After a 24-hour train and a day sightseeing in Guilin, we took the river cruise to Yangshuo – a town in the heart of some seriously stunning scenery.
See my ‘Travel Blog #3 – Guilin, China‘ for what to do in Guilin, and pictures of the cruise.
Where to Stay:
In Yangshuo, we researched two hostels that looked good, so decided to spend two nights at each. It was only once we got there that we realised that The Cosy Garden Hostel was no more than 100m from the Trippers Carpe Diem Hostel. Both hostels are run by the same very helpful owners, and both are in a slightly rural village about ten minutes outside Yangshuo. Personally, I preferred the Trippers hostel – it had better food, communal areas, and a pool table. For older travellers, or those preferring more private rooms, the Cosy Garden is tidy and relaxing. Both hostels offer bike hire, and torches for the walk back from town along the river. The walk takes about 10-15 minutes along the river, but it’s not strenuous and the quality of the hostels is definitely worth it.
What to Do:
In Yangshuo, the town itself doesn’t offer much to do. There are lots of tourist stalls and shops, but the real appeal is the surrounding area so during the days, we set about exploring as much of the area as we could. The moon cave looked impressive from afar, as did the bamboo rafting down the river, and we might have done these if we’d stayed longer. There’s also a daily night show, which features a light show and a dance display from the director of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony. It’s also the only way to see cormorant fishing displays.
Instead, we arranged to go kayaking through the Trippers Hostel, which was amazing. Starting from Fuli, we kayaked for around an hour down the River Li (where cruises are not allowed) to an old rural town. I’d definitely recommend kayaking as a way to explore the river and get a real scale for how big the mountains are.
Bikes are another great way to see the area, and we spent a day riding from Yangshuo to Xingping. This should be 10-15 miles of mostly well-paved road with relatively little traffic, but we frequently got lost so it took us all day. If you’re planning a day like this, take an accurate map and prepare yourself for some incredibly steep hills (make sure your brakes work!). However, for as many times we got out of breath walking our bikes up a hill, or had to turn back, we kept finding incredible views which made the whole day worth it.
To get to Xingping, you have to cross the river on a ferry for a small fee, and after a long ride you can get a bamboo raft back to Yangshuo. (TIP – the owners of the bamboo rafts go home at around 5/6pm, and predictably only take cash – two things that meant we nearly missed out). The bamboo raft made the day’s trip worth it – the sun was setting, beers in hand, and another way to see Yangshuo’s picturesque surroundings.
Check out the slideshow of pictures from our day bike-riding in the Yangshuo countryside, including the amazing bamboo raft back, and evidence of some of the wrong turns we took onto dirt tracks:
Similar to Guilin’s ‘Beer Duck’, in Yangshuo the delicacy is ‘Beer Fish‘ (right). Be careful, because the price is often listed per kilo of fish, so the bill surprised us when it was double what we expected! Despite that, it’s a great dish to try and it’s a nice change from noodles!
Yangshuo itself is a small town so walking or riding a bike is manageable. The appeal of the place is the surrounding countryside, so whether it’s renting bikes, motorbikes, or a taxi – just explore it.
From Yangshuo, we made our way to Shenzhen, and then onto Hong Kong. Yangshuo is reasonably well connected and there are travel shops at the top of the main street which arranged a sleeper coach to a number of places.
Check out my blog on Hong Kong here, and take a look at my ‘Top 5’ Highlights blog, where I look at the best places we visited, stayed, ate and drank over the seven incredible weeks we spent exploring South East Asia.