I had originally wanted to stay in Yangshou town but, due to not booking a hostel in advance and it being Golden Week, I was forced to venture out of the touristy town and head to the (admittedly, still quite touristy) village of Xingping, located on the Li River.
Whilst the village was quite small it was still jam packed with Chinese tourists during the day and the amount of bamboo rafts on the river was a bit overwhelming. The noise coming from the river was insanely loud with hundreds of lawn mower engine powered rafts zooming up and down – not quite the peaceful idyllic scene I had imagined.
I arrived around 4pm so didn’t have time to do much before the sun set so I just went for a stroll down by the river. As with every attraction I have visited in China, as soon as you get away from the main spot where the buses drop tourists it soon becomes almost deserted. Chinese just do not walk. So only a couple hundred meters away from the village I left behind the madness into empty countryside with the only noise coming from the passing raft motors. On the way back I explored the little market and bought a few postcards (I’ve decide to collect them) and a silly traditional pointed straw hat, a gap year souvenir essential.
I rose early the next morning and met with three others to share a bamboo raft ride down the river. The scenery was absolutely stunning. Setting off at 8am meant the river was reasonably quiet as well. The surrounding mountains were breathtakingly beautiful and we were very lucky to have blistering sunshine all day long so the view was perfect. We got dropped off about two hours up the river and hiked the way back which took around four hours. It was pretty much flat the whole way back so was more of a casual walk than hike of any description but it was very pleasant non the less.
We stopped for lunch on the way back at a little tin roofed place that had a few locals eating on tiny stools outside. Bad idea. As soon as we sat down we were greeted by the owner, a wrinkled old woman, slitting necks of two chickens next to us. Blood dripping everywhere and a half dead chicken flying into our table would have put anyone off, never mind the poor vegetarian French girl I was with! We left and ordered just rice and stir fried vegetables at the next place.
We got back to the village just in time to climb the rather steep, and in some places very dodgy, mountain near our hostel to watch the sunset from the top. It was amazing! The view was absolutely incredible and made me realise how lucky I was to be there.
The next morning we hired bikes and cycled around the deserted countryside over some pretty bumpy dirt tracks. It was lovely and peaceful but the weather was beginning to turn and we got back to the hostel for lunch just before it began to pour.
The Li River has been my computer screen saver ever since I booked my flight to China back in January and I can honestly say, despite the mass of Chinese tourists, it certainly lived up to my beauty expectations!