Destinations: Guilin to Yangshuo (one way trip)
Duriation: 4-5 Hours, depend on the water level
Departure Pier: Mopan Pier(domestic tourists), Zhujiang Pier(foreign Tourists)
Boarding Time: 9am; 9:30am, everyday
Arrival Pier: Shui Dongmen Pier, Yangshuo (close to West Street)
Southern China's Guilin city, which is well-known for its free-growing collection of Sweet Osthmanthus trees, gets much of its life from what is considered to be the soul of the city, the Li River.
The Li River flows right through Guilin, originating from the Mao'er Mountain, with a lot of interesting and popular sites littered across the banks of the river, with the most popular tourist route existing in the form of an eighty-three kilometer stretch which connects Guilin with Yangshuo, as part of its course.
The Li River is not only one of the most beautiful rivers around Guilin -- it rivals the best that the whole of China has to offer, maintaining varying degrees of attractiveness, throughout the entire year. The scenery changes with every season, displaying the various personalities of the river and making for some camera-worthy scenes all year round.
The Li River gives life to the whole of Guilin, with a post-monsoon stretch of some impressive greenery that hugs the entire trail of the river.
Postcards, paintings and photographs in their masses draw a lot of inspiration from the appearance of the Li River and its surroundings, but the best way to enjoy these unique views is by going down to Guilin in person, to experience it first-hand and, the best way to experience it is by taking the popular Li River cruise, offered by a number of service providers.
Li River Cruise
The Li River cruise is probably the biggest attraction of the whole of Guilin, around which a lot of other surrounding activities are offered, such as dining and shopping.
Three major phases of the river are of particular interest, covered by the 4 to 4.5 hour cruise which leaves the Zhujiang Dock every morning, headed in the direction of Yangshuo.
Buying Your Ticket
Since cruising the Li River is an extremely popular attraction of Guilin, with the Guilin-to-Yangshuo trail being amongst the most popular of the routes, booking issues will have to be attended to well in advance.
Li River cruises are very popular and have become all-day affairs, with the itinerary kicking off quite early in the morning, as early as 9:00am, going all the way up to early evening hours, so it will prove rather hard to show up one day and expect to get a vacancy on any of the tour groups which offer the cruise, without prior booking.
Ideally one or two days before the planned cruise will do, for making the booking, simply to avoid disappointment and ensure that your place is safe, as recommended by the local Guilin Municipal Tourism Bureau, with good reason too.
Bookings can be done online, by telephone or in person, with the most appropriate choice naturally dictated to by your unique situation of weather you only plan on going on the cruise itself or you have other items on the itinerary.
Boarding Points & Directions
Zhejiang Pier is the Guilin boarding assembly point for those tourists coming from other parts of the world, as this simply avoids any confusion and possible delays. It may seem like a straight forward exercise of showing up and then boarding the cruise ferry but, there are a lot of underlying issues that come with the whole exercise, as issues such as the assignment of an English-speaking tour guide (if any number of the tourists are English speaking) as well as the pre-trip briefing of exactly how everything is going to work, where the group is going to stop and emergency procedures, should the need for these arise.
As far as getting to the boarding assembly point of Guilin's Zhujiang Pier, transportation there is not a problem at all, particularly because it is a very popular tourist area, very well services by a diverse collection of transportation options.
Bicycles are a great option for those who know their way around, otherwise simply taking a taxi from the downtown area is the best option, as taxis generally tend to service specific areas, so you'll find one that services Zhejiang Pier to head in a general eastward direction, until the popular boarding assembly point at Zhejiang Pier is reached.
One thing which is of utmost importance is that planning in advance should be something which is religiously practiced as there are so many things that can go wrong and delay matters, adding to the confusion that will arise from missing reservations and a lot of frequent chancers who always try their luck by showing up on the day of the cruise to try and get on the trip.
A number of all-inclusive holiday packages, which include the Li River cruise as one of their offerings, also throw in a pick-up-and-drop-off service which ultimately leads to the boarding point, the Bamboo River Dock (Zhujiang Dock), which probably works out better by way of timing.
Cruise Boat & Facilities
As far as the actual cruises go, there are basically around five options, which can be divided into two groups, one being the fixed departure times and the other tangible departure times.
Of the fixed departure times, there are three options of boats, all of which have a fixed boarding time of between 08:00 to 08:30, sometimes 09:00 and 09:30, but this depends on the season.
There is the biggest of the bunch, which carries over 80 passengers and this boat has an upper-level viewing deck, with plenty of space and some additional inclusive services, like an on-board lunch.
Some additional beverages and snacks are on sale on deck as well, but it is advisable to bring your own snacks or even your own proper lunch, since the on-board lunch isn't really what one would consider to be extensive.
There is also a smaller cruise boat, which doesn't feature the same upper-deck as the >80-seater, plus the even smaller 5-6-seaters, which sometimes depart with as little as two passengers.
That just about sums up the fixed departure time options and there are as many as 9-12 service providers in total, all of which leave at the same, fixed time of between 08:00 to 09:00, so it is well-advised for anyone who has made their booking to arrive a little bit early.
The tangible departure time options come it two forms -- four or seven-seater speedboats or the unofficial farmers' boats.
The farmers' boats aren't really made for tourist passengers but, a lot of these farmers take chances and let some tourist hitch a ride with them, which would be frowned upon by the local tourist committee; it happens nonetheless but shouldn't be something to be counted on.
The speed boats are a great alternative to the fixed departure boats as they offer that much more flexibility. The four-seaters fill up rather quickly though, departing as and when they reach capacity and the same applies to the seven-seaters.
The prices for the speed boats works out cheaper if the boat is booked in groups since suitors could find themselves torn between waiting for the boat to fill up and paying extra to have the boat leave while covering the