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Come Rain Come Shine - Guilin, Yangshuo and Longsheng

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Jul 9th, 2009, 06:32 AM
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Come Rain Come Shine - Guilin, Yangshuo and Longsheng

Part 1 - Guilin.

We arrived in Guilin at night after a 2.5 hours flight from Bangkok and landed in the middle of a rainstorm! We had no idea that there had been 7 days of solid rain for this region as none of the weather site mentioned this. The flu screening took forever at Guilin airport and we spent over 45 minutes being screened in 3 stages, on board the plane after landing by a quick walk through from one of the health inspector, a thermal scan while alighting from the plane and a final “interview” before being able to proceed to the immigration passport control. At each checkpoint there was only one inspector so long ques.

Our prearranged driver met us and a short walk through the rain brought us to the van. After arriving in Guilin city itself the driver began to make several U-turns as the road ahead were flooded, sometime up to knee deep. The driver eventually pulled up in a small alley and started talking to us in Mandarin which we could not understand. He eventually left the vehicle and disappeared into a door of a building and all of the sudden a couple of security guards and bellboys followed him out with umbrellas – we had arrived at the backdoor of our hotel!

The Guilin Sheraton is an old hotel but had recently been renovated notably their rooms. We had booked 1 club room and 2 superior rooms and luckily the hotel upgraded the 2 superior rooms to deluxe rooms. The rooms were small but very comfortable with a great bed and spotlessly clean. The club floor lounge look dated so I guess they haven’t renovated that part yet.

Day 1:
Our original plan was to spent 2 nights in Guilin, 1 night in Longsheng and 2 nights in Yangshuo but upon talking with the hotel staff we found out that all the roads to Longsheng are closed due to the mud and rock slides at several sections of the road. The boat ride to Yangshuo was not operating either due to very strong current but that was not a problem as we were told that the worst of the storm has passed and the river should be open again in a few days. After a quick meeting we decided to stay in Guilin for 3 nights, the first night doesn’t count anyway since we arrived late at night, and to cancel Longsheng and head to Yangshuo instead.
I got up quite early the next morning hoping for a break in the weather but it was still drizzling and the sky was grey. After breakfast we decided to go for a walk around the city since there was nothing else to do. Armed with umbrellas we went to the Niko Niko Do department store and the walking street to kill time until noon before heading to a great Chinese restaurant for lunch. The lobby manager had recommended a restaurant that specializes in a mixture of Cantonese and local cuisine and we really enjoyed it.

After a quick nap I woke up at around 4.00 pm and the sun was shining! Looking outside from our window, the water level in the Li river had dropped somewhat and people were out walking around the riverbanks. We decided to walk to the Elephant Trunk hill, about a 10 minutes’ walk but found that the entrance was closed and most of the visitor’s area was still underwater. Walking back we stop by the Sun and Moon Pagoda and booked the “Four Lakes and Two Rivers” night cruise. The cruise itself was interesting with the shoreline along the route lit up with multi colored spotlights and even the Karsts were lit up! The cruise boat made stops at a few water stages where traditional Chinese musician and Chinese opera were performing and that was quite fun. After the cruise we headed back to our hotel and ate at the restaurant there.

Day 2:
The sun was out but there were still scattered clouds. The temperature climbed from around 18 – 20C to a more pleasant 25C today. Again our plan today depended on the weather and since we had a break in the rain we decided to hire a van and visit Yao Mountain. This is the highest mountain around Guilin and you can reach the top by a very long and scary chair lift. When coming down you have the option of coming back on the chair lift OR take a ride down on a luge along what look like an aluminum luge track!

The view from the top was stunning and apart from seeing the whole city of Guilin you can see the Karsts around there as well. Apart from the various view points at the top there was some sort of a temple up there but it looked more for show than for anything else. We spent about an hour and a half taking pictures, video and just to enjoy the view.

We consulted the concierge of the Sheraton by phone for more restaurant advice and he directed us to another very good Chinese restaurant. This one was situated in a Chinese hotel and the food was very good. Since we had hired a van for the day we decided to visit Solitary Beauty Peak and the Ming Prince Mansion back in town in the afternoon. We were not too impressed with both places so after a quick walk around we went for massages instead – thanks Cat1234 for pointing out were the reasonable priced massage places are located. After the massages we went shopping at the walking street, exploring all the small alleys lined with shops and ate street food for dinner. Went back to the hotel early to watch the Wimbledon’s men single final match while enjoying drinks and canapés at the club lounge.

The next day – Yangti, Xingping and Yangshuo.

It might be of interest to some so here are some of our travel related expenses while in Guilin.
Minivan from the airport to the Sheraton = 150 CNY
Van – day time hire = 150 CNY
Sheraton Guilin: Club room = net 825 CNY per night and the Superior upgraded to deluxe room = net 455 CNY per night.
Our average lunch and dinner at restaurants cost 300 CNY for 5 people per meal with several dishes and 2 – 3 bottles of beer.
“Four Lakes and Two Rivers” night cruise = 100 CNY per person.
Yao Mountain entrance fee and lift ticket = 70 CNY per person.
Solitary Beauty Peak and the Ming Prince Mansion entrance fee = 50 CNY per person.
Massages (either foot or body) = 25 CNY per hour.
Hanuman is offline  
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Jul 9th, 2009, 06:57 AM
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Thanks so much for the great report. I can't wait to read more! My husband and I are taking our 2 teenage boys to China mid August. I hope the rains have stopped for you and it will be all dried up by the time we get there! Have fun!
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Jul 9th, 2009, 07:15 AM
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Glad you like the report! Here's a link to the pictures of Guilin: http://khun-pook.smugmug.com/gallery...86258192_pwNys
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Jul 9th, 2009, 07:53 AM
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Yes, I'm following along too. You can't see me but I'm there. I have nothing whatsoever to add, other than that my feet are wet and would you please go somewhere dry.
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Jul 9th, 2009, 08:20 AM
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Nice pictures. Thanks for sharing.

Sorry the weather is not cooperating. The shrimps look fresh and sweet though.
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Jul 9th, 2009, 08:24 AM
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Thanks for sharing, Hanuman, glad you had fun despite the rain!
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Jul 9th, 2009, 09:15 AM
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I've been looking forward to your report. Great photos - esp from atop Yeo Mountain.
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Jul 9th, 2009, 09:30 AM
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great report and pics. next time, take more pics of food. lol.

always wanted to go to guilin, but its such a hassle to get a visa. i wonder if i could easily get a visa in bangkok?
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Jul 9th, 2009, 09:38 AM
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There is a Chinese saying that Guilin's scenery is the best in the world. i am just quoting. In my opinion there is no need and no way to compare.
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Jul 9th, 2009, 06:48 PM
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Part 2 – Yangshuo

Day 3:
The weather has improved and now we have sunshine for most of the day and the temperature is in the low 30s (Celsius).
From reading the reviews on the Li River cruise and based on the advices from travelers who post on TA, we decided to go by minivan instead of the usual river cruise. The drive was about 2 hours long with great views of the many Karsts along the way.

We arrived at a small boutique Inn that I had read about on TA, The Yangshuo Village Inn, and it did not disappoint us. This Inn, billed itself as the first boutique hotel in Yangshuo, is the sister property of the Yanghsuo Mountain Retreat and is owned by an American/Thai couple. The property is located in the peaceful and quiet Moon Hill village, about 10 KM from the center of Yanghsuo. The lobby, bar and restaurant are very chic and the rooms are basic but has very comfortable beds. The staffs at the hotel Amy, Eric and Luna are some of the nicest hotel staffs I have ever met and nothing was too much trouble for them.

More bad news! The Liu Sanje light show was not performing because their stage was flooded and now there’s mud everywhere. They estimate that the show will reopen on the day we leave! After seeing the Impression show in Lijiang we had wanted to see this show as well but no such luck. Another of the activity that I wanted to do was the hot air balloon ride. Again due to weather conditions the balloon flight is suspended until further notice.

After checking in we ask the Inn to arrange a van for us to go to Xingping and do the Li River rafting. According to several people the best views of the Karsts is from Yangti to Xingping and the best way to view them is from a motorized bamboo raft. Apart from being virtually on the water the raft has the ability to stops at small gravel islands in the middle of the Li River which gave us very good photo taking opportunity. The cruise lasted slightly over 2 hours and we enjoyed the views of the magnificent Karsts that lined both side of the river banks. While cruising on the bamboo raft the big empty river cruisers past us by making their way back to Guilin since their passengers got off in Yangshuo and will return by bus. These big river boats looks rather dirty and the diesel fumes coming from them engulfed the river like fogs. After a while the last of the big cruisers past us by and we were left with a nice empty river and the other bamboo rafts - we can finally breath again!

We return to Xingping after the cruise and explored the old street on foot while our driver and van waited for us on the other side of town. Xingping is also the location for the picture on the back the Chinese 20 Yuan note. It was interesting walking through the 500 years old street and it gave us an idea of how the villagers live. Since it was almost dinner time we ask the driver to take us to West Street in Yangshuo and we arrived there just after 6 pm. It was quite a contrast to the old street of Xingping, the equivalent of the differences between night and day. Tens of thousands of tourists, restaurants, shops, discos, bars, hotels, Inns all were blaring music or have people yelling out advertisement for their goods all shared the narrow street. Amongst the throngs of people walking around there was even a beggar crawling along the street screaming out for donations in Chinese. I don’t think that there is a quiet spot anywhere here! We stop by a local restaurant that looked good from the outside but the food was rather disappointing, the worst of the trip.

We returned to the Inn and slept soundly surrounded by the peace and quiet of the country side. There was a full moon right near the Moon Hill so I ventured to the roof top restaurant of the Inn for a drink but retreated back to my room after only a few minutes because of the gigantic mosquitoes!

Day 4:
I woke up to bright sunshine and the view from our room of the Moon Hill was gorgeous. In the distance I could see a fog bank and it looks like a perfect day for more adventuring. One of the most popular activities around Yangshuo is the cycling tour of the town, surrounding villages and farmlands. To cover all of the rides one would need at least 2 days of touring but we don’t have 2 days to spare! I decided to rent 3 electric motorbikes instead and hire the service of a local guide to show us the way.

We ask the Inn to call a taxi for us and after a few minutes ride we were back to West Street again. Within 1 minute of arriving we had 3 or 4 people offering their guide services and I just pick the guide with the best English skill. Karen, our guide, spoke decent English and was very pleasant to be with. I asked her how much she wanted for guiding us and she replied 200 Yuan. I negotiated the price down to 100 Yuan and she agreed after a while but in the end I ended up giving her 200 because she did a great job! We then had a local noodle breakfast at a small restaurant in the now deserted West Street while getting to know our guide better. Karen knew one of the bike rental places that rented the electric motorbikes as well. She took us to choose the motor bikes and the rental price was very reasonable – 50 CNY per bike per day but we were warned that the range of the bikes are only around 40 KM.

We set off with Karen riding as the back rider while my niece rode the lead bike. These Chinese electric motorbikes were better then they look. They top out at about 30 KPH with two riders on a level road and going downhill it went up to 40 KPH. Karen guided us out of Yangshuo and we were soon on a small side street going through villages and paddy fields. Seeing that we can all ride the scooter quite well, Karen took as off road along the mountain bike trails and now, all of a sudden, we were amongst the Karsts and farm land. The paddy fields were ultra green ready for harvest and we passed by orange trees, buffalos, chickens, ducks and we did not disturbed anyone or anything because the bikes were silent.

We made our way through a couple of villages before ending up at the Yulong River, a tributary of the Li River. Here the water flow gently and many people enjoy rafting on non motorized bamboo rafts. Karen asked us if we wanted to do the rafting but I said no because we wanted to cover more grounds. We rode along the river until we arrived at the main bridge where we stop for photos. From here we headed to an attraction call the Big Banyan Tree but we did not enter since we have seen many Banyan Trees before! We rode a few more kilometers on the main road and decided to stop by to see the Dragon cave. The caves had lots of stalagmites which were lit up with colored lights. Looks cheap to me but the cool air inside the cave was a good respite from the now 32 or 33 C heat and bright sunshine outside.

While inside the cave I told Karen that we enjoy eating good Chinese food and the night before we did not have a good meal. Being a slight person Karen said that she’s not an expert on restaurants and she doesn’t eat much but she knew of a small family run shack by the river that her other clients had enjoyed. I told her to take us there and we rode through more farmland before arriving at a moat outside of the Liu Sanje light show. The restaurant was right there and we did have a very good meal.

For the afternoon we decided to go to “Shangri La” the theme park and not the town. My daughter had browsed through the net the previous night and she wanted to see the park. Karen informed us that the park is 17 KM from Yangshuo and we might not have enough juice to go there and back on our bike. Being a misinformed expert I checked the voltage meter on all our bikes and they all show “High”. I told Karen no problem and we set off for the half hour ride on the main road. It was hot and the sun was very bright but we made it safely there. There’s no feeling like riding a scooter at 30 KPH while a fully loaded 20 wheel truck whiz by at 120 KPH!

The park itself was, at the very least, disappointing or boring. It supposes to show the life style of all the minority tribe people of the area but we found it had a very theme park like atmosphere. We ride around in a boat along a water way and they had actors dressed up as some sort of wild people performing. I could see them resting and watching TV and when the boat approaches they just jump up and start doing some tribal dance. The faces of the actors were all grimed as if they were embarrassed or bored out of their mind! Thank fully the boat tour was over after about half an hour but we had to walk pass more “cultural” shows and several shops before we could exit the park.

I quickly checked the scooters again to see how much juice was left and the meter still show high. I knew right then that something is wrong and as soon as we left the park one of the bike disappeared from my rear view mirrors. I stop the other bike with my wife onboard while I circled back and found the third scooter about a kilometer behind us moving very slowly. We ended up putting three people on one bike while I rode the bike that was in critical condition and in need of a charge. Instead of the voltage meter I failed to notice the Amp meter which showed that the battery had only a few amps left. I could only go 7 KPH and at such slow speed the bike was very hard to control. Karen call the bike owner for help and after a horrendous 30 minutes riding the now 4 KPH top speed bike help arrived. The owner came in a petrol motorbike and she jumped off and tied a tow rope to my bike. She then asked me to drive the motorbike while towing her on the dead bike. We finally made it back to Yangshuo by 5 pm and decided to walk around a bit before having dinner there. Tonight restaurant choice was from the recommendation from Yangers.com - Jin Long Zai. The site recommendation was spot on and we had the best meal of the trip there. After dinner we explored West Street more and bought some nice chopsticks and other trinkets before heading back to the Inn at around 11.00 pm.

Before dinner I had asked Karen to check on two things or long shots, the light show being able to open and perform that night and the road to Longsheng reopening. The light show confirms the opening on the next evening but we are flying back home then BUT the road to Longsheng is partially open! Change in plan again and Karen made all the arrangement for us to go to Longsheng the next morning and after we finished there to take as to airport for our return flight home.

Travel related expenses while in Yangshuo.
Van ride from Guilin to Yangshuo = 300 CNY.
Van ride from Yangshuo to Xingping to Yangshuo and back to the Inn = 250 CNY.
Motorized bamboo raft from Xingping to Yanti and back = 250 CNY for a 5 passenger raft.
Taxi from the Inn to West Street = 30 CNY each way.
Electric motorbike = 50 CNY per day.
Guide = 100 CNY per day.
Entrance Fee for the Big Banyan Tree, we didn’t go = 18 CNY per person.
Entrance Fee for the Dragon cave = 65 CNY per person.
Entrance Fee for “Shangri La” = 60 CNY per person if you buy the ticket in town and 80 CNY if you buy it there.
Yangshuo Village Inn: Family 2 bedroom suite = net 500 CNY and 350 CNY for the queen standard room.

Next – Longsheng rice terraces.
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Jul 9th, 2009, 07:56 PM
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Oh, one glitch after another! I'm sorry you had to miss a number of the things you wanted to do, but it sounds like you still made the most of this trip.
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Jul 9th, 2009, 08:57 PM
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Hi Kathie,

Yes we did have a lot of fun despite the setbacks.

Photos from around the Yangshuo area - http://khun-pook.smugmug.com/gallery...86679531_aJYja
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Jul 10th, 2009, 02:38 AM
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Apres le deluge, Hanuman. It's great to see that you made a good trip out of a challenging situation. Indomitable. Timely report, no penalty.
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Jul 10th, 2009, 05:34 AM
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I'm really enjoying your report. Thanks.
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Jul 10th, 2009, 06:16 AM
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I'm very happy to hear that you are enjoying my report! It was from previous reports, from the various web site, that I learned so much about this area and it feels good to contribute back. I'll try and finish the report ASAP but for now I'm off to a party!
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Jul 10th, 2009, 07:54 AM
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Yes I am enjoying your report. Looks and sounds like you are having a great time despite the little bumps in the road. Looking forward to the terraces.

Aloha!
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Jul 10th, 2009, 08:10 AM
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Amazing stuff, Pook! We've wanted to go to Yangshuo (and Lijiang) for awhile now--your pictures are fantastic (rain or not!) You've got such a lovely family--everyone looks so happy

BTW, glad to see cheesy tourists exist even remote places--nice 'rock on' hand sign by that guy on the boat on the Li River.
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Jul 10th, 2009, 03:59 PM
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Great photos Pook!

Giulin looks very different from what I imagined.

The scenery across the Yao Mountains is wonderful.

Pity about the weather, but I admire your ability to make the best of things.
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Jul 10th, 2009, 04:21 PM
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Lovely photos... the karsts look like those in Chinese paintings... funny thing.
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Jul 10th, 2009, 06:03 PM
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Fabulous photos. What camera do you use. I can't wait to hear more.
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