At our arrival in Guilin we were met by a car from the hotel, the Riverside Hostel. For a mere $25/night, we had a private double room with a river view in the city center. It was pretty luxurious for us.
After showering and having a brief pillow fight, we headed into the city for a walk before dinner. We loved the wide pedestrian-only walkways lined with osmanthus trees that meandered around the river.
We spotted a cute little cafe, The Shire Hobbiton. Naturally we had to stop in, and we were treated to giant LotR posters and a menu that included delicacies such as "Rohan tea" and "lembas." I opted for something a little more this-world, and had a Vanillacino, which was by far the best coffee I've had in China.
Thus fortified, we passed through the gauntlet of Chinglish speaking natives trying to sell us everything from traditional Chinese clothes to tea. Guilin has a lively night market, which mostly sells cheap tourist souvenirs, our favorite kind, so we easily hit that up every night we were there.
We also walked through the expansive park, admiring the lake lit up with twinkling lights. The Sun and Moon Pagodas looked especially lovely in the evening.
The next morning we got up early and joined another 50 or so tourists, mostly Chinese, but with a good smattering of Europeans as well, for a cruise along the Li River from Guilin to the famous Yangshuo.
It was definitely a new experience for us, traveling on an organized tour. Normally we do our own thing and wander off the beaten track, but since Andrew's inquiries into the possibility of kayaking the entire way were met with confused looks, we had no choice but to join a tour group. On the cruise we met up with a German-Malaysian couple and some Belgiums, which made for interesting conversation in both English and French. The 4 1/2 hour journey downriver was full of magnificent karst scenery, made all the more intriguing by the fog that covered the tops of the hills. We passed many well-known sites, including Nine Horses Painted on a Hill, and the scene featured on the back of the 20 RMB bill.
Can you see the nine horses? Yeah, me neither.
Once we arrived in Yangshuo, we spent about 40 minutes walking along the tourist shopping street, where we bought some pretty cool souvenirs for ourselves and friends back home.
Then we met up with 12 others from our group for an optional countryside tour. We drove to a small village and noticed all the mirrors hanging over the front doors. Apparently these mirrors are used to scare away ghosts, who will be frightened of their own reflection.
In this village, we also stopped at the Stone Dragon bridge for some scenic shots of the river.
Then it was past the rice paddies and downstream some more for a river trip on a bamboo raft.
This was actually my favorite part of the entire trip to Guilin, because the river was quiet and isolated but for us 14 travelers. We were pushed along the river by bamboo poles, and a woman dressed in traditional garb stood on our boat and sang, albeit through a megaphone.
After we had drifted a little bit, we met up with a cormorant fisherman. The fisherman ties cords around the bird's throat to prevent it from swallowing the fish it catches. The fisherman then throws the bird off the boat, and the bird brings back the fish it catches to its master. After about 20kg of fish are caught, the bird is then allowed to eat some of its catch. It was a little cruel, but interesting to watch.
After our lazy trip down the river, we then hopped back on the bus and headed back to Guilin, where we tried Guilin beer duck, which was really disappointing. To be honest, almost all the food in Guilin was disappointing, which is pretty unusual for China.
After dinner we once again wandered around the park and markets, stopping to buy some sugar cane juice before heading back to our hotel for the night.