Thoughts on Yangshuo (Guangxi)

The first week of October is still China’s “National Day Golden Week” holiday, meaning that we get 7 consecutive days of vacation October 1-7. Of course, such a treat can’t come without a bit of pain… in this case, we also had to work the weekend after to “make up for” some of the days off. Truly a maddening system. A seven-day workweek following the holiday really does come close to nullifying the whole point of the holiday for many.

For the October holiday this year, I went on a trip with my family to Yangshuo (阳朔), a mountainous region near Guilin full of all kinds of outdoor activities. Actually, though, we didn’t really go to Yangshuo. That’s kind of the point of this post.

I first went to Yangshuo in 2003 as a teacher still living in Hangzhou. It was just becoming a popular tourist destination back then because many other choices, such as nearby Guilin, had already become way too touristy. Anyone looking for something more outdoorsy, a bit off the beaten track, had to seek out less well-known locales. At the time, Yangshuo fit the bill perfectly.

The next time I would visit Yangshuo was in 2022. My wife knew about the destination from me, and had heard good things about it. She found a local tour company that could set up family-friendly activities like swimming, hiking, caving, stand-up paddle boarding, and river trekking. What I didn’t initially know at the time was the activities planning were almost entirely not in Yangshuo, but the neighboring area. This is because in almost 20 years of development, Yangshuo had become so touristy as to be generally avoided by many travelers.

So this past trip I paid more attention. We didn’t actually go to Yangshuo at all (except maybe passing through). We spent most of our time in a county called Xingping (兴坪). It was all pretty fun, and despite the hordes of holiday tourists, we were generally able to avoid them and do our own thing.

Some photos:

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

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