Li River Cruise
The charming Li River, one of the major attractions of the Guilin/Yangshuo region, has been described as "a green silk ribbon with hills like jade hairpins" and is ideal for exploration on a boat. The meandering 65km Li River cruise lasts 5 hours and takes you past a panorama of bamboo groves, sleepy villages, karst peaks and fisherman on rickety bamboo rafts fishing with cormorant birds. Most cruises go down river to Yangshuo and then bus back to Guilin, though some cruises begin from Yangshuo and go upriver to Guilin. The best times to visit are spring and autumn; the summers can be overwhelmingly hot and muggy while the winters have low water levels.
A river cruise, which includes lunch, can be expensive. A cheaper, though just as stunning way of experiencing the serenity of Yangshuo is by taking the bus and exploring the surrounding area by bike. Due to seasonal fluctuations in the river's water level, all cruises now begin at Millstone Hill, just outside of Guilin.
Along the cruise, you'll pass by whimsically named formations given by tourists of old, though a strong imagination may be needed to fully visualize their namesake. South of Millstone Hill and the grey-bricked riverside village of Daxu is called Bat Peak after its cliffs that resemble bats. Unlike in the west, bats are symbols of good fortune in China as the word for bat and good fortune are homonyms. Further along is Dragons Play in the Water, the rocky outcroppings dive into the water, inspiring a legend that dragons were sent here by the Jade Emperor to retrieve the fragrant flowers that grow in abundance during spring. The riverbank should make any gardener green with envy as the plant life is lush and varied with thick bamboo forests and rice paddies inhabited by water buffaloes.
Looking Out for Husband Rock resembles a woman with a young child on her back gazing longingly down the river for the return of her husband. Following on is Caoping Village and on the eastern bank is Crown Cave, which has a deep underground river and continuing on is the village of Yangdi. The small villages along the river are typical of the architecture found in this region. Next is the village of Daxu, which features grey brick buildings covered with grey tiles and upturned eaves.
Before reaching the village of Xingping, you'll meet the Boy Worshipping Guanyin, which resembles a toddler kneeling in prayer, giving his respects to the Buddhist goddess of mercy. After that is the Nine Horses Painting Hill, a jagged out cropping with the imprint of a wild herd of horses, though these horses can be elusive as most people can only see seven.
As you reach the area surrounding Xingping, some of the most striking scenery along the river comes into view. If you decide to stay in Yangshuo, you can readily return to the area for a second close-up visit. Local travel agents can arrange personalized tours that include visits to the various picturesque villages in the area.
If you are interested in a cruise of Li River, please check our Li River Cruise daytrip.