Xìngpíng – A Backpacker’s Paradise

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I am enjoying my time exploring ancient villages in the Guangxi Province of southern China.  Blue sky and green fields punctuated with karst mountains greeted me as my train pulled into Guilin.  Around Guilin, the main hubs for hiking, caving and exploring the countryside are the towns of Xìngpíng and Yángshuò. 

Xìngpíng is smaller, more rustic, and has a small town feel compared to Yángshuò.  I only planned on staying here for a couple of days, but I found it difficult to leave it so soon and ended up staying for a week.  The village is nestled against the beautiful Li River and a breathtaking karst landscape.  During late mornings and early afternoons cruise tour groups crowd the village for a few hours.  They wander around the tiny main street, barter with the vendors, take selfies, then leave.  You hear the ships whistle as they sail away one by one.  And it becomes quiet again.  And I think: what a pity to only experience this town for a couple of hours.

The town is rustic but with some basic conveniences making it a comfortable base for exploring nearby areas.  It is so small you can walk its entirety in about 20 minutes.  I love how everything I need is so reachable.  

Little town of Xingping
Little town of Xìngpíng surrounded by karst landscape

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Boats along the Li River in front of the town

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Main street

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To get here from Guilin I took a 1 hour bus ride to the ferry then rode on a motorized raft along the Li River.  The 40-minute boat ride sails along the most beautiful part of the Li River. 

Motorized rafts sailing along the Li River from Guilin to Xìngpíng

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The landscape around Xìngpíng is so beautiful, it is featured in China’s 20 Yuan banknote:

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The most accessible highest point in the village is Laozhai hill.  I climbed (more like “upstaired”) this mountain all the way to the top (where you can see the power line on the peak).  The views were breathtaking; I actually did the climb a few times, and one time I got lucky with the weather and caught the sunset.

Li River, and Laozhai Hill in the background

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View from Laozhai hill

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View from Laozhai hill

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Li River at dusk

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Traveling through this landscape brings to mind a poem by Lord Byron from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.”

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Beer fish and stuffed snails are the local specialty here and in Yángshuò.  For lodging, I recommend This Old Place hostel (25 Yuan [~$4] for a 6-bed dorm).  It is located at the foot of Laozhai hill.  The staff speaks good English and have helpful suggestions on things to do around the area. 

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