Guangxi Province, 65km (40 miles) S of Guilin

Located at the terminus of the Li River cruise from Guilin, the small town of Yangshuo has long been a mecca for backpackers, but even before that, it was a geomancer's delight, too. Here the vast landscape is reduced to a garden scale, nature in microcosm, where hills, mountains, oceans, and rivers are reduced to rocks, karsts, streams, and pools. Set amid an awesome cluster of limestone pinnacles -- a zigzag, serrated skyline superior even to that of Manhattan -- Yangshuo is more beautiful, less expensive, and significantly less crowded than Guilin. Some of the most accessible karst scenery in Guangxi can be found just a short bike ride outside town. With its inexpensive hostels and Western-style cafes, some foreigners have been known to stay for months, sometimes even years. Once a sleepy little town, today's Yangshuo is being overtaken by rabbit hutch hotels, endless shops, and hordes of eager tourists. While the town is undergoing massive growth, there is precious little in the way of actual development. Five-star hotels are now moving in and will inevitably push prices even higher. It remains to be seen how long this sleepy little town can retain its charm with so many business arriving to squeeze profits out and so few putting anything back in.