Philippines El Nido

Ever since I can remember, I've been always fascinated by bizar limestone cliffs, growing sky-high from the oceans, rivers or rice fields of Southeast Asia. There are plenty of, such fantastic natural wanders in Southeast Asia and I was lucky enough to visit some of most famous and most fabolous locations. Let's see, how it looks like on Chinese River Li, in famous Halong Bay in Vietnam, in popular Thai destination, Krabi and on El Nido Island in The Philippines.



Yangshuo - Li River, China

The Li River in China is 437 km long and its most scenic parts are in between the cities of Guilin and Yangshuo. The river is surrounded, on this 80 km long stretch, by unbelievably perpendicular limestone formations that, at some parts, are growing straight out of the river banks.

The tourist center of this region is a town called Yangshuo, which is from Guilin reachable by boat on the Li River, or by bus. To Guligan you can get by plane, or by train from Hong Kong/ from Shenzen.

Yanghuo is surrounded by tall green hills, that are lid in the evenings by stage lights, which underline the incedible natural scenery. To top it off and for ultimate experience, every night there is a spectacular evening light show, Impressions Liu Sanjie, performed right on the river. There are 600 actors appearing in the show. The performance is so epic, that it reminds of the opening ceremony of the Olymic Games, which is understandable, since the light show shares the same dirrector with the opening ceremony at the Olympic Games in Peking. West Street is the center of tourist activities. The broad street is full of shops and restaurants.

china river yulong china river li

Yulong river, Dragon bridge - River Li

In Yangshuo There is asnother, smaller river called Yulong, in the town of Yangshuo. The water of Yulong River floats into The Li River. Yulong River is also surrounded by limestone cliffs and some places along the river are reachable only by water, the locals use simple bamboo rafts to get around. The boat driver let the stream carry the rafts down the river and then controlls it by a long wooden stake.

The Li River is wider of the two rivers, and is surrounded by cliffs, which look even more bizare. It is an increadible life-lasting experience to ride the river on one of the motorized bamboo rafts. The limestone hills grow in this area straight from the water and the river banks are dominated by a thick growth of bamboo trees, which look like soft feathers, from a distance.

china river li  china river li

Bamboo rafts on the river Li

After the boat ride you can return to the starting point by walking along the river and that way you can enjoy the scenery from a diferent angle and see the river from a bird's perspective.

Those who still don't have enough of this place can rent a bicycle and explore peaceful rural areas of this part of China on pedals. The road goes through sleepy villages, where you can run once in a while into a farmer working on a rice field, or water buffalo, rolling in muddy puddle and tall limestone cliffs raising everywhere around. The most dominant of the cliffs is called Moon Hill. It is a mountain with one of its walls cut in a perfect half circle.



Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay is a bay in South China Sea which is about 160 km far from Hanoi. There area three thousand limestone islands, reefs and karst towers, raising above water and create very unique natural phenomenon. This location is in UNESCO World Heritage List.

The easiest way to visit the bay is to book a few-days long trip with a travel agency. The trip can be booked online, or at an office of one of many travel agencies in Hanoi. During the sail the passangers sleep in the cabin of a tradicional Vietnam junk boat.

Vietnam Halong bay 2 Vietnam Halong bay

Halong Bay

Only an hour after starting the journey the first limestone shields appear and the view of the unique karst environment from the boat-deck is astonishing. A few times the boat passes by floating sea villages with small wooden houses and children waving enthusiasticly from the porches.

The boat anchors several times during the day near small islands with beaches for s swim break. During the break the passangers can either swim or go for a hike to nearby peaks and enjoy the breath-taking views of surrounding limestone islands.

If you take a three day trip, you can spend one whole day by kayaking. Paddling around quiet vertical cliffs evokes the same feeling as walking through a deserted town with empty skyscrapers. There are a few places where you can even slip through a loophole in the cliff to a loagoon, where you will really feel absolute solitude, hidden and surrounded by tall walls of the island.

Vietnam Halong bay Vietnam Halong bay

Halong Bay lagoons- view from Hang Sung Sot cave

The last day of the trip in Halong Bay the junk sails into a bay with a large cave in the middle of the mountain. The name of the cave is Hang Sung Sot and the view from the the cave back to the surface of the sea, sprinkled by open sails of anchored junks, is very special.



Krabi, Thailand

Krabi is a famous karst region in Thailand. The whole bay Ao Phang Nga, which spreads from Phuket to Krabi and Phi Phi Island, is packed with limestone formations, that strangelly grow straight from the ocean up to three hundred meter-hights. In Krabi you can stay on the main beach Ao Nang, or you can make your way to a nearby Laem Phra Nang Cape, known as Railay Bay. Railay Bay is cut off from the rest of Krabi by limestone mountains, so the only way to get there is by sea. There are three beaches there: Railay West, Railay East and the most beautiful Ao Phra Nang.

You can get there, for example, by an overnight train from Bangkok to Surat Thani, where you change to a bus that takes you to Krabi.

The setting, the surroundig nature and atmosphere on Railay is magical. There are steep limestone walls raising all around and the beaches are accesible only by small jungle paths, with shouting monkies on the trees.

Thailand Krabi Thailand Krabi 2

Railay West Krabi - Ao Phra Nang Krabi

Small traditional boats, long-tail boats,with huge truck engines and colorful flags wrapped around their noses, park right on the beach. During low tide they lie on the beach looking like murdered whales.

Swimming on Ao Phra Nang is treat. Limestone towers grow out of the water right on the beach. There is a sacret place in one of the caves on the beach, called Phra Nang Cave ( Princess Cave). The cave is surrounded by myths and legends about an Indian Princess, who lost her life on the sea and whose soul still lives in the cave.

You can continue your journey by boat to a group of islands called Phi Phi. There are two main islands in this group, the larger one is called Don and the smaller is Ley. Phi Phi Ley and its beach Ao Maya was a set for a famous movie with Leo Di Caprio in lead, The Beach.

Thailand Phi Phi Don Thailand Phi Phi Ley Ao Maya beach

Ko Phi Phi Don - Ao Maya beach at Ko Phi Phi Ley

You can reach this famous beach by a boat from Ko Phi Phi Don, but a trip with a small long-tail boat is more pleasant. You can arrange that easily with the locals, right on the beach and this way you can avoid the crowds and enjoy the romantic peace and beauty of surrounding nature.



El Nido, The Philippines

El Nido is a group of islands that competes with Krabi and Halong Bay. These Islands are formed by more than 60 limestone, smaller and bigger islands.

You can get to El Nido by sea in a four-hour sail from a neighbouring Busuanga Island and its town Coron, or you can take a six-hour minivan ride from Puerto Princessa Town, via Palawan Island.

There is a big advantage in getting to El Nido by a boat. You will get excited about the karst islands even before arriving to El Nido. Near Busuanga Island is another gorgeous island called Coron Island, which is one of the karst islands in the Calamian Group of Islands and it hides a number of lagoons and small beaches.

Philipines El Nido Philipines El Nido 2

Coron Island - El Nido

El Nido is a small town surrounded by tall cliffs. It offers not only a village beach, good for swimming, but also nearby beaches Caalan and Corong Corong.

To explore the karst region of El Nido you can take one of four local trips (circuit A, B, C, D ), or you can rent a boat of your own and arrange your own trip. The most beautiful out of the four trips is a trip A, which explores lagoons of Miniloc Island. One of the stops during this trip is a beutiful small lagoon, where you can swim into various corners and discover small caves. Then the boat sails through a narrow, tall pathway into a large lagoon. There is also a secret lagoon, which you need to swim to through a small tunnel.

Philipines El Nido 3 Philipines El Nido 4

Small lagoon, Miniloc island - Big lagoon, Miniloc Island

Trip C is also amazing. This trip explores one of the large island called Matinloc with its beaches, Hidden Beach and Secret Beaches. All the trips include a tasty lunch, which is usually a fish grilled right on the beach.


This was just a short visit of famous karst regions of Southeast Asia. Do you know now, where to go to?



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