Qikou Kezhan (Inn) 碛口客站: One of China’s most Charismatic Hotels

 Qikou Inn 碛口客站

Qikou kezhan

This must be one of China’s most charismatic hotels! It may not win any prizes for luxury, but its location and ambience are unbeatable.

The Inn or hotel, reportedly built some 300 years ago, is set right on the banks of the Yellow River 黄河, just before one of the river’s huge, sweeping bends. On the other side, the dry and barren hills of Shaanxi 陕西省 province stretch as far as the eye can see.

Qikou Kezhan

For centuries, Qikou town 碛口古城was an isolated but significant outpost as, for kilometer after kilometer, along either bank of the Yellow River, there were no other towns in sight.  In its heyday, it served as an important trading port between the provinces of Shanxi 山西省 and Shaanxi 陕西省, with hundreds of boats docking at its wharf. Today, standing on the few remaining, rickety wooden boards and overlooking the placid brown waters, all this activity is hard to imagine.

Qikou kezhan

The Inn has had an equally colorful history, first as home to the various merchants who plied their wares along the Yellow River and later as a base for the Red Army during the War of Resistance against Japan.

Qikou Kezhan

It’s a handsome, two storey, grey-brick building with two courtyards, a small tower and a lovely, covered terrace overlooking the river. Rooms are cave- like, with huge, rounded, latticed windows and bamboo screens hanging in front of the sturdy wooden doors. The beds are Kang-style, large and comfortable.

Qikou Kezhan

The food served up by the restaurant is pretty decent too, especially the local noodles served in a fresh tomato sauce with coriander and chives. However, the ultimate experience is just to put your feet up and knock back a few cold beers, while contemplating the sun setting on the Yellow River.

Qikou Kezhan

Life really doesn’t get much better. Actually, it does: on cloudless nights you can enjoy the most amazing, star- studded skies!

Qikou Kezhan our beers

You may well assume that nothing could possibly upset this idyllic scenario, but you’d be wrong!  We had some persistent workmen drilling up the pavement outside the Inn until well into the night…. Needless to say, this took a slight shine off the experience.  That’s China!



Qikou Kezhan our room

We paid 188 Yuan for a double with bathroom on the second floor, with its own small sitting area outside. There was no haggling. Also, unfortunately, no towels, though we managed to persuade them to give us a couple of stamp-sized ones. We turned up in August without a reservation.

Qikou Kezhan


Qikou Kezhan

Simple, but very tasty; especially the homemade noodles! Beers were very cold.


Qikou Kezhan views

A few years ago, the Qikou Inn would have been the only hotel in town. Nowadays, there are several quite tasteful imitations lining the river.  None of them, however, can match the original one for character and ambience.

The closest settlement is Lijiashan 李家山, a beautiful hamlet of ancient cave dwellings, some of which are still occupied, a few kilometers away. It’s definitely worth a visit. You can even stay there overnight, in a simple cave guesthouse.

Getting there:

Bus Taiyuan to Lishi

We arrived in Qikou from Taiyuan 太原. A bus from Taiyuan’s Western Bus Station to Lishi离石, sometimes known as Lüliang Lishi 吕梁离石, cost 48 Yuan and took nearly three hours.

There are frequent buses from Lishi to Qikou, but we negotiated a taxi for 150 Yuan, hoping to save some time… The way there was a nightmare, with dozens of massive coal trucks causing huge traffic jams. It took over two hours to cover the mere 50 kilometers. However, on the return we never saw a single truck and the journey took just an hour. Bizarre!

Qikou Kezhan

If you are moving on to Pingyao 平遥, there is a bus from Lishi, departing at 13.40.






Author: Adam

My name is Adam. I have a degree in Chinese History from SOAS and a masters in International Politics focused on China from the same university. I have travelled around China 9 times and since 2000 I have travelled every year for two months. I guess I kind of like the place!

6 thoughts on “Qikou Kezhan (Inn) 碛口客站: One of China’s most Charismatic Hotels”

  1. Hi
    I am pretty sure it is the same. The name is the same and so are the lions. The lanterns have changed. The sign above the door says Qikou Inn (Qikou Kezhan). I’ll be adding the rest of the info about Qikou in about two weeks when I have a little free time.

  2. Hi
    Sorry to reply so late. No we didn’t book beforehand. We just turned up in the middle of August and found two rooms. There is much more accommodation in Qikou than is mentioned in the guide books. However, I would recommend the Qikou Kezhan. It is very laid back and atmospheric.

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