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Yangshuo, Laid Back Scenery

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Dali Yunnan
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Cycling through the rice paddies in Yangshuo
Situated in the beautiful karst mountains of South China, Yangshuo is the ideal place for a laid back backpackers village.

As soon as we arrive in Guilin we head for the minibus to take us to Yangshuo. But before we find it, it finds us. We only have to negotiate the price and off we go to arrive an hour later. Upon arrival, and even before that in the bus, we are overwhelmed by people offering us hotel rooms. But we are determined to go to Lisa’s , a guest house chosen from our guide and, although we look at others too, that’s where we end up.

Cycling through the rice paddies

Lisa is very friendly and makes us feel at home. She tells us about the different tours we can make and rents us a bike. The tour we choose actually is a walking tour, but we only have the afternoon, so we follow it by bike. It follows the major road to Guilin until we take an exit to an unpaved road that leads us to a river. We need to follow that river to get back to the village. Simple, so it seems, but we don’t see a road along the river to follow. This leaves us only one option: to go into the rice paddies.

A village with two faces

Yangshuo has two faces. On one hand, there’s the middlesized Chinese village with buzzing streets, people who are always trying to sell their goods, and houses that look as if they are always being built or teared down, giving the streets a not so very clean look.

On the other hand, there’s the backpackers village, concentrated around a street called Xie Jie. This “West street” is nicely paved, full of guest houses, restaurants and souvenir shops, and there are no cars. It is a very relaxing place to be.

Between Xie Jie and the rest of the village are some cross-over streets, so you can decide for yourselves to what degree you would like to be in the Chinese village or in the Western one.

The path through the rice paddies is very narrow, but widens as we go along. We follow a little boy who leads us to a small village. We cycle along small houses with a lot of chickens, dogs and children, who are excited to see “round eyes”. We take a turn back to the river, where we have to carry our bikes over a bridge that has only stairs. At the other side we choose a small road downstream again.

The road leads us through numerous fields and rice paddies, with the stunning scenery of the karst mountains in the background. At first, we encounter some kids occasionally, but as the road narrows, we see less people, until we are completely alone. The road ends up in a small path through the rice paddies again. We keep following it, but in the end we have to step from our bikes to prevent from driving or falling in the paddies.

The path has become a slippery track and it even becomes very difficult to walk on, especially with a bike in one hand. So we turn around and follow a track that leads a bit more towards some sheds at bit further from the river. The track widens a bit so we can ride our bikes again, and we see some children again. We greet them by saying “Ni Hao”, but the answer with “Hello”, so it’s they’re so isolated after all.

After a while we wonder if we are still following the river. But then we see a bridge that takes us to the other side again. The roads here are wider, but also paved with big rocks. Where we can, we choose the unpaved road but when we reach the major road again, our bottoms are pretty sore. Tired but satisfied, we head back to Yangshuo.

Boat trip

The next day we decided to take a boat trip through the beautiful scenery. A bus takes us to the village where the trip starts. Here we visit a market where they sell anything. We know from Guangzhou that Chinese people eat anything that moves, but here we’re still impressed by what we see: pigs legs, rats, insects etcetera.

Scenery of the karst mountains from the river, YangshuoThe boat trip is very relaxing. Of course, there are the amazing views of the scenery. But we mostly enjoy everyday life on the banks of the river. People are fishing, washing, guarding their live stock etcetera. Not very spectacular, but a very relaxing tour.

Back to the rice paddies

Our third day in Yangshuo we take a bike again, this time following a route that was actually meant for bicycle tours. We follow an asphalt road, not broad enough for trucks. We are only pass by some strange looking small trucks, vehicles with 3 or 4 wheels and powered by an engine that would normally only drive grass machines in Holland. Everything is transported with these vehicles and the streets are full with them.

Via beautiful scenery we arrive at the Moon Hill, with on top a karst structure with an opening resembling a full moon. We climb the hill and get rewarded with stunning views, although it’s a bit foggy today.

On our way back to Yangshuo we cannot find the road drawn on the map. Instead, the path again gets narrow and we end up in the rice paddies again. But, this way of cycling is not new for us and after we pass the river via a dam, we find a route back to the main road.

We spend our last night in Yangshuo on an all you can eat BBQ for 20 yuan (3 Euros, 4 dollars) with each third beer for free. Lisa’s is celebrating the 15th anniversary of her guest house. And so, we enjoy a typical backpackers party in this typical backpackers village.

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