Back in Beijing
The change of climate is obvious the second you step out in the open, it's hot and very humid. Guilin belongs to the subtropical region, but it's not the mild weather it is known for. Guilin is considered to be the pearl of China's tourist industry on account of the natural beauty of the karst landscape. The whole region stands on limestone, weathered and eroded by water, resulting in today's fantastic stone forests, peaks, underground streams and caves. The mountains in Guilin, rising abruptly from the ground, stand in various shapes, strangely-shaped peaks and in unique formation, characterize Guilin's scenery and have brought it world fame.
We have not stayed in the Guilin city itself, we drove 65 km to the south, to the smaller laid-back town of Yangshuo. Yangshuo by the Li river and surrounded by towering karst peaks has attracted a large number of international travelers.
|A room at our
hostel in Yangshuo
|The West Street in Yangshuo, flanked by small shops and
vendor's stands selling all kinds of souvenirs and snacks.
As it was almost an evening by the time we got settled in Yangshuo, it was a perfect time to visit one
of the local attractions, Cormoran fishing demonstration. While some fisherman still make a living
by using these birds, this is largely a tourist show now.
The basic principles are simple, you take a bunch of domesticated cormorans and tie a thin rope around their necks. The rope is just tight enough to prevent them swallowing large enough fish. Birds are sent fishing, with fisherman following in a boat closely behind. When a bird starts struggling with a fish it can't swallow, it's pulled to the boat and fish is taken out.
|Cormoran fishing is done by night, under a light that attracts fish. Cormorans dive for fish in front of the boat.|
|We all stop
on a shore
|For a demonstration how this works, birds are allowed to eat caught fish,
which are then extracted back from their beaks
Bicycling is probably the best and most enjoyable way to experience the amazing limestone peaks that spread
for miles around, ride through rice paddy fields, and witness the real rural China by the river. Countless
roads and dirt tracks in the Yangshuo area are quiet, making them ideal for cycling and sightseeing.
We had a friendly local guide with us, and first we cycled to her home, very close to the famous Moon Hill, for a home-cooked lunch.
|We get some breakfast in the morning on our home street...||...then we pick up our bikes for a day at
the nearby bike rental shop
|Shortly after leaving Yangshuo and crossing the Li river we are in the countryside||Rice fields and
|The scenery around us is astonishing, we are stopping for photos all the time|
|Passing several small villages and locals going about their business||Chinese irrigation
|One more stop for
|More of the scenery as we are cycling some 8 km south of Yangshuo||The last stretch to the destination goes on a road|
|One of the most famous peaks and a tourist attraction, the Moon Hill, with a hole that was once
a cave inside the mountain
After taking a rest at our guide's home, throwing some dice and having a great home-cooked meal, skillfully prepared by guide's husband, we walked to the nearby Buddha Water Cave. Visiting this cave is nothing like visiting a cave at home - they give you special slippers and a helmet on the entry, and for a good reason! Going through the cave is a true adventure that involves lots of squeezing through narrow passes, ducking, using rope and chain, climbing very steep stairs and ladders, going knee-deep through the water... You get to bang that helmet a lot. The cave has two special attractions - a very narrow, several meters long and only 30 cm high horizontal crack, just high enough for a person to wiggle through; and a real mud bath at the bottom of the cave, a naturally-formed pool of thick gooey mud you can jump in. There is even a lake with clear water right next to it to wash off.
|We get equipped at cave's entry||The beginning is easy, as guide points out some of
more interesting rock formations
|This looks like
|A throne||Going deeper in
|We are supposed to
crawl through here
|Emerging on the other side, with a photographer waiting|
|Low and narrow
|Most of the cave is
wet and slippery
|There are several underground lakes to cross|
|A pool of thick mud deep
below the surface...
|...and we are in it!||As muddy as we get||Climbing back out to the daylight|
In the afternoon we ride our bikes again and cycle back towards Yangshuo, taking a different route. The weather turned slightly cloudy, and it wasn't so hot anymore. We marveled at the scenery all the way, and photos speak for themselves.
|Bamboo rafts on
the Li river
|Going through villages surrounding Yangshuo||Back in the
|...and our West Street|
We have returned our rented bicycles, went for a quick shower to rinse of the mud, and were ready for the next big undertake of the day. The day is coming to an end, and we are climbing the hill with a TV tower on top that stands high over the city, trying to catch the sunset from there. There is path full of stairs that leads to the top, and takes about an hour to reach the summit. In such humid environment, climbing stairs gets you soaking wet in minutes.
|It is too cloudy for a sunset and getting dark already, so we settle for a few photographs of the city|
|A panoramic shot of the Yangshuo from the above|
The next morning in Yangshuo is free for shopping, sightseeing, or just walking around the town.
|There are several lakes and ponds in Yangshuo, as well as a nice park||One of the Yangshuo
The afternoon of the last day before flying back to Beijing next morning is reserved for a boat trip. First we take a
local bus line and drive to the small village Pingxin about an hour away. Scenery there is as beautiful as elsewhere,
however this village is famous for the view that appears on the Chinese 20 yuan note.
It was very humid in the morning, and just as we were stepping on the bus the first fat rain drops fell. It was raining heavily all the way.
|We travel with
|Compare the scene with the picture on the note||We waited out the rain and embarked on boat
when it stopped for a few minutes
|The famous two peaks in heavy rain||This is no fun
in a downpour
|Cruising on the river,
water is all around
|Our local guide
|Water buffalos||Peaks are embedded in low clouds||River transport|
|Raining finally stops, and clouds start to disappear||A cave in the
wall of rock
|We stop on a particular
spot by the river...
|...and local souvenirs sellers have a real camp waiting for us there||This rocky face contains
many images of horses
|The sun is trying to come
through dispersing clouds
|Driving back the same way, the country gets lit by a low setting sun|
|A few more photos of the famous peaks, without the rain||Boats are returning
to the harbor
|Pingxin after rain|
The next morning we pack up our luggage and leave Yangshuo. We drive back to the Guilin airport, and make a two hours flight back to where we have started in China, Beijing.
|Our brand new B737-800
with leather seats
Next page: Back in Beijing