Yángshuò (阳朔) is one of China's gold-ticket draws. The once-peaceful settlement is now a collage of Chinese tour groups, bewildered Westerners, pole-dancing bars, construction and the glue that binds any tourist hot spot together – touts. Come evening, Xijie is all thumping music and bristling with selfie-sticks, but go up a few flights to a hotel rooftop bar and behold the ethereal beauty of the surrounding karsts, their peaks lit up by searchlights.
Outside of town, which is the reason you will be here, the karst landscape becomes even more surreal and other-worldly. Take a bamboo-raft ride or cycle through the dreamy valleys and you’ll see. And with the best hotels and guesthouses immersed in the surrounding countryside or plonked next to sublime river views, there is less reason to base yourself in Yángshuò town itself.