Yangshuo has become a mecca for travelers in recent years.

Ironically, amid magnificent natural beauty, Yangshuo's main pedestrian street, West Street, has the feel of the Las Vegas Strip, with hawkers trying to coax tipsy travelers into noisy clubs. Unless they have state-of-the-art earplugs, guests at hotels within a block of West Street will likely have difficulty sleeping before 2 am.

The highlight in Yangshuo for many, though, is an evening performance of Impression Liu Sanjie, co-directed by Zhang Yimou (known internationally for creating the opening ceremony production at the Beijing Olympics), Wang Chaoge and Fan Yue. The 70-minute, open-air musical on the Li River runs March-December and features a cast of more than 600 performers wearing traditional Zhuang, Miao and Yao dress.

Daylight activities include river cruises on and hikes along the Li River and its tributaries. The stunning landscape will look familiar to those who saw Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith since much of the movie was filmed there. In fact, the route from Yangdi to Xingping has a view that is so breathtaking that the scene has been engraved on the 20-yuan banknote.

One of the most popular hikes is on Moon Hill, starting approximately 5 mi/8 km south of Yangshuo, on the road to Wuzhou. Spectacular views of the entire Guilin and Yangshuo area reward intrepid hikers who make it to the top.

For those who are not content to walk along or hike in the mountains but want to hang on their dramatic facades, Yangshuo has more than 400 climbing routes, and there are many well-supplied climbing shops in the area. The annual Yangshuo Climbing Festival takes place there in December. http://www.ysclimbfest.com.

After a day of hiking, climbing or floating along the river, a variety of restaurants and regional dishes await. Both Yangshuo and Guilin cuisine are known for their use of spices, especially chili. Beer fish (pijiu yu) is a local specialty cooked with several species of fish. Whichever fish is used is cooked whole, so diners need to be aware of bones. For those who want to delve deeper into the local cuisine, a number of cooking schools in Yangshuo and Guilin offer classes.

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