Yangshuo (阳朔) is a county just outside of Guilin City in the Northeastern-most part of Guangxi. It has no airport of its own so if you intend to arrive via plane you must come from Guilin.
From Guilin Liangjiang International Airport (Guìlín Liǎngjiāng Guójì Jīchǎng; 桂林两江国际机场) it is about a 90-minute bus shuttle ride to Yangshuo. It is a place that is very friendly for foot traffic. Bicycle rentals were cheap and made for easy exploration around the countryside and there are even guided bike tours if you would like to maximize your time. So for the first day I took a ride around town. I am on the more adventurous side so I trekked without the guide. Where your bike couldn’t go you needed to be ready for a hike, but it was worth it. Surrounded by karst mountains, Yangshuo offers up some beautiful sightseeing.
A boy herding cows in the farm at river side
The second day I decided to take the leisurely option for looking around and hopped on a bamboo boat for a ride down the Li River (Lí Jiāng; 漓江). The boat motors can be kind of loud though, if that bothers you though there are easy paths along the rivers for a nice walk. There is such beauty in the simpler things in life. Along this river you will see rice paddy farmers, fisherman on bamboo rafts, school children and even water buffalo. A step away from the city that gives you a real feeling of being away from it all. Along the rivers are stone bridges and lots of younger folk jumping in for a summer dive. The water is actually quite comfortable. If you are like me and are curious about people there are plenty of tourists that you can meet at spots like this. For me it just adds to the experience to chat up a fellow traveler and swap stories.
Boat ride on Li River
I can see why Yangshuo itself has become such a popular tourist location. Though there are certainly the congested more tourist drawing parts of town, it’s a short walk to a quiet and beautifully cultured place to visit. You will see lots of people on bikes, both with small motors and manual riders. There are electric minibuses to take you around town but everything is perfectly walk-able.
There are two major roads for shops and restaurants: West Street (Xī Jiē; 西街). which is more the central hub of everything and Diecui Road (Diécuì Lù; 叠翠路). I am always fascinated by places with such long and rich history. In the states everything is newer by comparison to countries elsewhere, West Street for example has a history that spans 1,400 years. The street markets have so much amazing food, but beware because some of it can be quite spicy. There is a McDonalds in town for the less adventurous but that is personally not my style. There are also many local cafes that can provide an excellent assortment of comfort foods for travelers. The banana bread in some of the cafes was absolutely delicious. Many shops sell a variety of arts and crafts, everything from blown glass, and decorative fans to scenic water color paintings.
Area Map for West St and Diecui Rd
On the third day I felt like taking in a show. With a cast of more than 600 members wearing traditional Zhuang, Miao and Yao dress, along with an impressive light ‘Impression Liu Sanjie (Yìnxiàng Liú Sānjiě; 印象刘三姐)’ is quite a unique experience. You can view the show for free from the water or across the river but I decided to get the proper experience and just buy a seat (198 RMB for a regular seat). I sadly don’t speak the language but it was an enjoyable show nonetheless.
Show of Impression Liu Sanjie
There were several rooftop bars that I took a night or two to experience properly. One had a beer pong table where if you beat the owner, Jane, you win a t-shirt. I talk a big game but I was glad she wasn’t playing that night. I haven’t played since college and someone who probably plays most nights is likely a force to be reckoned with. I’ve been to rooftop bars in Manhattan before but the view was very different. It didn’t involve lush landscape and lit up pagoda. It was surreal to look be somewhere so different than what you are used to. On West Street there were a lot of clubs but I had researched some quieter locations with regular live bands and locals who speak excellent English.
Antenna Hill is a karst pinnacle that overlooks the town. Researching before my trip it seemed worth checking out. A short 30 minute walk to the top, I was told the fee would be waived if you bought water or beer from the attendant. I of course purchased a beer for the road and a second victory beer for reaching the top to enjoy while looking out over Yangshuo. And what a view it was. It really felt like a scene from a movie or something from a painting.
My last evening was spent hang out at the Hostel to spend a low key evening with several great folks from all over that I had befriended along the way. I’m pretty convinced there isn’t a bad view in Yangshuo, which made the modest event of a few beers on the roof probably more enchanting to me than it really was. But I’m ok with overly romanticizing it because the whole trip was truly magical.
Yangshuo street view
At last it was time to depart. Leaving was of course bitter sweet. You hate to go and return to your own real life but at the same time it is nice knowing that you are on your way back to your own comfortable space. There is never enough time to see it all, but I’ve convinced myself that such facts are ok, because ultimately anything you miss just gives you another excuse to come back again one day and see more. Then you can come up with another list while you’re there to provide future excuses.
Anyway, great times were had but it’s time for the next adventure to commence!
Thomas Martin grew up in New York. He lived all around the US, often taking road trips to take in the sights and culture of different states. In 2011 he moved to China to pursue an anthropology master, which he later put on hold to study Chinese. He has written for a variety of publications. When not writing, he enjoys cooking Middle Eastern cuisine and collecting butterfly specimens.