China is an unbelievably vast, modern, wild and wondrous place. One of the places I like most is a very accessible, and interesting area that is often overlooked for the brighter, flashier China that you see on blogs and on TV. It’s true that the flight into the area is not into a major city, but it’s central to much of the more amazing areas of China and is certainly an area I recommend people try to see. This area is the Li River and the town of Yang Shuo.
First you’ll probably want to fly into Guilin, a city that is positioned northwest of Hong Kong between it and Chengdu, both places that are incredible and highly recommended. You probably get the general idea of what Hong Kong may be like and Chengdu is most famous for the giant panda reserves and also for being the starting point of the southern Silk Road. Guilin is a rural area but is a lively, lovely city with plenty of things to do and plenty to see. I flew into Guilin directly from Hong Kong, stayed there for two days and flew straight to Chengdu – perfection!
From Guilin it’s a short drive to the Li River where you’ll jump a river boat that will travel a couple of hours to the incredible town of Yang Shuo. I just loved this town, it felt a lot like a really small, chill European village set-up with restaurants and bars of every kind along virtually every street (minus the weed of course). It was active yet chill, modern but ancient. I even got to tour the home of an ancient body guard to one of the emperors and his family still live there to this day! They’re old and cool and really nice and they put me to work hand grinding soy milk – I definitely recommend you ask about this as your hotel concierge will know the place. Yang Shuo is as easy as it gets and over the course of a few hours you can pound beers in a pub listening to live music, eat some street food or pizza and take a photo tour of the amazing land formations like the famous Moon Hill.
There is not anything specific that stands out in my mind about the Li River or Yang Shuo – it’s just a really nice place to be. It feels like an escape that allows you to have fun and engage with people, but also have space to do what you want and just relax – there’s no need to rush in Yang Shuo.
Hopefully this article has peaked your interest in making the Li River and Yang Shuo part of your trip to China, I think you’ll find it to be a real highlight to your time in the country.
Some essentials you’ll want to bring
- A portable charger is a must! Access to a power supply in China is spotty in areas and if you’re out and about in Yang Shuo you’ll probably find yourself in need of a charge. Don’t skip this tip – you will thank me.
- Bring a rain coat – nothing fancy, everyone there is passing through so it’s very chill. Just pack a rain coat that you can fold up into a tiny ball and pack away in your backpack or luggage. Umbrellas are a pain to carry around so I didn’t bring one, but the rain coat was absolutely needed especially if you visit in summer.
That’s really it. Some people worry about mosquitoes so if that’s your thing then bring along some mosquito repellent wrist bands or something, I’ve heard they work quite well. Beyond that there is really nothing you’ll need to consider bringing with you to Yang Shuo except a good attitude and a fully charged camera ready to take some amazing photos your friends will wish they had been there to see.