I came to Guilin because some people told me that it’s very nice and has beautiful scenery They also told me it’s an interesting city. So why not?. I decided to stay here for a few days before going to Yangshou, a small town which has an amazing scenery. it’s also a climbers’ paradise, it seems.
The whole area is made of karst hills and caves that look like the set of a fantasy film. These limestone peaks are featured on the 20 Yuan notes so they are well known across China, and far away too. You can find more information about how these were formed on this article. I think they also appear on the Episode III of the star wars series.
Unfortunately the weather was not the best one and that did affect my stay overall. Every day except one has been cloudy and foggy, making it hard to appreciate the beauty of the scenery. Apparently the best time to come here is spring, summer and autumn, especially spring, when everything is green and the rain on the rice terraces creates nice reflections. Anyway, not that I did have much of a choice.
Guilin (桂林, Gui Lin) actually means forest of osmanthus trees, a tree that grows here everywhere and that is used to make a kind of tea popular here.
There are a few things you can do in Guilin that are worth it:
- Go up Yao Mountain:it’s the highest mountain in the area and, apparently, you have amazing views from the top, looking at the weird shaped mountains and the city. Apparently because when I went it was cloudy and foggy and I couldn’t see a damn thing. You go up on a cable car and to go down you can either choose to use the cable car again or just use a slide, which is what I used ;-). I wasn’t really sure how fast I could go, so I kept braking, but it was very cool Must be very nice in summer. I have a video, but as I don’t have the necessary bandwidth to upload it to youtube, that’ll have to wait.
- The lake and Li river tour: So you jump on a boat and they take you around to see the river, and the lakes. Not really worth it what I did as they took me for like 20 minutes very quickly and paid 100 yuan. Total waste of time, but I guess it must be much better if you actually get these cheeky boat owners to take you to the lakes (or during the night)
- The reed flute cave: There are many caves in this area, as the geology for these mountains make it easy. You can visit the reed flute cave this weird fantasy lighting system and all the stalactites and stalagmites are coloured in bright neon colours. Impressive as some of them are a few metres high. Apparently there are some paintings from several hundreds of years ago, proof that it was explored many years ago. I took the chance to take some nice pics with my tripod :)
- Solitary Beauty peak. In the centre of Guilin there’s this park (Mansion of Prince Jingjiang) which has a few museums (only in Chinese) and this peak from which you can get a pretty view of the city. Again, not that good as it was foggy and cloudy.
- There are two pagodas nicely lighted during the night in the Guilin lakes. I took some really good pictures that I like thanks to having a nice tripod with me.
Apart from this, there are many other things you can see in Guilin. There’s this underground market called ‘little Hong Kong’ where they sell clothing and other stuff, like gadgets and hardware thingies. Not that interesting from my point of view, but worth the visit underground. There are countless street markets where they sell all sorts of stuff, from tea to necklaces…
The first hostel where I stayed is called Lakeside Inn. It’s in a really nice spot and the people who run it is super friendly. I made friends with Vic (罗炜) who is a friendly chinese guy in his mid 20s who will take care of you. Plus the rooms are very very nice. He saved my ass a few times by coming with me to do an errand or buy some tickets.
As an anecdote I wanted to have my hair cut, so I used Vic to help me out (rather, he offered after my frustration). He took me to this place where you can get a hair cut for 5 yuan (£0.50). Now, this is a guy who cuts the hair in the middle of a poor looking neighbourhood street. Yep, in the middle of the street. So, can I please go somewhere that looks nicer? So he takes me to this other place where you can get a haircut for 8 yuan (£0.80) but it didn’t look that clean and hygienic at all. So, finally, I go to this hair dresser saloon where it’s full of ladies and where they cut my hair for 40 yuan. Well, not only cut my hair, it was quite an adventure, as I got I head massage, got my hair washed, then cut, and then washed again. All of that while 3 or 4 of the guys working there where standing right behind me looking at me and giggling. Later on Vic told me that they said that I was handsome and friendly. Yep, there’s Chinese gay men too. Anyway, it was quite an experience and I actually paid less than half what I pay in the UK at a barber shop, so it was worth it for me. I guess I paid the equivalent of a £30/£40 haircut in the UK! And peace of mind that I was not going to get anything…
There’s one thing you have to try in Guilin, and that’s the Guilin’s rice noodles. Usually for breakfast. It is made of rice noodles, a bit of meat (normally pork) and peanuts. You add hot water and different sauces and there you go. The most popular dish in Guilin. Not my preferred option, but you have to try them anyway.
And then, there’s Yangshou…