“ International destination in China. „
Guilin is a medium sized city in Southern China. It can be easily reached within a few hours by air from any other major Chinese cities. International connections include Seoul and Kuala Lumpur. There is, of course, also the option to get there by rail - although this can take significantly longer.
Once there you'll find a few older markets and shopping areas, as well as Elephant Trunk Hill from where you can get a nice view right over the city - but in truth you'll likely find that the majority of 'attractions' are found outside the city. This is because much of Guilin is catered towards a certain type of tourist - there are plentiful 'massage parlours' and bars that will be of little interest to the average visitor.
The most spectacular of attractions outside the city is the Li River - which you can take a cruise along with any number of tour companies. This comes with the highest recommendation. There are simply few other places in earth as scenic or striking as the stretch of Li River from Guilin to Yangshou.
Yangshou itself is another recommended spot to spend a few hours. It's home to old markets and streets where you can sample local food or buy souveniers. Despite a lot of tourist development, it is quite quaintly 'Chinese'.
Another option when in the Guilin area is the Reed Flute Caves. These are brilliantly illuminated in all the colours you could imagine, and provide for a very memorable and impressive few hours spent.
Overall I'd rate Guilin highly as a tourist destination in Southern China. It's great if you are on your way to/from Hong Kong or Xi'An. Many tour operators offer it as a stop on a wider trip to China - and i'd certainly give it full thumbs up - for at least a few days of sightseeing.
Guilin is located in Southern China, in the province of Guangxi. The famous images of the stunning limestone peaks lure expectant travelers to visit the region by the thousands and for good reason. There are many sights to behold in and around Guilin, many of which are well worth a visit.
Firstly i have to make one thing clear, Guilin is not a small, quaint town, it is in fact one of the largest cities in China. With a total population of 4.76 million, 740,000 of which make up the urban population. Visitors are regularly taken aback by the sheer magnitude and atmosphere of which surrounds the city. There are two methods of arrival, the airport is located a 30 km bus journey away from the center of the city, flights are available from many locations, both domestic and international. I personally arrived from Beijing, after a 3 hour flight with Air China. The airport is fairly small and busses leave every half hour from the main exit and cost around 20 yuan. The train station is located in central Guilin and is easy to find, i would advise taking advantage of the cheep taxis however as it saves walking in the humidity! I found the train station to be nice, but extremely busy! It is advisable to book tickets in advanced, especially if you want Hard Sleeper's! I would also advise you to buy any food before you enter the station as is it much cheeper, just a 5 minute walk away will be half price!
The Bus station can be found north of the train station, there are regular busses to locations such as Yangshou and Longsheng. The bus rides can be fairly uncomfortable, i tend to choose trains instead because of the luxury of being able to stand up!
There is a huge variety of accommodation to choose from, ranging from budget hostels to luxury hotels. I had no experience of the latter, though can offer advice on hostels. I stayed in the Backstreet Youth Hostel and found the staff to be extremely accommodating, the rooms were by far the nicest i experienced throughout the whole of China. There are western toilets in all rooms as well as a powerful shower. It is a good place to meet fellow travelers, which was of great help to me as i was traveling alone! The downsides of this hostel include the price of the trips they offer, for example a boat trip for 4 of us to Yangshou would have cost over 1000 yuan, we later managed to find a tourist office where we paid under 700, which is a saving of over £30. I can understand an administration fee, but this was ridiculous.
The food in Guilin is brilliant, the area is famed for it's Rice Noodles, which can be found everywhere. I particularly enjoyed one canteen-style restaurant in particular, unfortunately i can't remember the name, but it is located 3 minutes walk away from Backstreet hostel, directly to the left of KFC. It is a traditional establishment with no english menu, which is always a good sign as it usualy means you are getting traditional local food! The area is also well known for it's fish dishes, the main ingredient coming directly from the Li river which winds majestically through the city. Beer Fish is a local dish made with tomato and egg, it's a dish to your meant to share, although this may be difficult!
The main sights in Guilin include the Solitary Beauty peak, located in the city centre, it rises 152 meters above the hustle and bustle below. The cost for admission is 15 yuan which includes admission to Wang Cheng, a 14th century princes mansion, during the Ming Dynasty. The climb is extremely steep, but well worth it once you reach the top, the views are stunning!
The Reed Flute Cave is an impressive cave housing multicoloured lighting and impressive stalagmites and stalactites. Admission costs 60 yuan which in my opinion is fairly expensive, it is however well worth a visit.
One activity i would advise anyone not to partake in is the Cormorant fishing show, it is a nice image, especially with the lights creating an almost magical scene. It is however a fake show, the method of fishing is mainly used for the tourists pleasure, i decided to leave the main viewing area on the boat and ventured to the opposite side where i witnessed the 'fishermen' feeding the Cormorants by hand, before floating around to the other side of the boat. This gave a somewhat soured tint to my experience and i left feeling cheated. I suppose it is worth a visit to take some good pictures in anything!
To conclude, I have to say Guilin is not the magical location many believe it to be, it is an urban metropolis stuffed in between the beautiful limestone peaks the area is blessed to behold. This destination of serene beauty and tranquility can be found however, just a 3 hour boat ride away in Yangshou. The scenery is simply on another level! A bus is available, although i would recommend the boat journey along the Li river, it provides the spectacular views plastered in guidebooks, such as the example shown above. Yangshou is a much quieter and far smaller when compared to Guilin. It is extremely touristy as you would expect, but a short bicycle ride in any direction can take you away from the masses, you then suddenly find yourself immersed in the stunning beauty the area has to offer!
I would certainly recommend visiting the area, 2 days are a sufficient amount of time to spend exploring Guilin itself, whilst at least 4 days will be required in Yangshou, but watch out you may just end up spending weeks there as you won't want to leave!
Imagine this......you're in a small boat on a river......it's dark and there are spotlights on the tail of the boat. What are you doing? In Guilin, you are Cormorant fishing....... As a Cormorant fisher you own the Cormorant and the bird depends for its next meal on how good it is at fishing. Chinese fishermen in Guilin use Cormorants at night to catch fish..they tie a piece of string round the bird's neck and when it catches a fish it cannot swallow. So the bird swims back to the boat to dish up the fish. If a small fish is caught, the bird may be able to swallow it before returning to its owner. When the fisherman has enough fish, he will allow the bird to keep its catch......a mutual agreement that has worked for thousands of years.