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Li River, Yangshuo, Guilin worth it or too touristy

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Oct 17th, 2013, 12:01 PM
  #1
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Li River, Yangshuo, Guilin worth it or too touristy

I am planning my first trip to China which will include Beijing, Shanghai and hopefully a river cruise and/or watertown(s).

My research lead me to consider a Li River cruise from Guilin or Yangshuo. However, in reading various posts it sounds like these areas are so touristy and crowded that they are not worth the additional travel time and expense.

If you've visited these areas recently, please let me know if you agree or disagree. And if anyone has a suggestion of an alternative.

Thank you, Inor

P.S. I read similar posts about the Yangtze cruises and some of the water towns near Shanghai.
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Oct 17th, 2013, 12:36 PM
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I had an extended stay a bit outside Yangshuo and also a few days in Guilin. I enjoyed them thoroughly including the Li River cruise. I was there a year ago and I think the secret to largely avoiding the crowds is to stay outside Yangshuo.

Regarding the cruise, see if you can arrange to take the boat in the opposite direction, leaving from Yangshuo instead of Guilin. You may be told that they aren't allowed to pick up passengers in Yangshuo but if you persist you'll have the boat almost to yourself. Be sure and arrange a for a taxi to pick you up at the drop-off point which, in our case, was a small village with no readily available transportation.

Guilin is the nicest city I've visited in China and I was glad to have spent a few days there prior to moving on. Far fewer western tourists in evidence.
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Oct 17th, 2013, 12:38 PM
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The Li river cruise from Guilin to Yangshou is very touristy. Numerous boats jammed with tourists float down the river in a row. It took us a long time to get off the boat because the entire waterfront was so congested. The Yangtze river cruise was quite boring since there's little of interest that you can see from the boat. These are observations from 2005 so I expect that the situation is even worse.
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Oct 17th, 2013, 02:03 PM
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This is my 2008 experience-The Yangtze River cruise was boring. I thoroughly enjoyed the Li River cruise. The karst scenery was breathtaking. There were many photo ops. The river was not crowded in 2008, though it may be now. My brother took a day trip to a water town outside of Shanghai, and thought that it was very boring. I did not go, so can't give you any first hand feedback.
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Oct 17th, 2013, 06:05 PM
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Remember, the main issue with traveling in China is not foreign tourists. It's the local ones.
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Oct 17th, 2013, 06:13 PM
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What we did when we visited the area is to take car from Guilin to Yangshuo and then cruise the river on a motorised raft. We were able to stop by on the islands in the middle of the river and it was quite peaceful except for when the flotilla of the tourist boats went by.

Also, agree that you should stay outside of Yangshuo and don't forget about visiting the Longsheng rice terrace as well.

My trip report from 09: http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...-longsheng.cfm
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Oct 17th, 2013, 07:02 PM
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Thank you everyone for your replies. Where would you recommend staying outside of Yangshuo? Is there someplace that wouldn't be hard to get to?

Or does anyone else have a recommendation for another option. Since we would have to fly from Shanghai to Guilin, we could fly elsewhere (even Vietnam).

Our goal is to see ancient villages and beautiful scenery preferably on the water, and where people still live.

Inor
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Oct 17th, 2013, 07:04 PM
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I'm with Marija. The Yangtze river cruise is pretty boring and you need a gas mask for the Li river cruise as the diesel fumes from the bumper to bumper tour boats is asphyxiating. However Guilin is really a gorgeous place if you can "Pull a Hanuman" and commandeer your own craft, then it's a fabulous place to visit ; )
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Oct 17th, 2013, 07:22 PM
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Inor, how much do you want to spend? I stayed in 2 places, one cheap and one somewhat less cheap and nicer. Locations of both were good, both accessible by taxi from Yangshuo.

In a village, somewhat more upscale:
http://www.yangshuoguesthouse.com/

Cheaper, also in a village, good for walks in the countryside:
http://www.yangshuo-outside.com/

Both have restaurants and good staff.
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Oct 17th, 2013, 07:23 PM
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LOL BostonHarbor!

inor - if you're not travelling in the winter time (Dec - Jan) then I like to suggest Lijiang in Yuanan, China but do note that it's not on the water bur rather high up in the mountains. Vietnam is an option but you will need a week or more to visit the country IMO.
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Oct 17th, 2013, 07:38 PM
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I agree with Hanuman that Lijiang is a great place. But I found the countryside outside Yangshuo had more to entertain me in the way of rafting and lots of easy walks. Especially in the vicinity of the Outside Inn. I was there for a couple of weeks and never ran out of places to wander and no crowds whatever. Most tourists seem to all be in the same areas, in town and on the big boats.
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Oct 17th, 2013, 10:01 PM
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> My research lead me to consider a Li River cruise from Guilin or Yangshuo. However, in reading various posts it sounds like these areas are so touristy and crowded that they are not worth the additional travel time and expense.

I would entirely second your conclusions. Yangshuo was wonderful back in the 1980s, when it was a genuine village, entirely silent at night, with two or three small guesthouses, and just a few young foreign visitors who stayed behind after the tour boat crowds (far smaller in numbers than today) had briefly browsed a few waterside stalls and boarded their buses back to Guilin. Yangshuo now has endless pizza places, recently built from the ground up 'old' sections, dance music blaring from discos at night, a charge for every scenic sight, son-et-lumiere instead of peaceful moonlight over the peaks, guides that constantly interrupt your enjoyment of something resembling spaghetti carbonara to pester you to take their overpriced and unnecessary services, endless souvenir shops and those selling fake bags and fake CDs, and branchs of McDonald's and KFC. It's about as Chinese as Disneyland.

There's modest pleasure in going down to the dock in the morning, having arrived by bus, and haggling to hire now plastic-hulled boats with rickety bamboo shelters on them, to be taken down the river to the odd less-visited spot. But overall if you want real rural China, which is indeed something well worth seeing, almost any other corner will serve you better.
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Oct 17th, 2013, 10:19 PM
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Greetings Peter N-H.
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