Due to circumstances, I often think back to more “innocent” times, such as when I used to travel in China. While I really don’t like the country’s government nor the direction the country has been heading in for the past five years, China does have a number of beautiful places. And sometimes the local people can be nice as well. Going to Guangxi was one of my best trips in China.
In 2016 when I was working in Hong Kong, I decided to go to Guangxi for Christmas that year. Guangxi’s karst mountains and rivers are some of China’s most famous and beautiful landscapes, and being right next to Guangdong, Guangxi was not far from Hong Kong. And thanks to a new high-speed train line, going to Guangxi was much faster than before.
My first stop was Xingping, a small village on the Li River between Guilin and Yangshuo that also was where Yangshuo high-speed station was located. Xingping is not as well-known as those two places, but years earlier, I had come across an amazing photo of Guangxi and it was taken in Xingping. It was a welcome coincidence that a high-speed train station was built there. I arrived at night, found my hotel and checked in.
Being located right along the river and overlooked by several distinct karst peaks looming nearby, Xingping features fantastic scenery and is also a good staging point for boat rides or treks to other villages in the area. And not surprisingly, there was construction going on, no doubt intended to cope with a potential tourist boom. Like most Chinese cities and towns, the village even had an old pedestrian street that had been spruced up for visitors, but I found it underwhelming.
The next day, I found that the weather was horrible due to thick fog that was likely smog (yes, even in the countryside). I still decided to walk along the Li River to the location that is featured on China’s 20 yuan bill, about 15-20 minutes from Xingping.
I walked back into Xingping and decided to trek to another village, the even smaller Yucun (Fish Village) that supposedly had some very old buildings and lay to the south. Its biggest claim to fame was that it had been visited by Bill Clinton, as well as Hillary and Chelsea, during his state visit to China in 1998. Following directions from my hotel, I walked out of the village into the mountains behind it. I passed through a valley, briefly got lost at a fork, and had to backtrack a bit before finally seeing the river appear below me after two hours of trekking. I followed a road down to the river, where Yucun was located. As a secluded settlement that could only be reached by boat or on foot, Yucun was built in the 16th century, giving it over 500 years of history. When I arrived in the village, I was met by a local woman, who then nicely gave me a tour of the old houses in the village center, which featured some elegant wooden carvings as well as some Mao posters.
As I was in no mood to hike back to Xingping in foggy weather, the woman’s husband took me back by boat (which I paid for). Going down the Li River on a flat bottom bamboo raft, albeit with a motor, was a thrilling experience, though when we got near Xingping, the boatman told me to lay low otherwise he would have to pay a fee for carrying a tourist on board.
The next day was my last in Xingping and I hiked up Laozhai Hill, which overlooks the village and river. While over 300 meters, the hill is actually quite steep in some parts, but once on top, the views are splendid. After I came back down, I checked out of my hotel and took a bus to Yangshuo, the larger and more well-known travel hub of Guangxi.
Setting off on the hike to Yucun (Fish Village)
I got lost briefly near this place as I took the wrong path at a fork nearby.
The weather was increasingly bad but at least I could make out this weirdly-shaped peak in the middle.
This was the view from my bamboo raft on the way back to Xingping.