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This Is Where China Stands Still

Float down Guilin’s sleepy landscape and discover the untouched beauty of Li River’s banks

This month, travel and wildlife filmmakers Jungles in Paris capture a rarely disturbed stretch of rural China’s Li River.

Guilin, with its meandering Li River and mist-wreathed limestone hills, is probably the most celebrated landscape in China. Poets and scroll painters have tried for centuries to articulate its beauty, and the colorful names of the region’s gumdrop-shaped limestone formations—Moon Hill, Reed Flute Cave, Grandpa Watching an Apple—attest to the imaginative leaps these features have inspired. The best way to take it all in? Cruising the 50-mile stretch of river from Guilin to Yangshuo.

Of course, this magical corner is no local (or even national) secret. But with a few savvy choices, it is possible to reclaim some of the region’s evocatively classical scenery for yourself. Fishermen on the river use trained cormorants, and the drive to the old town of Fuli, past tidy rice paddies and rickety wooden bridges, offers a timeless image of rural China that’s becoming ever more endangered as the country chugs forward. – Darrel Hartman

Li River

The banks of the Li River


Your Hotel: Slated to open in summer or early fall, the upscale Banyan Tree Yangshuo aims to restore an element of tranquility to this poetic segment of the Li River. It’s not actually in bustling Yangshuo itself, but rather in Fuli. an old town that’s a 15-minute drive away and famous for its painted fans. The 142 suites and villas come outfitted with latticed windows and ink-wash paintings, and with calligraphy and tai-chi lessons and bamboo-raft cruises among the guest offerings, it’s easy enough to tap into an atmosphere of timeless China.

Your Flight: A variety of domestic Chinese airlines offer daily flights to Guilin Liangjiang Airport from Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and other hubs.

Your Itinerary: For top-notch custom tours, contact award-winning operator Wild China.


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