After a week in big cities, I needed some solace. Xingping had been a welcome respite, but the town was still busy during the day and not nearly quiet enough for me. Yangshuo — the town itself — was even crazier. The main tourist drag, West Street, had a carnival atmosphere ill-suited to relaxation. So when I made the journey out of town to the shore of the Yulong River, I was looking forward to some well-deserved R&R.
Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu
The Li River runs along the edge of Yangshuo proper, a boardwalk skirting its banks. Families of Chinese tourists flock to iconic spots along the shore: an old man with his cormorants, a cascading waterfall, a woman with traditional garb to don for photos. On the river, large sightseeing barges laden with more tourists chug past.
Renting a bike is the best way to get around and can be done from most hostels in the area. I got my wheels from Wada Riverside Hostel and took them across the river, water splashing to either side as I followed an antiquated truck along the snaking barrier.
The trails near Yangshuo are nebulous at best — what may seem a concrete path through the rice fields can quickly deteriorate into a dirt barrier between paddies, but getting lost became part of the adventure. The heat of the day made physical exertion difficult, but the faster I went the stronger the breeze became. So, I flew.
Locals in their fields with cone hats watched me clatter past with stoic expressions, the occasional one calling out or raising a hand in greeting.
Later, I crossed to the other bank and rode along a busy thoroughfare to the iconic Moon Hill. Moon Hill is impossible to miss — just look for the mountain with the hole in it. I paid the admission fee and set off up the steps, ignoring the stern warning of the old woman trying to sell me water that it would take me an hour and a half of brutal hiking to get to the top.
Less than 30 minutes later, I was leaning against a fence and craning my neck to see the underside of the impressive arch. Hour and a half my tuckus.
The hike had given my spine a sufficient enough break from cycling, so I hopped on my trusty steed and went back to it with a vengeance. Determined to avoid the crowded road I’d come in on, I cruised down village roads towards where I hoped the Yulong would be. After a couple wrong turns, I was on the right track.
The ride through the hills was a quiet one. I didn’t encounter any cars and only a few motorcycles. The day was still brutally hot, so I stopped for a foot soak when I reached another concrete path over the river.
All days, even the best of them, must have an ending, and this one’s was fast approaching. The sun sank behind a row of karsts, the light from it passing between them to paint colored streaks across the sky.
The perfect end to a perfect day in Yangshuo.
How about you? Where’s a place you’ve been that’s left you feeling refreshed and ready to continue your adventures? What made it so relaxing? Share your stories in the comments below!