LIFE&STYLE

Yangshuo, perfect destination for soul-searching in China

By Seo Jee-yeon

Old Chinese town offers stunning scenery of Li River and karst mountain peaks

  • Published : Jun 12, 2015 - 20:30
  • Updated : Jun 12, 2015 - 20:30
For urban dwellers who are tired of the hustle and bustle of the city and dream of a break in a remote corner of the world, Yangshuo, a rural Chinese town in southern China, might be the perfect destination.

The 2,000-year-old town is under the jurisdiction of Guilin City in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region of southwest China. It has just 30,000 people, but its world-class scenery of endless karst peaks and winding rivers make it a big draw for tourists.

Guilin and Yangshuo, both of which have long been admired by Chinese painters and poets, have similar attractions. Guilin, is larger city, with more facilities, but Yangshuo caters to those who prefer the charm of a small town and like exploring a place in detail.

But the biggest attraction of a trip to Yangshuo is the chance to gradually recharge one’s batteries, inspired by picturesque scenery and the slow, peaceful life of the locals.

There are several ways to appreciate endless karst peaks surrounding Yangshuo. In the late fall season, biking out to the countryside is a good way to take in the views. The old town built bicycle paths for visitors in the late 1980s at the request of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Overwhelmed by the area’s beauty, he allegedly insisted on touring the Yangshuo countryside by bicycle when he visited in 1987.

The better-known way to enjoy the scenery is the Li River cruise. The river winds like a jade ribbon for 437 kilometers, past thousands of peaks and through Guilin, Yangshuo, Pingle and Wuzhou and into the West River.

The 83-kilometer cruise from Yangshuo to Guilin (or vice versa) is the centerpiece of any trip to Guangxi province.

Along the river banks are elegant hills, towering peaks, and strangely shaped crags reflected in the mirror of its clean water. In the middle of the Li River cruise, travelers encounter the scenery featured on the back of the 20-yuan bill.

In the afternoons and evenings, cormorant fishing offers an eye-catching scene as well. The traditional art uses trained cormorants to catch fish.

When the cruise comes back to Yangshuo, the West Street is lit up for night life.

The shopping district becomes the heart of the town’s entertainment at night. The traditional houses and modern restaurants and bars create a beautiful night scene.

The traditional culture of ethnic minority Chinese gives Yangshuo another unique charm, and the Shangri-la Theme Park, 15 kilometers from Yangshuo, is a great place to see these traditional cultures on display.

Shangri-la, literally meaning “land of peach blossoms”, was created to demonstrate the customs and the traditions of local ethnic minorities, including Miao, Dong, Zhang and Yao.

The buildings, which reflect traditional styles of minority groups, blend in well with the natural surroundings. By taking a boat trip through the park, visitors can see the different types of dwellings and even some traditional dances.

Last but not least, Yangshuo is a great place for outdoor activities. Its unique landscape makes it popular for outdoor activities such as rock climbing, mountain biking, flat water kayaking and hiking.

To get to Yangshuo, international travelers have to come to Guilin by flight first. Guilin is the only city to have an international airport in Guangxi province. Travelers can take a bus or a taxi to get to Yangshuo, which takes around two hours. The other option is to stay in Guilin for a few days and move to Yangshuo. The center of Guilin has more transportation options, including bus, train and Li River cruise.

There is no need to worry about where to stay and what to eat in Yangshuo, which has a variety of options as one of top tourist destinations in China.

For those looking for a high-end accommodation option, there is a new branch of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts. The resort, which opened last summer, is situated in the “Diamond waterway,” located in Fuli Town along the lower reaches of the Li River. A number of guesthouses with a modern or traditional look are also available for international budget travelers.

By Seo Jee-yeon (jyseo@heraldcorp.com)