We arrived in Yangshuo on an early morning train from the Hong Kong border. As we drove in comfort sheltered from the crisp air, I looked out the window to a wondrous sight.  Layers of dark limestone peaks towered over the misty countryside creating the quintessential image of a mystical China.

I knew that there were Karst formations in Yangshuo; I just didn’t expect to see them so soon.  I also didn’t expect them to be so great in size.


Karts Formations tower over the countryside

The streets were quiet in this small town by Chinese standards.  Yangshuo has a population of only 30,000 people, but it is a favourite stop for most travelers to the Far East. The first place open to tourism in China, Yangshuo has made its mark as a very travel friendly destination.

Filled with stores selling copy outdoor gear, restaurants, coffee shops and Internet cafés, Yangshuo is the perfect base to explore the countryside and ease your way into travel in China.  People speak English here and menus are written in both English and Mandarin.  Backpackers roam the streets and hard-core climbers sit in one of the many climbing hangouts discussing their latest route that they finally conquered.

It feels like a quieter and smaller Kathmandu.

Downtown Yangshuo at night

Downtown Yangshuo Foreingers Street at Night

When you come to Yangshuo you come for the scenery and there is no better way to witness it than from the vantage point of a bicycle.

A bike hire costs a mere 10-Yuan explore on your own, but if you are willing to splurge a little for a private guide, you will weave your way through the rural countryside and enjoy an unforgettable experience.

Yangshuo China Countryside

Sites in the countryside of Yangshuo

We met our guide Tang Gui Yang at 1:00 sharp.  After fitting us with our mountain bikes and giving our gears a little tweak, we set off in our group of 7 to explore the great Kharst formations of central China.

Yang led the way steering us safely through town and once we hit the side roads, we were free to ride side by side chatting about how much we were enjoying ourselves and taking in the superb views.

Yang is a soft-spoken man that has been guiding tours in Yangshuo for over 10 years.  Coming from a family of farmers, he spends his time showing tourists the sites during the high season but goes home to help with the rice harvest twice a year in Spring and Fall.

cycling tour yangshuo china

Farming Yangshuo

He knew precisely how long it would take us to get to each destination.  “400 metres of bumpy roads ahead,” he said.   “Only 20 minutes to our next stop,”  “In 100 metres we will have a photo opportunity.”  “6-minutes until we are back in Yangshuo.”  Every statement was accurate.

We peddled through the rice fields, along the river and through different villages for 4 hours.  Roads varied from busy traffic field city streets to rocky single lane trails. It was and excellent ride.  As we ventured further into the countryside the mountains became more dense and striking.  Slumbering giants with names like Camel Mountain, Dragon and Man Mountain surrounded us.  With every turn we were treated to even more incredible views.

Karst Formations over River in Yangshuo China

Karst Towering over the River

We stopped at a river to watch the bamboo rafts filled with Chinese tourists struggle over the dam.  The water was low and the pilot, who steered only with a long pole, had his hands full trying to maneuver over the concrete lip.  The Chinese tourists were definitely enjoying it though and they loved seeing us standing on the river banks as they floated by.

Sightseeing while cycling in Yangshuo China

Watching the Bamboo Rafts Pass By

We cycled on and arrived at the star attraction of the day.  Moon Hill is famous in these parts. It is a giant karst with a hole in its centre resembling a half moon. It is fascinating to imagine how it was formed over the centuries.  You can climb up Moon Hill’s 1200 steps, but we were running out of time and instead soaked in the view as we sipped hot ginger tea.  The sun was soon to set and we still had an hour of cycling ahead.

Moon Hill in Yangshuo China

The Famous Moon Hill

It was 5:30 when we made it back and the rain had started to come down. It was rush hour and we joined the parade of cars, motorbikes and fellow cyclists making their way home.

With a quick goodbye to Yang, our cycling day trip was over.  He had to catch a bus home and after all the business was done he said “I think I’ll go home now” and that was the last that we saw of our mild mannered and sweet Tang Gui Yang.

cycling guide in Yangshuo China

Tang Gui Yang and Us for our Final Good-bye

Gone but not forgotten, we will always remember our day of cycling through China’s magical land of Yangshuo.

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  2. Andrea

    Breathtaking! I don’t think it’s just your great photos, either. What an amazing looking place. I think cycling would be a fantastic way to see an area like this. I’m surprised they speak English – I’m learning more and more about China every day. Thanks for sharing this experience =)
    .-= Andrea´s last blog ..The Other Way to Monetize Your Travel Blog =-.

  3. Theodora

    Now, that is one helluva karst landscape. Like Vang Vieng on steroids, until you get to Moon Hill, which is out of this world. We’re months away from China, so I’ve hardly started researching it, but this is somewhere I think we’d really like to go.

    Is Yangshuo a good place to study Mandarin, do you know?
    .-= Theodora´s last blog ..The Barmy Army Explain the Rules of Cricket =-.

  4. Jason

    Some nice images there Dave. Particularly like the one of the bamboo raft. It certainly makes me want to vist this region in China.

    1. davendeb

      So glad that we could bring back some memories Anna. Yangshuo was by far our favourite place in China.

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    1. davendeb

      Goldie, you should definitely visit Yangshuo. It was one of those places that you never want to leave. There aren’t a lot of unspoiled places in the world, but Yangshuo still has that small untouched feel.

  7. Annalie Killian

    We ( myself aged 50, unfit and a bit overweight and my 2 teenaged daughters of 14 and 17) are in China until 31 January. We are thinking of heading to Yangshuo for a few days from 23 January to 27 January and back to Beijing via Xian to catch our return flight. How will I manage on the bike rides as it seems the best way to enjoy the area? What weather conditions could we expect and should we anticipate?

    1. debndave Post author

      Hi Annalie, you should be fine. The bike ride isn’t strenuous at all and you can go as far or as little as you like, you can just let your guide know. It really is an amazing way to see the countryside so i hope that you have the chance to do it. Yangshuo was incredible. You’ll have to let us know how it goes. I am not sure of the weather in January, we were there in November and it was comfortable. It’s farther south than Beijing and Xian so it shouldn’t be as cold, but I can’t be sure.

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