Yangdi to Xingping boat on the Li river and onto unpleasantly surprising Yangshuo

Yangdi to Xingping boat on the Li river and onto unpleasantly surprising Yangshuo

Yangdi Xingping and Yangshuo (10)

Our first official stop in China – Guilin and Yangshuo – had been decided both because of the beautiful scenery that one can find there and for its close proximity to Vietnam. The border crossing was smooth and painless, probably one of the easiest so far, especially on the Chinese side. After a one night stop in Nanning, we bussed to Guilin.

The attraction here are the beautiful karsts that sprinkle the area in every direction you turn and the moment I see them unassumingly peak from behind the buildings, I know what brings so many people around.

What most of them do, is catch some kind of a boat down the Li river, where the views are the most breathtaking.

The most popular way to do that is to catch a cruise boat for about 4 hours, which costs about 450 CNY ($65) per person.  Or you can go the unlicensed, organize it yourself route, which cost us 208 CNY ($30) total.

The only boats that are approved by the government are the big ones that run from south of Guilin to Yangshuo. They hold about 60-100 people, serve some kind of sharing lunch and cost comparatively a lot. You can also book fisherman’s boats from the hotels in Guilin, but their prices are quite inflated as well. I think they run about 250CNY per person.

The most beautiful part of the river cruise is between Yangdi and Xingping. Many bamboo rafts can be found there early in the morning and late in the afternoon, when the checks by the authorities dont function. Since we are not early risers, we chose to do it in the afternoon.

Bus from Guilin to outskirts of Yangdi – we caught it from the bus station (go straight where the buses are and ask inside, the information desk in the front building told us there is no bus and shooed us to the taxi stand – bollocks!) , but it stops at the train station as well before setting off (18 CNY per adult and 8CNY per child). Takes about an hour or so.

We got dropped off on the side of the road and got to chatting to a young girl with a fairly good English. She said she got a raft early in the morning for 120CNY, but we probably wont be able to do it for that cheap. Two women approached us trying to sell us their rides. Then things got aggressive and the girl got bullied into leaving us in their hands, after a short phone call to her uncle.

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Bus from the outskirts to the Yangdi pier – the bus stops right across the road and takes you to the river through some beautiful scenery. Its local bus with no air-conditioning, but quite comfortable (3CNY per person).

The villages we passed were nothing special, but the views are unique.

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The bus stops right at the pier, where numerous touts try to get your business. It was getting late, so after checking the raft they had to offer, we went with the two women that were following us on the bus.

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“Bamboo” raft from Yangdi to Xingping – in this part of the river we actually didnt see any bamboo rafts, rather they are plastic pipe rafts with some bamboo cover. I am not sure how much you can bargain the ride down to, but we paid 160 CNY for ours ($23).

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And this is when we melted into the landscape.

Having just experienced Ha Long Bay it felt almost like we were re-doing the whole experience over again.

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Only this time it all felt so much more intimate and satisfying. In fact, we all agreed that maybe this was better.


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No organised activities and fake politeness, no overpriced boats, just us on our crudely made pipe raft and the river.

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We knew we had made the right choice, as we watched the empty  cruise boats going up the river.  Paying big bucks to have to fight with 100 other people on the sunny viewing deck to actually see something or pay modestly to have your own raft, your own bench and undisturbed views?

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Tough choice ;)


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We were dropped off at Xingping, where you can enjoy the views of the karst  mountains that decorate the back of  the 20 Yuan note:

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Xingping river front to bus – just as we stepped off our raft, we saw a lot of little electric cars waiting on the street above. We werent sure how far it was to the place where we can catch a bus, so we bargained one down to 15 CNY. Turned out a good decision it was not that close and most importantly we missed all the tourist traps along the way – trinkets galore.

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Bus from Xingping to Yangshuo – the second we got off, a woman was calling for the bus to Yangshuo right in front of us. A small bus without air-conditioning, but quite comfortable again – 7 CNY per adult. The kids were half priced, but ended up being squished into one seat as the bus got quite crowded with people sitting on little stools in the aisle.

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As soon as we approached Yangshuo, we knew it was not a quaint little place, as a lot of the writings about it perpetrated. It was bursting at the seams with tourists, at least most of them local. We had a name and address for a place, so we headed in the direction, trying to fight through the swarms of people. On the way we entered into an alley, which gave us some respite and also delivered accommodation at half the price of the place we had in mind.

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After settling in we quickly ventured out to get some food.

If people come here to relax, they have a very different idea of what delivers that than us.

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Still, the karsts peaking out from every which way, so close they are almost like a mirage, make for one hell of a setting and always brought a smile to my face.

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