Last month (October 2011) we made a trip to Guilin, China, renowned of its beautiful landscape. Lonely Planet highly recommended visiting a town near Guilin called Yang Shuo. For centuries chinese poets and artists have been known to flock to Yang Shuo to seek inspirations. The picture on the RMB20 bill is a scenery of karsts peaks along the Li River, near Yang Shuo. Such was the popularity of Yang Shuo, and I didn’t think we should miss the opportunity to visit. And it did not disappoint.
We had a shockingly early flight from KL, departure about 6am, we were very sleep deprived. On arrival into Guilin, we were picked up by a taxi arranged by the hotel. And we found that the taxi driver, known as Lee Ta Chie (Elder sister Lee) understood our Mandarin! She said that in Guilin they speak the local Guilin dialect along with mandarin. She spoke a few word of it to us, it didn’t sound like anything familiar at all. We also discovered that they seem to refer to white people as “Hallo”. She deposited us at our hotel and recommended that we sample the famous “Guilin Mee Hoon” at a shop just round the corner to the hotel. And we did.
With our limited spoken Mandarin and reading skills, we managed to order our Guilin Mee Hoon. It looked like we could have a few variations to our noodles, either spicy, dry, soup and add an egg, soya bean sheet, chilli, some meat and other things we didn’t recognise. The above mee hoon is I think the basic one. All bowls are served with chopsticks only, you are expected to lift the bowl to your face to have any soup or gravy! We had quite an experience. Did we like the Guilin Mee Hoon?….. hmmmmm…… well, it was ok, mainly we didn’t like the pickled beans, which had the flavour of soury drain. We later found that this pickled beans found their way into many local dishes.
Our hotel was located just across the road from an area called 4 Lakes and 2 Rivers. We enjoyed Â a slow walk at the lake. We soon found that chinese people like to stare. It didn’t matter whether they were men or women, they just stared at us. Some were even turning their heads back after passing us by to continue staring. The kids were nice, they were waving and saying hallo to us Â (I assume it is “hallo” is not a derogatory term for foreigners or white people), we smiled and waved back.
The next day we took a cruise to Yang Shuo, another early morning. The tour agent that we had arranged with before arriving into China didn’t pick us up! We ended up joining another group at the last moment. So, off we went on our 5 hour boat cruise to Yang Shuo.Â We boarded our cruise ship which takes about 100 people. Our boat had a viewing deck and very soon we made our way there together with the rest of the 97 other people on board. The weather was very good, with the sun shining very fiercely. Doesn’t make very good conditions for photos, people everywhere and the sun blazing but the views were magnificent.
When we reached the same place as shown on the RMB20 note, everybody rushed to take photos. Here is one of mine. It didn’t feel like we were at the same place. I imagined being there to be surreal, perhaps even a little bit mystical. However, the real experience with the smell of fumes from the many boats travelling along the river together with the bright sun didn’t feel very magical at all. The scenery was no doubt very good, it just didn’tÂ feel dreamlike.
On arriving at Yang Shuo, we were greeted with the chaos of thousands of tourist arriving in a small town all at the same time, trying to make their through a small street, the famous West Street. Our tourist guide had convinced us to sign up for another tour, so we jostled our way to the pickup place, with just enough time to buy some snacks for our next tour.
Although the scenery was fantastic, the tour felt contrived. We sat on our two passenger bamboo raft while our raft’s man pushed us along with their long bamboo stick, 200 meter up and down stream. They let us off to feed some buffalos and showed us some paddy fields. We got back on our rafts to watch a special fishing show. Cormorant bird fishing where the base of the bird’s neck is tied so that it cannot swallow its catch. It would then return to the fisherman who would then squeeze the fish out of the bird’s neck. It just feels cruel.
Our hotel in Yang Shuo was in a very idyllic location. Up on a hill a little away from the town. It used to be an orchard, now a resort with perhaps 10 rooms. There were many outdoor seating for guests to enjoy the beautiful scenery. We really enjoyed our breakfast of portugese egg tarts (bought from West Street) and coffee (3 in 1 nescafe from home) looking out and enjoying the garden, fresh air and hills all around us. Oh, there were many beautiful butterflies, in fact I thought I saw more species than I did at the butterfly farm in Chiang Mai. They were fluttering around too quickly for me to take any photos.
The attached restaurant to the hotel enticed us with their local delicacy of Pa Ma roast chicken. We had to order the chicken 2 and a half hours before dinner, they would then proceed to catch the free range chicken and roast it. There was a minimum order of 2 chickens, so the 3 of us ate 2 whole roast chickens!! They were quite yummy, peppery and rather tough, definitely free range. Oh yes, the chickens came complete with heads and feet.
We spent two nights in Yang Shuo and returned to Guilin by taxi for two more nights. Just outside our hotel in Guilin, every morning at about 6.30, a group of ladies would gather and practise Tai Chi. I am always nervous of pointing my camera at strangers, but I did manage to get a few shots of them, though I don’t think they liked it very much.
Back in Guilin, we walked around the lakes towards the Copper Pagoda and at nights we went to the night market. Chen and I went for a hair wash, and we found that the hairdressers really knew what they were doing, gave us a very good blow wave.
Guilin and Yang Shuo, I think, lived up to their reputation of being very beautiful.