Best Hills and Waters of Guilin

Chinese says “Guilin has China’s best hills and waters. Yangshuo has Guilin’s best hills and waters”. This is indeed extremely true.

It is a good idea to end your Guilin tour here and stay a couple of days, relax and enjoy the peaceful environment. Then you might get to understand why some foreigners travel here, like the place, settle down and start businesses and families.

Apart from it’s beautifully landscape, Yangshuo has extremely friendly people that makes the city lovely and attractive. From kids to elderly, almost everybody speaks some English.

Some people even refer Yangshuo as a backpacker’s paradise. Yes, it is true. It is an ideal place for you to relax and explore on your own pace.

Now let’s talk about the ways to explore Yangshuo with maximum fun.

Arriving Yangshuo on a Li River Cruise
A Li River cruise has dual purposes. It is the best way to admire the beautiful scenery of Guilin. It is also the best way to reach Yangshuo. Lunch is usually served on board and the journey takes about four to six hours. If you are on a day trip, you can come here on cruise and return by bus.

I’ll talk about the Li River Cruise separately. Now, what are we going to do at Yangshuo?

Rafting the Yulong River

Yulong River, a branch of Li River, runs through the outskirts of Yangshuo. Its water is extremely clean and clear. A cruise down here is much quieter and more peaceful than the main river.

Rent a bamboo raft and float slowing on calm and tranquil water and enjoy the charming landscape. You would pass lush mountains, bamboo grove and farmers’ houses, viewing enchanting rural scenery of Yangshuo. It is going to be an extremely relaxing and scenic tour.

Lady tour guides won't talk with visitors, but sing. This a typical fun for Chinese tourists as we all sing hill songs here as a custom of Yangshuo. Foreign visitors can only share the fun by listening to the hill songs.

Raft charges range from ¥80 – 160 depending on the number of hours. Two persons can share a bamboo raft. A large raft is good for nine people.

You can even take your bike onto the bamboo raft.

Click here to read Anna's travel tale about her Yangshuo trip.

No Biking, No Fun
A place like Yangshou is best to be explored by bicycle. You can ride at your own pace, stop as you wish. Don’t want to get lost? Just hire a guide, mainly women from local villages. They’ll charge ¥10 to ¥20 a day and take you around the most picturesque spots like the Big Banyan Tree, the Moon Hill and so on. You would also enjoy stop by a family inn, have lunch with a local family and get to know their daily life.

You would expect to pedal on highways or country roads. They are never difficult and are guaranteed of spectacular sceneries. Most Yangshuo hostels rent bikes for ¥5 to ¥10 a day. But you are required to pay a deposit of several hundreds.

Yangshuo is a small town, no matter biking or hiking, you will never be exhausted. You can choose from several routes and bike for as short as 15 km or as long as 88 km, all depends on you.

More info on biking

Click here to see more photos

Xing Ping Town – President’s Footprints

Bill Clinton at Yangshuo

While biking or hiking along the bank of Li River, you can request your guide to help you follow President Bill Clinton's foot steps in 1998 to visit some villages. Have a real feeling of the local ethnic minority’s life while enjoying unspoiled authentic countryside.

Xing Ping is a small town at Yangshuo. You can bike, hike or take a bus to. There is a small fishing village where villagers are proud of having been visited by Bill Clinton, and there are photos of him all over the place. You even need to pay an admission fee of ¥5 (60¢) to visit the village but they’ll provide a local Chinese guide.

Fishing Show

Fishing show at Yangshuo

This is quite a popular show in Yangshuo as well as Guilin. You can contact your hotel or travel agent to organize one for you. It might cost around ¥100. If you contact a fisherman directly, it might be cheaper but the show might be interrupted by customs officers.

You will get on board a boat and view the show from a nearby bamboo raft.

The cormorant fisherman ties around the neck of a bird and have it dive in to catch fish. Cormorants are born ‘fisherbirds’ and they are good workers for the fishermen.

Soon after a cormorant is driven into water by a bamboo rod, the bird will come up with a fish in its mouth. But it is not allowed to swallow or eat the fish as its neck is tied. The fisherman ‘unloads’ the fish and the bird is driven into water again.

Some people find this show interesting. I personally would say this is against animal rights.

West Street (Xi Jie) Nightlife

Yangshuo - West Street

At the down town area of Yangshuo, the West Street is lined up with many themed bars and restaurants, each of its own style. Almost half of them are run by foreigners, mainly from Germany, the US and Singapore.

Foreigners make their living here mainly by running bars and restaurants or teaching English. Some foreigners describe Yangshuo as a dream place. They stay here because it is easy to make money especially from other foreigners. They get married to local women and start their families here.

The West Street is very busy at night with road-show performers and street-side food stalls. Come here early to secure a seat, or the bars and restaurants are filled around 10pm. It is very colourful and noisy, but fun. However if you stay at a nearby hotel, you’ll have to put up with the noise until dawn.

Sitting at the open area of the restaurants, it is easy to start a conversation with foreigners and exchange life experiences. Will you be the next one who decides to stay at Yangshuo?

Impression – Hill Song Show of Liu San Jie (Third Sister Liu)
This is a non-traditional beyond-stage performance. I am sure you can’t find a similar show elsewhere on earth. Famous Chinese film director Zhang Yimou together with artist groups from minor ethnic groups in Guilin has jointly produced the show. The stage setting is Nature, namely Li River and the surrounding beautiful landscape of Yangshuo.

Liu San Jie show at Yangshuo

Here’s what the programme’s prologue state: “The theatre is in Nature. The show changes with the four seasons and differs on sunny or rainy days.

Here, human creation accounts for only half, with the other half being in the hands of Nature.

If it is raining, please put on the raincoat prepared for you. In the hot summer, we advise you to bring mosquito repellent. In the flood season, half of the seats may be covered in water and, in case of thunder and lightning, the show might have to be stopped.”

Some 600 performers including fishermen and young singers take part in the show. They are mainly from the five villages along the river. They sing in their purely natural voice and dance in their rustic way.

The show has four parts: Red Folk Songs, Blue Sentiments, Silver Grand Ceremony and Golden Lights on a Fishing Boat. Click here to see more photos or view as slideshow.

The lightings, smoke screen, colours and folk songs add up to a breathtaking show. This is the one among the two shows I’ll recommend on the China travel golden route. The other one is the Tang Dynasty Music and Dance at Xian. And of course the Liu San Jie Show at Yangshou is the priority.

About Liu San Jie
Liu San Jie was a Zhuang ethnic group female in Tang Dynasty. Born to the poor Liu family in Guangxi, San Jie was the third child of her parents. Hence her nick name was San Jie (meaning Sister Third). She had a very sweet voice. Her favourite pass time was singing folk songs.

The way San Jie and her fellow villagers sing was in a unique style in the Guangxi area. Since the place at Guilin and Yangshuo are mainly embraced by beautiful hills, the songs they sing are classified as ‘hill songs’.

San Jie was very popular in her village as she was such a great singer.

A rich landlord wanted to marry her, however she was reluctant. She challenged the landlord if he could sing even better than she did, she’ll marry him. The landlord called upon some scholars to support him. Without realizing that San Jie and her supporters had the magic skills of expressing any idea by singing, the landlord was badly defeated.

Admission for Liu San Jie Show
• Standard fee ¥188
• Some backpacker hotels might reserve for their guests at ¥138
• A fisherman might take you on his boat to see the show at a distance. He might charge you ¥30 – ¥50.
• Daily at 20:30 and 21:45

Anna’s Notes
I watched the film Liu San Jie when I was a little girl. I can still remember how amusing the singing contest between San Jie and the landlord was. I can still sing some of the ‘hill songs’.

You might not expect such an extraordinary show in a little town Yangshuo. Truly, Liu San Jie show at Impression is definitely a show beyond your expectation. You would even find it worthwhile flying across the globe to come here to see it.

Book a hotel in Yangshuo

Trekking and adventure guides