Guangxi Province, 460km (286 miles) N of Nanning, 165km (102 miles) NE of Baise, 135km (84 miles) N of Fengshan
Leye, a remote small town almost completely surrounded by high karst hills, whose fortunes have been temporarily revived by the potential of tourism, is in some ways almost a carbon copy of Fengshan and Bama. A polished new area contrasts strikingly with a grubby, seedy old town. April 2009 saw a dozen international teams arrive for a week of cross-country running, climbing, abseiling, mountain biking, and kayaking in the first Leye International Mountain Outdoor Sports Challenge. Since then, I suspect that I was the only other foreigner who has ventured this far, but of all the towns in this area vying for visitors, it is this one that impressed me most. In terms of its topography, Leye must also rank among the most extreme karst terrains in the world, with its mature formations. Leye is a wonderful alternative for those who feel that Yangshuo has lost its charm. Although it is much more difficult to reach, the rewards are many. In fact, some might describe Leye as being what they imagine Yangshuo may have been 20 years ago, before tourism arrived en masse. Still, this is no pristine wilderness. The Chinese economic miracle has taken its heavy toll even in this remote corner of the country. The town center is a hideous hodgepodge of half finished cinder-block boxes and yet a few miles away karsts, caves, and clear waters rival anything else in the entire province. Best of all, apart from a few intrepid speleologists, both Western and domestic tourists are still a rarity here. The fact that there is no railway connection or airport means that Leye has not yet been overrun by either Western or Chinese tourists.