First of all a small warning: this blog entry contains many photos of mountains, so don't get bored ;)
We spent a couple of days of our China holiday in Yangshuo, which is in the Guanxi region in the southwest part of China. We stayed at The Green Lotus Hotel which is situated near the main attractions of the city: shopping streets and restaurants as well as the beautiful Li river. Yangshuo and the nearby areas have been popular among Chinese tourist for years but the westerners have found the location only a few years back. This means that the tourism hasn't really developed to its full potential yet, which is both a good and a bad thing. In Yangshuo city centre you can find a lot of little shops selling souvenirs and other trinkets, as well as many restaurants and bars. It was a really busy area especially in the evenings.
If you go a bit outside the city centre you can see authentic Chinese life and housing and undisturbed landscapes, but the downside is that it's hard to get the full potential of your traveling experience when there aren't many good guided tours or signs in English. (The locals can't speak English so learning a few phrases in Chinese is quite essential!) Also the distances are quite long and there is no public transportation from one sight to another. Our hotel had bikes you could lend for free, but they only had handbrakes and at least for me who is not accustomed to bikes without foot brakes it felt a bit too unsafe and borderline hazardous to try to ride the bike along the hilly roads amongst the Chinese driving culture.
The best things about the Yangshuo are in our opinion were the amazing mountains and the green rice fields. The nature is unlike anywhere else, and if you have ever wondered about the weird mountains and rivers in traditional Chinese paintings, you know the almost fantasy or sci-fi like pictures that don't resemble real-life mountains, the scenery in Yangshuo is exactly like that. Just take a look at the pictures below and compare them with the photos I took on our trip.
We had a bit of misfortune with the weather front; the first day was rainy and foggy, but it got gradually better. On our last day there was even some sunshine, but the rain that had continued for over a week made the air really humid. The most popular tourist pastime in Yangshuo is sailing along the Li river with small bamboo rafts, but the water level was too high due to the rainfall and the currents too dangerous for the rafts to make the voyage, so we moved around by an auto rickshaw or just walking.
If you are planning a trip to China the Yangshuo region is definitely something to take under consideration. Magnus even thought the days we spent there were better than the visit to Beijing and the Great Wall. The locals said that the best time to visit would be late summer and early fall, August to November, when the rice is ready for harvest and the monsoon rains have ceased.