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Guilin and Yangshuo were on President Clinton's 1998 trip through China - and it was one of the most beautiful spots we visited.
[Guilin] [Cruise on the Li River] [Yangshuo


As the clerk at the hotel in Zhangjiajie gave us our train tickets he mentioned in passing "by the way, I guess you know these do not go to Guilin, you must change to a bus". Dreading our arrival at 5 AM in the small town of Liuzhou, we set off on an overnight train ride.  We shouldn't have worried, taxis abounded even at that hour, and the express bus was better than most airliners, with a movie, running commentary (including English, just for the 2 of us), and wide, comfortable seats.

Visualize this: We zip through the green countryside, rice paddies on both sides, farmers and water buffalo working the fields as they have for thousands of years while Dolly Parton talks to us in Chinese and a cell-phone rings behind us to the tune of �Jingle Bells�.


A small city on the banks of the Li River,China Guilin river and mountains.jpg (21093 bytes) this was China Guilin with steep peaks.jpg (22153 bytes) our most scenic yet.  It is surrounded with sharp peaks, many with temples, and a river through the heart of it that provides great viewpoints for tourists and locals alike.  It is  a city undergoing major renovation, with highways, businesses, and hotels being built to accommodate a flood of tourists.  A local travel agent came to our hotel, and we arranged the rest of our stay on China -Jing Yong Hua, also known as Jimmy turned out to be a fountain of knowledge. Places of interest to us were:

  • Elephant Hill - A 'must see' rock formationChina Guilin elephant hill.jpg (18811 bytes) in the center of town, looks like 'Hole in the Wall' in Bay of Islands, NZ.  The city has planted trees, so that the only way you can see it is to pay 10 Yuan to visit the park - is this Capitalism or Communism?
  • Reed Flute Caves - a small, well-developed cavern, well lit and very attractive; we enjoyed it with hundreds of Chinese and Taiwanese  tourists.
  • Cormorant Fishing - For the last China Guilin cormorant fisherman.jpg (24552 bytes) 1000 years or so, Chinese fishermen have been using cormorants to help them fish.  They tie a string around the cormorant's throat so it can't swallow big fish, and then train it to fish, and let the fishermen pull the fish from its throat. It takes about 5 years to train one properly, and they are productive for about 10 years - now a skill used mostly to amuse tourists but still used in the outlying villages.
The Prince's Mansion - China Guilin Princes mansion.jpg (23845 bytes) an  emperor's palace which pre-dates the Forbidden City by 30 years, it now serves as a teacher's college, but they plan a new campus and this will revert to a full-time tourist attraction.  Jimmy gave us a little more history:
  • Palaces were aligned North to South
  • Palaces should have hills behind (on the N side) them for �support�; 
    this one has a 300' hill with great views of the city (the Forbidden City has an artificial mound to its north).
  • All entrances have an odd number of steps.
  • The emperor�s entrance has 9 steps. Others have fewer.
  • Trees on each side of the entrance, left has yellow flowers for gold, right has white for silver

Cruise on the Li River

After a couple of days in Guilin, China Li River.jpg (22964 bytes) we took a cruise downstream to Yangshuo.  About 30+ cruise boats leave early in the morning, and form a convoy as tourists vie for vantages points to take pictures of the beautiful scenery, water buffalos, fishermen, and sampans on the river China Li River Judi with peaks behind.jpg (20111 bytes) for several hours. Our boat, as well as some of the others, stopped at the Crown Caves and the trip through it had us taking underground railways, boats, and elevators as we explored 3.5 km of caverns.  (This was just like a "Disney" attraction, but it was real.)  At one of the stops we met Sun Xiao-Feng, our friends from Zhangjiajie and exchanged promises to write once more.  We spent most of the day on the upper deck, viewing the beautiful scenery and taking pictures while most of the Taiwanese tourists stayed below and ate a huge lunch and snoozed it off - go figure!


At Yangshuo 99% of the tourists hopped buses to return to Guilin - yours truly stayed and had 2 wonderful days in this cute town.  A small farming town stride the Li River, it was discovered by backpackers and has developed into a destination of its own rather than a turn-around point for Guilin tourists.  The center of the town is chock-a-block with quaint Chinese and Western-style cafes, pubs, and lots of people who could speak English.  Our favorite experiences:

  • CoCo Hotel - Jimmy (notice how he is still around?)China Yangshuo hotel room.jpg (21091 bytes) promised to find us a hotel for 180 Yuan (about $US22) and succeeded; the CoCo was a cute place with large clean rooms; bigger than most we had seen so far, at half the price.  We used this as our base for the 2-day stay in Yangshuo.
  • Walk to Yueliang Shan - on ourChina Yangshuo moon hill.jpg (14533 bytes) first day, we decided to walk to the premier attraction, Yueliang Shan (aka Moon Hill), much to the disgust of 20+ 'tour guides' and pedicab drivers who stopped us on the way out of town offering their services.  A couple of hours of walking in the clean air brought us to a hill with a hole in the middle - not 'world-class, but an enjoyable walk.  We rode back on a motorcycle with a 2-person sidecar; slow but comfy.
  • Riding Bikes through the countryside - China Yangshuo farm scene.jpg (22377 bytes) rental bikes abound.  For 10 Yuan we rented 2 bikes for a day and pedaled 10 km past puffing tractors, speeding buses, and pedicabs while waving to the farmers working the lush, green rice paddies on our way to the town of Fuli.  The town wasn't much, but the people were friendly and they had cold bottles of water to replace what the hot day had sapped from us.  The return trip was slower, Bob's chain broke and Judi had to tow him half way back.
  • The snakeman - While having our China Yangshuo street scene.jpg (21971 bytes)sundowner at Minnie Mao's, we noticed a guy showing a 3' snake to a couple of Danish girls.  They played with it a bit, then the guy cut off its head, and with the help of his 10-year old daughter, drained the blood for them to drink, stripped off the skin, cut it up into pieces, and took the pieces back to cook. Soup appeared shortly.  Seems they had ordered snake soup, and the show was part of meal.

Departure from China - At 0430 our alarm let us know it was time catch an early ride to the airport. Jimmy (again!) had organized a beat-up taxi to get us to the Guilin airport in time for our 0830 flight.  After a 'shortcut' that almost made us miss our plane, we hopped a flight to Guangzhou.  There, after a couple of hours wandering the halls, we found a pay-for-use lounge where we waited a few hours until our connecting flight to Singapore.

Bittersweet Departure -We were very sad to leave China, and Yangshuo in particular - we had seen many amazing sights and met lots of wonderful people.  On the other hand, we were a little weary of living out of suitcases and longed for the discipline and order of Singapore. Check out our overall observations and recommendations.



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