It’s easy to have enough of the town centre in Yangshuo – even once a day. Despite the number of tourists, it’s still a relatively small countryside town with limited activities unless you get out. Surrounded by mountains, small town syndrome is very real, and you can feel a bit claustrophobic. What’s more is that surrounded by such incredible mountains, you’re going to want to explore them.
The perfect thing for a bit of exploration is using either a scooter or push bike. Both are readily available for rent in many places throughout the town centre. It’s completely down to personal preference which one you decide on, although a push bike is certainly the healthier, more environmentally friendly option. For longer distances, a scooter is of course recommended for those hardcore explorers who want to take a few hours out in the day. If you go for the scooter option, make sure to familiarize yourself with Chinese style riding before you head out. Safety first! The general rule is anything goes, but Chinese people are used to this style of riding, so remember to take care, especially around busy town centres.
One of the first things you’ll learn is that your horn is your most important tool on the road.
There are various routes outside of the town that you can take. Do some research online to find the usual routes that will promise beautiful scenery before you go, or get the information first hand from some of the locals. There isn’t many maps or plans around of bike routes, but that’s partly because Yangshuo is still being built up and everything is relatively near or easy to find, and partly because half of the fun is exploring and discovering for yourself. There are a few main exits out of the city – if you’re feeling adventurous, simply take one of these exits and see what you come across. The worst thing you’re going to find is that you’re amongst the mountains with no one else around and then hit a small village and have to turn back. The best routes will lead you to secret swimming spots next to the river or quiet places to hang out.
A great ride for those first trying it out is out of the town centre via Hospital Road. Carry on along the road and out of town, and within minutes you’ll be on winding mountain paths parallel to the Li River. Take a right down any of the side paths you find whenever you need a break from the mountain bends, and you’ll most likely come across a few houses and an entrance to the river. If it’s clean, you’ve found yourself your very own private swimming spot. The river isn’t too wide and the current is very weak, so if swimming is your thing, you can spend hours swimming across and up and down, usually only seeing a few fisherman on your way.
One of the most fun bike rides is out to a Dragon Bridge on the Yulong River. This is a ride for the more skilled of riders since it takes you amongst paddy fields and extremely tiny pathways, where one false move could have you drenched in water in a field. It’s extremely rewarding though, as you can ride right up close beneath the mountains, through small villages, and through farmers fields. The ride will take you up to the Yulong River where tourist excursions often frequent, and you can be taken for a ride by the local boaters.
There are 100 and 1 different ‘rides’ to do. In reality, any ride is going to be something different and special. If you find something extra memorable, make sure to share it with a couple of locals – but don’t let the secret get out too far!