If you’ve ever had a 20 RMB note, you’ll have seen the gorgeous karst mountains and the Li river that roams in the South West of China. The location on the note is in a small village called Xingping. On most days, the small village is home to lots of tourists, taking lots of photos with their 20 RMB note and enjoying boat rides down the river, looking in awe at the surroundings.
It really is a spectacular sight.
However, my favourite part of Xingping wasn’t the place where we match up our note with the river and mountains. There are parts in Xingping and the surrounding area which are so awe-inspiring and peaceful, deserving more credits and words.
My favourite part was going on a hike to the fishing village. While the village itself wasn’t what I would call a highlight, the walk there was incredible. You are encompassed by mountains, blocking out the sound of construction work, horns, and fireworks. You can’t even hear the river and the boats heading up and down. All you can hear is quietness.
I live in Hangzhou, a thriving city of 8 million people; there is no such thing as a quiet place, or if you find one, it’s very unique. This felt like a whole world away from Hangzhou, and even from Xingping, with the tourists and multiple women asking you if you would like a ride on a bamboo boat.
After a while of walking, Mitch and I sat down on a rock and had a drink of water.
“Listen” Mitch said, “Do you hear that?”
“Yes” I replied, referring to the man not so far away burning branches.
“And….?” he pressed.
I smiled. Apart from the faint sound of the wind rustling the trees, there was not a sound to be heard apart from our own breathing. The path we hiked was so quiet, a quietness I haven’t come across in China before. A silence in which the only time I can think of a similar feeling was in the coastal town of Perast, Montenegro, where the 300 residents don’t stir at night.
The hike was about an hour and a half, and although tiring, we made the decision to hike back because this kind of quiet experience is not easy to come by. Just across the mountains we knew that the car horns and sound of boats were awaiting us.
Hiking up the Bird’s View Pavillion was also great; it was a real highlight to get a view over the stunning mountains. It’s certainly not an easy hike and having to climb a close-to-vertical ladder near the top gives you an idea of how steep it is. Once you reach the top, however, it’s totally worth it as you can see the river and the mountains rolling on and on. If you’ve ever been to Ninh Binh in Vietnam, it reminds me of the stunning scenery and landscape you can encounter there.
Aside from all the hiking, we also rented bikes and cycled around the local area, plus taking a long walk along the river. Despite everyone telling you, and trying to sell you, a boat ride – we decided to walk. It was a pleasant day and much quieter to walk than hear the sounds of the boats as you go along the river.
Once all the tourists have disappeared after the sun goes down, the village itself is so quiet. We stayed This Old Place, which make some damn delicious wood-fire pizza, so our evenings were mostly spent eating pizza and drinking a couple of beers before a good night’s sleep.
This was our first real experience exploring China, and only now do I really understand how big the country is, and how places differ so much economically and socially. If you want to get away from the big cities and see some truly untouched landscape then visit Xingping. If you like hiking and some peace and quiet then definitely spend a night or two there as opposed to just visiting from Guilin or Yungshuo. I loved it there and would happily go back if there wasn’t so much of China left to see!