For those who don't read or understand the Chinese Language, well, it's time you begin learning some ;-). For those who have never set foot in China, you will not likely have heard about Guilin and Yangshuo, the two towns in the Guangxi Province of China. But learn about them you must, IF you feel you've a chance to visit this country in the near future.
Why do I say so? Everyone knows about Beijing & the Great Wall of China. Many know about Shanghai and Sanya. How many know about Guilin & Yangshuo? I'm not sure but probably few do; except the Chinese who are residing outside China.
Guilin (桂林) & Yangshuo (阳朔) are two sister towns not too far apart in distance. They are linked by road (about 1 hour drive) as well as the Li River (漓江). Guilin became famous long before Yangshuo did. Now, they are totally commercialized and have somewhat lost a bit of their old charm. That's attributable to the taking off of domestic tourism in China. Nothing you can do about it. There are simply too many people in China! Guilin is more or less a city status now while Yangshuo which was once a foreigners' haven (more like backpackers') has now been transformed into a bustling tourist town with plenty of hotels and motels to choose from.
What do people come here for? Answer: The beauty of nature!
Take a look for yourself...
Sceneries & Karst formations unlike anywhere in the whole world! This is unique to Guilin/Yangshuo area and the rural beauty of it all simply charm anyone and everyone who has the fortune to see it in person. Take your time to venture off the beaten path and talk to the farmers and villagers of this area. You may not be able to do it anywhere near the city center but as you move out of the tourist congregated areas, you will certainly find an area with no one in sight!
There was so much to see, to savor & to relish; it was overwhelming! Again, that has been my experience with China. It's a country where one needs a lifetime to explore & to begin to understand China as a country & the Chinese as a race. In Guilin & Yangshuo, life is much simpler though. The enchantment of this area is more rural & scenic. It's a land of green hills, clear waters & exotic caves; of simplicity & universal truth - the melody of nature. One doesn't need much preparation to appreciate this area of China. Just be... Yes, just be...
Guilin scenery is spectacular & unique. One witness the magical creation of nature & being in the midst of it all is amounting to visiting a "nature" museum with finest works of art; inspirational as well as thought-provoking! If you're searching for God, this is most probably one of the place you'll see Him!
Hot Air Balloon I haven't seen anyone doing it, but I bet paragliding in this area must be quite an adventure. The closest I've come to it is to do a hot air balloon tour of Yangshuo. It was an hour of amazing sceneries and sights. A view a few lucky people were able to get a glimpse of. There was an accident last year on the same tour and a few Netherlanders got caught in an explosion, if I'm not mistaken. So, yes, lucky to have done it & came back alive without much of an event! That's a risk everyone has to take, be it hot air balloon or a flight on a 747 jetliner (or an Airbus A380)!
Li River Cruise For those who prefer to take less risk, a boat cruise may be your choice of mode. There are regular cruises taking tourists from Guilin to Yangshuo. It's normally about 4 hours tour in the morning and the last time I was there, there are cruises for foreigners and cruises for locals. These two group of travelers are separated based on differences in narrative language and also the type of services offered on board. I was told it's a lot cheaper if one takes the locals' boat! Alas, I look local enough so the only time I did go on board was on a local boat. Other than the differences in narratives over the speaker system, I guess one gets better food on board if you pay more for it.
A tip: If you really want to enjoy the Li River, don't take either of these tours. Instead, hire a local boatman and have him take you on his wooden raft (木筏) and leisurely experience the wonders of Li River. That's an experience that's most unique in this part of the world! I guarantee you'll enjoy it a lot more and see what you need to see of this region. The best section of the river where you can do this is between Yangshuo and the little town of Xingping (兴平), another undiscovered haven.
Rock Climbing Well, if water is not the way for you either, how about rock climbing?! That's adventurous enough and you've an option of 200 more routes to choose from. Moon Hill is most famous with several 5. 13 graded lines, whatever that means, lol... I've hiked Moon Hill on my first visit to Yangshuo many years ago but rock climbing, not on my life! ;-)