Home / Travel_改版1 / Travel -- Where to go Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read | Comment
Tradition Meets Modernity
Adjust font size:

Everything happening to China today is happening in Yangshuo, and it seems far removed from the provincial and rural life of a generation ago. This small, sprawling community is experiencing an influx of new residents as well as tourists, drawn by job growth, the brisk trade in home building, and the growing number of hotels, trade stores and boutique shops. It could be any rapidly developing Chinese city, in miniature, but Yangshuo is different - it has retained its sedentary appeal. And where overcrowding in other cities can be frustrating, here it's only a slight inconvenience as you head out of town on your bicycle.




This port town, on the west bank of the Li River, was once a sleepy, easy-going place occupied by traders, farmers, and fishermen who docked their bamboo rafts and fishing boats along the wide river that snakes through town. First discovered as a tourist destination by western travelers in the 1980s, the town has grown steadily. It has been transformed into a tourist haven, with new apartment blocks, an underground shopping center, hotels and guesthouses, small and inexpensive eateries with western-style menus, local snack food outlets, and streets lined with souvenir shops.


Arriving by night in a sleeper bus from the relatively flat eastern provinces, unusual shapes outside the window rise ominously against the skyline - dense shadows where the senses tell you no shadows ought to be. At first light the view from the hotel window is slightly surreal: a bustling town dwarfed by the nearby hills. But the initially disoriented visitor easily gains his bearings in the town.


Yangshuo is small by Chinese standards, with a resident population of just 150,000. But the town has always drawn visitors, thanks to the odd rock formations of the surrounding countryside. These limestone pinnacles were created over 300 million years ago, when the whole region emerged from the seabed, exposing the rock to intense erosion from wind and rain.


During a holiday week, the crowds along West Street - the main pedestrian thoroughfare curving through the center of town - can get quite dense. Tour groups mill behind waving flags while backpack-laden university students search for rooms, undeterred by the many guesthouses with "no vacancy" signs. Once outside the town though, past the concrete shells of new apartment blocks and away from the gridlock of tour buses, the charm of the place becomes apparent. 




Following the Yulong River, a tributary of the Li River, it is possible to see the unusual limestone pinnacles that pepper the alluvial plain. The valley is a patchwork of paddy fields and plots of carefully tended cabbages, yellow rape flowers, and groves of fruit trees. Crouched low upon the earth are small hamlets, mud and brick farmsteads with a small wilderness of flowers, spring vegetables, orange trees, and herbs giving privacy to the residents. 



Winding and rutted dirt tracks lead down to the riverside where stretches of tall bamboo line the river, the lazy current taking tourists downstream on bamboo rafts. Water buffalo graze idly in the fields, closely watched by a young boy or an elderly man, the occasional flick of a stick or a well-aimed stone keeping the animals away from the neighboring pastures of lush grass.


Just outside Yima, a small town close to the Yulong River, Yi Fan works on a fish farm. He rents rods to visitors who want to spend a few hours sitting by one of the pools staring at the reflections of Five Finger Hill and the gently bobbing red float, in the hope of landing a fresh meal. Once hooked and netted, Yi Fan’s friend, Cheng Mei, prepares the catch on an open stove and it is served with vegetables from the plot across the road.


Down by the river, Deng Li and Zhang Feng are lowering bamboo rafts into the water from the back of a sputtering open-engine pick-up. A group of Chinese tourists clamor on the sandy banks, the children squirting each other with water pistols, and jumping around excitedly in anticipation of the boat ride. As they set off, the chug-chug sound of the truck's engine fades as it heads back downstream to collect more rafts, and bring them to this makeshift wharf.


Five kilometers away, the town of Baisha is undergoing a boom of sorts, with its newly paved road and modern tarmac bridge providing greater accessibility. However, the old stone bridge around which the town grew up is proving to be a great tourist draw. The 59-meter-long Dragon Bridge, built in 1412, spans the Yulong River and still sees a steady stream of pedestrian traffic of sorts; from water buffalo to young men frantically trying to get their motorbikes up the stone steps and over the hump. The sound of fire crackers echoes beneath, startling an old woman who breaks into a toothy grin as a group of small boys run up the street. The wide bend in the river at this point provides a natural berthing spot for boats, and boatmen sit on the banks, chatting and waiting for the next tour group to arrive.


Heading back along the main highway at dusk, there is the heady scent of rape flowers in the air and the thick, pungent odor of earth being worked over. The high pinnacles are once again becoming shadows; permanent shapes in the darkness that now seem reassuring rather than alien. Entering the outskirts of town, the signs of a society on the move slowly reappear - half-built homes, piles of masonry, the steady drone of activity - and although the fairy-light illuminations of the town center are a shock to the senses, they too prove to be somewhat reassuring. Life along the valley floor and in this rapidly growing town co-exist harmoniously- for the moment.


(That's beijing May 29, 2007)


Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read
Pet Name
China Archives
Related >>
- Guilin Hosts Record Number of Tourists
- Ancient Oceanic Trench Found in Guangxi
- Yangshuo County Becomes Hot Tourism Spot
- Tourist Spot Doesn't Want to Fall into Trap
- Guilin Oriental Dragon Park to Be Built
Most Viewed >>

Product Directory
China Search
Country Search
Hot Buys