West Street or Xijie is the oldest and most popular street in the county town of Yangshuo. Its history stretches back over 1,400 years but in the beginning it was simply made up of a few small grocery stores. Nowadays, it is a melting pot of Western and Eastern sensibilities. Since the 1980s, West Street has developed from a modest path to a bustling hub of diverse cultures and peoples, with a myriad of Western and Chinese-style shops, cafés and restaurants. It is situated directly at the centre of Yangshuo and covers a length of 517 metres (1,696 feet) and a width of 8 metres (26 feet). The street meanders in an “S” shape from the centre of town down to the banks of the Li River, and has been paved with beautifully smooth stones, giving it the appearance of a traditional Chinese courtyard. Every year, approximately 100,000 foreign tourists tread along this well-worn path and marvel at the array of shops on offer.
This street has become particularly popular with foreign tourists’ because it boasts the greatest number of English speakers and bilingual stores in Yangshuo. Any English-speaking person can easily haggle, order food or ask for directions on West Street without having to employ a translator or resort to floundering hand gestures. Even the elderly women on the street will speak some English, and this can be particularly comforting after you’ve been travelling through China for some time. Nowadays, more than 20 of the businesses on West Street are run by foreigners who decided to settle in Yangshuo, so it’s the perfect place to meet backpackers, students, and expats in the Yangshuo community.
During the day, West Street is a shoppers’ paradise, with numerous stalls selling local craftworks, paintings, antiques, jewellery, and numerous other trinkets. There are calligraphy stores where you can have your name written in Chinese, embroidery shops where you can buy a pair of delicately embroidered silk slippers, and even bone-carving stalls where you can have your Chinese zodiac sign carved into yak bone. It’s the perfect place to pick up a few souvenirs or mementos of your journey. No matter what your heart desires, West Street will have it.
There are a number of cafés and restaurants along West Street that act as a safe haven from which one can quietly while away the day. Many of these restaurants serve Western-style food and proper filter coffee, which is something you may learn to miss if you travel around China for too long! Unlike many other Chinese towns or cities, Yangshuo boasts a variety of different Western-style restaurants, including restaurants specialising in American, Italian and even German dishes. There are also several hostels and hotels on West Street, although these tend to be more expensive than others due to their central location.
At night, West Street truly comes alive, with vibrant neon lights, deafening music, and fashionably dressed bartenders beckoning you into clubs. More stalls are set up late into the evening and, unlike the calm daily traffic, by night the street is rammed wall to wall with people. Though it may not be for everyone, this makes for a particularly exciting experience. At the entrance and exit of West Street, there are small food stalls offering late night snacks and catering to a variety of appetites. From spicy fried tofu garnished in chopped spring onion to a mouth-watering suckling pig roast, you’ll be sure to find a tasty treat that’ll suit your mood.
The bars along West Street are a great place to meet and network with other tourists, backpackers, expats, and students. These bars act as social hubs in Yangshuo and oftentimes will be on the open rooftop of a hostel, meaning that you can enjoy a quiet beverage whilst marvelling at the surrounding Karst Mountains. If you fancy a little downtime after a long period of traveling, West Street is the perfect place to unwind.