China #3: Beautiful Little Sights of Yangshuo (阳朔)
Sights: Scenic Sights in Yangshuo (阳朔)
Region: Yangshuo County, Guilin Prefecture, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
A famous Chinese saying goes "桂林山水甲天下，阳朔山水甲桂林". It means "the scenic mountains and rivers in Guilin is top of the world, and the scenic mountains and rivers in Yangshuo is the best in Guilin".
While I do agree with that saying, I feel that most of the beautiful scenery are actually in Xingping (兴坪) — which is also part of Yangshuo — not around the city of Yangshuo itself. Most of the scenic sights in Yangshuo are small and very touristy.
In this post, I will share on some beautiful natural sights in Yangshuo.
Getting From Xingping to Yangshuo
Take the local bus at the end of Xingping Ancient Town to Yangshuo. The journey is about 25Km.
Where I Stayed
I lodged at Senior Leader International Youth Hostel and got to know two Chinese university students, who were on a short trip to Yangshuo. Their primary destination was Huangyao Ancient Town (see Story #4).
Li River Rafting (漓江漂流)
One of the things that most visitors did in Yangshuo was to go river rafting in Li River — if it was not done from Guilin to Xingping. I did the bamboo rafting again hoping to see more scenic sights of the Li River closer to Yangshuo but it turned out to be a short river cruise and the sights were not as impressive as in Xingping.
The consolation of the river rafting was a "volcanic" sunset. The thin clouds could hardly block out the setting sun, resulting in a magnificent burning sky.
Yangshuo's Ten-Mile Gallery (阳朔十里画廊)
The next morning, I rented a bicycle and cycled to the 10-Mile Gallery (or Shili Hualang). The corridor starts from the entrance to Fengming (凤鸣), followed along 321 National Road, till the entrance to Moon Hill (月亮山). This was a must-do for travellers because it was the cheapest thing to do in Yangshuo. There were a number of scenic sites — like "paintings" — along the gallery.
However, all places of interest in Yangshuo required entry fees, regardless of their sizes. A fee to see a hill with a hole in it, another fee to see a big banyan tree and more fees to see this and do that. So long as there was an "interesting" thing, someone would fence it up and collect fees. After visiting a couple of paying sites, I sort of just gave up on the others — it's a waste of money and the small sights were nothing compared to the scenic mountains and rivers around the area.
So, what were free? On Gongnong Bridge (工农桥), about 6.7Km out of Yangshuo city, the scenery on both sides of the bridge were free. They were more beautiful than the hole in a hill or a banyan tree.
After Gongnong Bridge, the rest were all paying sites — Darongshu Scenic Area (大榕树风景区), Julong Lake (聚龙潭), etc — until the Moon Hill (月亮山). The good thing with Moon Hill was that its natural round arch, which looked like a "hole", was visible from the road. There was no need to pay a fee to get closer to see a "bigger hole".
After Moon Hill, I did a U-turn and stopped at Gold Water Cave Scenic Spot (Jinshuiyan or 金水岩), just a short distance from Moon Hill. Although it was another limestone cave, I was particularly interested in the mud bath, so I went in.
The mud pool was cold on the first dip but after staying still for a while, the warmth from my body stayed around me. That lasted until I changed position and the cycle repeated. Another "special effect" of the mud pool, due to the rich minerals in it, would always keep the body afloat. This was an unique experience that I did not mind paying to go in — except that it was a little steep for just one activity.
After the cold bath, I cycled back to Yangshuo and checking out the scenery along the gallery again but from different angles.
Yulong River Scenic Area (阳朔遇龙河风景区)
Perhaps, the most scenic sights in Yangshuo is the Yulong River Scenic Area in Baisha Town (白沙镇). On some websites, "Yulong" (遇龙) is erroneously translated as "jade dragon" (玉龙). The Mandarin pronunciations for both terms are the same but "Yulong" in this case actually means "meet dragon". There is a Jade Dragon in China but it is a snow mountain (玉龙雪山) in Lijiang County, Yunnan Province (云南丽江). I would be in Lijiang about a month later (see Story #16).
Heading to Yulong River, I reached a small village next to Yulong Bridge (遇龙桥), which was a short bridge that span across Yulong River. The bridge was under a beautiful old tree.
The beautiful scenery along Yulong River, with its calm water, could be seen from the bridge. Bamboo raft operators lined the riverbanks. And on both sides of the river were agricultural lands.
More sights of interest can be seen along Yulong River to Gongnong Bridge by using a bamboo raft. Or just raft around the area. Each raft can take two passengers and was supposedly "free" — it was included in the exorbitant entry ticket.
Not wasting the already "paid" rafting trip, I took a cruise along the river and was told that going to Gongnong Bridge would require a separate fee. I stayed around the area since I had been to Gongnong Bridge earlier.
In the photo above, the mountain in the backdrop is called "frog leaping across river" (青蛙跃江). The mountain looks like a frog about to leap over the river — use imagination. And most of the sights along the river were all about "what this or that mountain looks like". Well, since I was already there, might as well keep my ears and eyes opened to what the raftman said.
There was a tourist trap here. When crossing the mini dam (photo above), someone would take photographs of the moment when the rafts were going down it, print them out and force-sell to visitors on the rafts.
Also on the river were these cormorants that help local fishermen to catch fishes in the river — a traditional method used commonly in Guilin. Luckily, the "fisherman" of this raft was not around or he would ask me for a fee to take photos of the birds in action.
The sights along Yulong River were quite scenic but marred by touristy activities, which greatly degraded the worthiness of the site for value-seeking travellers.
After exiting Yulong River Scenic Area, I checked out the paddy fields and corn fields of Baisha Town before heading back to Yangshuo.
If I were to visit Yangshuo again, I will skip all the little tourist spots and do a hike up one of the mountains that overlooks Yulong River and the farmlands. It will be a very beautiful sight (I had seen it online). That photo alone will beat all these small sights and save on all the tickets.