Friday, February 13, 2009


After finishing up the morning in Macau, I basically spent the whole next day in transport to Guilin. I had to take the ferry from Macau to Shekou port, then from the port to the Shenzhen train station, then finally take a night train from Shenzhen to Guilin. On the night train, I met a guy from the Netherlands and he gave me a lot of advice about the good sites and also about tourist traps in Guilin and Yangshuo, the final two cities I planned to visit on my trip. He has been living in China for 10 years and had spent a large part of that time in Yangshuo, so I got pretty lucky meeting him. He was pretty much a lifetime traveler and had a pretty interesting life story, not to mention that he looked like he was 30 when he was actually 40 years old. Perhaps a lifetime of traveling is good for the health or maybe he just has good genes, who knows. Guilin is most famous for its scenery and the "karst topography," which is basically the type of mountains and rocks that are present there. Because of the beauty of the scenery, Guilin is often considered one of the top 10 places to see in China. There are a lot of day trips from the city that also provide some unique scenery. After arriving in Guilin, I checked into my hostel, got cleaned up, then headed out to explore the city. I first went to the Solitary Peak, which is situated in the center of the city. Hiking to the top of the peak doesn't take too long and it offers some great views of the surrounding mountains. Since it was winter time and it was foggy or rainy almost every day of my trip, some of the mountains in the distance weren't too clear, but it was still a good view.
Solitary Peak
Views of Guilin City from Solitary Peak
Views of Guilin City from Solitary Peak
Views of Guilin City from Solitary Peak
Views of Guilin City from Solitary Peak
After climbing the peak, I stopped and had some tea at a little shop at the bottom. While I was reading from my travel book to decide what to do for the next few days, a man sat down next to me. He wanted to talk and we got to know each other a little. One of the funny things about Chinese people is that it is very difficult to turn down anything they offer you, whether it is some snacks, gifts, booze, cigarettes, etc. This guy kept offering me some cigarettes, even though I kept saying I don't smoke. I don't know if he thinks I'm just being polite when I turn him down, but he would just shrug me off when I said I "no thanks" and kept offering them to me regardless of whether I would want one or not. This has happened to me many times before and I still don't know how to turn them down properly. When the man found out I lived in Hangzhou, he also immediately invited me to come to his house since he lives in Shanghai, which is very close. This is another common Chinese custom it seems. I can't really think of a time when I've met some new Chinese person and they haven't invited me to their home. I think maybe they are just more hospitable than I am. After finishing the peak, I walked around the city for awhile. I was a little surprised how developed everything was. The main street seemed like any other street in a big Chinese city, even though Guilin is relatively small for China. The area near my hostel was a pedestrian street that was highly priced and really touristy. Before arriving in Guilin, I didn't really know what to expect as far as the city itself, but I was a little disappointed by the blandness and generic quality it has. However, since the city is often visited by foreigners, at least the people don't stare at you very much.
The next site I visited was the Seven Star Park that contains mountains, caves, a zoo, and other things. The views of the mountains in the park were in some ways better than from the Solitary Peak. On the way to the park and after entering the gate, you can see several good views of the mountains.
Li River
Mountains in Seven Star Park
The cave in the park was probably the best site. To walk through the whole thing with a tour group takes about an hour and it is pretty interesting. There are a lot of rock formations there and they have them all lit up with different color lights.
Rock Formation
Rock Formation
Rock Formation
Tiger Rock Formation (With Eye in Upper Left)
Walking around the park itself, there are a lot of good views. There are some interesting rocks, waterfalls, bridges, views of the city, and other sites.
Camel Rock Formation
View of Guilin
Cave with Writing
As I mentioned, there is a zoo in the park, as well as a few animals spread through the park. The zoo ended up being pretty funny since the barrier between animals and humans at Chinese zoos is much less than in the US. There wasn't anyone really keeping watch and all the people kept feeding the animals, especially the monkeys. Now don't get me wrong, I remember feeding some of the animals at zoos in the US, but it was animal food like grain, vegetables, etc and there would be a zookeeper watching everyone. Here, mostly the people were giving the animals things like chips and other processed food you might buy at a gas station. I have to give the monkeys credit, though, they have quite a racket pilfering the food from tourists. Some of the monkeys weren't even in cages and were just roaming around the park.
Panda Some Kind of Abused Water Buffalo with a Bow Bear Reaching for Scraps Monkeys Taking Some Food
People Feeding a Roaming Monkey
After spending the first day in Guilin sightseeing, I have to admit I was a little disappointed because it was supposed to be one of the best places in China to go. All the tourist sites were expensive to enter and weren't too outstanding. However, as I found out later, the day trips from Guilin are great and the nearby city of Yangshuo is incredibly beautiful. So in that case, Guilin is a good staging point to reach these other places because it's the easiest and cheapest city to travel to from other cities. Also, a lot of the non-tourist things in the city are quite cheap since Guilin is still small and somewhat in the countryside. For example, I got a one hour back massage for 25 RMB, or about $4. You can't beat that price. For more pictures of Guilin, check out:


Phil Dawsey said...

I really liked the tiger eye when i saw it (more of a full tiger head). Rock formations were pretty cool in general, but it didn't look like the best stuff you've seen. Were any of the monkeys like homer's monkey helper?