After a 20 hour train ride from Huang Shan we arrived in Guilin at what we thought was the main train station. After bout 30 minutes of looking around for our hostel, which was supposed to be directly across the street, we realized that we were in fact at the Guilin North station, nowhere near the hostel we booked expressly because it was close to the train station. So, we had a taxi take us to the main train station and with a little difficulty and the help of some other “Westerners” we came across we managed to find the hostel.
Getting a taxi directly to the hostel in many towns poses a few problems, so we usually try to walk or take the bus. First many of the Taxi drivers that wait at train and bus stations get a commission for taking tourists to specific hotels or hostels, and they are often quite pushy about taking you to their ‘cheaper and better’ hotel. Some will even go so far as to take you to the wrong place on purpose and hope you don’t notice. We typically get around this by telling the drivers that we have already paid for our accommodation and that we won’t pay them unless they take us to the correct hostel. We have also found that taxi drivers can either not read, or don’t know how to find addresses, so we often just ask to be taken to an intersection that is near our destination.
After chilling in the hostel a bit (literally “chilling” as it was colder than we expected in Guilin and Chinese hostels don’t seem to have heat) we headed out to a Sichuan restaurant recommended by LP with Jan, a Belgian that we met at the hostel. We came across a couple pouring over their LP and asked if they were headed to the same place – turns out they were. We were pleased to find out that they were from Berkeley so we had lots of questions about home. The five of us had a delicious meal; my favorites were the fired eel (yes eel, both Stuart and I liked it) and the green beans. Some of the best food I have had in China so far.
Th next day after much debate as to whether we should do a tour or on our own (we decided to go it alone), we set out to visit the rice terraces in a town called Ping An. Going on our own turned out to be a more complicated and we ended up having to wait an hour and a half in order to transfer to the bus that would take us up to Ping An, which meant we had only about 2 1/2 hours there before we could catch the last bus back. So, we were a little rushed but we manged to see what we came for. Although brown for the season, the rice terraces were like nothing I had ever seen before and quite majestic. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
We arrived back at the hostel around 9.30pm, tired and hungry and went to dinner at a Hong Kong restaurant that was recommended by the woman at our hostel. Sometimes when we walk around we smell someone cooking something that so incredibly disgusting that we have hold our breath and hurry by. This is what the food tasted like at this restaurant. At least it only cost us 8 bucks.
On our last day in Guilin we visited Seven Star Park, which was rather ‘touristic’, but pretty all the same. The park, and the town, is situated amongst the remarkable and beautiful ‘rocks’ (as Stuart calls them) or ‘hills’ (as I call them) that are unlike anything I have seem elsewhere, and look like the China I had imagined before coming here. The park had another draw that I wasn’t even aware of before we entered – a panda! I had very much wanted to visit Chengdu and the panda reserve on this trip, but it was one of the many things we decided to cut out because of our limited time here. I was pretty bummed that we wouldn’t see a panda while in China (Stuart could care less), so I was very excited (Stuart still didn’t care) at the prospect of unexpectedly seeing one at the park. Expecting the worse, and getting it, we approached a dark gray cell with a cloudy window and saw our first glimpse of the panda. Even caged in that sad dark cell, the panda was unbelievably cute. He even did a little yawn and stretch, which I think was quite a treat as it seemed it didn’t do much all day but sleep.
The other highlight of the park was a massive cave. In true Chinese fashion we had to go through it on a tour (in Chinese) and the formations, stalagmites and stalactites were lit up with colorful lights giving it a Disney effect. I didn’t mind though, because all the light meant I could actually see the cool rock formations, with names like “The Great Wall” and ” Elephant Drinking Water” that I otherwise would have missed in dim light.