Nestled between rivers and karst mountains, the lively little town of Yangshuo offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the whole of China, as well a fantastic array of outdoors activities. This is a far cry from the pictures we often see of China’s traffic-clogged megacities cloaked in a haze of smog. I don’t really think my photos do justice to such a beautiful place.
Whilst taking a not-so-well-deserved break from writing my dissertation, I came across these photos and realised that I had somehow neglected to post about one of my all time favourite destinations. Almost a year on, I couldn’t give a detailed chronological account of my four days in Yangshuo but I’ll sum up what there is to do and why you should visit.
The best way to see the spectacular scenery is either by bamboo (plastic) raft or by bicycle. For myself, cycling was the main appeal – there was a huge range of bikes to rent and a large network of almost completely flat cycle paths. It was glorious whizzing past mountains, fields and little farming villages. The place is clearly popular with young Chinese couples as I saw many riding tandems, often with matching t-shirts, and in many cases the girls were sat on the back taking selfies and shading themselves with an umbrella whilst their boyfriends did all the peddling.
Yangshuo is also a hotspot for climbers and it is said to have some of the best rock climbing in Asia – so naturally I gave it a go. I’m not scared of heights, but I’m not very good at climbing either and the real thing is very different from climbing walls. Here’s me heading to the top of an ‘easy’ climb!
The area is littered with designated scenic spots, although with so much beauty around they are perhaps a little redundant. If climbing isn’t your thing you can also walk to the top of moon hill for an aerial view. A little old lady, in exchange for half the price of the official entrance fee, offered to show some of us tourists the ‘local way’ into this particular park. This consisted of getting out a hidden ladder ushering us over the wall.
There are also a number of gaudily lit caves you can visit. Take a swimming costume to the water cave as it has hot springs and mud baths within. The mud was cold and slimy with lumpy bits but I’m always up for hot springs.
One evening I took a boat trip to watch the cormorant fishing. These days it’s only really done for the tourists but it’s an ancient method of using birds to catch the fish for you.
Everything within the town is in walking distance. It’s packed full of clubs, bars, shops and restaurants, with a huge array of hostels and guesthouses. Everyday I would slurp down a deliciously refreshing fresh icy mango smoothie and for food there was plenty to choose from. Beer fish is the local speciality but pizza was also popular and this is probably one of the very few places in China where you can get seriously good Indian food. In the evenings the town takes on a very lively atmosphere and is buzzing with (mostly Chinese) tourists eating, shopping and partying.
If all that’s not enough for you, there are also activities such as kayaking or cookery classes as well as other nearby towns and villages to explore. I took a day trip to Xingping, which is home to the view depicted on the 20 yuan note.
If anyone were to ask me where in China I’d recommend it would, without a moments hesitation, be here. Fly, or take a train, into Guilin (which is only an hours bus ride away) and combine your trip with a visit to the Longsheng rice terraces – these are also accessible from Guilin and are another of the most beautiful places in China.