Yulong River

Yangshuo, China

In Guangxi province, there is the amazing Li river extending from Chang’an to Pingle, a top tourist destination. What many visitors miss is the hidden gem that goes by Little Li River or Yulong River, a tributary of the river Li. It starts at Litang in Yangshuo County and is a shallow clear river, that is even suitable for swimming when the current isn’t too strong. Also in contrast to the main river, Yulong allows no motorized traffic and manually rowed bamboo rafts are the only mode of transport on the water. For these reasons, combined with much similar karst landscape as the original river Li, the Yulong Scenic Area has gained popularity recently among tourists.

Motorized traffic is regulated in the scenic area and barred from 07:00 to 19:00. Visitors may enter by foot, bike or a special shuttle for tourists (RMB60 / person). Or you can hop on a Yangshuo – Guilin bus, disembark at Baisha village, from whence the Yulong Bridge is at walking distance. Another option available to tourists in Yangshuo is to grab a bike on rent from town and peddle for half hour upstream to Yulong Bridge. The cost of a bamboo raft that’ll take you drifting along Yulong, between two marked points, will be upwards of RMB200. The ideal time for this is in the clear sunshine filled months from April to October.

The Li river tributary offers much similar views as the Li river itself, but this is dotted by inhabited and cultivated farmland in some areas and you can see the domestic scenes of the locals washing clothes, tending the rice fields or cattle lazily grazing as your raft takes you by. This presents a tranquil atmosphere and relief from hectic city life.

Yulong offers up some ancient relics and memories of time gone by in the form of ancient buildings still left standing, which also intrigues tourists. It has some really dated bridges Xiangui Bridge from the Song Dynasty or the Fuli and Yulong Bridges from the Ming period. Jiuxian village is another monument from the past and the Ma Tau Wall, the carvings on the buildings and the old residences themselves tell a story that played out over 14 centuries.

But bamboo rafting is not your only option in the scenic area. The roads have been better developed by the local authorities which has made it feasible to bike (using cycle or scooter) around the farmlands and riverbanks. You can really get the feel of the land, say hello to the locals and devour serene vistas at your own pace; stopping as you want and how ever long you like.

Hiking is also possible for those who want to go unbridled, carried by their own two feet. There are fields of flowers on the path that make a charming contrast to the towering hills beyond. The developed route is ideal for a stroll and the fresh mountain air really does wonder to untether the soul from stress and worldly anxieties.

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