Karsts, Climbing and Caves. Yangshuo!

YangshuoYangshuo is a small town nestled in the incredibly beautiful limestone karst landscape of southern China. It draws tourists from all over to witness the scenery, hike, climb or cycle and this in turn has made it somewhere very amiable to stay. It makes an excellent base for exploring the larger area, has bags of accommodation for all budgets and plenty of varied food options. We made ourselves comfortable.

With our little travel family reunited we settled into our chosen accommodation {Greenforest Hostel Yangshuo} as the Christmas decorations were being hastily put up. As usual to it was great to catch up and reminisce.

The hostel offered climbing trips and Chris, Sophie and Severi booked on an afternoon one, I went along for the ride, this is definitely a sport I would rather watch than participate in.

A small group of us were bundled into a minibus and driven out to one of the local climbing spots, “swiss cheese”. It was an idyllic location, gnarly rock faces, tall bamboo and dappled sunlight.

Warm up exercises

Warm up exercises

The instructors put up the ropes {my apologies for the lack of technical climbing terms} then the initiates took it in turns, two at a time, to be instructed up the cliff face, ascending as far as they could manage then abseiling back down.

It was the abseiling that instilled confidence for the second climb, as the climbers then could feel how much support they had.

It was a fun afternoon, even for me as a spectator, there was a little BBQ and we took a few beers along to end the day and drank them as the sun started to go down.

Silver Cave, YangshuoOn Christmas day we booked a tour out to Silver Cave after a recommendation from some other travelers. We booked the tour through the hostel however it ended up being just a bus ticket and a ticket for the cave.

We were instructed up to the small central bus station where we asked for the tourist bus to Silver Cave, it was a do-it-yourself tour. Everyone else on the bus was Chinese, on arrival we were taken into the cave with the tour guide. As she only spoke mandarin we fell behind and walked the cave by ourselves.

The cave is big and rather impressive, and not as cheesy as we expected. It is very colourful, with spotlights highlighting the formations and signs in both mandarin and english giving the formations whimsical or amusing names {Solitary Pillar Bracing The Sky}.

The path through the cave led to a rock pool with a pretty reflection then came to an end with a cluster of souvenir stalls, still within the heart of the cave.

We followed the sign for the exit and the path continued, there were low lights on the path to guide our way but the formations were unlit.

We used torches to pick out the rocks as they were still labelled and named, the darkness was odd but it was kinda fun exploring with the torches.

Silver Cave, Yangshuo Silver Cave, Yangshuo

We ended Christmas day with all four of us curled up on the bed watching Home Alone.

Yangshuo sits on the Li River which snakes its way south through the karsts from Guilin. A few kilometres south-west of the town also lies the more tranquil Yulong River and we hired bicycles to take a scenic ride along it.

consulting the map

consulting the map

Armed with a map we set off through town, negotiating the traffic that was coming at us from all directions.

Once the town dropped away the road became peaceful and we passed through dusty villages complete with bent-over old ladies and free-range chickens. The river came into view and we crossed over the bridge to ride along the opposite side, up a dirt road to the upper bridges.

More dusty villages followed, the karst scenery as a backdrop was impressive but the foreground was a little untidy. A white, overcast, sky did little to dramatize the scene but made pleasant cycling conditions.

Stopping briefly at the first bridge we came to for photos we were greeted by many calls for “Bamboo, Bamboo”, the bamboo in question being the bamboo rafts that ply the river transporting tourists back and forth under a colourful umbrella.

Cycling as far as Dragon Bridge, a photogenic arch of crumbling stones, we then crossed the river and headed back towards Yangshuo.

The route this side was less clear and we ended up cycling along a narrow, rocky strip between rice paddies where I, less than spectacularly, came off my bike. Luckily not face down into the rice but I managed to magnificently bruise both my legs!

Feeling quite peckish we took a late lunch at the Outside Inn, a guest house in Chaolong village. Some delicious, yet small, pizzas filled our bellies while we sat in their pretty, rustic surrounds and were entertained by their kittens.

It was a further 5 km ride back to Yangshuo. The traffic was heavy in town so we took the back roads, weaving through the narrow alleys, it was a fun end to the ride.


Feeling a bit sore the following day we took a bit of time to see the town, we wandered along the attractive streets down to the river. Most of what is of interest to tourists is based around XieJie, West Street, a riot of restaurants, souvenir shops and bars, and the prettier streets fan off this.

Everywhere there are mango smoothie shops, we had a shop near to where we were staying, and their mango and passionfruit smoothie was divine.


Amazing Mango and Passionfruit smoothie

Amazing Mango and Passionfruit smoothie

We were enjoying Yangshuo a lot, and we decided it would be a good place to see in the new year. With a few days to spare before that, we left our luggage at the hostel and took ourselves off to see the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces in the hills north of Guilin…

Have you tried climbing?

4 Responses

  1. Dave Rowley says:

    Christmas in China, fantastic! I love that you watched Home Alone, I guess it was homey but also foreign in that setting. I remember the photo you posted on FB of the four of you watching the movie. Your trip has been such a contrast of quiet countryside and big cities! Back and forth. The mango/passion smoothies sound fantastic! How has the food safety been in China? Any stomach problems?

  2. I am so jealous of the caves you have seen. I used to do a lot of pot holing and caving in Yorkshire when I was younger. It is a great way to get away from everything. Emma xx

    • Wow, you used to go caving in Yorkshire? I know lots of Yorkshire cavers but it’s not my cup of tea, I prefer show caves on the whole, nothing that involves squeezing myself through a tiny space, under water, in darkness! hahaha, cheesy, kaleidoscope colours for me!
      More caves to come, when I get to writing up Vietnam, stay posted!