Eager to find some place more exciting than Guilin city proper, I took a bus about an hour-and-a-half south on the recommendation from a friend to a town named Yangshuo. Little did I know before getting there that this place is actually a world-renowned rock climbing destination. Upon arrival, it became clear to me as to why.
On top of that, it’s also just a really fun place to be.
Walking around town is really fun and relaxing. Even in town you constantly feel the presence of the mountains looming over you. In addition to that, the night life is exciting and full of energy.
In contrast to Guilin city proper, Yangshuo draws in many foreigners, which tends to lead towards a greater diversity of restaurant and bar offerings. Simply put, classic western-style bars will not be found in Chinese cities without a foreigner presence. That’s just a rule of thumb and there are, of course, exceptions, but it’s what I’ve found to be true. The reason I feel like this is an important quality in a city isn’t because of how bars provide you with alcohol, but rather the way in which bars allow you to meet and mingle with strangers, an invaluable phenomenon when traveling. It’s simply not appropriate or welcomed to randomly approach and engage a group of people trying to have dinner in a restaurant, whereas in bars it’s totally welcome.
In this fashion I was able to learn a great deal about Yangshuo. Not to mention, also having a great deal of fun. Hanging out with new friends is much more fun than sitting at a bar drinking alone. The picture below was taken at a bar called the Rusty Bolt, a bar I learned about online, but found by chance. Apparently it is a gathering place for the local climbing population. There I met a couple from the U.K./Australia. After playing some pool together we decided to move on as a group.
We managed to locate a bar that I’d wanted to visit that is owned by a friend of my friend who recommended I go to Yangshuo in the first place. This bar is by far, one of the coolest bars I have ever been to in my entire life. Its name is Rock Abond. Its coolness is better described by pictures rather than words…
A bouldering wall… inside a bar… with live music?! How cool is that?! Needless to say, I had a blast! Some readers may know this, but many won’t – I used to climb way back maybe 15 years ago and have climbed intermittently ever since, so I wasn’t a total newb on the wall thankfully.
Adam, the owner, was nice enough to invite me to go rock climbing with him the following day. Without his invitation, I wouldn’t have ventured out to a real cliff to go climbing, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to find the place on my own. Thankfully, he opted to be my guide for the day and took me to a cool climbing spot set up for top-roping.
My triumph of the day wasn’t the climb depicted above, which was actually quite an easy climb, but rather a 5.9. Climbing difficulties range from 5.5/6 (super-easy), to 5.8 (medium difficulty) and 5.10 and higher. Anything higher than 5.10 is pretty much expert level. Considering I had pretty much topped out at the 5.10 level when I was younger and climbing multiple times per week, I feel pretty good about sending this one.
Those of you looking for fun and adventure, Yangshuo has a beautiful balance of both! From here you can rent a motor bike and get out of town and away from the crowds very quickly. You’ll be surrounded by the beautiful mountainous landscape that is quintessential rural China.