Guilin is famous for its beautiful mountain scenery and has been an inspiration for many Chinese artists over the past thousands of years. Guilin is the capital of Guangxi province and makes a great base for visiting the more attractive travel destinations in the surrounding area, such as the Longsheng Rice Terraces and Yangshuo.
Guilin city itself has a few sites, such as Reed Flute Cave, Fubo Mountain (a steep hill with a good view of the city) and Elephant Trunk Hill, a natural rock formation that is said to look like an elephant dipping its trunk into the water to take a drink. However, in order to fully appreciate the Li River and the unusual karst mountain formations along it, travellers should take a five-hour river cruise south to Yangshuo. Dramatic atmospheres are created on days when fog and mist rises from the river and up to the peaks of the karst mountains. It is on this river too, where local fisherman take advantage of the diving abilities of cormorants to help catch their haul, whilst floating on their bamboo rafts.
A two-hour drive north takes travelers to Longsheng. This too is a spectacular sight. Many of the minority towns around Longsheng are too small and steep for cars, so locals use donkeys to move their heavy loads. Hikes take visitors over the rice terraces and through the mountains, creating a state of serenity. The food here is also a product of the natural surroundings. The local cuisine consists of much steamed bamboo and glutinous rice, a pleasant break from the oil-heavy food of much of China.
Back in Guilin and the hotels are more modern compared to the more modest accommodation in the mountains. At night, Zhengyang Pedestrian Street offers the hungry a number of good options. There are numerous restaurants and bars in addition to the shops and markets in the area. English menus are the norm, so it’s easy to find dinner, beer and wine. Alternatively, at the center of Zhongsan Road, Chinese merchants set up for the Guilin night market. Hundreds of small shops in red tents sell all types of clothing, local goods, leather products, jewelry and much more. Don’t forget to bargain hard! It’s also a great place to try Guilin’s delicacies, with food stands scattered throughout the market.