The Yulong river is a beautiful, small river that flows into the Li river. The most fun and efficient way to explore its length is by cycling. This was the plan as a friend and I took a bus from Xìngpíng for a day trip to Yángshuò.
My friend dropped off her luggage at a hotel near the bus station and the hotel lady asked us (in Mandarin, of course) if we wanted to rent an electric scooter for the day (as she motioned to the purple scooter parked in the hotel lobby.) We asked for the price (it was 50 Yuan or ~$8), and with the translation app we managed to communicate that we needed 2 scooters.
She gave me a bright pink scooter with a matching umbrella. I’ve never used an electric scooter before and wanted to try it out first. I got on, turned the throttle too fast, and the scooter almost shot off from underneath me!! The lady caught the bike, turned off the ignition, and in rapid Mandarin anxiously told us that there was no way she will let us use her scooters! She even suggested that maybe we should use normal bicycles instead as she handed us back our 50 Yuan.
No matter, next to her hotel was a lady renting scooters. Her scooters were also 50 Yuan for the day + a 200 Yuan deposit. She was nicer and patient. I asked her (with the translation app) if she could show me how to use it. She let me practice on the little road nearby, and made sure I understood that I needed to turn the throttle very, very, very gently and slowly. Sure enough, after a couple of tries, it was just like riding a bike! (And I much prefer the green scooter this lady gave me.)
And off we went to follow the Yulong River. Our goal was to reach the Dragon Bridge, a starting point for bamboo rafting, about 20 km away. Beautiful, huge karst mountains surrounded us throughout our journey.
We passed through tiny settlements, scenic viewpoints, cliffs for mountain climbing, and witnessed the daily work routine of the villagers. It was an amazing ride.
When we finally reached Dragon’s Bridge, we were dismayed to see it choking with tourists trying to ride the bamboo rafts:
We turned back and detoured into JiuXian village. Since it was mid-afternoon, the village was quiet.
Riding a man-powered bamboo raft (as opposed to the motor-powered plastic rafts commonly used on the Li river) is a sought-after tourist activity on the Yulong river. But, I find that it was nicer to cycle around the area where I can actually cover more ground than the half mile water scene you get riding the rafts.
Yángshuò is a 40-minute bus ride from Xìngpíng’s bus station. Bus ticket costs 10 Yuan. The bus will not have English signs; either learn the Chinese characters for Yángshuò, or just go up to one of the drivers and say “Yángshuò” and they will point you to the right bus. It is a local bus and will make a few stops along the way. Yángshuò is the last stop. Once in Yángshuò you will find places renting scooters in every corner. At the time of writing, 50 Yuan/day with a 100-200 Yuan deposit is a normal asking price on the street. They will also take a picture of your ID (or passport.) Lodgings also rent scooters and some do not require a deposit.
The app Maps.me is an offline map that has been invaluable during my trip. It has the English and Chinese names of places. It follows you while you walk (great tool for me to know I’m headed in the right direction). It can also route your trip in real-time using data (or you can take pictures of the route over wifi for you to follow.)