13 January, 2011

A trip to Guilin & Yangshuo

13 January, 2011

Sharon Poon tells Sassy about her latest adventure to Guilin and Yangshuo.

About an hour flight away, Guilin is a small town in Guangxi well-known for its gorgeous scenery of the Karst Mountains, clear waters and rice paddies.

Our adventure started off with a day trip to the famous Longsheng rice terraces. It took about 45 minutes to get to the top of the village and the stairs worked my butt like a great stair climber. Along the way, many stalls run by the local Zhuang ethnic minority dotted the path and they sold everything from osmanthus tea to jewelry to handmade slippers. The rice terraces from a bird eye’s view looked gorgeous and because we went in the wintertime, the fields were more of a golden yellow than the gorgeous green you see in the postcards.

No visit to Guilin is complete without watching the Liu Sanjie Show, a performance set on the Li River and directed by Zhang Yimou, same guy who choreographed the opening of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Fishing boats, folk songs, and spectacular lighting… the simple fact that this was all happening in the middle of a river with the Karst Mountains as a backdrop made the performance worthwhile. However, the story line itself was not particularly exciting, especially if you are one who does not understand Mandarin.

Away from the hustles and bustles of Guilin, Yangshuo is a relaxing city often visited by backpackers. You can get from Guilin to Yangshuo either by car (90 minutes) or by cruise (4.5 hours). We opted for the cruise on Li River and it was a great way to enjoy the scenery, all the while contemplating what poets must have thought back in the Sui Dynasty.

Once at Yangshuo, we decided to channel our inner athletic self towards bike riding. Although maps were of little use and we got lost several times, biking is a great way to see the quaint town. Endless views of rolling mountains and grassy fields greet you as you ride. Most of the trails were flat and 1.5 hours later, even I managed to end up at West Street where it is filled with western restaurants and pubs. Here you will find decent coffee and cheesecake.

After eating, there was some hiking and sightseeing…

As always, the best thing about traveling in developing countries is that you get to eat decent food at comparatively cheaper prices. Chinese food was especially cheap compared to Hong Kong, and you can get everything from Guilin noodles to freshwater fish to different dried animal parts. We ended our trip with a dinner at an Italian restaurant where we had an excellent view of the sunset. My ravioli was not the most authentic but it was probably the best I could get within a 100 mile radius.

Guilin and Yangshuo is a great option if you’re looking for a short and quick getaway completed with outdoor activities. In the summer, there should be even more outdoor activities available, including kayaking, river rafting and rock climbing.

If you are looking more to relax than to go for the sometimes-hectic cultural experience, Yangshuo Mountain Retreat is a great place to stay. It is a hotel situated about 10 minutes away from city centre, with an excellent view of the Karst Mountains and river so you really feel you’re in your own world. The hotel even has several sustainable initiatives to reduce its water and carbon footprint as well as support its local staff development. So if you’re one to support sustainable tourism, definitely give this hotel your consideration!

By: Sharon Poon

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