It may be said that Guilin has the best scenery under heaven according to the Chinese aphorism; however, it is also said that Yangshuo has the best scenery in Guilin. The secret of the charming hamlet of Yangshuo has long been out, with a throng of Chinese and foreign tourists pacing the town. From top to bottom, West Street (西街) is lined with handicraft gift shops and laid back eateries and bars. Be sure to haggle with local vendors and don’t be too surprised if local Chinese, including seniors, have some command of English. Yangshuo may be a mecca for backpackers, party-goers, sightseers, and climbers but only a short distance outside the township, Yangshuo County still possesses the allure of its natural scenery and rural life. Easily accessible is the “Ten Li Picture Gallery” several kilometres to the southeast, making Yangshuo an excellent base for exploring the county’s peaks, caves and river ways.
The road from Guilin to Yangshuo has been a bumpy ride in the past; however, the road is currently being upgraded with a number of sections completed and others still being constructed.
If you reach Yangshuo by cruise ship from Guilin, you’ll disembark at the door running along Binjiang Avenue that runs perpendicular to West Street.
Central Yangshuo is an exciting frenetic place centred on the flagstone West Street (西街). Once West Street was the only tourist street in Yangshuo, but the town has now expanded with the parallel walking street Guihua Road and onto the roadways Diecui Lu and Pantao Lu.
Near identical low-end hotels, souvenir stores and noisy, commercial bars dominate this main tourist drag – in peak seasons the street can become so clogged that it becomes one large queue! There are some diamonds within this rough however, including many of the town’s best eateries and bars such as Cloud Nine and Le Votre.
Nonetheless for many tourists, the best thing about central Yangshuo is that you can escape it and re-visit it when you need some laundry done or a gift for your mother. Ten minutes’ walk in any direction from the centre takes you to the backstreets of the town, where prices fall as quality rises.
Meanwhile a swift ride on one of the many motorbike-taxis takes you to some of the most beautiful countryside in the whole county. To the north of the town, beyond the ferry pier, you can find secluded roads under bamboo fronded canopies, a charming beach, paddies galore and beautiful old hamlets. To the south is the developed tourist strip of the Ten Li Picture Gallery (十里画廊) – with its neon-lit caves, ethnic minority dances dressed as cavemen and a dwarf theme park. But even here there are occasional silver linings such as the Gallery Inn. Out to the east, we recommend the cycling trails around the new Yulong River eco-tourist zone, as well as rafting opportunities and a range of villages to explore. For something more authentic, head west across the Li River bridge and try out any of the options available in villages on the main road to Xingping.