Travel period: September 05-09, 2018
Time was running fast, and we almost reached the end of the China journey. As the last spot before heading to Hong Kong, we picked up Li river area with its karst mountains and picturesque village of Xingping. It lies in Yangshuo County, Guangxi. To get there, we took a comfortable bullet train from Kunming to Guilin for 374 CNY pp. Almost 5 hours for about 1000 km, not bad at all. Quite a different world after shared vans and long distance buses on bumpy roads.
For our two nights, we chose the Ease Hostel. And it turned out to be undoubtedly the best hostel we stayed in China and Mongolia (double room 106 CNY). This is exactly how any hostel should look like. We did not have big plans for the city, because we use it mainly as transfer hub before going to explore Li River.
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From the very first moment, you can say this is a tourist city, which is not necessarily a bad thing. A clean place with good infrastructure, few nice spots and beautifully surrounded by green hills. I am probably annoying to mention this again, but you will not get even close to any sightseeing spot without paying a fee. But what a fee. Price is usually over 100 CNY per entrance. If you want to explore the city, you could easily end up paying around 600 yuan per day only for sightseeing. Nothing for our restrained budget. Nevertheless, we paid at least a few yuans for Chuanshan park and climbed up to the small pagoda for city view.
After the two nights in Guilin, we took a speed train to a brand new Yangshuo station. It was just one stop for 30 CNY. We appreciate how they solved a situation with annoying taxi drivers. Just as you exit the station, you appear in an area where people from outside are not allowed. Thus you are free to go to a bus ticket counter that is well signed with clear information also in English. Cheap and convenient. Despite the name of the station, it is actually much closer to Xingping village where our This Old Place International Youth Hostel was located (90 CNY double room). We fell in love with the place. Cool common area, small but clean rooms. And mainly absolutely fabulous roof terrace overlooking Li river meander. This was our shelter for every evening while having a beer there.
The village itself has its charm. Anyway, it’s is getting crowded with tourists. Especially one or two streets were full of cafes and souvenirs shops as well as places for boarding small boats (once being bamboo, these days made from plastic). There are hundreds of them and can be very loud. Be prepared that if you decide for a walk along the river to the north, it can be very annoying. Too far from a peaceful hike in nature. You may get lucky to catch a time between a flow of big boats going to and from Guilin and the small ones. But it will not last for more than 20 minutes. Regardless of what I just wrote, the Li River area is beautiful, and it would take a lot of effort to not to enjoy it.
One day we spent hiking to an old fisherman’s village. It takes just a few hours there and back in total but be prepared there is practically nothing to buy. Bring water and some snacks. You may pluck a pomelo on the road since plantations are everywhere, but owners would not be probably happy. I would also advise to ask for track details in your hostel or google how exactly to get there. It was far from being straightforward and without a cheat sheet, we would not be able to find the trail.
Popular sunset spot is Laozhai mountain just above the city. We did not regret the steep hike with more than 1,100 steps. Count with at least 30 minutes for the climb. More painful for me, than the physical effort, was to tolerate tons of trash along the road. Nobody cares, nobody cleans…
Our smart tip for eating is to skip the area with tourists restaurants and head to the main street instead. There are plenty of food stalls where you just grab your favourite food on a skewer (vegetable, seafood, variety of meat). Put them on a tray and give it to a “chef” to grill it. This street food is fresh and tasty. Every skewer has its price, but all of them are more than affordable.
Again, also this part of our big trip went well. After three nights we jumped on a bullet train to Foshan.