In the shadow of limestone karst rock formations jutting into the sky sits the small town of Yangshuo. The daily lives of the residents in the sleepy villages along the Li and Yulong Rivers are very different from those of the people in the manic bustle of China’s larger mega-cities. In Yangshuo, visitors have the chance to experience a different, more rural China.
Day 1: Village Life
West Street (Xi Jie) is the heart of Yangshuo, teeming with shops and cafes where you can start your visit with a cup of tea and a fresh banana crepe: the local breakfast specialty. Take a stroll down West Street toward Yangshuo Park, where locals come to play cards, practice tai chi and play traditional Chinese instruments in impromptu jam sessions for all to see. Head back to West Street to sample a few more Yangshuo favorites including beer fish (pijiu yu) and sweet and sour eggplant (tang chu qiegua). After the sun goes down, watch the karsts light up in a nightly production of Impression Liu Sanjie, a show by the man responsible for the Beijing Olympic opening ceremonies.
Day 2: Along the River
Exploring the rice paddies, bamboo forests and small villages set along the rivers of Guilin County is one of the highlights of any trip to Yangshuo. Armed with a map and a bike, head out of town and upriver to catch a bamboo raft down the Yulong River (you can take your bike on the boat or have the boatmen transport it downriver for you). Alternately, take a motorized boat down the Li River for a glimpse of the view immortalized on China’s 20 yuan note.
Day 3: Climbing High and Digging Deep
The rocky formations surrounding Yangshuo are an outdoorsman’s playground and many of the karsts can be explored inside and out. Make the trek up Moon Hill, located just south of town and named for the moon-shaped hole through the top; or descend into the natural caverns within several of the area’s karsts for a soak in the Water Caves hot springs. For an outdoor adventure closer to the Yangshuo city center, take a climb up Green Lotus Peak (Bilian Feng) for panoramic views of the town and surrounding countryside.