One of the most exciting aspects of travel is exploring the unexplored. However, while venturing into new lands people sometimes forget about the effect they will have on the areas they are visiting. While this is not always the problem, sometimes the impact on the local culture can be a source of friction. Yangshuo’s Swiss Cheese rock face was one such instance.
Yangshuo is a town located near the city of Guilin, in southern China’s Guangxi Province. Outside of the town is a beautiful cliff affectionately known to visitors as Swiss Cheese because of its pock marked face. The spot became a very popular rock climbing site in Yangshuo due to the panoramic views of the surrounding rice paddies and striking karst formations. However locals were upset that tourists were using the area without giving anything back to the local economy.
Initially this was cause for concern. Climbers felt that it was ridiculous for there to be a charge to climb, while locals felt that access to their land was being taken for granted. Miraculously, a solution was born quite by accident when a few climbers began purchasing food from the villagers. Pretty soon everyone realized this would be a perfect solution as more and more climbers began buying locally from the towns surrounding Swiss Cheese. Now the locals were earning money for sharing their land with travelers, and travelers, in addition to having free access to the beautiful landscape, were saved the trouble of shlepping all their food supplies to the cliff face. Sometimes taking that extra step to engage with the people you meet on your travels is all it takes to bridge the divide. Today the site is free to access, the locals are friendly, and the rocks beckon for those who wish explore a little further.
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