On October 13th I took train nr. K652 from Chengdu to Guilin. It was a 22 hour train ride. After climbing Mt. Emei, my mussels were quite sore and I could barely walk, so lying in a sleeper coach and not moving for a while was just what I needed. As the train was getting closer to Guilin, more and more little mountain peaks popped up in the landscape. Those were the characteristic karst mountains, for which this area is famous for.
Guilin itself is embedded in a scenery of karst mountains. With its 1.4 million inhabitants the city is pretty calm compared to Xi’an or Chengdu, but it is well prepared for tourists and quite easy to get around as a non Chinese speaker. I only spent there two nights at the Dozycat youth hostel. A nice thing to do while in Guilin is to walk up one of the karst mountains. I walked up the so called “old man hill”, where I had a really nice view over the whole city.
For many tourists, the main reason to stop by in Guilin is to actually visit a nearby town called Yangshuo. This was also my main reason, and so after two days in Guilin I took the bus to Yangshuo to stay there another four days. The scenery around this town, also with its characteristic karst mountains, even tops the scenery of Guilin. Once an insider tip, Yangshuo became more and more popular when it was announced in the “Lonely Planet” in the 80′s. Still, in the middle of the nineties, there were only two hostels and a bunch of coffee shops in town.
Today Yangshuo is one of the hottest tourist spots in China. At the main tourist street, the so called “West street”, are hundreds of hotels, restaurants and shops, and it seems the majority of the people on the street are people from the west.
I checked in at the Showbiz Inn, a nice and cheap youth hostel with a great atmosphere. The special feature of this hostel is, that it has a roof top bar with a great view over the town and the surrounding karst mountains.
My main goal in Yangshuo was to go on a bamboo boat trip along the Li river. So right after my arrival I tried to get some information about this trip at the hostel reception. The receptionist, not at all concerned about privacy, told me that two Chinese-looking girls, who don’t speak Chinese, where also asking about the same trip that day and I should ask them if I could join them.
And that’s what I did. Finding two Chinese-looking girls wasn’t that hard, as everyone else in the hostel was Western-looking. The two were kind enough to take me along on the bamboo boat trip. One of the girls actually knew a little bit Chinese which was quite helpful for getting around on the boat trip. The girl’s native language was English, because they grew up in Great Britain (but they have roots in Hong Kong).
The bamboo boat trip was as great as I expected. Cruising along the Li river with the countless and massive karst mountains ricing up to the sky right next to you is a really unique experience.
With the girls from the boat trip it was a lot of fun. We also did a bike tour together and hung out quite a lot.
On one of our strolls in the streets of Yangshuo, we stopped by at the food market. The market is inside a big hall.
The entrance to the market looks quite innocent. Here they sell typical Chinese fruits which you can also get everywhere else.
Then I entered the hall and I could already see slaughtered dogs hanging headlong on hooks. I also watched some Chinese buying a duck at one of the stalls. Behind the stall is a cage with all kinds of animals in it, still alive. When the Chinese purchased the duck, the salesman took the screaming animal out of the cage, and quickly cut its throat with a Stanley-knife. So food at this market is really fresh. At the market you could also get pig ears, sheep penises any other imaginable food. I wasn’t really hungry at that moment so I didn’t buy any of these specialities.
After four pleasant days in Yangshuo I took the bus back to Guilin and continued to Nanning by train on October 19th.