There were five things I absolutely wanted to do and see in my week in Yangshuo, Guilin:
- Longji rice terraces and Ping’an Village
- Li River hike
- Bamboo raft ride
- Countryside cycle tour
- Cormorant fishing
But because I was an idiot and didn’t play ahead properly/look at a map (in addition to new new government rules about bamboo rafting), meant that I couldn’t do the first three things on the list. Arghhh.
Instead, I settled for making the most of a countryside cycle tour. If you do your research (preferably before you arrive in at your location) then there’s quite a decent choice of bike-hire shops and/or guided tour. I choose to do a guided 1-day tour with Bike Asia. I had heard that sometimes the quality of bikes can be pretty sketchy (dodgy brakes etc.) with more ‘local’ shops but I had read good reviews about Bike Asia and they operate all over Asia (duh, clue in the name) so they must be doing something right.
(Please excuse my iPhone photos from here onwards. You wouldn’t have wanted to take your DSLR out in that mud and rain either!)
My tour was approximately 40km and it was me, a Canadian man and our guide. (Do note that they won’t go ahead unless they have at least two people signing up for the same tour). Bike Asia were great and paired us up with good quality bikes, adjusted the seat height, made sure everything was in working order and even lent us ponchos and waterproof bags to keep our phones and such in (it was about to tip it down with rain).
Overall, our tour was 6 hours which also included a stop for lunch. (I think we stopped for a bit more than an hour). The tour description made it sound like a leisurely day and had promised “plenty of time to stop and take photos”. Unfortunately for me this wasn’t entirely the case. Perhaps it was something to do with two of the three of us on this tour being sporty competitive men! It seemed I’d unintentionally signed up for the Tour de France, not a bike tour, as they would race against each other down roads and my poor legs struggled to keep up! Granted, I’m not exactly an Olympian but I do feel the pace we went out was a little more intense than I was expecting. (In classic Chinese style, my guide was not afraid to gently tell me “you’re too slow!”).
It didn’t help that for the life of me I just couldn’t work out how to change the gears. Each bike wheel had it’s own separate set of gears but they weren’t numbered and there were several different ‘clickers’ your thumb and finger had to press to get them to change at the same time and my god, I just couldn’t quite get the hang of it. I’d never ridden a bike that complicated. My poor guide did his best to teach me. (In general, I don’t have a good track record of bikes. I had recently fallen off one in Beijing and got myself school-boy grazed knees).
Still, it was an enjoyable day and I saw lots of beautiful scenery, even if we did get completely soaked in rain and covered in Li river sludge.(That Li river scent will never leave your shoes. RIP Converses). I genuinely would recommend Bike Asia and will look out for them when I’m in other countries.
I have heard of people hiring just the bikes from places like Bike Asia and then doing their own self-guided tour. I think I might have preferred this except I was by myself and was terrified of getting lost in the countryside, having no phone signal and not being able to speak more than very basic Chinese to find my way back!! But if you’re going with a friend or two, I would definitely recommend it. You can go at your own pace then and stop for as many photos as you like 🙂
What has been your favourite nature-based tour you’ve taken? Tell me in the comments below!