Guanxi Province, China

by Dariusz Jemielniak

Are you bored of the hustle and bustle of city life in one of the Chinese megapolis, or want to have a breath of natural fresh air, or may be you are just curious about diverse cultures and exotic flavors in China? Then you should visit Yangshuo in Guanxi Province.

Since the early 80’s Yangshuo was a popular travel destination for many backpackers. The word spread out and now it is a very popular destination for Chinese tourists and some places are quite crowded. The county greets its guests with more charms and attractions but the landscape still recalls the beautiful landscapes described in 1925 Somerset Maugham´s novel “The painted veil”. More recently a film played by Edward Norton and Naomi Watts of the same name as the novel, rediscovered this county for thousands of spectators and the movie is worth to be seen. If you just skip the town and go to one of the hotels nearby, you will still find a rural and intimate experience similar to the one described in the novel.

Yangshuo lies in the northeast of the province and to the southeast of Guilin, the capitol city of Guanxi, a bordering province with Vietnam. Guilin is the main transport hub for this area in China, and you can spend a few nights there as we did to explore how life looks like in a regular Chinese city, buy local crafts at half the price than in the touristic places or you can arrange a transport to pick you up at the airport and go straight to Yangshuo area if you only have a few days available for this trip. Another fantastic option is to gather a boat in Guilin that will take you to Yangshuo in 6 hours enjoying spectacular views from the River Li. The trip might be a fantastic experience enjoying the landscape, with acres of rice fields, happy water buffalos and exotic cormorant fishing.

The special orography gives this province its breathtaking beauty while almost 1,500 years of history bless it with a deep traditional culture. The diverse ethnic minority groups including Hui, Miao, Yao , Zhuang and others, enrich it with special folk cultures represented by their various festivals; while many foreign residents add exotic flavors to its fascination. Local jewelry and art is of incredible beauty and the perfect excuse to buy exotic gifts for family and friends.

The famous Li River traverses the county and brings it the most beautiful scenery. Along the extremely pure river, thousands of hills stand in different poses and with different expressions, such as Moon Hill, Butterfly Cave and Elephant Hill amongst others. Big Banyan, a huge tree with a history of over 1,400 years, is said to be a mystic place that we leave to you to discover…together with many other tourists.

Yangshuo is also crossed by the Yulong River – a paradise because of its green hills, silky water and ancient bridges. The Dragon Bridge is a fantastic location, far less crowded and ideal to have a rest during a bike excursion and relax while enjoying the local food just before a bamboo boat cruise down this river. Be careful planning your trip in rainy season as the boats will not take you as they are not able to make it through the river, if water is too deep due to heavy precipitations there is no way to reach the riverbed with the bamboo stick and control the boat. We started our bamboo boat trip from the dragon bridge after taking our bikes on board, and went downstream, there was nobody there but us and we had awesome views.

We hopped off after a while and continued cycling the valleys that drive you to the riverside as they were of stunning beauty, with small villages and farms spread everywhere and people working in the rice fields, feeding the animals, gathering lotus flowers or drying peanuts.

Sunset in the hotel while dining after a long day riding the bike is a must. Perfect time to check the pictures, relax and listen to the nearby Yulong River.

If the atmosphere is too tranquil for you, you can always take a tuk-tuk and go to Yangshuo, its streets are well kept in the original style, presenting the simple and primitive atmosphere of the ancient town. But now it is too touristic. West Street is the most exciting one that locals call the ‘Global Village’. There are not only many foreign tourists, but also quite a number of foreign residents managing cafés and restaurants. Although this street looks like a direct product of globalization, the exotic flavor, combined with the traditional culture, make the West Street world famous.

Yangshuo also attracts tourists with its delicious specialty foods, such as river crabs, Niang dishes and special snacks including bamboo rice, rice noodles and various glutinous rice cakes. You can taste them in most streets of the county. The local specialties such as the Shatian Shaddocks, the kumquats and the Chinese chestnuts are worth tasting as well.

Don´t miss it!!!

Yangshuo Hidden Dragon Villa

AddressJi Wo Du Village, Big Banyan Tree Scenery Zone, Yangshuo County, Guilin City, China (After passing Gongnong Bridge 30 metres, please turn left and go forward 300 metres when you see one T-junction from Yangshuo to Gaotian
地址中国 桂林市 阳朔县 大榕树景区内 鸡窝渡村 (从阳朔往高田方向走,越过工 农桥后30米, 左转300米

If you are looking for some place quiet with lots of greenery and nice view, this hotel is it. The hotel is away from the city but close to a few spots such as Moon Hill, Banyan Tree, and Mud Bath. Lots of hawking  along the street for some local food. Rent a bike from the hotel and you are ready to go. I recommend a mountain bike as it’s easier to ride on the slopes.

The view from the room was fantastic. Room is basic and relatively clean for local standard but have necessary facilities. However, there are no amenities provided. So bring your own. Bed is hard but that is with many beds in China. Hot water shower is available throughout with no disruptions. Beds are made every morning by the hotel staff.

The rooftop restaurant has a great view and food is not bad plus you have a choice for western food also. Don’t expect first class food though. It’s a great place to soak in the scenery, read and sip some tea.

The best part of the hotel are the staff. They can speak English and are very thoughtful. We received a welcome gift upon arrival. We were also given lucky money of 1RMB when we left. Staff is helpful and always ready to provide information. Best of all, they always wear a smile on their face.

Hotel is highly recommended.

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