Walking around Guangzhou South Station (广州南站) is like exploring an airport – it’s gigantic and there are so many security checks.
Guilin – the Karst Magnificence
We are headed towards Guilin (桂林) and the nearby Yangshuo (阳朔) which are located in Guangxi (广西) Zhuang Autonomous Region. Guilin owes its name – “Forest of Sweet Osmanthus” – to the large number of fragrant Sweet Osmanthus trees located there. Both Guilin and Yangshuo, situated along the Li River or Lí Jiāng (漓江), are very well known for their karst topography and are one of the most famous tourist destinations in China.
From Guangzhou Nan, we hop on a bullet train or CRH, which will take us to Guilin (450 km for around 2 hours – good job, CRH!). Before going there, I had heard of Guilin, but I always imagined it as a small touristic town. It turns out that Guilin boasts a population of more than a million people and is not as beautiful as I envisaged it would be.
In addition, when we arrive there at around nine in the evening, it is raining which does not add too much to its beauty. We struggle to find the hostel we are supposed to spend the night in.
In the end, in a dark street and after a set of stairs, we find ourselves inside. I have not taken photos inside as it was not the cosiest place on Earth, but at least there are showers and heating inside the room. Who needs more, right?
We wake up early the next morning and head to the station to take a bus to Yangshuo where the breath-taking river sights and karst mountains highlight the popular cruise on the Li River.
Yangshuo – the Prettiest Guangxi Village, Packed with Surprises
The weather is not super promising, but at least it is not raining as it was in Guilin. To add up to the sensation, the hostel is much friendlier and cleaner.
Simon and I are in a room with 10 more Chinese on top of the hostel from where a great view of the valley, where Yangshuo is located, unfolds.
Without wasting too much time, we head for lunch. Beef with tomatoes, fried fish in beer, and spiced century eggs (皮蛋) are some of the local delicacies we order. As we are in China, they are, of course, accompanied by abundant amounts of steamed rice (米饭).
After the hearty lunch, it’s time for some karst-seeing and photos near a small waterfall that empties itself into the Li River.
After a lengthy photo-shoot, we decide it’s high time we took the boat river trip and explore the magnificent beauty of Yangshuo’s scenery. On the way, we pass through a nice tourist market with fans in different sizes and in mesmerisingly beautiful colourings.
Reaching the “port”, our Chinese friends start bargaining and we end up paying ¥300 for 5 peeps, which is quite the deal as we are separated on two private bamboo rafts. The whole trip is around an hour with one stopover at a place, which is excellent for taking photos.
In 10 minutes, we board the raft again to cruise us deep into the Li River’s canyon where the water is emerald.
And here’s a video from the cruise:
After admiring the magnificent panorama for a couple of minutes, the “driver” turns around and takes us back to where the tour started. In the evening, while exploring the village, we stumble upon a very interesting stand with T-shirts with famous faces on them. Take a look – they are quite funny.
Along the Drop-dead Gorgeous Li Jiang
The next day, we take a bus from Yangshuo to Xingping. It is well-known as the main image on the reverse side of the new ¥20 note. The place depicts a fisherman riding his bamboo raft down the Li Jiang, meandering along the staggering karst formations. It is a little foggy but quite warm as you may see from the photo below.
In the afternoon, we are back to Yangshuo. We enter a small Chinese restaurant where we treat ourselves to more local delicacies. One of them is pictured below. Can you guess what the dish is without opening the photo and without checking the hint in Google?
On our last day, Simon and I head to the nearby mountain where the TV tower of Yangshuo is located. Due to thick fog atop, no photos have been taken, but on the way down, I manage to capture a nice panorama of the village.
We hurry to check out of the hostel, take the bus to Guilin, and then another bus to its train station where we hop on the high-speed train and return to Guangzhou.
Useful Tips for Travelling to Guilin and Yangshuo Like a Badass
- Since July 28th, 2014, Guilin applies a 72-Hour Visa-Free Policy in order to facilitate passport holders of more than 50 countries and regions to enjoy a visa-free trip up to 72 hours when taking an international transfer via Liangjiang Airport. Details about it can be found here.
- Guilin’s weather is defined by a subtropical monsoon climate which is characterised by high humidity and four distinct seasons. According to a guide I found on the internet: “It can still be cold in spring in Guilin. But when the sun comes out, it is the best time to cruise the Li River. The scenery along the river is pretty fabulous with warm sunshine and a breeze.” I cannot agree more. We were there at the beginning of March and at night you had to wear a light jacket, but with a ray of nice sunshine during the day, the cruise was excellent. Probably summer reveals an even more beautiful picture of the karst valleys, but be prepared for a lot of sweating.
- Bargain, bargain and bargain. China is a lovely place for bargaining and if you are good at it, you can leave the place with many “trophies” at excellent prices. I am not going to teach you Chinese now, just only a useful expression – tài-guì-le (太贵了) – that’s too expensive!
Good luck and enjoy nature at its best!