By Adam Allegro

Located in the Guanxi Province of southern China, the Li River snakes its path through remote fishing villages and uniquely shaped mountains. Photographing this area of China had been on my bucket list for quite some time and prior to arriving in the Li River town of Xingping I explored the rice fields of Longii and the cities of Guilin and Yangshuo. China is full of beautiful landscapes and warmhearted people, but the second I arrived in Xingping I knew there was something special about the area.

On my first evening in Xingping I climbed the 1,159 crumbling steps of Laozhai Hill to photograph the river at sunset. From atop the hill I could see horseshoe bends in the river, tiny villages scattered around, and endless peaks scattering the skyline. A heavy haze filled the valley and as the light shifted to dark I heard the distant pop and crackle of fireworks signaling the fast approaching Chinese New Year. My senses were overcome with beauty and feelings of wonder, and in those moments I knew I’d found my paradise.

The following day I navigated early-morning bicycles and mopeds as I set out to capture the sunrise from a sandbar in the middle of the river. The scenery continued to amaze me and I was greeted by local fisherman heading out for the day on various rafts and bamboo boats. The energy of a city at dawn is electric, and I couldn’t wait to explore the tiny roads on a bicycle of my own later that day.

I rode through the paths of Xingping and onto other small villages throughout the region. I encountered endless orange groves and hidden streams and ponds along the way. Much like the fisherman that morning, everyone was kind and genuine, always smiling and waving hello. A group of farmers gave me a handful of oranges, which I enjoyed in the shade of a tree near a small brook.

The day continued to unfold, with every new experience full of joy that was echoed in the hospitality and warmth of the people I met. Photography has brought me to more incredible places on this earth than I could have dreamed, but some places – like Xingping and the Li River valleys – hold a little more magic than others.