China #2: Xingping Ancient Town in Guilin (桂林兴坪古镇)
Sights: Xingping Ancient Town (兴坪古镇)
Region: Yangshuo County, Guilin Prefecture, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
Xingping is the best place for taking photographs of the beautiful scenery of Guilin. It is in close proximity to several famous mountains, such as Nine Horses Mountain (九马画山), the Yellow Cloth Shoal (黄布滩) that is printed on the back of the 20-yuan China note and the meandering Li River (漓江) where it makes a sharp U-turn. Laozhai Hill (老寨山), just beside the arch of Xingping Ancient Town (above photo), offers a vantage point for viewing the surrounding landscape from above ground.
In fact, the real Guilin lies in Xingping!
For the natural beauties of Guilin's Li River, see Story #1. This post focuses on Xingping Ancient Town itself and nearby villages.
Getting From Guilin City to Xingping Ancient Town
Travel with bamboo raft from Yangdi (杨堤) to Xingping is the easiest way to get to the ancient town from Guilin City and enjoy the views along the river.
Alternatively, take an intercity bus to Yangshuo and change to a local bus for Xingping Ancient Town — and forgo all the sights along the river. Note that the larger ferries don't stop in Xingping.
Where I Stayed
I stayed at Xingping This Old Place International Youth Hostel (兴坪老地方青年旅舍), having arranged for it through its sister branch in Guilin City (see Story #1 and Story #5).
By the way, when staying at Xingping This Old Place Hostel, don't miss their Italian wood-fired pizza! It's great for munching and chatting with fellow travellers in the nights.
The Rustic Ancient Town
The rustic streets in Xingping Ancient Town were surprisingly picturesque, especially with Laozhai Hill (老寨山) as its backdrop. Some of the houses here were cultural relics dating as far back as the 17th century during the Qing Dynasty.
Guilin Specialty Noodle Dishes
While Guilin has a specialty noodle known as "Guilin vermicelli" (桂林米粉), there was another Guilin specialty — horse meat vermicelli (马肉米粉). The vermicelli dish is usually soup-based with slices of horse meat added to Guilin vermicelli. Chili and sour-spicy veggies may be added to tastes. Both vermicelli dishes were easily available in Xingping.
I tried the horse meat vermicelli in Xingping.
After checking out the ancient streets, I took a walk into the surrounding farmlands and small villages, which revealed more on the lifestyles of Xingping villagers. There were paddies, vegetables, chilies, citrus fruits, etc, grown on the lands.
While in Xingping, some villagers could be seen selling pomelos near the pier. It was one of their local produces too. Pomelo trees could be seen in abundance near the villages and with their bulky fruits hanging from the branches.
I was in Huashan Village (画山村) and observing the houses on the farmlands and farmers working on their crops.
An elementary school in Huashan Village named after the Nine Horses Mountain. This shows that the village is located close to the mountain. And that was how far I had walked from the ancient town to the foot of Nine Horses Mountain.
While walking to/from the farmlands and outer villages, I checked out the scenery of Li River at the same time. I was hoping that the mist would clear for a brief moment so I could take some nice photos. But it was not happening in autumn.
After 3 nights in Xingping Ancient Town, I moved on to Yangshuo, which is about 25Km away by local bus.