Wednesday, April 29, 2009

City 2: Guilin

Day 1

When I lived in China before I visited the little village of Yangshou. It's a foreigners paradise. By that I mean it's practically paradise and that's where all the foreigners go. It's a little more remote and since I'd been there before, I decided to stick to the city. Guilin has the same type of karst mountain scenery but more city conveniences like the train station and an airport. Overall, it's a lovely city and I saw a lot of nice things, but I still prefer Yangshou.

One of the highlights of this part of the trip was meeting Aretha or Liqing and her parents. They were on the same train as I was from Guangzhou and we took the same bus from the train station. We got to talking and I ended up spending most of the day sightseeing with them. We started with breakfast at this buffet place. Chinese breakfasts are pretty awesome. This was awesome times buffet.

Lesson Two: You are never alone when you are in China. In part because there are just sooooo many people there, but I found wherever I went I met lovely, kind people to hang out with or help me with directions or just to talk to for a bit.

First we were on our way to Xiangbishan (Elephant Truck Hill park), when a lady talked us into a boat ride instead. I had read that Elephant Truck Hill is best viewed from a boat so you can actually see that it looks like a giant elephant's trunk. Other than it was a bit cold in the headwind this was a great little adventure. Our boat actually ran out of gas at one point but luckily we drifted to shore where there were some other boats who refueled us.

Next we went to Jin Jiang Wang Cheng the palace of a Ming dynasty prince. There is a tree there planted by Dr. Sun Yatsen. If you don't know who he is, go brush up on your Chinese history. He's considered the father of modern China. Also look up his wife Song Chingling. Very interesting woman. The palace was very cool and the grounds are pretty. I think a lot of it is used as part of a University now so you can't see the whole thing. There's this cave that has engravings of all the different guardians of the different Chinese astrological birth years. There were like 60 of them. Mine was a pretty tough looking dude, so I was feeling pretty well protected. I did the kowtow how they guide showed us and slipped him a couple of Yuan (Chinese currency) so he'd keep looking out for me the rest of the trip.

Then we went to the Reed Flute Caves. If you've ever been on a cave tour with that had stalagmites and stalactites, imagine it with rock star lighting. Very nice. You can actually appreciate the details in the rock better this way. There were a couple of areas where a white light would turn on for a short time and then go back to the colored lights and the shadowing was just better to highlight the formations with the colored lights.

Finally we went to the main touristy street (it is blocked from regular traffic). We had mifan for lunch. Literally translated it means rice, but at least in the South it's actually noodles. Rice noodles though. Very tasty.


Did I mention how really cool and nice the Li family was? They were so sweet to let me tag along all day and then they paid for both my meals and most of the sights and were just really nice. Oh and the dad carried my big backpack a lot. Even up and down a hill. I got all choked up after we parted because I was so touched by how kind they were to me.

He carried that bag up and down a lot of stairs. Thank you!

Day two

The next day I took off for the Longsheng Longji rice terraces (Dragon's Backbone terraces). My recommendation here would be to do this for at least two days. It took 4 hours to get there and I was only there 4 hours before I had to catch the 2nd to last bus back. I could have explored more.

The terraces are beautiful. Fortunately the bus takes you most of the way up the mountain. You then walk from the entrance gate up a street lined with gift shops. Then you reach a minority village which is basically guesthouses, restaurants, and gift shops. Tourism is the new economy but the architecture is still cool and it's cool walking up and down stairs in these narrow walkways through the village.

The views at the top are breathtaking. They are just planting the rice now so it wasn't super green, but it was still pretty. I've heard its better in the fall, but there's also a lot more people. I'm happy with the trip.

Day 3

Went round and about Guilin for the scenery, hiked a tall hill, saw some lakes. You know, the usually morning stuff in a scenic city in China. Then I checked out of my hotel. I should have checked for a left luggage service because even though my backpack isn't super big or heavy, it starts to feel that way after a few hours of lugging it around.

I spent most of the day at the Qixing Gongyuan (Seven Stars Park). It's really big and really pretty. My tour guide was Richard. He's totally cool. He learned English hanging out with foreigners in Yangshou. He even traded kungfu lessons for English lessons. If you go to Guilin and/or Seven Star Park look him up. I have his cell number if you go.

I think I ate lunch in that building

Later I caught a taxi to the Guilin airport. It was rush hour traffic and my taxi driver is texting. Super. Do I put on a seat belt? No, I can't even find the seat belt. I made it to the airport and caught my flight to Chengdu. The best part, maybe the only good part, of the airport was I saw a full grown, Asian mullet. It was awesome. It came with long pointy sideburns too. A rare find indeed. I wanted to take a picture but it would have been too obviously. Bonus!!!