Tag Archive for: Guilin

One of our highlights in China was the visit at the National Park in Zhangjiajie. The 264 km2 park is located in the south of China, in the region of Hunan and holds several world records.

But before we arrived in Zhangjiajie, along with the excitement we also had to show a bit of patience, as we left Guilin by train (# D2945) and continued our journey to Liuzhou.

How to book train tickets in China?

As a foreign traveler, there are various ways to purchase tickets:

  • The easiest way: you go to the station and buy your ticket at the ticket office. Tourists can not buy tickets at the vending machine, only at the ticket office by presenting a valid passport.
    Disadvantage: As many people buy their tickets ahead of time, trains or preferred seats/classes can be already booked and who likes to spend several hours on a train standing?
  • The other option is to reserve tickets on the Internet. For this purpose, we used the website: ctrip.com. Also here we had to provide a valid document. Once you have specified your departure station and destination, you get a list of trains from which you can choose.
    Disadvantage: reservation fees are 3 euro per train and the original tickets must be picked up at any train station at the ticket office.



When booking trains you will come across the following terms:

Hard Seat: These are normal seats and not very comfortable on older trains, especially when many people travel with a lot of luggage. We would only recommend them on short distances or high-speed trains.

Hard Sleeper: Great for long journeys. Hard sleepers are bunk beds, mostly 3 on top of each other and 6 per compartment. “Compartment” is not the right term because the wagons have no doors. On the ticket, you can see which compartment you have and for the exact bed you need to check the online reservation (lower, middle or upper). Also, the crew will offer help if needed.



Soft Sleeper: (we did not use them in China) Same system as the Hard Sleepers but compartments have doors for a little more privacy and there are only 4 beds per compartment.

All trains have toilets (some trains are equipped also with Western toilets) and hot water. We usually took coffee or tea with us, as well as fruits or pastries before we got on the train. However, there is also the possibility to buy snacks or drinks on the train.



Are we at the airport?

Riding a train in China is almost like taking a plane. The stations are similar to airports. The controls are not as strict, but tickets and luggage are checked several times. Basically, these checks are all the same. Upon entering the station, tickets and ID are checked. Sometimes there is an extra counter for foreign documents. Then the baggage will be examined. Sometimes the ticket is checked twice before entering the tracks. The ticket must be well kept, as there is another control on arrival at the final station.


Information about tracks and entrances to the trains is partially printed on the ticket, otherwise you can see it on the information board.



From Guilin to Liuzhou

Upon our arrival in Liuzhou, we had to show improvisational skills, since the station from which our connecting train was leaving was situated in another district. Liuzhou is home to more than 3.5 million inhabitants and tourists are rarely seen here, therefore no words with familiar alphabet will be found.


Why didn’t we take the train from the same station?

Simple answer: There was none! The station in Liuzhou was being rebuilt so all long-distance trains were going from Liujiiang.
On the internet, we read that we could take buses 16, 27, 59, 68 and 90 to Liuzhou Railway Middle School and then change to bus no.10, which was going to Liujiiang. We have tried this version and have finally arrived at the destination, but it took quite a while to find the way. Nobody could speak English here and our offline translator also let us down.

Since our train left late in the evening, we decided to spend some time in the city center of Liuzhou, and later came across the easier way to get to Liujiiang.


The best way from Liuzhou station to Liujiiang with bus 99

If you leave Liuzhou Station, cross the road and wait for Bus 99, which will take you directly to Liujiiang. A ticket costs a few cents and the journey takes about 40 minutes.

Travel tip: In China, we always used the offline maps of Maps.me before we visited a city. (Google Apps are blocked here). We always use the maps to see if we are really going in the right direction.

The train from Liujiiang took us to Zhangjiajie, where we had a wonderful stay.

If you want to see photos of our time in China then click here?

The second morning in Guilin our daypack was fully loaded for the next day trip that we planned, the Longji Rice Terraces, situated north from Guilin. A local bus brought us to the Hong Kong hotel, from where a direct bus was leaving for the Longji (Dragon’s Back) rice terraces in Longsheng County, some of the biggest and most spectacular in the world.


The Longji Rice Terraces refers to several village areas, the most popular being the ones around Ping’an Village, where the Zhuang minority people live, and the ones in the Jinkeng area, home to the Red Yao. Their construction started in 1271 under the Yuan Dynasty and was completed under the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). There is no best season to visit the terraces, but more a matter of choice. You can visit in spring when the water is irrigated into the fields, making the terraces look like great chains hanging on the hillsides. Summer offers beautiful waves of green on the mountainside, while autumn, the harvest time, brings more diversity of colors. Winter is cold, but the landscape is still spectacular and can be a better option for those who want to enjoy the terraces in the absence of the crowds of tourists.

The Ping’an Terraced Fields are larger and offer more alternatives to hike to different viewpoints, including a cable car to the Golden Buddha peak, from where visitors can get the best view over the region. We hiked for more than one hour to reach the peak and after climbed down slowly on different paths through small villages. We suggest spending at least 3 hours for discovering the surroundings.


The people living here, The Zhuang and the Yao nationalities, are part of a particular community that follows ancient traditions. The Zhuang people form the majority and are well known for their hospitality. They wear unique and colorful costumes and frequently celebrate life with songs and dances during different traditional festivals. Tourists in the area can join their celebration if they want to experience the original Zhuang life and culture and even stay with local families while tasting the local food and drinking Longji tea or the Longji wine.



Four hours later after the arrival at the rice terraces, we took the bus back to Guilin and used the remaining time to explore the city. Guilin itself offers entertainment to tourists with its many colorful lights, the beautiful pagodas and the Elephant Trunk, the city’s most important and most symbolic attraction.


After dinner and a cold beer back at the hostel, it was time again to pack our luggage for our long trip to Zhangjiajie.

Click here for more pictures of our time in Guilin.

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.