Family Travels: Guilin & Yangshuo

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Travelers: Australians Graeme and Linda Tinney, and their kids Sid (12), Harry (10) and Ella (7).

The Plan: Four days in legendary scenery thanks to overwhelming recommendations from friends. The family flew to Guilin then took a 2-hour bus ride to Yangshuo.

Guilin: Ringed by a series of mountainous karsts, Guilin is a must-see en route to Yangshuo. Reed Flute Caves are an underground wonderland where you may just meet a 1,000-year-old tortoise (60RMB, 8am-5.30pm daily). Elephant Trunk Hill rock formation, dipping its trunk into the Li River, is a perfect backdrop to the cormorant fishermen on the pebbled shores. Kids can clamber over the gorgeous stone elephants on the river’s edge (25RMB, 8.30am-4.30pm daily). Solitary Beauty Peak offers stunning views over Guilin (15RMB, 8am-5.50pm daily).

Cruising the River: Cruises to Yangshuo from Guilin depart daily and prices vary (400-500RMB). The stunning, karst-drenched cruise from Guilin takes four hours. A shorter option is to take the public bus from Yangshuo to the lost-in-time villages of Xingping or Fuli, and take a boat cruise back (around 1.5 hours, 250-350RMB from Xingping).

Yangshuo: The variety of activities on offer from local agents in Yangshuo is overwhelming, from rock climbing to rafting, trekking and boat cruising on the Li River. Activities can be tailored to suit all ages.

Getting Around: The Tinneys suggest hiring bicycles or the fabulously fun electric scooters they zoomed around on for just 40RMB/day – no license necessary. Open-sided cabs are infrequent and will charge a 30RMB flag-fall.

Going Underground: A caving trip to Moon Hill (booked through China Climb www.chinaclimb.com) was a bargain at only 120RMB per head, which included transfers, a guide and equipment. The family loved their meandering journey through numerous caverns which ended in a mud pool bath! Showers are available to clean up afterwards. On their return journey, the family came across a warm underground waterfall before emerging on the side of a hill, to breathtaking scenery.

Bright Lights: Yangshuo goes up in lights in the evening (unless there’s rain) with a spectacular light show on the river. Ask your hotel for details.

Where to Sleep: There are plenty of hostels in Yangshuo, but the family chose to stay on the other side of the river at the Riverside Retreat, with unparalleled views of Yangshuo and surrounding karsts. Town is a 30RMB cab ride away, or a 10 minute walk (take good shoes!) and a 1 kuai boat ride across the Li River. The Retreat offers friendly service and great travel advice (family room 350RMB, 0773 882 6879, www.riversideretreatyangshuo.com proxy server required to view).

First published in beijingkids magazine and on the beijingkids website.

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