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.
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.
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.
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Come Rain Come Shine - Guilin, Yangshuo and Longsheng
Part 1 - Guilin.