China has a lot to offer other than Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, and Hongkong. Get out of the mega-cities and explore rural China!
How to Get There
Fly in and out from Beijing or Shanghai you can easily get to Guilin. Expect to pay between USD 400-500 for the round trip ticket.
My Proposed Travel Itinerary
Guilin and Rice Territory
What to do: Trek around the rice terraces and visit local villages and indigenous people
- From the airport take the bus to the city center of Guilin where you can buy snacks before going on your 2-day trip to the rice plantations.
- Then take a bus to Longsheng, north-west of Guilin where you will be greeted by one of the Zhunag tribal women who will happily show you the 1h long path to Dazhai, a little mountain village within the rice terraces.
- Once you arrive in Dazhai, you can choose between the many wooden guest houses overlooking the rice terraces and have a nice traditional meal. These guest houses don’t have websites nor booking systems in place, so just show up and ask around.
- I recommend staying at the Tian Ti Hostel where I met lovely people. The rooms are very basic, cheap and you will be served great traditional meals.
- The next day, head to Pingan, a more touristy mountain village, which is about 4h away by foot. You will meet farmers who cultivate rice, horses, and cows, which plow the rice terraces, other smaller villages and a few waterfall while you walk up and down.
- Pingan houses the Yao minorties and offers some excellent views. Rest in one of the restaurants and try the bamboo tube rice which is cooked in a bamboo with pumpkin and chicken.
Yangshou and Li River
What to do: Rent a bike an explore the unique karst area with its caves and unique rock formations and take a cruise on the Li river.
- After the 2-day trip within the rice territory, take a local bus back to Guilin and then further south to Yangshou.
- Stay at the Hostel Gigglingtree, founded by a Dutch couple, which is one of the nicest hostels you will find! It’s a real gem but get there before it is dark since it is a little hidden. The hostel has a very nice courtyard and you can enjoy the rich breakfast.
- Rent a bike and check out the beautiful landscape. Stop at the moon hill and walk up the rocks to the famous arch in about 30 minutes. For the climbers among you, the arch might be especially attractive to you!
- You will pass several villages and ride on dirt roads for a while before you will reach the water cave. Be aware that the water levels can be too high after heavy rainy days and the site might be closed. If open, take the boat inside the cave and discover the underground river, can bathe in a mud and relax at the hot springs. I hope you don’t suffer from claustrophobia, since the entrance might only be 30cm high (between the water surface and the rock)!
- Take the bus from Yangshuo via Fuli to Xingping, a small village at the foot of the Li river. From Xingping get on one of the many bamboo boats and ride to Yangdi upstream. The Li river lies in the middle of the karst landscape. The section between Xingping and Yangdi is supposed to be one of the nicest and you will pass the vantage point of the picture on the 20 Yuan note.
- You can then either stay in Yangdi or take the bus back to Yangshuo to spend some more time there and shop at west street, a very touristy area with high prices. Yangshuo also offers a water-light spectacle called Liu San Jie. Yanghuo however is not a very interesting town to stay overnight and doesn’t offer many sights except the big market wher you can find everything from lively snakes, fish, frogs, chicken, rabbits to vegetables and fruits of every type.
Lost in Time
The distinctiveness of these Zhuang women is their extremely long hair, which measure up to 2 meters, since they don’t ever get a hair cut.
Depending on the season you are going (I was there in May), it might rain a lot and the haze and fog give these environment a very mystic atmosphere. It seems like you are trekking through a rain forest with a lot of bamboo trees, banana trees and ferns to this very remote village, Dazhai.
Pure nature, nothing that generates noise. You will hardly believe you are in China if you know the chaos of the mega cities.
Only 10 years ago, the street leading to Dazhai was built, electricity has been foreign for a very long time and the tribes here didn’t even speak Mandarin. Instead, they had their own language and they didn’t need a currency system because the government supported them with everything the tribes needed. A lot has changed – wifi, several TVs per household, as well as cell phones are now commonplace.
Best time to go
Avoid April and May if you don’t want to hit the rainy season and visit in August or September.
If you want to go independent, I hope you have basic Mandarin knowledge or you take a Chinese friend with you!