and maybe have a couple of beers.
In the Winter, hot pot restaurants are more popular. Fresh meat and vegetables are cleaned and then brought to your table. You have your own pot and hob and can cook the food yourself. The soup you use to boil the food can have your own choice of flavour. It is something quite different from the west but really delicious.
Yulin is also famous for it’s many different kinds of Tofu. Whether cooked on it’s own or added to other dishes, it’s tastiness will surprise vegetarian and meat eater alike. You will of course also be able to experience the many different types of noodle and rice dishes here.
The various Chinese dishes are certainly enough to give your palate variety for as long as you are here. But there are many western and international options here too:
There is a Brazilian BBQ restaurant here which serves you meat right off the skewer. There is also a Korean BBQ restaurant which can treat you to a completely different eating experience.
There are also a few KFC’s if you want that “fast food fix”. China’s KFC spin off is here also; “Dico’s”. They add a uniquely Chinese flavour to the traditional KFC menu. These are not the only western restaurants in the city however. Some examples follow.
“Bi Lai Ke” restaurant opened a few years ago and has been improving their menu ever since. Their pizza is now genuinely delicious but they also have a range of other western dishes, wines, spirits and beers. “D&D café” restaurant is another example. It’s menu is similar to that of “Bi Lai Ke” with some extras including cocktails and different liquors. “Shang Dao Café” is a fairly new and popular western restaurant located about 15 minutes walk from the school or 5 minutes by taxi.
Mongolian cuisine is also readily available here. The most popular restaurant serves Mongolian ribs. This is ideal for those meat lovers but they also have several vegetarian dishes.
Sports and outside activities:
The Chinese have their favoured sports and Yulin is no exception. Basketball is hugely popular here and courts can be seen all over the city. The best place to have a game is Yulin University. There are about 20 courts and there are always people playing on at least some of them. Chinese players are more than happy to have a foreign teacher join the game.
Football can be played in a couple of different places. The city’s central square has a running track with a football field in the middle. This can be freely used. The university also has football pitches, tennis courts and lots of students eager to play with you.
The other big national sport is ping-pong. Ping-pong and pool halls go hand in hand. If you feel like a game of pool, Yulin has several pool halls. All the pool halls have ping pong too. There is a convenient place just in front of the apartments in fact.
If sports aren’t your thing but you still want to exercise, Yulin has a number of gyms. The gym most widely used by the teachers in the school is called “El Aine”. This is a five minute walk from the apartments and a ten minute walk from the school. The gym has about 10 treadmills, lots of weights machines, elliptical machines, bikes and free weights. They also hold yoga, kung fu, dance and spin classes.
If you want to get away from everything and exercise, biking is very popular among the foreigners here. People often bike in to the desert to camp out or even travel between cities by bike.
Transport in Yulin:
The city has a cheap and efficient public bus system with the fare to go anywhere in the city just 1RMB. Buses run everywhere from the city centre, to the outskirts. They even go to local areas of interest. Getting to know the bus routes will serve you well here.
Having said that, taxis are also very cheap. Going anywhere less than a 15min ride costs 5RMB and going to the furthest outskirts of the city costs about 15RMB.
The bus station in the city serves a huge number of locations. You can travel quickly to Yulin’s outlying counties or to very big cities like; Beijing, Xi’an and Jinan to name but a few. Buses regularly leave to most locations.
There is also a train station in Yulin with available services to many locations. The train ride to Xi’an is more comfortable than the bus and you can have a meal on the train.
Yulin also has modern airport with regular fights to Xi’an, Beijing, Taiyuan and Yinchuan. The flight to Xi’an takes less than an hour if you want to make that trip to the big city.
There are many travel agents in Yulin and the school helps you to plan your trips if needs be. Things like booking tickets, booking hotels or even just arranging a ride to the airport can be done through the school.
The school itself is located very close to the centre of the city and is designed in a very modern fashion. The school has a total of 3 floors and 11 classrooms. Each classroom is spacious, uses blackboards, has air conditioning and has windows.
The staff room is on the 2nd floor. It has computers and desks for all the staff and is quite comfortable. The staff room also has lots of teaching props to help you out in class. It is a nice place to relax between classes. Below the school there is a convenient shop where you can buy drinks, snacks, cigarettes and other things. The 2nd floor lobby area has a TV and DVD player where staff and kids alike can watch some DVDs.
There is also a water purifying system in the school, so you can keep yourself hydrated. The school is adjacent to many different kinds of restaurants which are convenient for lunch or dinner. It is also just a stone’s throw away from a KFC if you need a taste of home.
The school is also close to western bars and restaurants. There is a city square close by too. This is a nice place to sit and relax or even observe a fountain show during the summer. The school staff is genuinely friendly and helpful. There are often outside social events with the staff and the foreign teachers all have close relationships with them. We often go to restaurants, bars, local places of interest and even to do sports with the Chinese and Western staff of the school. This friendship not only makes teaching class a breeze but it also helps if you want to make travel arrangements in China.
The staff is more than happy to help you out. The staff also hold bi-weekly Chinese classes for beginners. They teach conversation and writing and reading. They use the most modern and up to date books and teaching methods. This should make the move to China all the more comfortable.
A School Trip in Yulin
June 2010 was a good month in Yulin Aston.
We were more than halfway through the semester. With the exams out of the way, Ms Feng arranged a short trip into Inner Mongolia for all us teachers before the extra-curricula activities and summer intensive would begin.
We left early on a Tuesday morning with a long journey ahead of us to the Kubuqi Desert. The bus was a comfortable modern one with air conditioning and an entertainment system. With everyone in a holiday mood, we left Yulin before 7am. Our tour guide and driver were very helpful and easygoing. Throughout the trip, they were helpful and professional.
Past the Genghis Khan Mausoleum area, it was new terrority to all of us with the landscape opening up into vast skies - the odd cirrus and cumulus clouds lending an enchantment to them.
We reached the Kubuqi Desert for a late lunch having passed a wetland area and a desert of white corrosive stuff which was either salt or lime. It made for a stark surreal landscape that sunny day...
The desert was beautiful and for only RMB120, we could go on five adventure rides. The first was on an amphibian – like going on a boat on the sea of dunes – in really really bad weather! We walked across the quiet desert, with the mountains visible from the higher dunes, to the sandboarding area. Down a very high dune – about 20-30s of adrenaline depending on your breakfast before a smooth stop on soft sand. No-one fell off the little boxes in which we slid down. So it was much safer than it looked.
The walk up was the dune was tiring and only Vicky was crazy and fit enough to have another go. Next we went on the highlight for me - a foefi slide done another high dune. Strapped in like a skydiver without a chute and hanging onto the strap attached to the cable was the best fun I've had in ages. With almost a minute to enjoy the wind rushing past you before you hit the brake with a suprising jolt, it was wonder our guides weren't kicked in the face when our legs involuntarily flew up, but they came pretty close! The foefi was soon followed by a short camel (dromedary, actually) ride. It's a whole lot more comfortable and relaxing than riding a horse. Lastly, a short ride on a quad bike across the dunes again before we headed back to the bus.
About two hours later, we reached the grasslands or prairie. It was late evening with wonderful light and a cool breeze. An excellent dinner in the restaurant met us before we were shown to our Yurt style accomodation for the night. They had comfortable bedding and private bathrooms with western toilets. Each room also had a TV. It was pleasant accomodations with only the summer heat making it slightly uncomfortable. The sunset was gorgeous with a clear sky in the West turning pink and orange and purple. The full moon also shone strongly just above us with a thunderstorm in the East to complete the picture. A more beautiful night you could not have hoped for.
At about 9pm that night, the entertainment began. A bonfire in the courtyard with traditional dancing around it in which we all joined in. The dancers were excellent in their rich costumes reminescent of Hindu Shararas and Russian Cossacks. We danced until the fire died down. Then it was time for a little moonlight Duck, Duck, Goose played with the few other guests at the resort who came from Sichuan Province. Everyone really enjoyed themselves despite being tired from the long day we had had. The next morning was wonderfully cool and clear with the green grasslands rolling off into the horizon as far as you could see. With only the whinny of the spirited horses going out to graze in front of our rooms and the breeze, it was wonderfully peaceful and invigorating. Perfect for taking a few nature pics with the camera. It was well worth the early rise.
A hearty breakfast later, most of the others went on a horse ride. There were 3 options. RMB120 got you a 1hr ride to visit a local smallholding and the family. RMB220 got you a 2hr ride to a beauty spot and the local family while RMB350/400 took you on a longer ride to a lake, the beauty spot and the family. Everyone enjoyed the horseride and the visit to the family where they had local refreshments and could try on traditional clothing.
I opted to try archery instead – something, like the foefi, Ihad long wanted to try. Little Lily accompanied me, having decided that horseriding with contacts, that windy day, was not a good choice. It was fun. RMB20 got me the use of the bow and 5 arrows. They guys were very kind and encouraging. No-one laughed. A shi-shi of three free arrows was given to me. It was addictive. I would definitely like to try it again.
Once everyone had returned from the horse riding adventure, it was time to head back home in the comfort of the tour bus. It was a quiet trip back along scenic country roads and vast lakes or dams. Most of us used the time to catch up on much needed rest. We got back to Yulin in the evening without incident. The driver made stops at convenient spots in the city so that getting back home was incredibly easy. Ms Feng was the last to be dropped off, having seen everyone safely off the bus.
It was a unique experience not to be missed. One I would have found difficult to arrange by myself. I highly recommend it.
Leena July 2010.
Top reasons to pick Yulin Aston
The apartments are 10-15 minutes walk from the school and very well furnished. Each apartment has 2-3 bedrooms, bathroom, shower room, kitchen, living room, balconies and utility room. Each kitchen has a fridge, water purifier, hobs with gas, counter tops, drawers, lots of cutlery and delf as well as cooking utensils and pots and so on. The kitchen also has an electric oven, which is a luxury item in China. The hobs run on gas which comes from the building’s pipeline and you have a card you can use to keep it topped up.
The living room has a TV and DVD player as well as a sofa etc. There are 70 odd channels on the local cable service and there are several DVD stores in town. There is wireless internet access provided in the apartments also, laptops with wireless capability can be readily used to access the internet. The apartment’s yard has a small shop for your convenience. There are also several restaurants, a green grocer and a supermarket next to the apartments.
Videos & Web Resources
Check out the City
Teacher Testimonial, Fechin Heery
Teacher Testimonial, Hannah McDonald
Yulin on Youtube, CCTV 9 Production (Not available in China)