Two beautiful cities in Guangxi Region – Guilin & Yangshuo
Even before I arrived in China, friends had told me about two places I ‘must’ visit – Guilin and Yangshuo..it took me nearly two and a half years, whilst living in China to get there but I finally did and I must say it was definitely worth it. I would suggest to anyone who has not been there to put it on your ‘places to visit in China’ list. I created a four day itinerary for me and my friend visiting from Australia and then asked my favourite travel agency ‘Global Easy Travels’ to pull it together to include a tour guide and transport. They did and as usual did a great job.
The flight to Guilin from Beijing was uneventful, however, because I wanted to arrive early in the evening, there was a one hour stopover in Xi’an, but this is still better than arriving at midnight into Guilin. We stayed at the Shangri-la Hotel with a river view room with views that were just fabulous; complimentary L’occitane products in a cute purse (loved them) and a very comfortable bed (loved that even more). The hotel is centrally located in Guilin and has a great hand made chocolate shop within. Breakfast was very good with so much choice (even vegetarian cheese) and then in the evenings the bar area was very relaxing for a glass or two of Sauvignon Blanc.
The next day we departed early for the Longji Rice Terraces which really are an amazing example of farm engineering and a two hour or so drive from Guilin. The fields are situated along the slope of the mountain winding from the river up to the mountain top; the highest part being 880 metres in elevation and the lowest being 380 metres. The terraces were mostly built during the Ming Dynasty which is about 500 years ago.
We walked up to the top of the mountain but of course there are entrepreneurial Chinese who will carry you up in a sedan chair for around 20 RMB (@ $1.50 AUD) – I now wish I had done this as the steps were endless but on the way up and down we got to see some amazing homes and meet some wonderful elderly Chinese ladies making and selling all sorts of things.
There was also a lot of residents travelling up and down the hill or relaxing and eating lunch.
I am a sucker for an old Chinese lady selling things so now have shoes, wooden ducks, bookmarks and various other things that I have given away to friends. The day was particularly foggy so unfortunately we did not get a great view of the rice terraces but enough to know they are just amazing.
I also loved the houses on the side of the mountain, lovely wooden structures; most with Chinese lanterns outside.
We also visited the Reed Flute Caves which are natural limestone caves over 180 million years old.
The caves were incredible and I would recommend them to anyone travelling to Guilin.
Our second day, we travelled from Guilin to Yangshuo along the Li River which took approximately four hours. We counted fourteen boats departing at the same time and travelling in a convoy down to Guilin.
The trip afforded us the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful scenery at a very relaxed pace and also sightings of water buffalo, small villages and bird life.
Lunch is served on the boat and you pass the mountains that are depicted on the 20 RMB note.
It is amazing though, no matter where in the world you are, no matter what you are doing or seeing, the younger generation will always be more interested in playing games on their phones or sending and receiving text messages. Just like the three young girls in my photo, who were sitting opposite, and most of the way were engrossed in their smart phones!!
Once we arrived in Yangshuo, we walked through West Street which is the oldest and busiest in Yangshuo. This street resembles the letter S and is 517 metres long with a width of eight metres. It is very quaint with hostels, cafes, bars and shops selling every type of Chinese knick knack – however the items for sale are very similar to those being sold in every other touristy shop in China.
But of course, like in every other provide I travel to, another delightful elderly Chinese woman approached me. She was awfully cute and literally 1 metre tall. She spoke some English and after I conversed with her in my best Chinese, I came away with post cards, more wooden ducks and some Chinese hanging things – again things I do not need – more to give away to friends.
I found a lovely little restaurant near the end of the street and bought our guide a drink and my friend and I ordered a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from Western Australia – very happy with that so we decided to stay and ordered a pizza and another glass of wine each.
Then it was time to go to our hotel – the Li River Retreat (www.li-river-retreat.com) where I had booked the only Deluxe River View room.
The Retreat is owned by an Australian and the rooms have spectacular views of the local mountain and river. It’s worth staying at this hotel just for the meals; the food is delicious; both the Chinese and western dishes. We sat outside in the evenings and drank more Australian Sauvignon Blanc and met a lovely lady (Mary) from the UK who was in China retracing her father’s steps after his escape from Hong Kong during WWII. (she has recorded her great adventures on her blog http://www.wodebaba.wordpress.com). In the afternoons we could also see the boats arriving in tandem from Guilin.
One morning we took a bamboo raft ride down the Yunlong River which is the biggest branch of the Li River.
The raft is guided down the river by a local guide and along the way you can buy beer, corn on the cob, fried fish and water at a local shop on the water. It was great to experience the raft going over the dams – my friend and I were soaked after the first little waterfall which made our guide laugh heartily.
The dams were built by the local farmers to keep the water high enough to irrigate their farming lands. We also visited Moon Hill which is a huge rock with a round hole in its centre. You can climb the 800 steps to the top but I decided not to and we instead made friends with a lovely local family and their two gorgeous children. The father was very happy to take our photo and the kids were keen to speak what seemed to be their one word of English – ‘hello’.
One evening we went to the Liu San Jie (the three Liu sisters) light show. It’s the world’s largest natural theatre which utilises the waters of the Li River as its stage – it was wonderful.
The mountains are illuminated during parts of the performance and the show features more than 600 local people who are farmers, fisherman and young children from surrounding villages.
Our final day in Yangshuo we drove back to Guilin and visited the Seven Star Park which occupies about 120 hectares on the eastern side of the Li River.
The park has many attractions; hills, a stone forest, caves, pavilions, flora, a camel hill (which actually looks like a camel hence its name), a zoo and cute monkeys running around the park, apart from one who had been captured and was forced to wear a grotesque jacket and held on a lead.
We also visited Elephant Trunk Hill and the surrounding park, which was very pretty with lots of lanterns and lovely flowers and trees.
I did, this time, climb all the steps to the top and had great views over Guilin.
Elephant Trunk Hill got its name because it looks like an elephant drinking water. The round opening that would be under the elephant’s trunk is known as Water-Moon Cave because at night the reflection of the moon can be seen through the arch and it looks as if it’s under the water and floating on the surface of the water at the same time.
Finally a drive to Fubu Hill which reaches a height of 213 metres and is very pretty with a lovely surrounding lake.
At the bottom of Fubu Hill is a three storey ‘thousand buddha’ cave which holds about 200 buddha statues and not a ‘thousand buddhas’ as the name suggests. Both Elephant Trunk Hill and Fubu Hill were definitely places which were worth us taking the time to visit.