Being the closest country to Hong Kong, it seems odd that we only visited once in three years of living in Hong Kong - for a weeks holiday to Yangshou - a cozy backpacker town south of Guilin.
Upon arriving at Guilin, we spent the night, and then caught a bus as soon as we could, to Yangshou. This is the destination of the boat trip for all the package holidaymakers that stay in Guilin. Please see the information section for more details.
Hiring bikes is the easiest way to get around (the roads are pretty flat!) and these are some of the snaps I took as we explored Yangshou.
We spent 5 days in Yangshou and thought it about the right amount of time to thoroughly explore the place. It is a beautiful area, and cycling is the best way to get around.
Yangshou has fast become popular with backpackers, and hence there is plenty of cheap accomodation to be had, along with hippy style cafes and restaurants. As it is the stopping of place for the day-trippers from Guilin, it is has its quota of tacky tourist shops, so you can stock up on your giant fans and chopsticks!
I could waffle for ages about Guilin, explaining why you should avoid it, and head off straight to Yangshou. Many tourists buy their tours to Guilin, having seen the pictures of a beautiful river with rocky stacks sticking out all over the place - making it look very picturesque - great holiday brochure stuff. These tours inevitably stash you away in some large hotel in Guilin, and ferry you to the beauty by way of a long day trip by boat.
Let me say that this is not the way to do it!
Not only do you end up paying a lot more, you are located in a horrible town and only actually get a couple of hours amidst the scenery that you paid to come and see. The place they take you to on the boat trip tour is called Yangshou, about 30km from Guilin, and it is quite easy for you to fly into Guilin and take a bus or a taxi straight there.
Boat trips and cycling are a must - to fully appreciate the scenery of the area. We enjoyed a combination of both, cycing out to a market village in the morning and returning by lazy cruise in the afternoon. Some roads have some heavy traffic, but you can soon get out of it, heading off down the odd side street that looks like it will lead to something more interesting - a great philosophy for taking photographs, and at the same time amazing (amusing ?) the locals - seeing crazy gweillo's cycling through their fields!
We encountered a Chinese 'wall of death' circus tent, with a guy defying all laws of gravity whizzing around in it on a clapped out motorbike - the whole tent oscillated with him! - I'll have the seat by the door please. We also visited a market - always interesting, seeing people selling their produce, cooking pigs trotters with a blow torch and having a bit of dental work done - a great advert for getting your teeth seen to before you leave.