Date: 6 to 12 January 2008
We took an overnight express train from Shenzhen to Guilin. Train journey started at around 5.45 in the afternoon and reached Guilin station at around 6 in the morning. The journey was about 12 hours, and we managed to sleep most of the time while in the soft sleeping berth (ruǎn wò软卧). Ticket price for ruǎn wò was quite steep, at around RMB 450. The train was comfortable and clean. The train journey was much longer that a crow would fly, as it headed north first into Hunan province, before turning south west to Guilin.
Advice on buying train ticket: Tickets can only bought 1 week in advance from the same station you intend to take.
We checked into a hotel that was just across a busy road from the Guilin train station. Paid RMB 120 for 3 star hotel room (should be 2.5 on account that it was quite old) that allowed early check in at around 7 AM. Checked in procedure took 30 minutes as passport details of every guest need to be entered in computer, and the staffs were not used to handle overseas visitors.
We had 30 minutes rest in hotel rooms, before starting on Guilin day tour. Paid RMB 200 for a van with driver and guide that would bring us to various places of interest in Guilin city starting from 8 AM and finishing at about 5 PM. But entrance tickets to the many attractions were actually quite steep, and thus we ended by paying RMB 120 per person to include all entrance fees.
Guilin is located in area landscaped by spectacular limestone hills and peaks (karts topography) in the northeastern part of Guangxi （广西）province. Guangxi is just west of the booming Guangdong province.
The major river, called Lijiang （lí jiāng 漓江） flows through the city from north to south. It’s surrounded by awesome and unique hill formations of all shapes and verdant vegetation, presenting idyllic sceneries that appear to come out alive from paintings.
Each hill has a name and usually associated with interesting stories that go together their unique shapes. Among them the most famous is the Elephant Trunk Hill （xiàng bí shān 象鼻山）, standing on the west bank of Lijiang river in the city center. It’s given this name because the hill looks exactly like a giant elephant dipping its trunk into the river for a drink.
Whenever limestone hills are formed, nature also created numerous limestone caves to infiltrate them. In these caves natural wonders of stalagmites and stalactites of resembling anything any objects from flowers to Monkey king are found. Underground rivers and ponds are also found in these caves, and you can’t help noticing and marvel at the magical power of Mother Nature in display.
The 80-kilometer section of Lijiang River between Guilin city and Yangshuo （yáng shuò 阳朔） town has much to offer to tourists. Taking a cruise downstream to Yangshuo is the best way to enjoy the beautiful sights along the river banks. It’s like traveling in a wonderland, passing through changing views of towering peaks and rural lives where ducks and buffaloes roam. Many visitors are awestruck by unfolding sceneries before their eyes along the river cruise. The cruise usually ends in Yangshuo county, about 80 kilometers south of downtown Guilin. The place is one of the most famous tourist attractions in China.
Yangshuo is also the stage for Zhang Yimou’s open-air musical production named Liu Sanjie Impression（liú sān jiě yìn xiàng 刘三姐印像. Liu Sanjie movie was a Chinese classic movie made in early 60s, and was named after an ethnic Zhuang girl who lived during Tang dynasty era. The one-hour involves more than 600 local actors from various ethnic groups found in Guangxi. The outdoor musical is performed regularly in Yangshuo every night except during winter months.
The West Street （xī jiē 西街） is the most popular street. It’s the oldest street in Yangshuo with a history of more than 1,400 years. The cobble stone paved street is about 500 meter long, and is lined with interesting shops, bars, cafes, restaurants and inns. Relaxed ambiances fill every corner of the street. It’s a terrific place to loosen up and unwind.
A note of advice: If you intend to take cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo, avoid traveling during winter where river water level is shallow and cannot accommodate tourist boats.
A popular saying goes that China’s best landscape is in Guilin, and Guilin’s best scenery is in Yangshuo. I just loved the combinations of tranquil villages, idyllic life styles, beautiful sceneries and modern conveniences that one encounters in Yangshuo. I shall always cherish the memories of the boat and cave tours, bicycle rides, the river raft rides, the outdoor dining and the friendly small town atmosphere provided by Yangshuo.
Photos (click to enlarge):