In the far southeast of China, bordering Vietnam, sits the province of Guangxi. Being so far south, Guangxi has a very different identity to many of the provinces further north. The province is home to many different ethnic minority people and the Zhuang are one of the main groups. Due to its sizeable Zhuang minority population, Guangxi is officially known as Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. What makes Guangxi famous, and is a draw for most travellers, is the scenery. To call the scenery breathtaking would be an enormous understatement.
In the northeast of the province sits the city of Guilin. With a population of around 5 million, this is a not a large city by Chinese standards. Nor are the city’s streets themselves so remarkable. But it is a city with a difference. Look at any photo of Guilin and you will immediately understand why. Weird and wonderful peaks surround the city, towering over it like guards standing attentively over something precious. There are limestone karsts even within the city, that can be viewed and explored, and a visit should not be without a river boat cruise on the Li river.
So although you don’t actually have to leave the city to appreciate the karst landscape, we would recommend heading out further afield. If you’d like to be a little more adventurous, then follow the towering peaks further into the distance and you’ll find more of what you came for, in great abundance. Dreamy scenes of gigantic greenery-blanketed limestone karst peaks jutting into the sky, as far as the eye can see. Bright emerald rice terraces that seem to glow as they flow up and down undulating hills.
Yangshuo is the place to go for this. A small town, nestled on flat plains between the karsts, and bordered by the lush blue Li river, Yangshuo is the perfect base from which to explore and take in the beautiful scenery. Aside from gazing at the stunning limestone rock formations, there are many activities to keep the visitor busy. From walking to climbing and kayaking to river-rafting. Cycling is also a wonderful way to get around. Climb upon your bicycle and slowly meander through the town, or out in the countryside, passing farms and rice paddies, lush riverside scenery, whilst occasionally stopping to gaze up in amazement at the sheer size of the limestone peaks. Finish the day, dining on some sumptuous Guangxi cuisine, which is often a fusion of neighbouring regions’ dishes.
Another place that shouldn’t be missed is Longsheng. Named after the rice paddy terraces that have made the area famous, it is said that the terraces resemble the scales on a dragon’s back, as they go down the sides of the vast mountains. They truly must be seen and are a photographer’s dream.
Guangxi can be combined well with any itinerary in China, as Guilin has excellent flight connections with much of China. If you would like to combine two countries with an overland crossing, you can easily travel on to northern Vietnam from Guangxi province. There is a crossing with direct trains to the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. The best time of year to visit is April to May, and September. At the time, the weather is warm, but not too hot, and the vegetation will be at its most lush.
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