The famous Lijiang River in Guangxi Province, or more commonly known as the River Li, stretches for a distance of 438KM from its commencement at the Mao’er Mountains in Xing’an County to Pingle, the southern most point in Guangxi Province. From Pingle the river merges with two other streams and then continues due south into Guangdong Province, first as the Gui River and then eventually forming a tributary into the great Pearl River (which eventually flows into the South China Sea near Guangzhou and Zhuzai). Just some of the world’s most spectacular scenery will pass before your eyes. Making full use of every second that goes by is highly recommended.
The importance of the Li River comes into effect when it enters the area around Guilin. Both sides of the river are gifted with wonderful lush green karst limestone hills that naturally form various kinds of weird and wonderful shapes. These scenic and magical views accompany the river for around 100KM, right from Guilin and continuing south towards the picturesque towns of Xingping and Yangshuo. The naturally gifted imagery of the Li River is featured on the fifth series of the Chinese 20RMB note (the photo on the note is actually the same view that is observed from the village of Xingping). If you just want to get away from it all, then it is highly recommended that you take a 2-hour trip along the stretch from Yangdi to Xingping.
Taking the bamboo boat from Yangdi to Xingping is a much more fun, enjoyable, and interactive way to explore the Li River. It’s also more peaceful, cheaper, and quieter as well compared to taking a large boat full of lots of people (with limited chance to take photos because the ships go much faster and are crowded with people blocking the views).
How to get to the Yangdi Pier from Guilin (or Xingping pier):
If you are going from Guilin to Yangdi then you can easily get to Yangdi pier by taking a bus from Guilin bus station (should cost about 15RMB), and then from Yangdi pier take a bamboo boat (should cost no more than around 120RMB per person for the two hour boat trip along the river.
The same cost and time is taken from the other way (i.e. from Xingping to Yangdi). The views are indeed magical. The boat trip allows you not just to enjoy the views but to also just switch away from the hectic life in the cities. It’s not the place where you want to have your mobile phone or blackberry on.
At the time of writing, the first bamboo boat leaves the Yangdi pier at around 12pm (and the same time the first boat leaves Xingping), and the last boat leaving both piers is around 4pm (its starts getting dark at around 7pm)
Xingping is a small and beautiful village located around 25KM north of the town of Yangshuo in China's Guangxi Province. The village is surrounded by stunning natural limestone karst hills in all shapes and sizes. Though Xingping can be classed as a photographer's paradise, at the same time, it is not exactly a touristy village, but then again that's the amazing beauty off this place. You get to see what life is really like in rural China, and here you may even get glimpses of what life may have been like even in some of the big Chinese cities. Xingping's well preserved buildings are all full of beautiful Chinese period architecture and art.
As you take a walk along the narrow yet remarkably sleepy streets of Xingping, you can get glimpses of what people's homes look like, and how people live their lives here. The vast majority of the residents live a very humble and simple life, and don't have the luxuries that most people in the urban areas do. People still use wood or coal as a source of fire to cook food (or for heating water for a bath), and other things such as electric cookers, air-conditioning, hot water, fridge-freezer or even a proper toilet are non-existent. Xingping is probably also a glimpse of what Yangshuo was like before the 1980s- it really is a time machine.
The main source of income for the people of Xingping comes from fishing (and proof of this can be seen with the fishing nets hanging on people's front doors), farming (rice and other vegetables that are sold in all the places around Xingping, including Yangshuo and Guilin), and tourism (most of the residents of Xingping work in Yangshuo, Guilin or even along the River Li).
As mentioned, that tourism does not form the core part of Xingping's development, but there are a few cafes and bars that serve western coffee, food, and beer. Since Xingping has a very close-knit community, so you'll hardly find any external developers living and working here. The small cafes and bars are normally run by the grandchildren of the residents of Xingping, especially after they have come back completing their education or after gaining work experience in the urban cities. Expect the prices at the cafes and bars to be rather expensive (coffee may cost you the same price as a Starbucks coffee etc.).
There are two ways to get to Xingping:
1. From Guilin by Bamboo boat
First take the bus from Guilin bus station to Yangdi pier (should not cost more than 15RMB, and takes an hour). This would be a local bus, so don't shocked to see people getting on with live chickens' in their hands (or people carrying water filled bags that have live fish inside)- you can't get any more fresh food than this! Mind you, the views along the way are just priceless. Lush greenery surrounded by magical karst hills. The bus stops right outside Yangdi pier, and all you need to do is get on one of the bamboo boats, and off you go.
The journey from Yangdi to Xingping takes around 2 hours, and is well-worth it. The cost for a one-way ticket from Yangdi pier to Xingping should be no more than around 110RMB per person. However, if you are travelling in a group, it can be considerably cheaper. Once you get off the pier at Xingping, you can either walk for about 5 minutes to the village centre, or take one of the tuk-tuk tricycles that are lurking around. The cost per person should not be more then 5RMB (they'll ask for something ridiculous like 25RMb when they see a foreigner with a camera).
2. From Yangshuo by Bus or Cycle
Xingping is only a 20-minute bus ride to Yangshuo, and costs 7RMB per single trip. Buses run on a frequent basis. Again, don't be alarmed to see people carrying live poultry and other things (such as live Game birds, fish, etc.) as this is the local way of life (i.e. everything is eaten fresh as not many people have fridge-freezers).
If you want to get away from it all and explore the local countryside with its lush green rice paddy fields, and live an undisturbed life (switch off your mobile phone too!), then the best way to travel to Xingping from Yangshuo is by riding a bike or an electric motorbike. Just take your camera with you, while snaking your way across between dreamy karst hills, and local villages. And if you get lost, then don't worry. The locals are very friendly, and if you wish then you may even to stay with them (most local villagers have realised the potential of all the foreign tourists, so they have turned their homes into a small bed & breakfast business). If you cannot speak Chinese, then its probably best to hire a local guide from Yangshuo. The rental costs for bikes vary, and its best to bargain a good price (normally from experience around 150-200RMB a day is acceptable).
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