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As part of a visit to nearby Guilin, you are almost certain to take a cruise down the Li Jiang to the town of Yangshuo. Nestled in amongst the spectacular karst scenery of classic southern China, Yangshuo is now a touristic centre and a great base for exploring the area.

We spent two nights in Yangshuo during our four night trip to the Guilin area, and based ourselves in the town for trips to the surrounding villages and markets, bamboo rafting, cycling, hiking and scootering around. Our local guide, Ding, provided invaluable help.

Li Jiang (Li River)

The Li Jiang or Li River is the inspiration for countless Chinese paintings, ceramics and sculpture going back hundreds of years. With its distinctive limestone jagged karst peaks, it was a very atmospheric cruise through the misty valley.

Now and again in typical Chinese fashion, a local punter would paddle up and latch on to our ferry, to sell us his wares.

Aquatic salesman

Nine horse fresco

The Nine Horse Fresco is one of the cliff faces on the journey - if you're very wise you should be able to pick out the images of nine horses in the rock. I guess I'm not quite there yet, I couldn't even spot one.

The cormorant fishermen of the Li Jiang are famous the world over for their unusual man-animal partnership. The cormorants dive for fish but have a restriction around their neck, so that they can't swallow the largest ones the catch, and they bring them up for the fishermen instead.

Cormorant fisherman


Arrival in Yangshuo town itself. It was about a four hour cruise downriver from Guilin.

Xi Jie or West Street, the defacto centre of Yangshuo, lined with souvenir shops and bars, with the majestic karst mountains forming the backdrop.

Xi Jie (West Street)

Bamboo rafting

We took a short trip by bamboo raft one afternoon, and got only a little bit wet each time we dropped over a weir.

Raft's eye view of the Yangshuo scenery. There is a view similar to this reproduced on the back of the Chinese 20 Yuan note.

Raft's eye view

Any opportunity for a photo to sell!

Any opportunity for cashing in on the influx of tourists - not quite a theme park yet but you can still buy a photo of your surprised face as you drop over a weir on your raft. Further downstream, we bought some beers from a floating bar instead.

Any tourist attraction in China worth its salt will offer camel rides, no matter if it's in subtropical Guangxi. This must be one confused camel.

Chinese tourist camel

Half Moon Hill

The Half Moon Hill is a more unusual karst formation, and was about a twenty minute hike from the road to the aperture.

At the summit there was a handy old lady selling water, and some loopy rock climbers doing their best to scale the inside of the arch.

View through the half moon

River show

Later that evening we attended the river show, with over 300 performers on rafts with all sorts of lights and ribbons. It was really quite impressive.

Local markets were really interesting, here chickens were being traded.

Fresh chicken

Vegetable market

Elsewhere there was frantic bartering of vegetables being carried out. These old people are still dressed in the communist blue overalls from Mao's time.

Invest in a duckling today. There were also tiny little chicks for sale.



On our afternoon of scootering around the countryside, Ding took us to a rural village rarely visited by tourists. It was a very basic place.

We met some of the village kids, but there was hardly anyone else around. These kids were taking their plant for a walk.

Village kids

Village houses

Some of the better built houses in another nearby village, we stopped here for some chicken hotpot.

Also during our scooter trip we made it to the summit of a reasonably accessible karst peak, for cracking views up the Li Jiang. Just another step back, please...

Li Jiang from above

Spectacular Guilin karst scenery

A closing view of the emblematic peaks of Yangshuo county.

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2010