During my son Max’ spring break from Harbin University of Science and Technology where he studied Mandarin, we decided to visit Guilin and Yuangshuo in the south of China – known for its incredibly shaped Karst peaks, serene rivers and sub-tropical climate. As a hotel we avoided the established ones in Guilin, but booked the Yuangshuo Mountain Retreat Hotel – directly at the Yulong river – at the recommendation of a friend. You’ll find a link to their website further below.
“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving” Lao Tzu.
As we travelled during the rainy season, our flight from Shanghai was delayed by a couple hours and we arrived in Guilin late in the evening. The promised taxi still was there and after 1 hour drive on an impeccable freeway, the driver pulled into a mountainous road and soon after we arrived at the hotel around midnight. Our room under the roof could host 6 people, so we had ample space. When we awoke next morning – the rain had stopped – we saw the Yulong river rush by directly under our windows, and after showering we enjoyed a tasty breakfast just by the river. As we had no plan, the concierge – great English! – recommended to take a taxi and just to drive around into the mountains for a day. We passed picturesque villages, lonely roads – Max instructed the driver that he doesn’t have to qualify for the Rally Monte Carlo – and incredible scenic spots. What impressed us the most, was the people living there were using any square-foot on the steep hills to plant and harvest fruits and produce.
Next day, we hired the same driver (about US$20/day) for a drive along the river Li making a stop at Xingping, where we boarded a ship for a river cruise. We were the only foreigners on board and the joy and chaos our Chinese co-passengers displayed was truly refreshing. They climbed outside the cabin onto the ship’s ramps, took selfies everywhere and at one point the captain had to stop the boat because about 50 people people were standing on the bow – naturally taking selfies with the dramatic Karst-scenery behind them. Back at Xingpin, we enjoyed a coffee and a view at the famous scene of the 20 yuan bill. Also: wherever and whatever we ate during our stay, we were spoiled by incredible food. Whether it was a local fish, veggies, fruits or rice dishes, the cuisine was on par with the most expensive restaurants in Shanghai or Beijing – or in my view even better (thankfully, there wasn’t any Western Food available).
Next day was a Saturday and myriads of bamboo rafts with people having fun were floating down the Yulong river. We again booked our taxi and explored some villages around Yuangshuo – especially a weekend-market in a huge roofed complex where people could buy everything from clothing to food and small appliances. I bought a Ni Ling hat – hoping it was an original despite the price of 20 Yuan. One thing we couldn’t accomplish was to visit one of the famous caves: when we had passed about 3 miles of busses parked along the main road to Yuangshuo, our driver recommended to try again on Monday. But we would have to leave on Sunday.
The taxi drive during early morning to Guilin was another sightseeing tour, and we reached the airport in good time. After we had had no rain during 4 days, black clouds pulled up, and Max’ flight for Quingdao and Harbin just left on time, but my Shanghai flight would be delayed by 7 hours – understandable, because the downpour turned the airport into a seamless lake.
Yuangshuo Mountain Retreat Hotel – http://www.yangshuomountainretreat.com