Xingping - 兴评
15th Nov, 2008
Xingping is Li River market
Come here on any day of the month which ends in 3,6 or 9 and you will people from all the surrounding villages buying and selling their produce. All the locals will be coming in early in the morning on boats, buses, trucks, etc
There will be traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, barbers, dentists and much more
Xingping is also the location for the picture on the back the Chinese 20 Yuan note. You can actually go to the exact spot from where the photo was taken
You can also do some boat trips on the Li River from here
The guys over at Yangshuo Now have just published their September edition of their magazine. This edition focuses on many aspects of the Li River including the lesser know site of the Ling Canal. They also have the recipe for the local dish of stuffed snails. There is some fun stuff and some local news. To get your free copy, go over to their website www.yangshuo-now.com
Yangshuo has a brand new online magazine. It is full of interesting articles and useful hints.
You can download it from their website (www.yangshuo-now.com)
It is well worth a read
16 March started early. Alf had arranged to come and pick me up outside my house just after 06:30 for the drive up to Guilin. We were to meet two of his clients there and then cycle from the outskirts of Guilin down the countryside on the far (East) bank of the Li River to Xingping. It was a ride I had long wanted to do and the day looked just perfect. A little cloud cover but otherwise just cool and fresh.
Xiao Su, the driver, and Alf arrived right on time. Everything had been arranged the day before; bikes, food and water were all loaded in the back. I just needed my camera and a change of clothes.
The drive to Guilin is normally just a chore but at this time in the morning the road was clear and the hills were glorious with a rosy sky behind. We made good time and met the two ladies at the Universal Hotel in Guilin. I stayed there many times as a tour leader so it was strange to see it now in a different light.
Eight O'Clock was still a bit early for most people leaving to do the famous Li River Cruise. They were still at breakfast and so formalities were soon over and we left, heading for the start point. Before we even got there, Alf had a call to say that someone had left a wallet in the room. Though Amy had to return and miss the start of the ride, that averted a possible disaster.
Georgina, Alf and I set off on our mountain bikes, using the relatively flat first section to warm up and get to know each other. Alf had taken the two for a Guilin City Tour the day before but this was my first meeting.
The kilometres rolled away under our wheels with Alf pointing out the local crops and giving a run down of local issues. We soon arrived at a small town where we stopped for Guilin Miefen (local rice noodles - a favourite breakfast). Still no sign of Xiao Su and Amy so we carried on.
We stopped at the first section of Li River and watched a local lady busy at her laundry. We could just about make out the Li River Cruise Docks at the end of the straight. The car caught up with us not long after we had passed there. Amy was amazed by the distance we had covered but none of us was really feeling it yet. Good bikes make all the difference.
The four of us now carried on together. We stopped again at an abandoned temple now used as a community centre. The pool table at the back looked like it could have done with a brick or two for levelling off. No-one seemed to care.
The flat ended soon after that. Alf considered the first hill just a warm-up and told us that the day included two much bigger ones. The first of those started as we left the road heading to Crown Cave and turned left. The sign clearly said Xingping though no road is marked on any local map. No wonder - the tarmac gave way to dirt and the switchbacks ahead soon became obvious.
I ride a fair bit and so the relentless up was no great hardship. Georgina was coping well and Amy did after we sorted out her gears. Alf, cheeky chap, dropped back until he could use the support car for a lift - a fact we would not have noticed had Xiao Su stopped further back as instructed. Fortunately for us he either didn't understand or was having his own little laugh and Alf had to make excuses.
With the height gained we could now see for tens of kilometres all around. The best views were to the west, over the Li River and to an absolutely stunning backdrop.
We passed Da Tian (Big Field), a charming little village with a style of porch over the doors that I had never seen before. New breeze-block buildings were going up all around so, no doubt, this innovation will disappear before long.
Despite the noodles, hunger struck not long after twelve. We could see the lunch spot, a small lake, far below and had great fun free-wheeling all the way down and around to a patch of green grass that would serve as our picnic site.
Alf had a couple of bags of goodies to fill our bellies to bursting. We didn't eat it all but certainly felt heavy as we set off again. We took it easy for a while but then, with the next big hill on us, had no choice but to drop down the gears and go for it.
At the top, the scenery was quite different. The hills were more open and the road contoured around on an almost treeless landscape. We could see big mountains off to the east but not the conical ones that have made the Guilin/Yangshuo area so famous.
The next descent was welcome but less enjoyable. The road here was very bumpy and arms and bums began to ache. We stopped just before reaching the valley floor as the views out over the now lush looking paddy fields was well worth a photo stop even if none of us had the camera or skill to quite capture the beauty completely. Cows and goats took the opportunity to get snapped too, on their way back from a drink down in the brook below.
The run into Xingping is pretty much flat. We went past a couple of great swimming spots but, it being only March, we were not tempted in.
We entered Xingping but did not head to the guesthouse straight away. Alf had one more activity planned first.
We took the bikes on the short ride out of town to a spot now famous, especially with domestic tourists. After a day of stunning scenery it was hard to say that this spot was better than any other - but since the view we were now looking at had been chosen to decorate the back of every 20 Yuan note we decided it was worth a visit. Like everyone else we took a couple of photos holding up the brown note just to mark the occasion.
We celebrated the end of the bike ride with a beer on the guesthouse rooftop. Alf and I then headed back home to Yangshuo to freshen up and collect our respective boys from school. The two ladies stayed in Xingping as Alf would return next day to cycle with them the rest of the way to Yangshuo. I would have to miss out on that; other work to do.
There are many different types of cruises that you can do on the Li River, and I have done most of them
Guilin only cruises
These have to be the worst of the lot. Guilin city itself has very few Karst peaks of any real height. You get to cruise within the city and observe 3 or 4 peaks. The rest of the time, you get to glimpse hotels, traffic and shops, ouch!!!
Guilin to Yangshuo cruises
These are by far the most popular cruises in terms of numbers. Every major tour company and some smaller ones will put their groups on these boats. The boats are big enough to hold anything from 60 to 120 people. They usually have a viewing deck at the top which is shared by everyone on the cruise. I have had to use my elbows to get to the railings so that I could see the view.
Departure time for these cruises is between 9am and 11am. There are no flights that arrive early enough to meet a cruise on the same day. You can easily arrange a cruise the night before from any hotel in Guiin
These cruises leave from a wharf on the outskirts of Guilin and the transfer from Guilin is included in the ticket price.
Lunch is also something to talk about on these boats. It is included in the cost of the ticket. You get a set meal to share with the people at your table. The meal is very Chinese with rice, stir fried vegetables and some meat dishes. Included drinks are a small bottle of water per person and some bottles of beer. The staff on the boat also try to up sell expensive dishes and drinks such as fried shrimps and `snake wine`. You also get to have this lunch during some of the best scenery on the Li River
Many of the people who do these cruises get dropped off in Yangshuo and have a short time to explore West Street for shopping and then return back to Guilin the same day
Yangdi to Xingping cruises
The Yangdi to Xingping section of the Li River is by far the most spectacular part of the Li River. It is possible to arrange a cruise for just this section of the Li River. However, you need to know that the only boats that can take tourists on the Li River are the big boats from Guilin as they are the only officially licensed boats.
The boats that do the Yangdi to Xingping section are the small `farmer's boats`. These boats can hold about 12 people on them and have an open area at the front of the boat where you can sit down and put your feet in the river
Now, as these boats are not licensed, they can only operate when the Li River is not being monitored by the local authorities which is early in the morning or late in the afternoon which is the best time anyway for these cruises as the river has none of the large boats and is very peaceful. This has always been my favourite cruise on the Li River
Cruises from Xingping
There are many `farmer's boats` in Xingping as the monitoring of licensed boats is a bit more lax in Xingping. You can turn up at just about any time of the day to Xingping and have one of these boats take you on the Li River.
The cruise can take you up river towards Yangdi, but not all the way to Yangdi as there are regular inspections near Yangdi. How close does the boat get to Yangdi? Sometimes almost all the way and sometimes about half way. You can never tell as you would know what Yangdi looks like
The cruises out of Xingping can also go towards Yangshuo with a stop at the `fishing village`. This cruise is not as scenic with very few tall peaks along this section of the river. I find this cruise a bit on the boring side
Yangshuo to Fuli and Liugong cruise
This cruise is downstream of Yangshuo and misses all the big boats coming from Guilin. I like this cruise too as it is very relaxing due to the low traffic on the Li River. The cruise is also done on the `farmer's boats`. Both the old towns of Fuli and Liugong are worth a visit on their own