Robyn and I took a 3 hour flight from Beijing to Guilin on Saturday morning. Neither of us had done much research on Guilin so we really didn’t know what to expect. When we exited the tiny airport, the air immediately felt less polluted than Beijing. The humidity was a bit overwhelming at first and when it rains, it pours, but we have gotten used to the tropical weather.
Guilin is a “small” city relative to Beijing and Shanghai, with approximately 700,000 residents. Guilin’s downtown core seems relatively new and from what we’ve encountered, tourism may be its largest industry (that and rice noodles). It’s so nice to travel from a city of over 20 million people to one with less than 1 million.
We are staying at an adorable inn right on the lake. Everything is within walking distance which is a nice change from our Beijing hotel which was far away from everything. Guilin is very peculiar. After arriving at the hotel, we took a stroll around the lake to orient ourselves. Guilin has a thing for pigs (maybe?) because everywhere you go in the city, there are stone pigs that either act as benches or road blocks. Around the lake, there are teeny tiny little frogs, just a tad larger than a housefly. I probably stepped on a few on our walk. Another strange thing, Guilin likes to pay homage to many different iconic things around the world, for example, there is a red bridge very similar to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, there is a European looking bridge that could be from Prague, Robyn noticed an “Eiffel Tower” above a department store, and there are also a few glass pyramids from the Louvre. I wonder what worldly wonders we’ll find next in Guilin.
We signed up for a boat tour down the Li River on our second day. A tour bus came and picked us up at our hotel and took us to a large pier where we shuffled onto these large boats. The boat “cruise” which was also an interesting experience in itself lasted about 3 hours and took us all the way to Yangshou. Lining the river are the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen, including one that apparently looks like Hello Kitty and the iconic scene on the 20 yuan bill. It’s too bad that it rained for almost all of the boat ride but it did stop when we got off at Yangshou.
Yangshou is a pretty quaint little town with only 100,000 residents but like Guilin, it is incredibly touristy. The town is surrounding by beautiful green mountains on all sides.
We had about an hours worth of free time in Yangshou before hopping into another bus to visit a fishing village nearby.This fishing village is famous for using cormorants to catch fish. It was very intriguing but also a little sad because the cormorants are tied by a line to the boat and their necks are also tied to prevent them from swallowing the larger fish meant for consumption. We were able to watch the cormorants in action up close and we even had an opportunity to hold a bamboo stick with a cormorant on either end.
After the fishing village, we bussed to Shangri-La, which is something I’m still not quite sure about. It is a cultural center of sorts that focuses on the ethnic minority groups in the surrounding areas including the Drum people. Robyn said it right when she said it felt like theIt’s A Small Worldride except with real people. The ethnic minorities sang for us and drummed ineffectually. It just didn’t feel right, but the landscape around Shangri-La was very beautiful.
Tomorrow, we are going on another tour to the Longji Rice Terraces. It’s about 2 or so hours from Guilin and this time, we’re prepared for the rain with plastic ponchos.