Top Things to Do in Guilin
Boasting picturesque rivers, lifelike karst peaks, undulating terraced fields, miraculous caves, and cloistered rural villages, Guilin is too much like a dreamland. Yet it is real. The incomparable natural beauties have been recorded by poets and literary men since over 2,000 years ago, and many ancient poems and essays are still popular today. All these are not enough to define this extraordinary land, as Guilin is also inhabited with 28 minorities, who keep their different cultures, lifestyles and beliefs. With poetic scenery, rich historic culture, diversified ethnic customs and mild climate around the year, Guilin deserves to be rated as an attraction of a lifetime. Seeing is believing, so plan your journey by reference to these 10 selected must-does:
Just as an old saying goes, East or west, Guilin landscape is the best, and cruising the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo is the priority choice to touch the soul of the unrivalled scenery. With a luxury liner twisting and turning downstream, you'll find yourself moving in an immensely long Chinese ink-wash scroll painting, as everything is reflected on the jade, crystal river, the clouds, the green woods, and the karst peaks rising sheer from the water. They appear as a great variety of shapes, like graceful ladies in a bathing pool, horses standing stiff-backed and so on. Occasionally, you could encounter a herd of buffalo enjoying their leisure time, or well-trained cormorants catching fish for fishermen. The sightseeing cruise lasts 4 to 5 hours until you reach Yangshuo.
Tranquil and idyllic, the rural areas of Yangshuo are just the right place to escape from the noise and relax yourself. Cycling is the most economical way to cover a large part of the countryside while saving time and energy. Pedaling along the winding lanes and roads, you'll never get bored, for there is so much to enjoy, the rolling hills, refreshing river, vast green paddy fields, gentle breezes and all other interesting scenes. The rural villages are not commercialized, but have everything that you expect to enjoy an undisturbed and plain pastoral life.
Cultivated as early as over 2,300 years ago, the Longji Terraced Fields are those among the most distinctive and visited scenic spots in Guilin. The rice paddy strips spiral up for hundreds of meters above sea level and stretches as far as you can see. Don't miss the masterpieces, the Seven Stars Surrounding the Moon Rice Terrace; and Nine Dragons and Five Tigers. The scenery varies greatly with seasons, and it's hard to simply say which is better. Along your hike, through the terraced fields, you could come across ethic villages and traditionally dressed minorities.
Rated as the palace of natural arts, the Reed Flute Cave is perhaps one of the most unearthly sites on earth. Finding your way through this 240-meter-long (262 yd) labyrinth, you will be greatly fascinated by a myriad of monstrous stalagmites, stalactites, etc. in different shapes like lions, dragons, pagodas, cypresses and so on. More strikingly, they are brilliantly illuminated with colorful lights, creating dreamy atmosphere. The site is highlighted by some hot spots like Flower and Fruit Mountain, Crystal Palace and Primeval Forest, many named according to the Chinese myths. Along the way, you may also discover ancient notes written on the palisades, and they date back from as early as the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907).
As the landmark of Guilin, the Elephant Trunk Hill is known as a masterpiece of Guilin karst landscape. Approaching the hill, you could see it looks like a huge elephant standing in the river, with its long nose dipped into the water. Between the nose and the body, there is a round hole covering an area of about 150 square meters (179 sq.yd), and looking like a moon with its shadow reflected on the river. The site has been a tourist attraction since about 1,400 years ago, and on the top of the hill there is a pagoda, Puxian Pagoda, built in the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644).
For a leisure adventure, it is well worthy to fall into Daxu Ancient Town, an escape hidden away from the hustle of modernization and tourists crowds. Built on the eastern Li River bank in the Northern Song Dynasty (960 - 1127), the town served as an important commercial center for almost 1,000 years, and went into its golden age in the Republican period (1912 - 1949). Now, the town still retains its ancient features. Lined on both sides of the flagstone alleys, there are distinctive brick-and-wood buildings, most traced back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 - 1912). Along the way, you could also discover a variety of the age-old manual workshops of straw sandals, bamboo crafts, herbal medical clinics, barbers, etc. and the locals enjoying a slow-paced, leisurely life.
If you would like to enjoy some undisturbed and lazy time while closely getting in touch with the most primeval and pure natural beauty, drifting along the Yulong River on a bamboo raft is totally right. As a tributary of Li River, Yulong River zigzags for 43.5 kilometers (27 mi) with a drainage basin of over 158 square kilometers (61 sq.mi), highlighted by hundreds of scenic spots. Normally, the raft has a boatman and several seats, so the journey is a bit quiet and you could berth anywhere you like to take the greatest photos of the limpid winding river, the woody limestone hills in vivid shapes, the vast green woods, the rustic villages and the exquisite ancient bridges, etc.
A night in Yangshuo could be ravished with a fabulous live-action show Impression of Liu Sanjie that takes place in the astounding open-air stage on the Li River. It is a terrific performance highlighted by the rich folk culture and stunning natural landscape. When the night falls, over 600 dressed-up actors and actresses are singing and dancing cheerfully on bamboo rafts floating on the Li River and in front of 12 hills, unfolding the folk customs and the legends of Liu Sanjie, honored as a diva or genius singer in the local tales. The special effects of lighting, raining, haze, etc. makes this visual feast more brilliant, and enhance the director Zhang Yimou's idea of creating a man & nature harmonized world.
Moreover, various interesting hands-on activities are offered during your trip in Guilin, such as a cooking class to make Chinese cuisines or be a farmer to dig into the local culture and lifestyle.