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Pedaling into the authentic countryside of South China

By Zhang Li in Nanning | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-03 09:10

Foreign tourists cycle in the countryside of Yangshuo county in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. CHINA DAILY

Yangshuo county, located in Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, is mostly featured in ink paintings thanks to its karst mountains, winding rivers and beautiful scenery.

Now, outdoor activities like rock climbing, cycling and rafting are growing popular with tourists there, and biking is considered to be the easiest way to explore the Yangshuo countryside.

Ronald, who used to be a computer engineer in the Netherlands and is now a guesthouse owner in Yangshuo, says 90 percent of his guests go cycling during their stay there.

A ride, starting from the guesthouse, going past the Yulong River to Fuli bridge, a 2-kilometer route, is highly recommended by Ronald.

"The road is all paved, therefore it is quite relaxing for new comers. And you can take a stop at the riverside, look at the water buffaloes, and you can't miss the ancient villages," he says.

Xiatang village, situated in the Yulong scenic area, has old houses built in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The village, which is away from the main road, has a dozen of households, hardly any vehicles, and not many visitors. But, Ronald is quite a regular there.

"Most of the villagers have moved to new place leaving the village incredible peaceful. To show my guests the old houses is my favorite part," he says.

The journey ends at Fuli bridge, a stone-arched bridge fully covered with vines where offers a panorama of the karst landscape, a clear river and tranquil villages.

According to Scott Spencer, an Australia cyclist, there are many villages like Xiatang in Yangshuo.

Spencer decided to settle down in the area in 2003 and started a club Bike Asia in the county specialized in professional cycling.

His club makes tour plans for 1,000 clients annually, among which 90 percent are foreigners from all over the world.

Spencer, who has been engaged in the tourism business for years, says he has finally found out what foreign visitors really want to see in China.

"They are quite familiar with Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an or Chengdu, and the modernity of China, but they are very fascinated with the past and like a countryside tour."

Yangshuo is an ideal destination to explore the authentic countryside of South China.

As for what makes Yangshuo a biking paradise, Spencer says: "Now it has endless biking routes for all levels, and one can easily rent a bike from a hotel or club to tour ancient villages to get local vegetables and fruits from farmers," says Spencer.

It is interesting that cycling in Yangshuo was discovered by foreign visitors.

In the 1980s, when the county was opened to foreigners and attracted backpackers around the world. They began to organize tours in early 1990s and because of the dirt paths, bicycles became the best tool to explore the countryside and many routes were developed at this time.

However, domestic tourists soon outnumbered foreign tourists by around 2005.

According to the local tourism bureau, the county received 17.5 million tourists from home and abroad in 2018, a 13 percent jump from that the previous year.

As for the future, Spencer says: "With more people coming and the increasing fame of the county, cycling in Yangshuo will grow more popular than before."

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