Guilin/Yangshuo are places that I have wanted to visit for a long time now. The area is famous for is scenery, mountains and the Li river. We had another long weekend from school as it was the Dragon Boat festival, so my boyfriend, his friend from America and I headed to Guilin and Yangshuo.
Guilin and Yangshuo are in the Guangxi province, in the south of China. Guilin is also the biggest city closest to Yangshuo. Most people will visit both places during their trip as they are so close, roughly an hour and half drive. We arrived in Guilin on the Saturday evening and after checking into the hostel we headed out to wander around the local area.
Sunday morning, we went for a quick tour around the attractions. The first stop on the list was the Reed Flute caves. It is a huge cave with lots of unique rock formations and as this may not be the most interesting item for many tourists, the locals have covered the caves in hundreds of coloured spot lights. I must admit for a person that is drawn to bright flashing lights, the caves were an absolute delight and the lights highlighted some of the best rock formations.
After the caves, we had back into the downtown area to look at the Elephant Trunk Hill. Again this attraction centred around rocks! It’s a giant rock with an arch way and apparently it resembles an elephant with its trunk in the water…apparently. The entrance fee to this attraction, which also included dancing elephants, (something which I did not want to see, as I knew that the elephants won’t be be very well cared for) cost around 70RMB. This is way too expensive to see a rock, so instead we walked around the perimeter and caught a glimpse from further up the river.
The Sun and Moon Pagodas were the last thing we saw while in Guilin. They are two sister pagodas in set in the Shan lake. The previous night we have seen them all lit up and taking centre stage of the surround area. In the daytime, you can go inside each pagoda. The seven-storey Moon Pagoda is connected by an underwater tunnel to the Sun Pagoda which is nine storeys high and one of the few pagodas with a lift. To be honest it was nice to take pictures from the top of the Moon Pagoda (you cannot take pictures at the top of the Sun pagoda) but the interior of both pagodas wasn’t that inspiring.
After a busy morning, we headed to the bus station to go to Yangshuo. The next bus wasn’t until 16.05 a mere 2hours later in the day…not ideal! We headed to the railway station to see if there was an earlier bus and on the way, we met a woman who was selling bus tickets for a bus leaving at that very moment. And when I saw that very moment I mean the three of us had to hop through the traffic and were pushed onto the bus! It made several stops along the way to try and pick up more passengers, but all in all it was a pleasant journey and was better than hanging around for two hours. And it was only 25RMB!
Yangshuo is a beautiful place probably the prettiest place I have been to in all of China. If you like the outdoors, hiking and cycling then this is the place for you. We took a river cruise down the famous Li river, now this wasn’t quite as romantic as you might expect. Being a holiday and one of the most popular tourist’s spots, there were around 40-50 boats which all set sail at the same time! Luckily the motor on our boat wasn’t too good, so we managed to stay away from the clouds. The scenery along the river is stunning. There are times where you feel like you are in a movie, in some distant fantasy land.
At the end of the boat trip we walked round 5km down to Xin ping. This area is the landscape that can be seen on the 20RMB note. So, as you can imagine there were a lot of 20RMB notes being wafted around in front of cameras… and that was just me! After lunch and little look around, we jumped aboard an extremely crowded bus and headed back into town.
Next on the list was bike riding, we rented bikes from our hostel and headed out to the Moon Hill. The ride there was nice as the majority of the roads are flat so you dont need to worry about tackling any hills. Moon Hill is a moon shaped rock and with a mere 800 steps you can be at the top in next to know time. Unless you are me…that is an English girl that HATES steps and especially hates steps in a 32-degree heat. English people DO NOT do well hiking in hot and humid places! However, I made it to the top and the views were spectacular and well worth the sweaty climb.
After climbing to the top, we headed back down and started to ride back to our hostel. The roads were still dotted with tourists stopping to take in the activities at the side of the ride. You could visit more caves, go mud bathing, horse riding, take a shot at archery or simple walk around delicately placed flower gardens. Not wanting to miss out we stopped at one of the many archery ranges on offer. I had 15 arrows and as much as I tried to channel my inner Katnis Everdeen (The Hunger Games) I still only managed to get 4 into the board. Lets hope I never have to defend myself with a bow and arrow!
After a miserable attempt at archery we were lucky enough to catch the sun setting behind the mountains. It was beautiful and the way the sun reflected onto the water was simply stunning… my picture doesn’t quite capture its true beauty. For a brief moment as the sun was going down I could hear the birds singing and smell the fresh air, I almost forgot that I was in China!
In the evening, we headed out to the commercial street, West street. This is the sight we were greeted with…welcome to national holidays in China. There was a lot going on with everything from food stalls, to tea shops and Knick knack shops. There were a few bars and they were typical Chinese bars, which means extremely loud! You cannot have a conversation with the person sat next to you because the music is simply too loud. My boyfriend’s American friend who came on the trip with us, definitely wasn’t a fan of these bars and found it odd that Chinese people would go to a loud bar, order a ton of drinks and then spend the whole night staring into their phones! Luckily for him we managed to find a calmer rooftop bar, where we could actually hear one another talk!
One the last day of the trip we headed out on the bikes again for a longer ride. With no destination in mind, we just followed the river and rode through the local villages. Again, the scenery was breathtaking. It was nice to get away from the main tourists and just take in the surroundings.
Yangshuo is a beautiful place and I would recommend everyone to go. It is different to some other parts of China because it was one of the first and somewhat one of the only places that foreign backpackers came to, so the area is use to having foreign faces around and this does make it easier to navigate. If you enjoy spending time outdoors, hiking or biking this is definitely a place you should visit. It has breathtaking views and cheap food… what more could you ask for. It was nice to get away from the smog filled cities and finally take in some nature. My only regret from the trip is that I couldnt stay longer!