“This, this is Guilin”.”
The taxi driver smiled as he showed me the 20 RMB he got from his pocket, pointing at the picture of the Li River. I was on my way to Fubo Hill and decided to take the cab just to make sure I was at the park before the sun sets. As I got off the cab, my friendly driver hollered, “make sure you take good pictures!”
After I bought my park ticket, I looked up at the hill I must climb and said to myself, “this, this is Guilin”.
I was about to enter the park when a commotion got my attention. It was my taxi driver roaring at the top of his lungs. It was almost hard to believe this was the friendly taxi driver I just met a while ago. His cab got hit by another car, and he was furious. He smiled widely as he noticed me looking out to him from the park entrance. Then, automatically shifted his expression as he barks at the guy who hit his cab.
This, this is Guilin!
Guilin is a staggering beauty surrounded by lush limestone peaks and scenic lakes
Located at the northeast of Guangxi province in China, and seated on the west bank of the stunning Li River, Guilin is a staggering beauty surrounded by lush limestone peaks and scenic lakes. As if these were not enough, Osmanthus trees lined up many of Guilin’s streets, spreading a sweet-smelling scent uncommon to most Chinese cities.
Guilin never runs out of parks built around several peaks. In them are stone staircases to view the city as you move your way up. The Diecai Mountain, aside from its surrounding peaks, has a small aviary and butterfly museum. Fubo Hill, located at the bank of the Li River on the northeast of the city, houses Buddhist inscriptions that are believed to be carvings from Tang dynasty. A stone’s throw away from Central Square is the Elephant Trunk Hill where a large natural arch is cut into it, resembling a trunk of an elephant dipping into water, thus, the name.
The Solitary Beauty Peak, rising dramatically above Guilin city center, arguably offers the best sight of the city and its surrounding towns. And, to view impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations, head down to the garish Reed Flute Cave and experience the gorgeous wonder of a natural limestone cave with multi-colored lighting.
The Central Square (Zhongxin Guangchang) is where people from all walks of life get the feel of Guilin’s vibe. Restaurants, coffee shops, bars, shopping centers, food stalls, massage places, and just about anything swamp the whole park.
Popular amongst foreigners here are the Side Street Bar, Paulaner Bar, Bar Garden Irish Pub, and the small but cozy Rosemary Café. The Xiao Xiang Gang Commercial Market (underground night bazaar) is a definite shoppers’ haven, especially to those who love bargaining.
Another must-visit is Longji Ricefield located at Longsheng County where fantastic rice terraces abound. June is the perfect time to visit as the terraces are at their most beautiful with picturesque and awe-inspiring sunrise and sunset.
Lastly, do you know that…
- Guilin was featured in Leg 9, Season 14 of the famous TV Show, The Amazing Race?
- Photos of Guilin were used as backdrops for the planet Kashyyyk in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith?
- Guilin’s stunning karst peaks are a result of erosion from carbonic acid created when rainwater reacts with carbonic acid in the air?
So this summer, pack your backpack and visit Guilin. Adventure awaits and for sure, you’ll find yourself gawking, standing in awe at its beauty, saying to yourself, “This, this is Guilin!”
What is travel without food? Whether you’re keen on food splurging in Central Square or on any nook and cranny of Guilin, must-try eats are: Pickled Tofu, Rice Noodles, Beer Fish, Beer Duck, Guilin Snails, and the famous Guilin snack Chaoguo Fan or Claypot Rice Dishes.
By air: Guilin Liangjiang International Airport has daily flights from Guilin to major mainland cities. Budget airlines also operate in Guilin – Spring Airlines for domestic flights while AirAsia flies from Guilin to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
By train: It takes 24 hours by train from Beijing to Guilin Station located at the city centre in Zhongshan Nanlu.
By bus: At Guilin Bus Terminal in Zhongshan Nanlu, buses depart every 20 minutes to Yangshou for 19 RMB. Buses to Nanning, Kunming, Guangzhou, Zhuhai and multiple other destinations are also available.
Guilin’s main industry is tourism, so looking for a place to stay should not be a problem. Five-star hotels to backpackers inns dot the city. Backstreet Youth Hostel, with its friendly English-speaking staff and excellent location has been very famous amongst backpackers.
Other popular backpacker’s inns are Wada Hostel, Dozycat Hostel and Flowers Youth Hostel.
Published: Tianjin Plus Magazine, May 2012
Photography: Cathy Perez