The Hills of Guilin- Yangshuo
I know it has been a while since my last post, but life is like that sometimes. I finally had some time to sit down and reflect on the latest trips I have taken in the time that I have been living in China. One of my favorite trips was one I took last year in May to Guilin, Guangxi. Some of you might have heard of this place before, it’s definitely on the radar for any expat living in China. This scenic spot is most well known for its stunning mountains that jet up from the land, each one unique and different.
"It looks a bit like a child was let loose on the landscape with some play-dough"
This trip was a little different to many of my previous trips because I didn’t have to plan any of it! I went through a travel company for expats in Shanghai called WannaTravel. They plan all the activities during the trip, you pretty much just have to show up. Only a few of the meals are left for you to decide, but as I discuss later our tour guide was very happy to help us out. The company has suggested flights for the trip-goers and everyone arrives around the same time. We all hop on a bus and make our way to our first destination. I need to add at this point that my two friends and I had jumped on the plane after a very long night out in Shanghai. Now that I have said that, I hoped that the flight and bus ride could have been my resting period from this, but I was extremely wrong. I was far too excited for this trip and our guide was so informative that it was very hard to pass up all this local interaction up. Now, I have to introduce Mr. Bill, our tour guide. From the moment we hopped on the bus to the moment he left us at the airport he was caring, very easy to be around, full of information, and extremely patient with all of us expats. So: Thank You Mr. Bill!
Our first stop in the tour was LongJi Rice Terraces. As we made our way there we stopped for a quick lunch of Guilin’s famous rice noodles. They were very simple but full of flavor and you could make them as spicy as you’d like (a plus for me because I do not enjoy spicy things). The way to the terraces was made of long winding roads that take the visitors to the entrance gate where we all have to congregate with other tour groups and take a joint bus to the village. It seemed this alleviates traffic going to the village and keeps the roads in better conditions (but that’s just my guess). But of course, you must first pass the gift shop! Just kidding. In reality, the bus drops you off at yet another entrance and then you have to hike about 10-15 minutes to whatever guesthouse you are staying in. Ours happened to be located next to the path that takes you to the terraces. After doing a quick refuel and change of clothing, we trekked the rice terraces to different viewpoints to take the scenery in. Queue the picture taking. Pretty much everywhere during our trek we were able to take amazing pictures of the scenery. We met a woman from the village who belonged to the “Yao” tribe that had this amazing long, beautiful, silky hair. How she manages to do that? No clue. Seeing as my hair is always a mess of knots. We ended our first day by having a family style dinner which is fairly common in China. In these types of dinners everyone orders different dishes that are shared amongst everyone at the table. Our always helpful guide, Mr. Bill, took care of ordering everything for our table, including the local specialty of bacon inside bamboo shoots (perfect for all the bacon lovers out there).
As our second day started we woke up at the crack of dawn to head to the “3 flags” look out point to see the sunrise. The walk up half asleep was not the most fun I had but it was worth it (about 50 other people thought so too, sigh). After the sunrise, we went to a small cafe down the hill for breakfast and then headed to meet the rest of the group and hop on the bus again. Our next stop: Yangshuo which was about 3 hours away. We made another stop for noodles, these were on Mr. Bill’s tab! After some time in the bus, the scenery start to change and you start to admire the hills that have given this area fame. Our first stop was at the “Dragon Bridge”. This beautiful arch bridge has a stunning background and is not too crowded with tourists, which makes it the perfect location for wedding pictures! Yes, you read that correctly. People in China go to great lengths to get the perfect wedding pictures, and to be honest this seems like the most beautiful background for that special picture.
As we headed to our next location we were told to pair up for the raft ride. I chose to pair up with a friend I made on the trip (Abby!) and we bought some beers for the boat ride and enjoyed every minute of it. There are a few drops here and there as you float down the river, and our boat man was very sweet and told us to take off our shoes and beware of the splashing water (other boatmen were not so kind as our other friends found out). This is the perfect time to get that famous shot of the 20 yuan bill with the Yangshuo background (we completely forgot because we were having too much fun). That night some people attended the light show while the rest of us headed to get some drinks in town which is very cute and small, definitely nice to go for a walk in.
As our last day approached we got a quick breakfast and then met everyone to go on a bike ride. This was probably one of the best parts of the trip! Beware, the bike ride was beautiful but long and if you are not fit this might not be your cup of tea. To be fair, the bike ride was pleasant and we took plenty of water breaks and even had the chance to dip our toes in the river and walk across a dam in the river (a great moment for pictures, again). All in all, we biked about 13 miles which were very pleasant (but not without incident! One person fell and one person had a flat tire). After the bike ride we had the chance to hike moon hill (I was pretty tired at this point so I decided to have a drink and wait for everyone to come back). Our last stop in the tour was the famous Silver Cave. This land formation is natural but they have added lights to make the view more stunning. As you walk through the cave you get to see all different types of stalactites that have formed. Some areas have very curious names, which have been given due to the appearance of the formations (for example one of them is called the praying Buddha because it appears as a buddha with its legs crossed). The ticket to the cave includes a walkman that describes each part of the cave in great detail.
The trip overall was very well planned and we were all very happy with our guide. This was my first trip with an expat agency and I can highly recommend it to everyone!
Let's travel soon,