We had three hours to spare after reaching Yangshuo. Many tourists headed towards their hotels. There were people everywhere. It kind of spoiled the beauty of the location. The weather was pleasant and yet we were too tired to appreciate it. I couldn’t bear to walk the town after 4 hours on the cruise. We had an option to take the countryside and rafting tour. It came at an additional price – but many of our co-passengers (like us) on the cruise fell for it.

We rounded up at 2:30 pm and followed our guide towards a bus. The bus took us to the rafts. The rafts looked rickety, but our oarsman was pretty confident we didn’t need our life-vests. I tried explaining that we didn’t know how to swim. It didn’t matter.

First-up was the cormorant catching fish ritual. I was already anxious on the raft and seeing a bird with its throat tied – trying to swallow a fish – wasn’t exactly appealing. The other tourists didn’t seem to mind. I wasn’t sure what we were trying to achieve here. Fortunately, the ritual doesn’t last for more than 5 minutes.

Next, we passed by the fields. Somewhere along the way you can eat fried fish with a glass of beer. We graciously declined. It’s also a common spot for bridal photography. We saw a young bride getting her hair and make up in place along the banks of the river. The water tends to be quite cold and an occasional splash can give you a chill.

Then the part were there is a slight fall (step) in the route. You have to stay prepared with your best pose as a camera guy will take your shot. It’s optional to get your snap clicked. But, before we knew it – we ended buying it.

The last part leads you under a bridge. This scene is truly fascinating with rafts floating by and flowers in full bloom. By now, I had a better control on my nerves. On our way back, we repeated the whole route again. At the step, we climbed up as our oarsman lifted the raft.

I was happy we were done with our ‘touristy’ bit of the trip. And that’s when we were lead towards the water buffalo. It was called ‘Feeding the buffalo’. It was funny and scary. I tried it reluctantly. Kids seem to have fun and a baby started bawling the minute his mother stopped him from feeding the animal any more.


Our 8 day trip was finally over and we were horribly exhausted. The drive back to Guilin would be a two hour long journey. The next day we were to head back to Shanghai. We ended spending the whole day in the airport and I fell sick. But, in hindsight, all the walking and travelling over the period of 8 days was worth it.

Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

18 replies on “Yangshuo’s Tourist Trap

    1. Thanks Sree! The place is pretty awesome. Probably, best discovered on your own. And you’ve got some stunning shots yourself! Loved your NE journey. Will refer your trail when we plan our next trip there.

  1. I guess everybody sees things differently depending on their point of view. We did the Guilin raft tour on a separate day from the Yangshou tour. After the commercial feel of the Li River, and after having spent three days in a beautiful hotel overlooking the rickety rafts, we took the rickety tour and loved the slow pace and casual feel of it. I was wearing my bathing suit under my shorts and t-shirt and ducked into the river a couple of times to swim alongside the raft. Squirting other rafts with water guns seemed to be part of it as well. This was four years ago so we were spared the cormorants and feeding of the water buffalo. I guess being a swimmer makes a big difference in a situation like this, plus being well-rested. We thought this was the nicest part of our stay in China. Judging from your pics, it looks like the air is more polluted than 4 years ago and probably the whole area is more populated. The rate at which China is becoming built up is really quite frightening.

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more. Given another day or more time, the setting would be perfect. Yangshuo is stunning! Unfortunately, too many tourists are discovering it. I don’t think the air was polluted. It was a cloudy day – making the temperature soar up.
      I do believe Guilin requires a week to pursue everything it has to offer. I wish we could do things at a slow pace. And 8 days is too less to explore China (Beijing – Xian – Guilin).
      Thanks for sharing your account! Sounds like you had a wonderful experience. 🙂

  2. I am considering to visit the place because of the cormorants fishing. It’s unique and controversial at the same time. I had no idea it is also a popular location for bridal photography 🙂 Thank you for well informative story. I am sorry to hear that you got sick after the travel..

    1. You should consider Yangshuo and Guilin because of their diverse natural resources. Without a tour – your trip will be less touristy. 🙂 The weather was so variable that almost every second person was coughing or sneezing. 🙂

  3. I’ve seen cormorant fishing before. It was interesting but looked like a lot of work. Not sure I’d have the patience. I think I’d probably just eat the cormorant.

  4. Wow! This river rafting looks like fun. I didn’t get to sit in an open bamboo raft when I was in Yangshuo some years back. Such a new, beautiful and unforgettable experience. Loved your photos especially the one taken from under the bridge!

  5. I went to Yangshuo last year, I did a hour’s rafting on the Li River. The raft’s were motorised. I stayed in a village outside of Yangshuo and could walk to the Yulong river. I enjoyed my time here.

    1. I do wish, we could’ve have stayed longer and explored the countryside. Probably, our experience would’ve been more enjoyable. ‘Time’ can make or break your trip. 🙂

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