The northern part of Guangxi province, China is well known for its scenic spots and karst landscapes. In the heart of the region is the scenic town of Guilin 桂林, a city – like other major ones in China – that has seen rapid development in recent years. Whilst it’s no match for its elder metropolitan siblings such as Beijing and Shanghai, Guilin has strived on tourism as thousands of travellers flock to this region every year. With its Liangjiang International Airport, railway and bus stations, Guilin is as connected to other Chinese cities as it is to various international hubs in Asia. Ironically though, travellers arrive at Guilin as a temporary stop, before heading to its neighbouring towns for sightseeing. It isn’t hard to see why, as even though Guilin’s public transportation is well-developed (Local buses are available in torrents), attractions here are overpriced while the city area is slowly being modernized and over-populated. It is not what tourists came to Guangxi to see.
Nevertheless, if you stay awhile and wander around, Guilin does has his unique charm. At the peak of Elephant Trunk Hill (象鼻山), you could see a panaromic view of the city, surrounded by beautiful karst landscape and Li River. Along the stretch of Zhongshan Zhong rd., there are plenty of vendors selling delicious street snacks (Although I reckon these snacks are common around China). Or drop by one of the local restaurants to have their staple, Guilin Rice Noodles (桂林米粉) – A bowl of vermicelli-like noodles that is both spicy and sour-y. Bear in mind that even though the food here is passable, they are MSG-laden.
Once you get tired of Guilin, head up north to Longsheng (龙胜), famous for its Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terrace (龙脊梯田). The best time to visit the rice terrace is either right before its harvest (When it’s golden in colour) or when the farmers have just started filling water in each terrace. When it’s filled water, it’s described to resemble a dragon’s backbone, hence the name. When my girlfriend and I were there on the third day of our trip, the rice terrace was pretty much green in colour. While – like many – we booked a day trip to Longsheng, it’s highly recommended to stay overnight at one of the many guesthouses in the village. Without being pressed for time, you’re able to enjoy the sunrise/sunset and even embark on a 8-hour trek/hike from Dazhai village to Ping’an village (Or vice versa). Along the trek, you will be greeted by the ladies of the minority ladies. They will try to sell you drinks, souvenirs and even offer to show their extremely long hair for a photo opportunity. While they could be persistent, they can be very friendly and willing to answer your questions if you could speak mandarin. Should you decide to patronize their business, ensure that the price you pay is within reason. Generally, they will not try to rip you off but sales can be scarce and it is your duty to avoid encouraging them to overcharge.
That aside, one of the highlights of the rice terrace is relatively free of tourists. However when we were there, a cable car station was being built. What this means is that soon enough, Chinese tourists bus would start filling the parking lots and unfortunately like many Chinese attractions, would be commercialized. Go now, while it is still relatively untouched.
*I will cover the Yangshuo – a lovely town down south of Guilin – portion on the next post. Stay tune.*