Xingping, it’s on the note you know!

Xing Ping, China

The note in question being the 20 Yuan note, and tourists flock from all over the country to see the beautiful view that is depicted on their money. Luckily, December wasn’t a time they chose to do it and we found Xingping to be rather sleepy but the scene just as marvellous.

Xingping is hidden among the karst hills on a bend of the serene Li River that flows south from Guilin to Yangshuo. A small, pretty town of curious alleyways and a spectacular backdrop, a 45 minute bus ride from Yangshuo. We checked in to This Old Place International Youth Hostel, into a six bed dorm. The hostel was right near the river and had a lovely terrace overlooking the karsts, perfect for a late afternoon beer to contemplate the view.

The ‘¥20 Note View’ is a short, ten minute walk along the river from the town, easy to find past the vendors and the frequent offers of bamboo, bamboo. The viewpoint, on the riverside, wasn’t busy when we strolled down there to catch the sunset. A few tourists had gathered at the water’s edge to photograph the cormorant fishermen who were posing with their birds.

Cormorant fishermen are the quintessential local-character photo shot for the area, the practice of fishing with these statuesque birds has been lost to modern fishing methods and the fishermen seen today are there for the tourist dollar but they add a mysterious, otherworldly charm to the scene.

Interestingly, looking closer at the fishermen there that day, one was a genuinely old man with wispy white beard and authentic looking clothing. The other was a young man, in jeans under his brown cormorant-fisherman cape and was disinterestedly playing with his phone. That’s the guy in the photo below, I do hope he takes care of those cormorants {she says, totally judging him!}.


Xing Ping, China

As the sun dropped lower we headed back to town, and saw the golden sunset from the bridge, mirrored in the still water.

Xing Ping, China

The streets and alleys of the old town are atmospheric and characterful, a pleasure to wander along. There are a few cafes and shops selling trinkets and local wares, lending it a wonderful bohemian feel, quite different to Yangshuo.

> click on a photo to open the gallery

Xingping has a number of hiking routes fanning out from the town, the hostel had instructions for a few of them so we packed some snacks into our daypacks and set off into the countryside.

The first hike we took lead us along a rocky trail heading towards a fishing village further upriver, a village visited by Bill Clinton back when he was President no less. The path was very un-Chinese in the fact that it was wonderfully uneven, rocky and unpaved, it began by walking through some poorer housing, the people were very friendly but the smell of sewage perfumed the air. The houses soon dropped away though and we were strolling though pretty pomelo and tangerine orchards.

Meat hung to dry

Meat hung to dry

Stone steps lead up into the hills, the karst scenery surrounding us was magnificent and we could hear cowbells through the trees. Eventually we reached the highest point on the path before it dropped steeply down to the village. We stopped for a rest, the land had recently been cleared for a new orchard, we sat on a wall and ate our picnic.

The purpose of the walk had been the walk itself so we decided not to continue to the village but to turn around and take a slow meander back to town in the sunshine.

Another trail had us exploring the opposite side of the river, we took the ferry from the waterfront across the river and followed the instructions we’d been given to Shawan Village. Except we never found it, the clear photo instructions suddenly stopped and left us floundering in the middle of some fruit orchards.

The trail began obvious enough, we hiked along a paved path through small farms, vegetable gardens, orchards and hamlets, it was pretty and agricultural. After a while of following the instructions they then read “continue on to Shawan village”, well that was vague! We had bumped into a lovely Belgian girl called Isabella and the five of us tried various paths, which all became overgrown and impassable. Giving up we turned back and stumbled upon the Tengjiao Nunnery.

Tucked under rocky overhang the Tengjiao Nunnery is a Ming Dynasty temple on what would have been the river’s edge, but the river here was virtually dry. We were encouraged into the temple by an extremely enthusiastic man, all grins and extraordinary waving arms. He ushered us through the temple to the cave at the back. Behind the temple buildings there is a spacious cave, with an altar of figures, our excitable guide used his torch to illuminate details in the cave roof, it was quite an unexpected experience, we tipped him a few Yuan for his troubles.

Xingping, China

Rather than returning along the path we’d already taken, we crossed the dry river and walked along it all the way back to the ferry dock where we caught the boat back to Xingping. The youth hostel had a proper pizza oven and a sociable common area, a perfect place to end the day, chatting with fellow travellers.

another pretty street

another pretty street

Xingping is well worth a visit from either Guilin or Yangshuo and I would definitely recommend staying for a few days and exploring the area on foot, the scenery is sublime. The town closes early at night, we found restaurants closed by 7pm, most were 8pm. Kelly’s restaurant does really good breakfasts to set you up well for a long hike, they even put a heater under the table to warm our feet from the chilly morning air. I went down one morning in shorts and a local man declared I was a “strong woman”!

Xing Ping, China
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By Rachel Davis

7 Responses

  1. cvail says:

    What gorgeous shots! I don’t know if I would leave the restaurant if I was that cozy with a heater warming up my feet!

    • Thank you! We were sat outside, the Chinese places rarely had heating and most people sat in their coats! In small towns like this the restaurants and shops open completely out to the street so sitting out the front was ideal. It wasn’t that cold and the day warmed up to shorts and tee weather, so you’d have been ok 😉

  2. Dave Rowley says:

    Well done, strong woman! Your photos look like something out of a movie, especially the one of the comorant fisherman and the sunset over the water. Looks absolutely gorgeous! I would love all that hiking through citrus groves too – was the fruit ripe at that time of year?

  3. nonoymanga says:

    superb street photography!!!!