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Published: December 23rd 2010
When researching the Yangshuo area, perhaps the most over-used word we encountered was “karst”. We still haven’t looked at a definition, but it seems to refer to the jagged limestone peaks that cover the region. Images of cormorant fishermen and beautiful purple sunrises on the Li River were some of the first things that really got us excited about travelling to China. This is one of the must-see places for any trip to Southern China. So we had some pretty big expectations built up for this place and did our best to try and lower them by reminding ourselves that it would also likely be packed with masses of domestic tourists and river cruise boats, and that those fishermen at sunrise photos were likely all staged by professionals. Still, we couldn’t help but be disappointed when we arrived to grey skies and rain, rain, rain (note that this is statistically the driest month in the area). Luckily the rain comes with its own benefits (fewer tourists) and we also had left ourselves enough time to hopefully wait it out.
We spent our first 3 nights in the town of Xingping which is said to be on the nicest stretch of
the river. It’s also much smaller and quieter than Yangshuo which allowed us to just relax and enjoy the small town atmosphere and wait out the rain in the various restaurants and cafes. Despite the weather, we did manage to do a few touristy things. We walked to the infamous 20-yuan note viewpoint to take our obligatory photo with currency in hand. We also climbed Laozhai Hill which promised the best views around. It was a steep hike up the narrow, uneven, slippery stairs typical of hikes in China, and the views were pretty nice between complete white-outs of fog and mist. We promised ourselves to come back and hike up again if the sun ever came out to play. We decided to pass on the bamboo rafts that we were constantly pestered to take as it just wouldn’t have been worth it in the fog and rain.
We then headed to Yangshuo, sad to leave Xingping as we felt quite at home there and knew that Yangshuo would be much busier. We left ourselves 4 nights in Yangshuo giving every opportunity for the weather to clear up. Eventually we were rewarded as our last two days were brilliant
and sunny. One morning, we went for a nice bike ride along the Yulong River taking in the beautiful scenery. We rode to Moon Hill, hiked up for the views and were surprised that the place was basically deserted. Evidently the Chinese come here for the rafting/river cruises and the nearby caves (expensive activities we decided against). On our last day we returned to Xingping, went for a nice walk along the river in the sun and then returned to Laozhai Hill as promised to watch the sunset. We had the hill to ourselves and were not disappointed.
We really enjoyed taking our time in this area and were glad to finally get some sun. We would recommend to anyone planning a trip here: spend more time in Xingping, less time in Yangshuo, and don’t even bother with Guilin except as a transportation hub. Next, we’re off to the village of Dazhai where we plan to spend 3 nights at the Dragon’s Backbone rice terraces.
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