The yin & yang of Yangshuo, China

Finding whimsy in the stunning karst landscape.

Yangshuo, Guangxi province, PRC (2010)
As so often is the case with popular travel destinations based on natural features, you find yourself caught between the stark beauty of nature and the inevitable crazed consumerism that tourism generates. Often it seems that the tourist trade operates on the rationale that you cannot possibly enjoy an ancient and unique landscape without purchasing some cheap, cheesy trinket that was manufactured at the expense of the same natural beauty you came to appreciate.
Sigh.  There is far too much junk in the world.  We need to stop buying it so it will stop being made. 

The crowed night market of West street in Yangshou.

Anyway, enough eco-rant from me.  In all honesty there is an upside to the touristic popularity of Yangshuo; for just a couple hours driving from Liuzhou we can indulge ourselves in menus written in english (well…ok, often Chin-lish, which is entertainment in and of itself) and foreign food treats like humus and falafel that are not available in Liuzhou.   And many of the vendors are selling things of actual value, for example many worthwhile finds can be made in the numerous antique stalls. 

The villages near Yangshou as seen from the top of Half Moon Hill.

And the scenery is indeed stunning.  The bizzare-ness of the karst landscape is one of the things about living in China that make me feel as if I have been transported to another planet (the others, like food and language, we’ll get to another time).

Reflections in the river give you two landscapes for the price of one!

A definite must to do while in Yangshuo is hire a bamboo raft for a trip down the river amongst the mountains.  Make sure the weather is warm, the rafts are unsophisticated to say the least and your feet will get wet as you follow the river down a few drops in elevation.  Hawkers floating in the river will sell you anything from cold beer, photos of yourself to crispy fried fish on a stick. 
Yangshuo is one of those places it’s hard to get tired of, even with the teeming hordes of people (it is a famous destination amongst the Chinese, and believe me, there are a lot of Chinese!)  I myself have been there several times already and I will continue to return whenever a quick weekend break from Liuzhou is in order.  We really are fortunate to live is such a engnimatic landscape. 

Spoilt for choice: you can have any kind of raft you want, as long as you pick "bamboo".


Friends and veteran China expats Sharon & Rich Johnson show how it's done.


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