Guilin is located in west of China and an amazing place to visit and explore. I knew that I didn’t want to only see the metropolis of China and therefore researched some more ‘country’ parts and came across Guilin. Although it is still a city and has Starbucks and touristy streets, the surrounding areas are so beautiful and the nature is incredible. Guilin sits on the Li River which is considered one of the most stunning rivers in the country (and more on that next post as I did a river cruise) and also has tons of karst mountains that are so lovely to look at. I absolutely loved the contrast between them and the architecture of the city and took an abundance of photos that I won’t bore you with on here. I’d say the main downtown area is quite small but has a great nightlife to it and a bunch of restaurants and shops to explore. For me the highlights of Guilin are the parks and caves that are short bus rides round the city and definitely worth checking out.
We stayed in a hostel downtown and were recommended spots to visit (they actually planned out our three days there including day trips but you’ll see all that soon). Our first stop was the Reed Flute Cave and to get there we took a bus for thirty odd minutes. The cave is in the middle of nowhere but the vicinity is gorgeous with the overlooking karst mountains and a little pond that people were floating in on bamboo rafts. The cave itself is ridiculous and although super impressive, it is quite gimmicky. You follow a route and can either do it solo or go on hourly tours. The formation and results of the cave itself are incredible and the rock formations and stalactites are amazing. They have labelled sections of it with names like ‘The Snowman’ and ‘Fairy Garden’ which is sweet and can sometimes be a challenge to try and figure it out – a lot of imagination is required haha. What I found most hilarious (but also wicked) about the cave is their choice of lighting. Every crevice and corner was lit with neon lights to really accentuate the formations. It kind of felt like we were walking through a neon rave and at one point we put on some rave music in our headphones and could really visualise an all night party happening there. I took a photo with flash by accident and you can see below how it looks without the fancy lights, just bleak and brown. Parts of the cave felt really magical and when there were pockets of water with the still reflections I pretty much couldn’t handle how wonderful it was.
From there we bus’d back into the city and headed to the Seven Stars Park. We weren’t really sure what to do here but there is a ton of signage so just see what takes your fancy and explore. The park is huge but used by locals as a commuter walk-through and also exercise spot (we saw a lot of elderly people power walking whilst doing arm exercises). There is definitely something for everyone here from a mini zoo, wild monkeys, a temple, viewpoints and even ice-cream! We just kind of wandered around and waited to see what we would come across. The wild monkeys were a surprise and we saw about twenty of them throughout the walk. We did hike up to a viewpoint and the cityscape is really lovely and perfect for reflecting on. I personally loved how a lot of the trees had animals painted on, seemed like a really kitsch touch. There was also a very random open square section with these giant sculptures of a tomato and leek so naturally I had to take a photo with one of them. It’s a strange place but nice to be outdoors after being in a cave all morning.
Really random but we had to try Guilin rice noodles as they were a must on our snack list. We picked these up in downtown right by the clock tower (you’ll spot it as there was a huge queue when we went). They just give you the pot with the noodles in and then you take it to this little station where you add the broth and any condiments – I went for chilli, spring onions, sour bamboo shoots and a marinated egg. It was possibly one of my favourite meals of the whole trip so I had to include it here. Sorry the photo is so basic but I pretty much slurped this bad boy down in ten seconds.
We were going to head to the Elephant Trunk Hill but by the time we got there it was turning into night and it also seemed like a lot of money just to see a hole in a mountain. If you have the time I would check it out but I’m not disappointed that I missed it. Instead we came across the Sun and Moon Pagodas by accident and they were absolutely stunning in the dark. They’re situated on a lake and the reflections in the water were so sparkly and magical. From first glance it looks like they’re both floating in the water but there’s actually a secret tunnel under the water that connects the two (super sneaky). Entry was cheap and at this time of day no-one was in them at all. We went to the Moon one first which is seven stories high and offers great views of the other pagoda and Guilin. Then you can descend into the tunnel and take an elevator up the nine stories of the Sun one to see another amazing view. Considering it was luck that we came across these two I am very grateful as the lights and colours and general atmosphere of the place was really special.
And that pretty much sums up Guilin. I reckon two days would be enough time to get a real feel for the city and see all the major sights (and that would be quite a relaxing two days). We made Guilin our base and travelled to nearby attractions from there which I think was a great decision as initially I was thinking we’d hop around with our bags. Next up we did a day trip to Longji Rice Terraces and although the weather wasn’t really on our side, it was a wonderful experience and one I’ll cherish – keep your eyes peeled!