Yangshuo

by Garth
Yangshuo - What you need to know in 60 seconds

Yangshuo – What you need to know in 60 seconds

Our China tour continues South

After visiting Beijing, Xi’an and Chengdu the next stop on our grand tour of China was Yangshuo in Guangxi Province, south west China. After a short flight we arrived at Guilin, our base for the next couple of days.

View from our hotel in Guilin

View from our hotel in Guilin

Guilin felt like visiting another country – a complete contrast to the huge Chinese cities we’d just visited. The town sits amongst the dramatic mountainous scenery called karsts which it’s famous for in this area.

Pretty much everyone visiting Guilin is here to visit Yangshou, 56 miles away. Most people, like us took a river cruise down the picturesque Li River from the Zhejiang Wharf about 40 minutes outside Guilin.  We could have stayed in Yangshuo but chose Guilin because we were on a tight itinerary.

 

Li River Cruise

Li River boar cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo

Li River boar cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo

Ok, so this is tourist central it’s one of China’s top attractions which equals tourists, but don’t let that and the boat trip put you off, as you’ll be able to escape the crowds later on. We hired a guide, including a driver in Yangshuo costing around £50 each for the day, which turned out to be amazing value and totally worth it.

Li River cruise

Li River cruise

The boat trip took approximately 4 hours to reach Yangshuo and takes you past amazing limestone formations, called karsts, formed around 200 million years ago when the region was under the sea. The other-worldly landscape is just spectacular, and reminded us of other karst formations like Halong Bay or Phang Nga Bay. We didn’t get bored as there was so much to take in along the way, as you are surrounded by all this gorgeous and exotic scenery.

Extreme cooking on the back of the boat

Extreme cooking on the back of the boat

A somewhat mediocre lunch was served on our boat, but we can vouch that they use fresh ingredients! We watched a local fisherwoman pull up alongside one of the kitchens on the back of these boats, where she passed the chef a live eel, seconds later we witnessed the chef chop its head off, and toss it into the river, quite a shock!

Water buffalo along the Li River

Water buffalo along the Li River

Along the river we saw lots of water buffalo, it was so relaxing and tranquil as we just took in these Jurassic Park type views, expecting a Pterodactyl to fly over at any moment!

Up close to a karst

Up close to a karst

At certain points along the route we got really close to some of the karsts.

Chinese hawker lady

Chinese hawker lady

Our boat also made a quick stop for more people to board,  some ingenious hawkers made use of this stop, and came armed with all sorts to tempt curious passengers.

Garth and Phil on the top deck of the cruise boat

Garth and Phil on the top deck of the cruise boat

Garth was poised for most of the journey with his camera on the top deck waiting for what was round each corner! So make sure you take lots of memory cards, as his soon filled up.

 

Li River Sights

Garth holding a 20 Yuan note passing Xingping, the location featured on the banknote

Garth holding a 20 Yuan note passing Xingping, the location featured on the banknote

The sightseeing highlight of the trip was between Xingping and Yucun, it’s the iconic section of the Li River because it features on the back of the 20 Yuan banknote. (Apparently the exact location is best seen from the river bank of Dahebei Village)

The Li River illustration on the back of the 20 Yuan note

The Li River illustration on the back of the 20 Yuan note

People were asking us what we were doing and soon everyone was getting their notes out, and snapping away trying to get that money shot! – pun intended!

So picturesque!

So picturesque!

 

Yangshuo

As we disembarked in Yangshuo, the bank was lined with a couple of fishermen and their beautiful cormorant birds posing for photos. The cormorants are used for traditional fishing on the river where they dive underwater and catch fish, the fishermen then take out the fish from their throats. The poor things have their throats tied to prevent them from swallowing the fish. Nowadays, thankfully the practice is less common, as the fishermen make more money from tourists with fishing trips or posing for photos, but it wasn’t for us.

West Street - tourist central

West Street – tourist central

You’ll soon find yourself with hoards of tourists along West Street, with plenty more hawkers and vendors selling foods and handicrafts. Other people were offering bamboo raft trips down the nearby Yulong River. Yangshuo is lovely, but spoilt by the sheer number of tourists in the summer high season, but the surrounding scenery and smell of tea in the air is just wonderful.

How much chilli and garlic for sale!

How much chilli and garlic for sale!

Fruit juice stall in Yangshuo

Fruit juice stall in Yangshuo

Between the tourists there’s plenty of delicious street foods and fresh juices on offer

Pearls for sale

Pearls for sale

Plus plenty of interesting sights, like this shop selling pearls!

Wandering around Yangshuo

Wandering around Yangshuo

The less busy side streets

The less busy side streets

We asked our guide to take us away from West Street and go somewhere that she liked,  her eyes lit up and was immediately more animated as she told us she would be pleased to show us the less touristy side of Yangshuo.

Yangshuo

Yangshuo

We soon found ourselves heading towards her favourite food market, from our experience this is when a private guide is invaluable if you are short on time and want to see interesting local life.

Street vendor

Street vendor

Our guide showing Phil bamboo shoots for sale

Our guide showing Phil bamboo shoots for sale

Close up of bamboo shoots

Close up of bamboo shoots

 

Heading up

We then left the bustle of Yangshuo to see the countryside from high up in the mountains, little did we know we were about to experience some epic views!

Just wow!

Just wow!

This was the view from a little viewing platform on the edge of the road – just WOW!  Sadly I didn’t make a note of where this was taken from, but it was on the way to Xiang Gong Shan not far from Yangshuo.

 

Xiang Gong Shan Mountain

The incredible views from the Xiang Gong Shan Mountain

Phil took these incredible panoramic views with his iPhone from the Xiang Gong Shan mountain

The views got even better when we hiked up to the top of the Xiang Gong Shan mountain. We were rewarded with a spectacular view of the Li River, and could see where our cruise boat went.  This location is described by photographers as one of the world’s top scenic spots and one of China’s most beautiful peaks, yep it really is!

Bird's eye view of the Li River

Bird’s eye view of the Li River

It was breathtaking, a real bird’s eye view with incredible panoramic views across the surrounding lush countryside.

Yangshuo's agricultural landscape

Yangshuo’s agricultural landscape

Steep climb to the top of Xiang Gong Shan

Steep climb to the top of Xiang Gong Shan

To get to the viewing point is an incredibly steep climb, but there are steps for the most part, albeit with a huge drop! vertigo sufferers may want to think twice. There’s no amenities at the top, but there was a small shop at the base selling some fruit and water, which we took advantage of on the way back.

The agricultural land perched on the surrounding mountains are covered in tons of plastic, not sure what was growing underneath, but it looked like something out of the X-Files.

 

Countryside

Beautiful countryside near Xianggongshan

Beautiful countryside near Xianggongshan

Wulongquan rice paddy fields

Wulongquan rice paddy fields

Back on the ground and the rich green Yangdi Valley – really vast and full of paddy fields, just stunning rural scenery!  Garth loved how the waves of the karsts fade off into the distance and we both felt like we were looking at one giant painting, just incredible, and one of our top highlights of visiting China.

 

Rural Village

A stone building in rural Yangshuo

A stone building in rural Yangshuo

We were then delighted when our guide asked if we would like to see one more place on the way back to Guilin – an ancient stone village.

Orange groves

Orange groves

Sadly we didn’t make a note of it’s name (there’s a running theme here!) but it’s one of a handful of ancient villages in the area. This one was high up in the hills, with superbly preserved homes made of stone, some with no cement at all. We passed vibrant orange groves and more paddy fields as we made our way there from the main road.

A farmer going about his business

A farmer going about his business

It was so unexpected and a wonderfully authentic experience. Phil loved wandering around this village, getting to see rural life in China like farmers going about their business and the odd chicken passing by.

The light was wonderful too!

The light was wonderful too!

Door porn.

Chinese good luck phrases decorate the doors.

Some of the houses looked quite eerie, almost haunting with old posters of Chairman Mao. Everywhere in this small village was incredibly scenic with the stone buildings set against the dramatic karsts.

 

Yangshuo is quite under rated in our opinion, apart from the Li River, we thought the best attraction here is the beautiful countryside dotted with ancient villages and valleys offering plenty of hiking and cycling opportunities. We’d love to have had another day or two in Yangshuo to hire a bikes and leisurely explore more of the rice fields and local life. We’d also recommend staying in Yangshuo instead of Guilin for a few days, rather than try cram it all in a day and a half like we did. Finally one other area Garth was interested in was the Longji Rice Terraces, 2 hours north of Guilin, Google it, you’ll see it looks like an incredible place! again we didn’t have time, but worth considering if you are thinking of visiting Yangshuo.

 

Phil & Garth’s Top 5 Yangshuo Tips

Garth and Phil in Yangshuo

Garth and Phil in Yangshuo

  • Tip #1: Winter is very wet, spring and autumn are considered the best time to visit.
  • Tip #2: Where there’s tourists there’s scams, and sadly lots here – if someone approaches you – don’t engage in conversation.
  • Tip #3: Be aware of mosquitos in the countryside especially around paddy fields. Cover yourself in Deet!
  • Tip #4: The water is not safe for drinking, but fine for brushing your teeth, buy bottled water, it’s cheap.
  • Tip #5: Take toilet paper or wet wipes with you, toilets are not really like the ones in the West…

Have you taken a trip down the Li River? We’d love to hear what you thought in the comments below:

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20 comments

Barbara 7th April 2018 - 5:35 am

Hi, really enjoyed reading about your trip, Hubbie and are traveling to China in May this year and have Guilin on our list, thanks for all the tips and info, really looking forward to going now. Thanks again

Reply
Garth 18th April 2018 - 11:43 pm

Enjoy your trip Barbara!

Reply
Jill 19th March 2017 - 11:40 pm

Great site! I’m curious—how did you go about finding guides in China?

Reply
Garth 20th March 2017 - 9:47 am

Hi Jill we booked a guide through the China Travel Company, hope that helps!

Reply
David 28th November 2016 - 11:32 am

Yangshuo and the Li River look incredible. I adore karst landscapes so I loved looking through all your photos – very reminiscent of northern Vietnam. The stone village looks utterly charming too and thankfully without all the tourists in Yanghsuo which was pretty insane really. That kind of sight of a sea of grey-haired tourists would totally put me off were it not for all the other photos. That view from Xiang Gong Shan Mountain is just amazing, definitely something I want to see with my own eyes, wow.

Reply
Lauren 28th November 2016 - 10:17 am

Wow Li river looks incredible – the landscape is out of this world!! Love the 60 second video too!!

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