China Adventures Part III: Gulin, I Might Be A Country Girl At Heart?
Our adventures in China just keep on goin’!
On the third leg of our trip we visited the City of Guilin in the Guangxi Prefecture which is located in Southern China, near the border of Vietnam. Our visit to Guilin was our chance to see the beautiful countryside of China. When we arrived in Guilin, we finally experienced the very hot and humid weather we had anticipated in China. Despite the heat, I found Guilin to be quite delightful only because it was a nice change of pace from the larger cities (Beijing and Xian) we visited earlier. In some ways, the countryside of Guilin reminded me of the rice fields and countryside of Japan.
On our first day in Guilin we flew in from Xian and checked into our hotel. We went off to lunch where, lo-and-behold, we were served Chinese scrambled eggs with tomatoes! Click here for recipe from my previous Xian post.
After lunch we visited Fubo Hill. This is a scenic spot along the west bank of the famous Gulin Li River. During the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), a temple was built on this hill to commemorate General Fubo. While the hill itself is relatively small, there are small caves and stalactites.
Located throughout the caves are stone carvings of Buddha. I took the photo (see above) of one such carving, just prior to realizing that there was a “no photography” sign off to the side. Oops. Afterwards we walked through the Thousand Buddha Cave. As you may have guessed, there were many miniature stone carvings of Buddha, not a thousand, but 239, and I was mindful of signs not to take any photos. Instead, I found an interesting spice vendor on our walk back to our tour bus.
A vendor outside the Hill was selling this mixture of garlic and red chili peppers. Spicy! Yet it smelled quite good.
Next, we visited the Reed Flute Cave but Bebe E and I decided to skip this attraction given the many stairs. Instead, we sat outside, under a huge tree, with not much relief from the heat. Upon returning, Big Onechan and Bebe Dada claimed that the caves and stalactites were interesting, but according to Big Onechan, the caves smelled like poop. I’m guessing the odor was sulfur. Several areas of the caves were accentuated with multicolored lighting. Within the caves there are inscriptions that date back to the Tang Dynasty (792 AD).
Next on our itinerary was Elephant Trunk Hill. As you might have guessed from it’s name, the hill is formed in the shape of … YES! An elephant! This hill is considered the symbol of Guilin City. From the side, the hill is shaped like an elephant drinking water. The round opening, under what looks like an elephant’s trunk is called, “Water-Moon Cave”. It was named as such, because at night, the reflection of the moon can be seen through the arch.
By far, the highlight of our trip was our cruise down the Li River. The photo at the top of this post is the Li River, taken from our river boat cruise. We spent about five hours on the boat and were served a light lunch. The Li River is very shallow and we often heard the bottom of the boat scraping against rocks. The good thing about very shallow water in a river is that the boat doesn’t rock AT ALL. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been on that boat!
As we were boarding our boat, I caught a glimpse of the chefs on some of the other boats, cooking in the open on the stern. Hmmmm. Not exactly the type of place I want my lunch cooked. I quickly directed Bebe Dada’s attention to this and told him that I wasn’t planning on eating lunch. His comment: “That doesn’t seem very sanitary, does it?” When it came time for lunch, I ate the food we were served. Surprised?
When I showed my Mom the picture below, I told my Mom I ate the food, and she gave me her really loud (as in 100 decibels louder than normal), shocked Japanese response to all things shocking: “EHHHHHHHHHHH?” What can I say. I was hungry, the food tasted OK, and I already had “China Belly” going on a week – - – I didn’t think I had anything to lose. Sadly, I forgot to take photos of our lunch. It was by no means glamourous, but they served us escargot from the river (which I passed on, despite the fact that I’ll eat their cousins), as well as fish (can’t remember the name of it) that is often found in the Li River. No one got sick, and my stomach wasn’t any worse. All good?!?!
Cooking on the Li River Boat
Li River Cruise
That’s me, enjoying the scenic view of the Li River from the top deck of our river boat.
It was very hot and humid so there weren’t many people on the outdoor deck, likely because of the heat, but it was very peaceful as I took in all of the scenery.
Nine Horse Fresco Hill
The limestone patches found on the side of Fresco Hill are shaped like horses, nine in total. This was supposedly the highlight and climax of the Li River cruise. We were in the midst of poor weather as a typhoon was passing by, and the photo above is quite poor, but if you look closely at the very top “horse” in the center of the hill, the horse appears to be facing to the right and almost looks as if he is kicking his front leg outwards.
When our boat finally docked in Yangshuo we had the opportunity to walk around town and browse many small artistic shops, but it was drizzling. Shortly thereafter, we experienced a heavy (I won’t go so far as to call it “torrential”) rainstorm, complete with power outage.
Top (L-R): Yangshou “port”, a local temple, downtown Yangshou
Bottom (L-R): Row of shops that we perused; Man standing outside a shop selling $1 Kung Fu Panda-2 DVD’s and “Rolex” watches. He wanted $200 for his Rolex watch but thanks to my intervention and several disgusted looks from the guy, we bought one for roughly U.S. $10 as a gag gift for a friend whose been wanting to buy the real thing. Last photo is another shot of the local shops with one of my candid photo victims.
With no power in the stores, we quickly lost interest as shopping in the dark doesn’t work. As we neared the town’s central area, there were many food carts. We avoided eating from these, but I happily took photos.
Top Left to Right: Purple Mangosteen, a sweet and tangy fruit that originated in Indonesia. I’ve never tasted it, but according to my Mother-In-Law only canned mangosteen is sold in the U.S. There were also grapes and another type of fruit (cherries?) that we couldn’t discern.
Bottom: The tofu cart could use a facelift, but the tofu that the woman was cooking looked like it might taste good, in a spicy-kinda-way.
I wasn’t sure what to expect in Guilin when I discovered we would be visiting China’s countryside, but the city was charming and had an 0ld-town feel about it. Often, when we were driving around town we caught glimpses of a low mountainous range of limestone hills. Many of the hills were partially covered with lush, dark green foliage. However, it wasn’t until we went on our Li River cruise did we experience the full beauty of Guilin’s countryside and famous limestone hills.
While Guilin, by far, was the hottest and most humid area we visited during our trip to China, for a short while, I thought I just might be a country girl at heart… At least until we arrived in Hong Kong. Hahaha. All kidding aside, however, I truly enjoyed Guilin’s Li River and scenery. It is one of my favorite places that we visited in China.
Only one more “China Adventure” post left! I will post the final leg of our trip to Shanghai and Hong Kong shortly.