Karst climbing in Yangshuo

Water buffaloes in the Li River, with karst mountains

We took a few days off from our sightseeing route along the Silk Road in China and headed south to go climbing in Yangshuo, China’s only well-developed climbing area. The train-ride from Xian to Guilin, 60 km away from Yangshuo, took 28 hours and we enjoyed our comfortable hard sleeper bunks reading, eating and doing nothing.

When we planned to go climbing in Beijing, it had rained and we could only manage two visits to an artificial wall in a Beijing park. Apart from that, we stuck to sightseeing in Beijing (which was great, of course!). Therefore, this was the first chance to use the climbing gear we are carrying.

Cycling to the Yangshuo climbing crag

Dotted in the fields surrounding Yangshuo town, some of the crags are accessible by bus; for reaching others, we rented bicycles. Usually we went climbing as early as we could bring ourselves to get up (always before seven) and returned around 2:30 in the afternoon when the sun became unbearably hot. We are still not very good and lead-climbing feels scary most of the time. Luckily Yangshuo offers a variety of interesting easier (5.7 – 5.9) routes. In the afternoon we often dipped into the Li River for a swim.

Bathers in the Li River, Yangshuo

In order to blend in better into Chinese recreational activities, we have also bought a badminton set to play in the public parks.

The picturesque mountains of Guilin and Yangshuo

The Yangshuo-Guilin area is not only popular with climbers; it is famous for its spectacular landscape and visited by tourists from all over the world. Set in rice fields and surrounded by fabulous Karst towers and podgy hills, Yangshuo still appears small and sleepy compared with nearby Guilin.

Natascha in the sleeper train between Guilin and Xian

Only around noon every day, the market street near the river becomes busy. About 60 cruise ships from Guilin let off hordes of tourists – from their scenic cruise down the Li River. For a few hours hundreds of souvenir stalls, fruit sellers and peddlers try to sell their goods at prices five times as high as the normal ones.

So far, most of the Western tour groups stay in Guilin because there are few sufficiently big hotels with Western standards here in Yangshuo. Nevertheless, the town is quite popular with Chinese tourists. On the other hand it is developing rapidly, as we could witness from the change it has undergone since our first visit ten months ago. Yangshuo definitely has the potential to become a major destination on the itinerary of Western visitors.

We hope to come back for more climbing in the future! But for now, we are going back to Xian (again by hard-sleeper) tomorrow night.

NB: Our climbing in Yangshuo was not sponsored in any way. We paid all expenses ourselves.

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