This is a two part series about Guilin. The other part is about food and lodging.
My freshman year roommate was named "Guilin" - or at least that was her Chinese name. She came from a family of 6 kids (!), and each kid was named after a different city in China. To me, a fresh faced 18-year old from Toledo, Ohio, Guilin sounded like a super remote place somewhere in the depths of China.
Flash forward to 2018, my first full year living in Hong Kong. My friend told me she was finally visiting Guilin in China, and she would stop by Hong Kong to visit me! We had an amazing time, and she told me about her trip. Guilin felt more real, more tangible, and a lot closer.
Covid happened, and then it was over. All of a sudden it was 2023.
And through an unexpected twist of fate, we ended up traveling to Guilin and Yangshuo with some local friends.
Guilin and Yangshuo CHINA
Guilin, or more specifically Yangshuo, is really as beautiful as they say.
Yangshuo is a resort town located about an hour and a half from the city of Guilin. If you only have time to go to one, definitely go to Yangshuo, where the scenery is stunning and you can enjoy all sorts of recreational activities. There is now a direct high speed train from Hong Kong directly to Yangshuo!
XinPing + Li River (20 RMB) + Cormorant Fisherman
One popular (albeit touristy, but fun!) thing to do in Yangshuo is to bring a 20RMB note to the Li River and take a photo of the scene that's shown on the currency. The funny and ironic thing is that no one uses cash in China anymore. They've been using digital payment via mobile phones for years now. Still, many people still manage to find a 20RMB note and take photos with it at the right location.
I happened to have some RMB from pre-Covid times, so I made a point to bring my cash and take a photo too! Does it still look like it?
Haha we are such tourists.
There are still a few Cormorant fisherman who sometimes "perform" for the audience with their birds. For a reasonable fee you can sometimes get some photos with them, or even get onto the raft for some photos.
We even saw a (controlled?) mountain/forest fire in the distance that was put out pretty quickly.
Short hike on Xianggong Mountain 相公山
One of the most famous and elevated viewpoints is from the top of Xianggong Mountain.
It's particularly suitable for those that don't enjoy hiking too much. We rode an open air golf cart pretty far up the mountain. You can also take a normal car.
You need to buy a ticket to enter, and then after that it's a relatively short (15-20 min) steep-ish hike to the summit's viewing point. The entire 15 minute "hike" is paved with well marked stairs and railing, so it's quite safe.
The views from the top are stunning, and there are multiple levels from which you can enjoy the scenery and take photos. Recent rains made the river particularly muddy and brown, for an unusual milk chocolate colored river mixed with a hazy sky.
We spent quite a bit of time there, playing with different lenses and different camera angles.
Another popular activity is to rent a bamboo raft and take a ride down the river. There are a few places that do this. We went to the smaller of the two rivers, which offered bigger rafts that were more stable.
I can't get over how pretty the mountains in the entire area are . . .
We all took turns rowing . . or is it skimming? Sometimes it is a bit comical just how many rafts there are. I think we went on a pretty busy tourist weekend!
Yulong River Scenic Area
It's a dream to be able explore the Yulong River Scenic area, whether by bicycle, moped, or by foot.
We rented mopeds, which allows you to get around a bit faster.
The scenery is absolutely stunning.
There are many stops along the way where you can just park your bike, explore, and take a break.
Along the road there are vendors selling various snacks, fresh coconut juice from the coconut, freshly peeled water chestnuts (soooooo good!), and much more.
What a lovely secluded little rest stop!
At this beautiful site we munched on fresh water chestnuts while taking photos.
The woman who gave us the water chestnuts said she lived just around the corner, and these water chestnuts were freshly picked that day. They were so sweet.
We took a break at a coffee shop to cool down, refuel on caffeine, and also rest.
It was nice to sit in the shade and enjoy the mountain view from inside the cafe.
Silver Cave (Yinziyan)
There are several famous caves in the region. Honestly, I have NEVER seen such massively tall stalactites and stalacmites. I was blown away . . . it felt like I was in another underground world.
See how little the people are?
They use a lot of dramatic color lighting to accentuate the experience even more.
Up Next: Food + Lodging
Next post will be about the amazing resort we stayed at in Yangshuo (nestled in the mountains!), as well as a round-up of all the unique foods from the Guilin and Yangshuo area!