The town of Yanghuo and the village of Xingping China sit in the stunning limestone karst peaks of the Guangxi province of Southern China. This dramatic landscape is punctuated by the rivers of the Yuling and Li, where Cormorant Fisherman still ply their trade on Bamboo rafts, rice paddies and traditional farming technique dominate local life and adventure is around every corner for the visitor willing to explore the outer reaches of each location. Hiring a bike and cycling around this area is by far the best way to get under the skin of it and explore all there is to offer! Here is how we spent two days in the saddle!
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Cycling: The perfect way to explore this mountain paradise of Southern China
Despite being a mountainous region what makes it even more special and unique is the flatlands and river plains that run through Yangshuo and Xingping China. The whole area is like something from an fantasy film, unlike most regions with so many mountains the area is very flat, the forest lined peaks rising up dramatically in almost unbelievable fashion. The limestone peaks made from the remains of shells and skeletons of the prehistoric beasts that once roamed this jurassic landscape. Worn away over millennia this unique landscape has been created in the most perfect fashion.
Whether you follow the dirt tracks through tiny villages, farms and fields of Xingping China or take the path of the two major rivers here you will find easy cycling for miles that will leave you awe struck!
Exploring the stunning Yulong and Li rivers along the amazing paths and on a traditional bamboo raft!
The Guilin region is stunning as it is, the sheer peaks make for an amazing array of viewpoints, but what makes this place even more magical are the two river that cut their way through them. Meandering in like a wandering serpent through the deep forests it offers the most stunning way to take in this landscape and the village of Xingping China!
Reflecting the peaks perfectly in its clear blue waters the silence and stillness is only punctuated by the local bamboo rafts that make their way up and down these waterways. A traditional method of transport that shows just another way in which these ingenuitous people have utilised bamboo in almost every area of life in the Xingping China region.
We often stuck to the rivers as we explored this region on our bikes, following its path through some wonderful countryside and seeing how locals have used the river in their everyday life. It offered us such views as the 20 yuan look out and at certain points we were forced to used one of the cheap local ferries to cross over and continue our journey. We also took one of the bamboo rafts from Xingping down the river and back. Over the last few years the local authorities have clamped down on scammers and touts and although they still exist, if you buy your raft ticket through the official office you are guaranteed a certain level of service.
Seeing rural life in full flow and getting to know local ways of life as we cycled through the countryside
The benefit to taking out bikes and exploring is the pace in which you can travel, taking in much more than you ever could on foot but at a slow enough pace to pause and take in your surroundings whenever you want to. The dirt tracks and trails around these towns offer a wonderful insight into the lives of the people in this rural area. Life here is still very simple and the people are often poor, but yet their spirit is one of the warmest we experienced in China and traditions are still alive and well here.
Riding though the fields you see old women with crooked backs doubled over in the rice paddies, picking and planting since they were children. People of all ages carry impossibly weighted baskets on thin sticks across their shoulders and can often be seen walking for miles with a scythe over their backs too (much like in rural Eastern Europe). Water buffalo aid in the larger fields and rows upon rows of orange fields add a dash of colour in this sea of green and blue.
A usual sight is the drying out of corn and fruit skins on all available free concrete, a rather surreal sight! Along these winding tracks we purchased some home grown oranges off an old woman, for around 20 pence we had the most delicious and refreshing snack!
Hiking the jaw dropping karst mountains of this region: Heading up Moon hill and Laozhai mountain for unforgettable views.
It wouldn’t be a proper adventure in the mountains without tackling one of the peaks would it! Luckily here despite the steep and unforgiving appearance of the mountains, many offer short hikes up to absolutely immense views! After a long bike ride the steep steps were a bit of a hassle but those vistas were worth the extra effort.
In Xingping the Laozhai mountain can’t be missed…literally! Right in the centre of town it might seem a bit too obvious, but it is often quiet due to the local tourists not considering it a worth the effort as it doesn’t come with an entrance fee!!?? The 30 minute hike through a thick forest, passed traditional graves and over rusty ladders leads you up to a pagoda. From here you would be forgiven for being satisfied with the views that you find laid before you, but clamber over the rocks a little higher and you will be completely blown away. From the mountains of the Alps, the peaks of the Dolomites and the towers of Zhangjiajie, we have never seen anything quite like this. The landscape around here is so unique and at times too much to take in! Sitting up here I could have stayed for hours looking at this view… but there was even more to see!
Over in Yangshuo a must see is the strange and other worldly “Moon hill”, appropriately named it is well worth the 14 yuan entrance price to enter the park. Another short but intense hike up what feels like thousands of monotonous steps (The Chinese sure do like building steps on their mountains!) leads you to this immense peak. Yet another unbelievable sight in the Guilin region, this limestone cave formed millions of years ago has eroded through to create a hole in the rock. Alien like stalactites drip off the ceiling as you pass below this enormous wonder of nature! The views from up here are also unforgettable too and viewing them through the frame of the archway makes them even more special!
Two days of unforgettable cycling in what has to be our favourite region of China, an amazing way to round up our month in this wild and diverse country!
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