As our time was again short, due to the limited time granted by our visa, we had to cross some of the places from the list we had in mind when we started planning our journey in China. The list got even shorter when we decided last minute to make the best out of the Tibet experience that was planned for the end of the trip, and extend it a bit longer by traveling overland to Kathmandu. So we choose Guilin as our first stop in this big country.
China offers endless possibilities to lose yourself in unexpected places, dominated by beautiful nature and strong traditions. We hoped that Guilin would offer us just that and we were not disappointed.
With a stop in Guangzhou East, from where we boarded the connection train, it took us more than six hours from Shenzhen, our entrance point into China, to Guilin. The first two hours have been a bit of an adventure as the first train had a delay which led to missing the connecting train. Luckily in China missing a train is not a big deal. You only need to go to the ticket counter and ask for a new ticket for the next departing train. You can change your ticket only one time and seats will be granted to you only if available. We didn’t find any available ones and had to seat on out backpacks till the end of the journey. We considered ourselves happy for meeting Helen, a friendly Chinese girl whose friendliness and good English skills helped us understand what was going on and how to solve our little problem. China had rules that we needed to learn and understand and we spent our first day learning some of them already.
Welcome to Guilin
We finally arrived in Guilin, a busy city with countless shops and restaurants, with crowds that were driving their tuk-tuks and scooters in an insane way, ignoring traffic lights and abusing their horns that were contributing to the symphony of lights and sounds which were making the city feel extraordinarily alive. We arrived late in the evening at Cyan Box, a lovely hostel with lovely people, where we spent three nights. The reception personnel helped us organize our first day trip along the Li River.
A bus picked us up on the following day to bring us to Yangdi, a small river port where we were welcomed to board one of the bamboo rafts that offer daily cruises to Nine Horses Hill. There are also big touristic boats that will take you on a four-hour cruise directly from Guilin to Xingping, but we considered that the bamboo raft is a better option.
Our cruise lasted only 1 hour and the little boat offered places to just four people, so we didn’t need to fight with anybody for the best view. Later a bus transferred us to Xingping, where we left the group and went to discover the surroundings by ourselves.
After lunch in a small local restaurant, we went to find the path towards Lao Zhai Shia, a 220 meters high peak. Climbing it was about to become one of the most extraordinary hikes we ever did and that we highly recommend. The hike is difficult but possible for everybody. We even saw a family of 4, including two small children reaching the top. The path is easy to find, just let yourself guided by the signs or by the locals who will show you the way… while trying also to sell you something. If you take the long cruise, at the arrival in Xingping, before passing the big gate at the waterfront, turn right and you will see it.
It was a hot day, but we found pleasure in hiking through steep rocks, protected by the shadow of a dense forest that surrounds the mountain. In less than one hour we reached the peak and the landscape we got to see from up there let us only a few words to describe it. It was simply beautiful and the scenery quite rewarding.
As the sun went down we contemplated the river valley that felt more and quieter by the time tourists were leaving the valley. We used the last hour of daylight to climb down the mountain and find the bus station from where we would take the bus to Yangshuo and after back to Guilin. The bus to Yangshuo wasn’t easy to find, but luckily we found again friendly people that showed us the way. Not speaking Chinese didn’t seem to be an obstacle. We just had to tell them the name of our destination and after successfully communicated through signs.
Find out more about our time in Guilin and our trip to the famous rice terraces. For more pictures of our three days stay in Guilin click here.