Yulong River Scenic Area, Guilin; Make the Most of Your Stay
Updated: Aug 10, 2021
The region around Guilin in Guanxi Province, China was the first area to open to tourism after the revolution. Once one has hiked along the furtile Longji rice terraces or strolled along the Yulong river at the foot of the Conical Karst Ruyi Mountains, one can understand why. As someone who has travelled there from Shanghai via sleeper train, it felt as though we were crossing borders into another country, the land was so different, the rural local culture and people so very contrasting to those further in the North, (hospitality was on a higher level, pace of life slow and easy). The only negative would be the aggressive touters! We were not prepared for the levels of persistence and pursuit of vendors ( I was even grabbed by the hand and nearly took an old lady along for a ride attached to our ebike cart). So; haggle and be firm and move on, or you'll end up with one too many floral head dresses or plastic ducks, like I did.
This article suggests how to make the most of your stay in the Yulong He region with 8 hot tips.
Longji Rice Terraces
We were really chuffed that we got to see the rice terraces. They are a 3 hour drive from the Yulong He region and so we drove straight there from the train station (having taken to the sleeper train from Shanghai), and walked and lunched there before journeying to our main holiday destination in the Yulong He area near to Yangshuo. For those without kids, I would recommend staying a night or two in one of the boutique- style hill-top hotels with achingly beautiful views. However, unless your children are enthusiastic about walking, heights and rice, I would say you exhaust the enjoyment of the area within a day. As you descend into the valley on your journey out, it is worth stopping at the Huangluo Yao river where the women of the Red Yao ethnic minority group wash their extremely long hair.
We stayed at the 101 Tribal resort in the villages by the Yulong river, close to Yangshuo. Within a 5 km radius there are plenty of activities on offer for families. We found that the best way to get around was via ebike, as taxis weren't necessarily so reliable and there was no local bus service. Ebikes can be hired at various hotels and hostels, some offering a more- cart -like style that carries 1-3 more people in the back seat, depending on size and cramp-tolerance.
2. Rafting on the Yulong River
My son's favourite activity (and one of mine) was the rafting on the Yulong river. There are several start and end points for the rafting and it is hugely popular. They actually sold out of tickets by 10 am on the day we chose to go and there was a 4 hour wait. So my tip would be get there as soon as it opens at 8 am to purchase your ticket, expect a long wait and enjoy a walk along the river, purchase some fresh mango and a coffee while you wait. The rafting takes 1.5 hours from start to finish, and each raft takes 2 people. Tickets are 260 per raft.
While the Yulong river is like a gentle, warm cup of Barley milk, the Li river is a Long Island ice Tea, packing a punch full of dramatic twists and turns. With sheer cliffs dropping into wide girths of fast-moving waters, it is not dissimilar to the Norwegian Fjords. You can chose from a variety of options for day cruises or buy your tickets at the office for approximately 250 rmb per person. We didn't have time for a river cruise, so we hired ebikes instead and explored the route along the river, stopping off for the famous view point that is on the 20 rmb note.
4. Cable car to the Ruyi Peaks
This is an unforgettable experience for sure, for panoramic views over the hills. The cable car will take you to one stop off point from where you can do 2 walks to different view points and cross the glass bottomed bridge and pathway. There are compulsory cloth shoe covers for sale at 20 rmb a pair for the glass. There are a few snack stalls and a cafe points at the peaks but none at the base. Cable car tickets are 194 rmb for 6 +.
5. Moon Hill and the Caves
A ticket for the caves and Moon hill combined are 300 rmb. Moon hill is a steep climb of 30 minutes to an awesome archway formed from rock, framing a view over the hills. You will be followed up by a lady carrying boxes of cold drinks. Sign her book and buy her and yourself a drink, you'll want one for sure after the climb.
The caves are a cooling alternative to outdoor climbs and there's optional mud bathing and hot springs (free) and inflatable boating in the cave lakes (158 rmb).
7. Cycling up to Fuli bridge, (circular route)
An unparalleled cycling path surrounded by sickeningly visceral beauty. Our favourite activity of the holiday. We hired bikes from the Giggling Tree at 50 rmb each for the day. We cycled a circular route up and down the Yulong river to the Fuli Bridge, stopping off for lunch and afternoon sorbet at a riverside restaurant; ( about 20 km in total).
If we'd realised the Giggling Tree had a pool, we probably would have stayed there. It's the number 1 guest house for foreigners; staff speak excellent English and are super helpful in advising on activities and the menu is varied.
8. Optional Extras
If you have more time that you don't want to use swimming at the hotel's pool, I suggest checking out the ancient town and the gigantic Banyan tree,. Also, calling in at a worshipful family run bakery, （the cakes aren't great but the bread is better and you may be listening to an acoustic version of 'God is so good' in the background which enhances the whole experience). It is also good to try the local speciality of Beer fish, have a BBQ at the Herb's Forest Glamping Park and stop off for fresh mangoes and coconuts.
The areas around the Karst Mountains, the Yulong river and the Li river are the most beautiful I have been to in China, one of the most beautiful in the world. Although temperatures were extremely hot and humid in July (38- 44 degrees), the sunniness meant the visibility was fabulous. If I were a long term China expat, I would definitely go back.