I just love China… Although I don’t speak their language, I really like to visit China because this country keep giving us lots of surprises. China is very big country, each part of the country have their own character. I’ve visited Beijing, Tianjin, and Shenzhen previously and last few months, I’ve been to Guilin and Yangshuo, a place in Guangxi province that always appear in the Chinese painting in every chinese restaurant in Malaysia. The scenery of this place was breathtaking.. speechless.. beautiful… It was a short trip with both my parents, but it totally worth it… oh… I wish I could stay there longer…
As I was traveling with my parents, I’ve made early arrangement with a local guide in Yangshuo to help us with sightseeing. Very nice local guide, named Amy from Yangshuo. She had arranged the car for our sightseeing and accompany us throughout the journey. Very recommended guide. and her price was quite reasonable compared to other guide that I’ve asked.
We arrived early morning at the Guilin Airport. Amy had arranged a car to pick-us up at the airport. The Guilin Airport is actually located 30mins drive from the Guilin town. Along the way, I can see the karst background that Guilin was famous for. Beautiful… However, thick haze is covering the city and the karst background seem blurred from far. We arrived at the Sapphire Hotel quite early from the check-in time, however thanks to the friendly receptionist, she allowed us to check-in early… Wow! the room is quite big for the 3 of us…
After we have a short break and refresh ourselves, by noon, we went out to see what Guilin City can offer us. For today, Amy didn’t join us yet as we want to explore the Guilin City ourselves by foot. We walked towards the Shanhu Lake to view the Moon and Sun Pagoda, a twin pagoda located in the middle of the lake. From the Shanhu Lake we walked to the nearby Lijiang River. I could see the river was quite dry, with the wide river channel, only the center part of the river or 1/3 of the river was fill with water. Frankly, I was quite disappointed, however, the river still gave us a nice scenery. We even went down into the river, at the dry part of the river. From the river, I could see the Elephant Trunk Hill, one of the symbol of Guilin, looks like a huge elephant stretching its trunk and drinking water from far.
We walked along riverside. Nice place to hang around. We could see some local older people hanging around this area and there is also a group of oldies playing their local musical instrument while singing. When we approached the Jiefang East Road crossing bridge, we could see lots of people fishing at the riverside. We can also see the Seven Star Park across the river. Both my parents not interested to visit the park, instead we decided to continue our walk. We went to Zhengyang Pedestrian Street, a nice shopping street and spent some time shopping at this area. Then, we walked pass through the Guilin Central Square, before heading back to our hotel at the Xicheng Pedestrian Street. It almost dawn when we arrived at our room.
By evening, the road in-front of the Sapphire Hotel turned into a pedestrian night market. From my room, I could see few stalls started to fill in the pedestrian street for the night market, and the streets was full with the stalls by 8pm. We went out for a night walk at the night market. They were selling lots of things including souvenirs. The night market was very long, stretching from the Xicheng street, Jiaotong Road, Lingui Road until Wumei Road. We also met with few Malaysians shopping here. The night market closed very late at 2am.
Early at 8am, Amy already waiting for us at the hotel lobby. Today, we went for a day trip to Longsheng County, to visit the Longji Terrace Field or also known as Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces. From Guilin, it took over 2 hours through the countryside roads, with a lots of construction in the intervening areas that significantly slow down the traffic. Once we reached the entrance gate, Amy got us the entrance ticket. We continue our ride towards the mountain. The road leading up the mountain to the trail-head are too narrow and with sharp curves that are too small for the big buses. Luckily, we were on a mini-van who took us all the way to the trail-head entrance without the need for the shuttle buses. We also stop for a while at the Yao and Zhang Minority Villages. The minority people were quite interesting to watch, with their black long hair that never been cut. There is many unique traditional style of houses too, built largely from timber, the houses are typically rectangular and three stories high.
Longji Terrace Field is famous for its hiking climb trip through the terraces field, however we decided to take the leisure way of taking the cable car to the top hill of the terrace field. Of course we need to pay separate fee for this cable car, but it totally worth it, especially when I’m traveling with both my parents. I was told by Amy that the cable car was actually just opened last few weeks, and it is actually her first ride on the cable car. The further we go up the mountain, the scenery gets even more fantastic on some of the hill-tops. From above, I could see few visitors hiking through the path of the terraces. I was little disappointed to see some of the paddy field had been cut empty. Amy told us that we came a week late. The harvesting season started since last week, and the scenery was much more nicer. However, there are some absolutely stunning views from the upper regions of the terrace field that cannot be described in words. Yes, I’ve visited the Tegalalang Rice Paddy field in Bali before, but I was impressed by this area because it is like nothing else that I have visited before in my travels. Although the weather was not so nice, with thick haze covering the surrounding, the rice terraces really took my breath away. They are like green waves stretching from the foothill all the way to the top. And I could see the local villages at some areas in the middle of the terraces. We spent almost 2 hours at the top of the hill before we went down again by the cable car.
It still early evening when we reach back at the hotel. After short rest, my mom and I decided to went for shopping, while daddy want to have longer rest after the tiring journey to Longji. We walked along the Zhongshan Zhong Lu, which is the main road and the longest commercial street with many big department stores and boutique shops, until we reached the Zhengyang Pedestrian Street. The pedestrian street was very lively at night. We walked until the Central Square area, where we saw gallons of water was seen pouring down from top of Lijiang Waterfall Hotel, forming an artificial waterfall. It lasted for 10 minutes.. We also walked along the lakeside admiring the beautiful lit up twin pagodas and many cruise boats in the lake offering the 2 Rivers & 4 Lakes Cruise tour. We walked back to our hotel, and went for dinner at a muslim restaurant nearby or hotel, and roamed the night market in-front of our hotel before we called in for the night.
Today, we proceed our journey to Yangshuo. After early check-out from the hotel, we decided to detour to Yaoshan Hillpark, a large country park 30mins outskirt Guilin city which encompasses the highest peak in Guilin to see the karst formation of Guilin from top. Although there is foot paths run to the summit, we took the open air chair lift that provides an effortless way to attain the top and enjoy the scenery. It was a long 15mins chair lift rides to the top, and again, we were quite disappointed once we reached the top. There are supposedly extensive views of the karst formation surrounding area from the summit, but it all been covered by the thick haze. After spending less than hour on the top, we went down and continue our journey to Yangshuo.
An hour journey through the countryside road, passing few mountains, we stopped at Yangdi town to take the Li River cruise to Xingping, the most beautiful part of the Lijiang river. By noon, we already on the river, gazing in awe at the karst mountains towering either side of the river. I also could see the big boats but the experience is better on the smaller ones. Although the weather was not on our side, misty, drizzly, not to mention the heavy haze covering the background, karst formation along the Li River still make me excited. The landscape here really is spectacular, the jagged karst mountains that hug the river as it flows down Guanxi province are a must see. We took lots of pictures on the scenery along the river. I’m certainly pleased we decided to visit Yangshuo scenic areas as you can imagine they’re immensely different to the chain of cities in China. We passes such sights as ‘9 Horse Mural Hill’, ‘Langshi Scenery’ and an abundance of other named hills and sections of the river. Reaching Xingping, we went to a local market nearby the Xingping jetty in search of local fruits and fresh vegetables. The price was very cheap compared to those back in Kuala Lumpur. Xingping is a little town about 35km from Yangshuo. During the day it’s quite busy with tourists passing through, but in the evenings it’s dead quiet. Then, we were back on the road heading to Yangshuo.
Once we arrived in Yangshuo town, and it was a bit of a shock to the system. Super-touristy and a bit too busy for me. In Yangshuo, we stayed at Magnolia Hotel, a nice boutique hotel located at the end of touristy West Street nearby the Li River. It was a very nice hotel with view of a manmade river beside it. Nice staff, and even got upgraded to a suite due to the low season. The room was huge !!.. We had about 2 hour before our Impressions Sanjie Liu tour began so we spent most of our time meandering around West Street, one of the prominent tourist areas nearby our hotel. Nearly dawn, Amy and the driver appear in front of our hotel. We headed to the Impressions Sanjie Liu show which is performed on water. The night show features choreography on a giant scale, as befits a production by director Yimou Zhuang, who also directed the 2008 Beijing Olympic opening ceremonies. The stage is the landscape of Yangshuo itself, and although focus is nominally on the folk dances on and off the Li River, the giant karsts in the background, illuminated by flood lights, underscore the natural landscape.Five hundred plus Chinese people from different minority groups come together and share a bit of their culture. Watching the impressiion show at night is a must see in Yangshuo!
After the show, Amy dropped us at a muslim restaurant located in the middle of Pantao Road for our late dinner. Then, we walked back to hotel through the hectic West Street. At night, the West Street becomes a night market, full of the usual trinkets (cell phone charms, fans, fake jade bracelets, backscratchers, etc.) aimed at the tourists. I found out that West Street was too hectic at night!! Too packed with people, too noisy with lots of night bars along the street. I don’t really like it. Imagine the Bukit Bintang street in Kuala Lumpur or Kuta Street in Bali, and multiply this by 100x, and you get West Street. After walking pass through the hectic West Street, we reached our hotel. Luckily the hotel located at the quite part of the street. It is clear that I don’t need to go far in Yangshuo for a hotel or something to eat and I not regret staying at the Magnolia for 2 night.
Early morning after taking our quick breakfast, Amy and the driver pick us up to Yulong river, to ride on the famous Yulong Bamboo raft. Reaching the jetty early, we managed to avoid all tourist touts, even the stalls not opened yet. Each bamboo raft can only take 2person, so we loaded ourselves on 2 raft. Mama and Daddy on one raft, while Amy and I on other raft. We are the first group loaded ourselves on the bamboo raft, and sat on the chair while a strong man pushed us down the river. The ride lasted about 2 hours, punctuated every 10 or 20 minutes by a fairly exciting plunge over dams in the river. The raft was long enough that it just sort of extended, sloped and dropped over the dams. I had to hold my backpacks on my laps (because they’re filled with electronics), and lift my feet up because the front of the raft sank maybe a foot into the water before leveling back out. Despite the thick grey haze that made decent photos pretty much impossible, the karst scenery was still amazing, and we saw plenty of activity along the way, including lots of water buffalo, and fishermen who use cormorants instead of rods or nets. The bamboo rafting is an unforgettable experience; we enjoyed the fresh air, gentle breezes, calm reflecting mirror-like water and appreciated the fabulous landscape seen on both sides of the Yulong River.
After the relaxing 2 hours raft ride, we were back on the road towards the Silver Cave. Silver Cave is located at the foot of Ligui Road in Lipu County about 20 km south of Yangshuo. The Silver Cave is the biggest cave in the entire Guilin area. Typical of the Chinese love for colors, the caves were lighted brightly with multi-colored lights, turning stalactites and stalagmites formation into mysterious discos. There is a small pond in the middle that has a reflection that makes it appear as if you are looking into a deep canyon, when in fact you are looking at the reflection of the high ceiling. I’ve been to the caves in Mulu during my study time, but frankly, I love this cave more although it a bit touristy. We stayed between the tour groups and had some privacy, however, the lights occasionally turn off when there’s only few people around and you can’t see anything. Maybe it’s the locals way to save the electricity, just make sure you have a torch or at least a phone with a torch. Oh ya, the hawkers outside the caves were selling all kind of local snacks specialties and cheap fruits too.
We also stopped for a while a Moonhill park. Both my parents don’t want to climb the hill, however we can still see the moon formation of the hill at the entrance gate. Then, we went to a local village to have a closer view of the fruits farm. Since its too early to end our road trip outskirt Yangshuo, I’ve requested Amy to bring us to see the old village of Yangshuo. Without hesitation, Amy told the driver to drove us to Jiuxian, a beautiful old village 8km outside Yangshuo. This ancient village was a fantastic find on my travel, well worth visiting for its lovely Qing Dynasty buildings which retains the authenticity of “old China”, and provided a great insight into traditional rural life. The preserved buildings were a real delight to explore, the courtyards, small alley lanes and lots of majestic buildings with beautiful details. It s a pity that some of the house are turning into ruines but there are still lots in good condition and i noticed that there are people restoring buildings as well. The surrounding countryside is simply stunning with breathtaking scenery, the mountains, the fields, everything so green. I would recommend a visit to Jiuxian for anybody looking to escape the hectic overblown tourist trap of Yangshuo
Before ending our day trip with Amy, Amy bring us to a local market in search for cheap fruits and local teas. The market was bustling with shoppers. Daddy bought lots of dried persimmons for his friends. Persimmons were coming to the end of their season and the overripe persimmons were pressed and dried so they can keep longer. They were very tender and sweet, very different from the stale ones we get in Malaysia which usually have a dodgy white powder coating. Later in the evening, Amy dropped us back to the hotel, as we want to explore the Yangshuo city on foot since it will be our last day in Yangshuo. We hang around the streets until late night.
We checked -out early morning. Amy did come to our hotel to say good-bye. And to my surprise, she even give us some souvenirs. The driver sent us to the airport. Arriving at the airport, we only allowed to enter the departure hall by 10am. After passing the immigration check point, we were soon on-board our flight back to Kuala Lumpur.
During the few days, we’ve visited many of the scenic spots in Guilin and Yangshuo, the Elephant Trunk Hill, the Pagodas, the Li River, the Longji Terrace Fields the Silver cave and few more. There is also much more to see around Guilin and Yangshuo. We missed the Red Flute cave, the Jingjiang Princes’ City where the Solitary Beauty Peak is, the Seven Star Park, and few Yangshuo countryside tour. A great excuse for me to go back and explore the wonders of Guangxi province.