The plan that day was to hike for 16 km from the town of Xingping (Mandarin : 兴平市) to Shuiyantou, which was just across the river from the town of Yangdi. The hike was to be along roads that flanked the scenic Li River for almost the entire way, and involved two river crossings--the first crossing over from the east bank of the river to Lengshui, and the second from Quanjiazhou and back over to the east bank of the river once again.
The area around Xingping, aside from the karst peaks beyond the banks of the river, was relatively flat so we were to expect very minimal elevation gain. I had also mentally divided the hike into those three parts (Xingping to Lengshui, Lengshui to Quanjiazhou, and Quanjiazhou to Shuiyantou), but before we even began, we had to first get to the town that is probably most known for the view on the back of the CNY20
Buses depart from Yangshuo's southern bus station fairly frequently, every 15 minutes or so. The journey takes only 45 minutes so you do not need to purchase tickets beforehand, just pay the CNY10 when you board the bus. Buses depart from Yangshuo from 06:00 to 19:30, and from Xingping till 18:30. But if you are going on a day trip to Xingping, I would recommend getting the 18:00 bus back to Yangshuo at the latest. Just in case.
We woke up early that morning and began to walk towards Yangshuo's southern bus station. We had planned to get food along the way and ended up getting bao (CNY4
) and rice (CNY6
) for breakfast. It was drizzling once again and the mist that wafted in brought the temperature down considerably. It was 08:20 by the time we got on the bus for the 45-minute journey.The infamy of Xingping's touts had made its way to the online accounts and it had left me with a feeling of dread. I like my personal space and my nerves are always on edge whenever I have to deal with invasive touts that do not seem to have any concept of personal boundaries. That was actually the main reason why we planned to go from Xingping to Yangdi instead of the other way around, as the touts that had infected the Yangdi jetty were apparently quite notorious. The touts did not just stop at the jetty though; if you did opt for the very expensive boat ride (CNY200
), you would most likely encounter them on the river too, offering drinks with exorbitant prices (often multiple times what they were worth). The touts would then try and make you feel guilty if you declined their initial offer, and would instead try and convince you to buy a drink for your boat operator (for lack of a better gender-neutral term). I just did not feel like getting angry that day. Besides, the touts that lined the sides of the Li River (Mandarin: Lí Jiāng, 漓江) with their pet monkeys and cormorants would already be hard enough to deal with as it was.
Xingping is actually quite well-known for their fisherfolk who can still occasionally be found using great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo
) to catch fish. The way they do this is by first attaching a snare around the bird's neck before releasing it onto the river. The restriction on the neck prevents the cormorant from swallowing larger fish, and the fish is instead removed from its mouth. Cormorant fishing along the Li River is basically for demonstration purposes for tourists though, as fishing has been restricted on the river due to conservation reasons. Not only are the number of fish in decline due to the activities of humans, but the number of cormorants were once in decline too. Not too long ago, the birds were seen as a competitor for fishing and humans ended up hunting it nearly to extinction. Fortunately, the numbers have rebounded since, thanks to conservation efforts. Welcome to the Anthropocene!
After successfully dodging all the people at the bus stop who looked like they could possibly have been touts, we began by making our way towards the old bamboo-lined bridge
that crossed the river to the north bank. Rows of motorised PVC rafts lined the river and forests of bamboo (Tribe : Bambuseae
) absolutely covered the river banks. The deep brown colour of the river water was to be an indication of what we were to face up ahead, but I just did not realise it at the time.We continued walking north-west, along the road that ran parallel to the river, and came upon the first 'attraction' soon after. The '¥20 View', which lay about a hundred metres or so from the bridge, is one of a few spots in which you can observe Gold Ingot Hill, or Yuanbao Shan, from across the river. This hill, or rather the viewpoint, is the inspiration behind the art on the back of the 20 yuan note. The spot was empty when we arrived there, which was most likely attributable to the drizzle. The river was also very brown and fast flowing and the raft touts that normally stalk these kinds of places waiting to ambush off-guard tourists were simply nowhere to be seen. We had heard a lot about this viewpoint, but the mist that had engulfed the karst towers in the background just ended up making the whole experience somewhat anti-climactic.So much for the 20¥ view!