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Exploring Yangshuo

[ 5 ] August 15, 2010 |

The Yangshuo region in Guangxi province is world renown as one of the most beautiful regions in all of China. If you say to any Chinese person that you are travelling to Yangshuo you will be met with a longing look and an exclamation of amazement and jealousy.  This is the number one dream holiday spot for so many Chinese!

Once I got to Yangshuo it was pretty easy to see why that was the case!  I have travelled through many beautiful regions in China but Yangshuo easily takes the cake as the most spectacular!

Besides Yangshuo’s reputation for being home to some amazing scenery it also has the reputation of being an overrun tourist destination.  Beautiful places always attracts hoards of people and that is certainly case with Yangshuo, hoards of Chinese Red Hat Brigade tourist busses plague all the major attractions while backpackers clog the bars and alleyways along West Street.  But if you dig a little deeper, get out of the town and away from the major tourist attractions then you will find peaceful seclusion, just you, the scenery, the clean smell of nature and whoever you choose to share the experience with.  It is this that makes Yangshuo great, it was this that made me fall in love with this region and it is this that will lure me back time after time.

Exploring Yangshuo

There is so much to see and do around Yangshuo, it was impossible to fit it all in the short time I was there.  I was however determined to take in its most breathtaking sites, get a good feel of the area and the life of its people.  With an adventuress attitude and good company I got to do just that!

By Bike…

Renting bicycles from our hostel for 20RMB for the day we set off to explore Yangshuo’s rural surrounds.  With a not so good map in hand provided by the hostel we quickly got lost.  As it often happens when traveling we came across a group equally lost and together with our groups combined brain power we were able to get on track and seemingly head where we were intending.

The ride through the countryside was not only relaxing but eye-opening, here were people living life in a way so different to my own life in surrounds so beautiful and so foreign.  We passed rice paddy after rice paddy, villages working hard knee deep in mud, cows by the side of the road threatening to cross our path.

Fields of Yangshuo

We followed a road into a village that on first glance really was nothing special.   Suddenly we were stopped by some villagers who seemed to have set up camp at the entrance of a small road.  The deal was we could enter this part of the village but we had to pay 18RMB each.  I had come across this before in China, entrance fee’s to get into villages but others in my group had not.  The more of us who refused to pay he angrier the villagers got.  In the end we cut our losses, turned around and headed back up the road in search of other villages, free villages!

Coming up to a river we realized we were in trouble, there was no bridge!  But the locals had a solution for this dilemma, a bamboo raft to cross the river.  Clearly at some stage in planning the roads they had figured out that they could bring in more money by charging 5RMB per person to cross the river by raft as opposed to just having a bridge!  With trepidation we paid and watched as they loaded our bikes onto the raft.  I didn’t once fear for myself on the bamboo raft but I certainly feared for the bikes, they weren’t secured on at all!

By the end of our ride we were wet from the drizzle, our shoes were covered in mud, we were exhausted and in pain but it was worth it to explore Yangshuo’s rural life at our own pace.

Bike Hire:  20RMB


By Bamboo Raft…

Speaking to other travellers I had been convinced that I couldn’t leave Yangshuo without cruising the Li River on a Bamboo Raft.  Deciding rather last minute and with the day wearing on we decided that it was best for us to cruise the river upstream from Xing Ping to Yangdi.

Catching the bus for just 7RMB from Yangshuo bus station we were well on our way to a relaxing afternoon cruising the river. But once arriving in Xing Ping we realised we had no clue where to go, it wasn’t obvious like we had ignorantly thought, all we knew was that we had to get down to the river and once there we could charter a raft.

No sooner had we jumped off the bus we were surrounded by touts offering us Bamboo raft trips. I figured I’d try bargaining with the touts to see what we could get, my theory was if we could get the price down to what we had been told to pay then there would be no problem and it payed off!  Not only did we get the price down to 150RMB for the boat (equal to 75RMB P.P for 2 ppl cheaper if you have more people) we also got a scenic tour through the village and down to the river.  Our very lovely tout even stopped us to show us the view that inspired the 20RMB note.

Li River picture on the 20 Yuan Bill

Once on the raft we had 2 leisurely hours creeping up the river passing the amazing scenery that makes this region so famous.  We could have asked to stop off at no extra charge to visit some villages or just to take pictures but we were quite content with just relaxing as we silently cruised along.

Li River

When we reached our final destination Yangdi Town we were all ready to jump on what we assumed would be an awaiting bus, or at least find a bus stop.  But this was China and nothing is ever that simple.  Having no clue where we had to catch the bus we asked the locals if there was a bus station, they all said ‘Méiyǒu’ (not have) and then proceeded to try and sell us bamboo raft trips back down the river or overpriced trips back to town via mini van for 60RMB.  But something wasn’t right, we had been specifically told that we could catch a bus back to Yangshuo and in fact earlier that day I has spoken to a guy who had done the same trip just the day before.  What on earth was going on!

Just a few minutes later much to our relief the bus cruised into town.  After a complicated conversation in both Chinese (mostly by my friend Duncan) and a lot of mime by me (which proved to be successful) we figured out that we needed to catch one bus and then change onto another one.  Luckily there was a Chinese family going back to Yangshuo who took us under their wing and steered us in the right direction.  Eventually 2 busses later we got back to town.

It had been a leisurely and enjoyable afternoon, though we were kicking ourselves for not having done it slightly earlier in the day when we could have got a bus back directly to Yangshuo!

Chartering a bamboo raft is the most relaxing and cost efficient way to see the most spectacular scenery along the Li River between Yangdi and Xing Ping.  To take a bamboo raft down the Li River you will have to take a bus 40min-1hr to Xing Ping and charter a boat at the rivers edge.  You will then need at least 2 hours to cruise the river and another 1hr-1.5hr to get back to Yangshuo from Yangdi by bus. Alternatively and indeed the more popular option if you have more time is to go downstream from Yangdi to Xing Ping.

Bamboo Raft: 150RMB llllllllllllllBus to Xing Ping: 7RMB llllllllllllllBus from Yangdi: 13RMB


By Kayak…

I love kayaking so whenever I get the chance I take the opportunity to work out my very weak arm muscles by doing some strenuous paddling.  The Li River seemed to be the perfect place to get this workout!

Loading us all into the mini bus we headed to Fuli Town, the starting point of our kayaking adventure.  Once there we realised that we wouldn’t have a guide like we first thought, we were left on our own to kayak down the river.  Luckily this part of the river was calm and unlikely to throw any curve balls at us.

Kayaking on the Li River

We passed field upon field, village upon village, cows bathing in the shallow waters and hoards of ducks swimming along the waters edge.  The contrast from what just the day before I had come to know as the Li River was dramatic.

Kayaking this little known section of the Li River between Fuli Town and Puyi Town we were exposed to a completely different landscape of drier plains, green but not lush like the rice paddy’s we had cycled passed or the deep emerald green of the picturesque peaks we passed on the bamboo raft.

Kayaking on the Li River

The one problem we did have was the time, we had just 3 hours to complete our trip otherwise we would miss the last bus back to Yangshuo.  We had no clue how many km we had to go all we new was we had to stop 200m before the first bridge.  Time wore on and our group got separated, the further down the river we got the more the current seemed to slow and the harder it was the paddle.  In the back of my mind I was thinking “we’re going to miss this bus!”.  We then turned a corner and to our relief there it was the bridge our final destination, we had reached the end 40mins early, enough time to catch the bus back to town.

We organised our Kayak trip through the hostel.  Alternatively (and what we though we were booking) was a one day Kayaking trip with guide and bamboo support raft for those too tired to continue paddling.  You can organise one day (200RMB) and two day over night trips (550-650RMB  depending on how many ppl) through Yangshuo Kayak Club.

Kayak Hire: 150RMB (including transfers and life jackets)


Accommodation Spotlight

Yangshuo is full of cheap hostels with great facilities! I stayed at the Showbiz Inn, the price was great, the staff were extremely friendly and helpful but the greatest thing of all, the stunning view over the Li River!

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Category: China

About onurwaytravel: Colin has been travelling the world with his young family for the past 2 and half years. He runs a couple of websites all revolve around travel, family travel and digital nomadism. His websites include,, and now View author profile.

Comments (5)

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  1. Chinamatt says:

    My trip through Yangshuo was on a Red Army tour. I got driven around by a soldier who knew how to avoid crowds. Too bad it rained almost the entire time I was there–I would’ve liked to take a bike ride.
    .-= Chinamatt´s last blog ..Evil Plot =-.

  2. Andi

    This place looks amazing!!! I’ve been to China 3X now and I’ve never heard of it. Wow!
    .-= Andi´s last blog ..When It Comes To Choosing Your Hotel–Why Trust Words &amp Photos- When You Can See For Yourself =-.

  3. [...] moment I stepped out of the Kayak and into Puyi Town on Yangshuo’s Li River I was met with the familiar scent of rural China. The [...]

  4. Rooz says:

    I have a friend who’s studying in Beijing she always invited me there so I went ahead and visited beijing , very nice place specially it was filled with new [chinese] building for Olympic games , then we had a 3 days trip to Greate wall and I came back , china is a very wide land , I couldn’t possibly reach Yangshuo with the budget and tme limit I had .

    PS: This time for sure will visit Yangshuo , I am dying to rid that bamboo raft :P
    .-= Rooz´s last blog ..Help Save London live music venue The 100 Club =-.

  5. Sasha says:

    Hey Rooz, you definitely have gotta get yourself to Yangshuo. It really is such a beautiful place, so much to do and on top of that it’s a nice contrast from the cities of China. I could easily spend months there just relaxing and taking in the clean air!!! :)

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