A friend is visiting from the States and I wanted to show her there was more to China than the towering skyscrapers and luxury hotels of Shanghai. She was open to seeing more of the country so I decided to take her to Yangshuo in Guangxi province, home of the famous karst formations. We set off on our adventure, not sure what to expect.
From Shanghai we took a two and a half hour flight to Guilin, the closest major city. I had prearranged for someone from our hotel to pick us up at the airport and he was there, with a sign displaying my last name in English no less. The drive to the small town of Yangshuo took about an hour and a half, during which time we passed by some very hard-scrabble areas. Just when I was starting to worry we had made a mistake, we pulled into Yangshuo. Bedecked with red lanterns, and with craggy mountains popping up at every turn, it is an enchanting place.
Yangshuo is small bastion of Western civilization, with friendly locals and streets lined with shops and cafes. The place really came alive at night, with the shops staying open late and the bars and clubs pumping out loud music. To our delight, the mountains were illuminated which was only fitting since they were the star of the show.
Not just for tourists, Yangshuo has a real community feel. While some of the local Chinese population sells fruit and trinkets to the tourists, others work at the local fish market and practice Traditional Chinese Medicine. It was fascinating to get a peek into their lives. I want to thank them for being so welcoming to this camera-wielding foreigner.
Travelers have been flocking to Yangshuo for decades to admire its stunning natural beauty. Situated along the banks of the Li River, Yangshuo is in the perfect location for exploring the area’s famous karst formations. While the town is surrounded on all sides by the towering peaks, they are best viewed from the water to fully appreciate their grandeur.
The formations were created by a type of erosion that happens when carbon dioxide reacts with rainwater. The erosion caused large cracks to open in the original limestone mountains. Eventually, caves were formed and their unstable tops collapsed, leaving the sides still standing. The resulting peaks are astonishing and the haze of pollution adds an other-worldly effect.
We took a ride down the river on a bamboo raft, the most popular style boat given the river’s shallow depths. The craft was equipped with chairs and open sides, despite the February chill, to give us unobstructed views. We were given bright orange life vests to wear and, aside from getting splashed a few times, felt our vessel was a safe option. Our southerly route, lined by thick vegetation our guide said was phoenix bamboo, took us past a market for ethnic minorities and an old sugarcane plantation. The scenery was so dreamy and peaceful I almost didn’t notice the droning motor on our boat.
Would you like to visit Yangshuo?