Hike in the rice terraces
Named for the vast paddy fields that resemble the scales on the back of a dragon when they are full of water, the longji rice terraces offers hiking options for all skill levels. The most popular (and longest) involves hiking from the Ping’An village on one end to Jinkeng on the other, passing through each of their respective hamlets. If hiking isn’t your thing, the Jinkeng village offers a cable car to the top of the terrace. The area is also home to several minority nationalities, one of which is famous for having the longest hair in the world. Rather than cutting it, they wrap it in a time-consuming, turban style bun on the top of their heads. Understandably, if you want to see how long it is, it’ll cost you.
Take a cooking class
Located in a traditional Chinese farmhouse in the countryside, Yangshuo Cooking School offers cooking classes for novice foodies and master chefs. Students start the day with a guided tour of a Yangshuo market to learn about the common ingredients used in the area before heading to the farm, where individual woks are waiting to be used. For a single day course, chefs learn to make five local dishes, which could include beer fish, duck with pickled ginger and chilli, egg-wrapped dumplings, chicken with cashew nuts, and steamed stuffed vegetables. After dinner, students are taken back to their hotels with recipe cards so they can recreate the dishes at home.
Yangshuo Cooking School, Chao Long, Yangshuo, Guangxi Province, China, +86 137 88 437 286
Go rock climbing
Adventurers from around the world come to climb the craggy karst mountains in Yangshuo. And there’s plenty to choose from – the city boasts over 300 climbing routes ranging in difficulty from 5.6 to 5.13. Experienced climbers can ask in the numerous climbing shops or affiliated hostels about trails, partners, and gear rentals. Those same shops offer classes to those new to climbing.
Get a massage
In the downtown districts of any major town, you’re bound to find massage parlors. But beyond the Swedish style massages you’re likely to find at home, Chinese masseuses also offer fire cupping, acupuncture, and Thai massages for incredibly reasonable rates.
Pick up groceries at a food market
In most cities there are numerous markets for locals to sell their home-grown vegetables, fruit, assorted meats, and tea supplies. Go in the morning – the stalls are more lively when the goods are fresh – and you may see chefs from the restaurant where you had dinner the night before, shopping for supplies. Be careful in the meat section, though. Many of the livestock is still alive and it’s not uncommon for chickens to make a run for it or for fish and frogs to escape their tanks.
Take language classes
Considering how few English-speaking locals or expats there are in the Guangxi province, the opportunities for practising the language are endless. The Chinese Language Institute in Guilin and the Omeida Dayingwen College in Yangshuo offer immersion programs for students to live and study in their respective cities.
Learn tai chi
This slow-movement form of martial arts is practised in public squares and parks all over China. Whether you sign up for a day or weeklong session, you’ll learn the fundamentals of the practice, as well as insight into the philosophy and meditative properties of the ancient tradition.
Eat street food on a step stool
Rice noodles, baozi, stir fry, and fried rice are street-food staples in much of China. What else is ubiquitously married with the food carts? Step stools and child-sized plastic tables. Why eating with your knees tucked into your armpits is the norm, we’re not sure, but you’ll quickly forget about it when the ayi produces a steaming bowl of Mi Fen topped with pickled vegetables, peanuts, and pork.
Ride the rails
Many cities in Guangxi are connected by the railway system, though not all trains are created equal. Depending whether you’ve paid for the fast or slow train, the same journey could be a difference of eight hours at most. Regardless, it’s endlessly entertaining people-watching. Families spread out whole picnic lunches across multiple rows, children play in the aisles, and employees sell a myriad of goods ranging from cup o’ noodles to knock-off ShamWow cloths.
Go on a river cruise
Notice the karst mountains and bamboo boat fisherman on the back of your peach-coloured ¥20? It’s a scene duplicated hundreds of times a day on the Li River. Numerous boats leave Liberation Bridge in downtown Guilin bound for the town of Yangshuo each day on a three- or four-hour tour. The lazy 52-mile ride glides through the heart of the Guangxi province, past waterfalls, rice paddies, and wildlife. While you can ride on a bamboo raft like the man in the picture, faster options include luxury and charter boats.