Guangxi is a province with lush green hills, fairly clean rivers (for China standards), stunning rice terraces and hundreds of tall mountain karsts that poke about the landscape. This area is famous for the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces and the vivid mountain scenery that you see in travel magazines and also on the twenty yuan bill. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t fully cooperate: there was a low pressure weather system in play leaving several days rather foggy (smoggy?) and one day was completely rained out. Nevertheless, there was great adventure found on the streets, rivers and trails of Guangxi…
Guilin is a tidy little town that caters to the influx of tourists and makes a great base to begin adventures in this province. The Sun and Moon Pagodas are pretty neat structures and nicely lit during the evening. The Sun Pagoda is the world’s tallest copper pagoda.
I stayed at the Wada Hostel which was full of a delightful and helpful staff- “The Wada Girls.” It is a little bit south of town by about 3 kilometers, but definitely well worth the stay. Highly recommend for Western travelers. Easy access to the bus or a 25 minute walk to the town center. It has a nice bar with a decent breakfast and a very peaceful, welcoming and communal vibe. One night we made dumplings. Quite a fun process.
The food in this region didn’t stand out to me as spectacular as in the Hunan or Jiangxi provinces to the north. I did find a few interesting local tastes. Oysters seem to be pretty popular around here and quite a bit of seafood was found. These little grilled guys tasted great. Not oyster roast quality like back in Charleston, South Carolina, but still great. Nice garlic topping.
Chinese life seems to be centered around food. Everywhere you go in China, wherever they serve food is going to be the hottest spot in town. Guilin was no exception. Lots of choices in this food block.
Christmas is actually fairly well celebrated in China. Not in the Christian way with going to Church or learning about the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, but in terms of shopping and festivities. I guess Pagan traditions spread far and wide and the Chinese will use any excuse to celebrate or shop. I find it awfully strange that no one really knows what Christmas is about but people do it anyway. Just like in the United States, I suppose. Here is an interesting contrast.
After a couple days of exploring around Guilin, it was time to set sail south on the mighty Li River. The Chinese boatmen take you on these bamboo rafts (motor powered, obviously) that hold four people. It is a very relaxing affair and a nice opportunity to absorb the beauty along the river. As with many outdoor experiences, the pictures don’t quite do the place justice. I was hoping for a crystal clear blue sky day, but there was an unfortunate low pressure system in the area that kept all the fog in. I wouldn’t get to experience California blue skies until down on Hainan Island. Considering that I live in the smog laden area of Shanghai, I was delighted at even a little bit cleaner air. I’ll take it, thank you!!!
Although it isn’t exerting, there are no rapids and it takes a half-day of your time; riding down the Li River is a charming and chillaxed experience- I highly recommend it. Finally the boat (and subsequent bus) arrives in Yangshou. This little tiny tourist town makes a great location to explore the the real gem: the dramatic karst landscape. It is the stuff of Chinese paintings; a peaceful dreamy countryside with nice rivers, mountains and trees. Just use your imagination for the blue skies.
Labrador or poodle? No thanks. I’ll go with the duck. Apparently it is a specialty around here, but it didn’t taste much better or different than duck in Beijing. After a long day, it was time to rest at the hotel and prepare for the next day’s bike ride into the Yangshou countryside….. (to be continued).