In this series of article, we are going to present to you our favourite cycling stages – and prove that cycling and China matches better than you might imagine. Today‘s China often makes the headlines with stories about smog and pollution. But does that mean that cycling in China is not a good combination? Certainly not! The Middle Kingdom boasts some of the most beautiful cycling tracks you could dream of!
In our last article, we’ve talked about the Three Most Beautiful Cycling Stages in Beijing, Yunnan and Shaanxi. This time we’ll present to you two more of our favourite stages in China – and one in Laos.
Guangxi: Cycling Tour from Caoping to Yangshuo
The Landscape around Guilin and Yangshuo is one of the most well-known and admired on earth. The breathtaking Karst formations close to the River Li have inspired painters and poets in ancient China and continue to animate man photographers of our age to capture their beauty.
The bizarre, egg-like rock formations close to the river are a perfect example of the Chinese concept of the ideal landscape: The Chinese term “shanshui” 山水 is literally translated as “mountain and water” but means “landscape” in a very positive way.
It is common for tourists who come to China to fly to Guilin, take a bus or boat to Yangshuo and then rent a bike in Yangshuo and cycle through the karst hills South of the city. On our tour “All Around China”, we skip the bus and cycle from Guilin to Yangshuo directly, always staying close to the famous River Li which connects the two cities. On two stages we first pass the beautiful old town of Daxu, spent the night in a resort close to Caoping and then continue on to Yangshuo the next day.
This stage – cycling from Caoping to Yangshuo is one of the most peaceful and pretty day trips we know of! Until recently, the roads here were still dusty and bumpy – but thanks to China’s enormous drive for modernisation, the roads are in perfect condition now – and quiet, too!
As close as this route is to the tourist hustle and bustle of Guilin and Yangshuo – we rarely meet any other cyclists riding through the pretty hills around Caoping.
Cycling from Pingli to Zhenping – Beautiful Climbs Right in the Heart of China
On our tour “The Three Gorges of the Yangzi” we cross the Qinlin mountain range right in the center of China. This area is what we call typically Chinese: We cycle through patched farmland cultivated by hand, see beautiful bamboo groves at the side of the river, pass “small”, unknown cities of 500000 to several Millions of inhabitants, and cross mountain passes at a hight of up to 1500m above the sea. And – of course – we eat the most delicous meals every day! Shaanxi is famous for its noodle dishes (which is perfect for lunch to recharge our batteries), but in the evening we have all the time to try out some well-seasoned dishes supplemented with fresh and locally grown vegetables.
Out of a range of many nice stages to choose from, we selected one that is particularly challenging and particularly rewarding, too! The stage starts in Pingli and ends in Zhenping, just about 150km North of the Yangzi.
The stage is one of our longest, too: We cycle 120km on one day and climb 1.523 meters! There is one long but moderate climb for the first 50 km of the stage followed by a thrilling 25 km descend. For the remaining 45 km we cycle along the river Nan. The smooth road stays close to the river bed and offers beautiful views on mountainsides covered with terraced fields on the opposite side of the canyon.
For this stage you will need to get up early to reach Zhenping before dusk, but we are sure that you won’t regret it!
Day Trip in Laos: Cycling from Oudomxay to Muang Kua
This stage is in Laos, not China, but it is included on our trip “The Golden Triangle”, which starts in China and crosses Laos to end in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Among China’s neighbouring Countries, Laos (especially the hilly North) stands out as a great cyclists’ destination. Its friendly mix of reliable weather conditions, beautiful sub-tropic landscapes, low traffic and some of the most friendly and relaxed people is simply unbeatable.
Our stage starts in Oudomxay, a medium-size city in the hilly North of the country, from where we head North-East to Muang Kua.
Just outside of Oudomxai, we have to cross three passes in a row, the first two of which are a rather steep towards the end. But that’s all the work done for the day! The remaining 75 km of this stage we follow the a branch of the Nam Our river downstream all the way to our destination.
This ride is as meditative and peaceful as it can get – if you cycle in Laos, don’t miss out!
Once in Muang Kua, we advise you to take a rest and hire a boat to take you South on the pretty River Ou. Within two days you can reach Nong Kiaw and continue your trip towards Luang Prabang, Lao’s former capital and residence city of the King.
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