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The road (a little) less traveled in China

By Mason Fitch, for CNN
  • Visitors can walk along the Li River, watch fishing boats pass beneath limestone mountains
  • Nearby Longsheng rice terraces are a sight to see, as is Yingzi Cave
  • Cultural shows and meals, with performers in traditional attire, are popular
  • China
  • Beijing
  • Olympic Games

Guilin, China (CNN) -- Rural China -- rural often referring to, in this country of more than 1.3 billion people, regions with only several hundred thousand people -- often falls behind its cosmopolitan counterparts as places for international tourists to discover China's ancient culture and traditions.

The less-traveled roads offer the chance to experience a more local China and see stunning scenery that has inspired artists and attracted vacationers for centuries. In Guangxi province, Guilin -- a popular destination for international and domestic tourists alike -- offers visitors a unique vantage point from which to witness the blend of nature and traditional culture that characterizes today's China.

Visitors can begin to understand the long-held reverence for Guilin's scenery by walking along the Li River and watching fishermen and their boats pass beneath the shadows cast by the limestone mountains so unique to the region.

Cruises down the Li River are an easy and affordable way to appreciate Mother Nature while escaping the intense summer heat.

Nearby the Longsheng rice terraces are a sight to see, as are the stunning formations in the Yingzi Cave.

Yangshuo, down the Li River from Guilin, also offers spectacular scenery. Film director Zhang Yimou, who also was behind the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics, incorporates the Li River's natural beauty into his "Liu Sanjie" light show to tell folklore of the local Zhuang, Miao and Yao ethnic minorities.

Here in Guangxi province -- formally referred to as the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region -- cultural shows and meals, with performers in traditional attire, are a popular attraction.

The best way to see the area is to simply join local people on their evening strolls amid the markets and street shops and grab some street food with milk tea.