Guilin: the China of Dreams

On the Li River - a Chinese Treasure.

On the Li River – a Chinese Treasure.

After a very early morning fight from Xi’an, we found ourselves gliding down the beautiful Li River.

It was raining when we arrived in Guilin, but it’s as if we have some benevolent Chinese spirits looking after us – because by the time we were on the River the sun was shining and the temperature was perfect.

We are going to cruise the most scenic portion of this lovely site during a two and a half hour trip disembarking at Yangdi.  This is the China of art and poetry; the scenes we see on scrolls and fans; and the serenity we associate with classic Chinese imagery.

The Karst topography (thanks Dad) has shaped one of the most scenic areas of the country, and even though this was a quick visit well worth the effort to get here.  Limestone formations have evolved through the centuries creating the most amazing series of closely set “stone forests,” each less than 1000’.  Sheer cliffs, water buffalo, deep caves, waterfalls, and clusters of river craft dot the dramatic landscape.  It’s very green and very Jurassic Park-looking.

We were on a private boat and our hotel, the Guilin Shangri-La, sent substantial boxed/suitcase lunches for us to enjoy, so once again, no one went hungry.

On the way back to town we drove through beautiful countryside and farms with rice paddies. Once back in Guilin, we indulged ourselves with a one hour reflexology treatment – a foot massage technique that originated with one of the four minority populations from this region.  We have to give a shout out to our Tauck Tour Director Annie for suggesting this, and making it happen so seamlessly; it is like she is channeling our inner thoughts; it was fantastic.

We were also enchanted by the beautiful parks and pagodas here.  Guilin has four major lakes and two rivers, with the Li River winding through and around the area like a silver ribbon.  Banyan trees, Phoenix Tail Bamboo and sub-tropical vegetation add to the peaceful feeling.  The “silver” and “gold” pagodas are just two of the spectacular examples found here. Some of the parks development has been recently completed by the government.  As a result of the geography and the improvements to the area’s green spaces Guilin and the Li River has become a big destination for Chinese who want to get away from the bustle of the cities and reconnect with nature.  I would have liked another day here – to have time to see more parks, contemplate the beautiful pagodas and get out to the River at night to see the famous Cormorant fisherman on their flat bamboo rafts (you can arrange hour-long viewing trips in the summer).

You may have read about the latest variety of Bird Flu that has hit China. It started in the South and just reached Beijing while we were there.  It seems to be affecting people who handle live birds, and so the government has been destroying populations of chickens, ducks and geese in the impacted areas.  At dinner tonight in the resort’s Chinese restaurant, we encountered evidence of this action for the first time, when we found out that no poultry dishes were available.

Tips of the day: remember to take your sunscreen on the River and try something new every day (even if you don’t like it).

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