Guilin and Yangshuo were on
President Clinton's 1998 trip through China - and it was one of the most
beautiful spots we visited.
As the clerk at the hotel in Zhangjiajie gave us
our train tickets he mentioned in passing "by the way, I guess you know
these do not go to Guilin, you must change to a bus". Dreading our
arrival at 5 AM in the small town of Liuzhou, we set off on an overnight train
ride. We shouldn't have worried, taxis abounded even at that hour,
and the express bus was better than most airliners, with a movie, running
commentary (including English, just for the 2 of us), and wide, comfortable
this: We zip through the green countryside, rice paddies on both
sides, farmers and water buffalo working the fields as they have for thousands
of years while Dolly Parton talks to us in Chinese and a cell-phone rings behind
us to the tune of ‘Jingle Bells’.
A small city on the banks of the Li River,
this was our most scenic yet. It is surrounded with sharp peaks, many with
temples, and a river through the heart of it that provides great viewpoints for
tourists and locals alike. It is a city undergoing major renovation,
with highways, businesses, and hotels being built to accommodate a flood of
tourists. A local travel agent came to our hotel, and we arranged the rest
of our stay on China -Jing Yong Hua, also known as Jimmy
turned out to be a fountain of knowledge. Places of interest to us were:
The Prince's Mansion - an
emperor's palace which
pre-dates the Forbidden City by 30 years, it now serves as a teacher's college,
but they plan a new campus and this will revert to a full-time tourist
attraction. Jimmy gave us a little more history:
- Elephant Hill - A 'must see' rock formation
in the center of town, looks like 'Hole in the Wall' in Bay of Islands,
NZ. The city has planted trees, so that the only way you can see it is to
pay 10 Yuan to visit the park - is this Capitalism or Communism?
- Reed Flute Caves - a small, well-developed cavern, well
lit and very attractive; we enjoyed it with hundreds of Chinese and
- Cormorant Fishing - For the last
1000 years or so,
Chinese fishermen have been using cormorants to help them fish. They tie a
string around the cormorant's throat so it can't swallow big fish, and then
train it to fish, and let the fishermen pull the fish from its throat. It takes
about 5 years to train one properly, and they are productive for about 10 years
- now a skill used mostly to amuse tourists but still used in the outlying
- Palaces were aligned North to South
- Palaces should have hills behind (on the N side) them for ‘support’;
this one has a 300' hill with great views of the city (the Forbidden City
has an artificial mound to its north).
- All entrances have an odd number of steps.
- The emperor’s entrance has 9 steps. Others have fewer.
- Trees on each side of the entrance, left has yellow flowers for gold,
right has white for silver
After a couple of days in Guilin, we took a cruise downstream
to Yangshuo. About 30+ cruise boats leave early in the morning, and form a
convoy as tourists vie for vantages points to take pictures of the beautiful
scenery, water buffalos, fishermen, and sampans on the river for several hours.
Our boat, as well as some of the others, stopped at the Crown Caves and the trip
through it had us taking underground railways, boats, and elevators as we
explored 3.5 km of caverns. (This was just like a "Disney"
attraction, but it was real.) At one of the stops we met Sun
Xiao-Feng, our friends from Zhangjiajie and exchanged promises to write once
more. We spent most of the day on the upper deck, viewing the beautiful scenery
and taking pictures while most of the Taiwanese tourists stayed below and ate a
huge lunch and snoozed it off - go figure!
At Yangshuo 99% of the tourists hopped buses to return to
Guilin - yours truly stayed and had 2 wonderful days in this cute town. A
small farming town stride the Li River, it was discovered by backpackers and has
developed into a destination of its own rather than a turn-around point for
Guilin tourists. The center of the town is chock-a-block with quaint
Chinese and Western-style cafes, pubs, and lots of people who could speak English. Our
- CoCo Hotel - Jimmy (notice how he is still around?)
promised to find us a hotel for 180 Yuan (about $US22) and succeeded; the
CoCo was a cute place with large clean rooms; bigger than most we had seen
so far, at half the price. We used this as our base for the 2-day stay
- Walk to Yueliang Shan - on our first day, we decided
to walk to the premier attraction, Yueliang Shan (aka Moon Hill),
much to the disgust of 20+ 'tour guides' and pedicab drivers who stopped us
on the way out of town offering their services. A couple of hours of
walking in the clean air brought us to a hill with a hole in the middle -
not 'world-class, but an enjoyable walk. We rode back on a motorcycle
with a 2-person sidecar; slow but comfy.
- Riding Bikes through the countryside - rental bikes
abound. For 10 Yuan we rented 2 bikes for a day and pedaled 10 km past
puffing tractors, speeding buses, and pedicabs while waving to the farmers
working the lush, green rice paddies on our way to the town of Fuli.
The town wasn't much, but the people were friendly and they had cold bottles
of water to replace what the hot day had sapped from us. The return trip was
slower, Bob's chain broke and Judi had to tow him half way back.
- The snakeman - While having our sundowner
at Minnie Mao's, we noticed a guy showing a 3' snake to a couple of
Danish girls. They played with it a bit, then the guy cut off its head, and
with the help of his 10-year old daughter, drained the blood for them to
drink, stripped off the skin, cut it up into pieces, and took the pieces
back to cook. Soup appeared shortly. Seems they had ordered snake soup, and
the show was part of meal.
Departure from China - At 0430 our alarm let us
know it was time catch an early ride to the airport. Jimmy (again!) had
organized a beat-up taxi to get us to the Guilin airport in time for our 0830
flight. After a 'shortcut' that almost made us miss our plane, we hopped a
flight to Guangzhou. There, after a couple of hours wandering the halls,
we found a pay-for-use lounge where we waited a few hours until our connecting
flight to Singapore.
Bittersweet Departure -We were very sad to leave China,
and Yangshuo in particular - we had seen many amazing sights and met lots of
wonderful people. On the other hand, we were a little weary of living out
of suitcases and longed for the discipline and order of Singapore. Check out our
overall observations and recommendations.