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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Guilin and Yangshuo: Day 2

The guidebooks all say not to linger too long in Guìlín 桂林, and for good reason. It isn't that the city lacks for attractions and scenery - there are numerous karst peaks located in the area that deserve to be explored. The problem is that accessing them would take a big bite out of your wallet due to exorbitant entrance fees. My wife, who hates spending money almost as much as she despises the outdoors, consulted with the staff at the Guilin Riverside Hostel, where we had just spent the first of three nights. Their recommendation was to visit Reed Flute Cave 芦笛岩, namely because it was a cave and thus offered protection against the rain - there had been thunder and lightning the previous night, the morning awoke to a heavy downpour that saw the narrow street in front of our hotel briefly become a small lagoon (and which delayed our departure following breakfast) and it would rain off and on throughout the course of the day. What clinched the deal for Pamela was that it would only cost ¥1 (16¢) to take a public bus out to the cave from the city center. After passing through some of Guilin's less-prosperous districts, we alighted from the bus and before locating a restaurant to have some lunch, got our first glimpse of the spectacular karst scenery for which this part of China is noted:

Unlike the bus, admission into Reed Flute Cave wasn't particularly cheap at ¥90 ($14.50) for an adult, plus you were required to join a guided tour. Inside, in true Chinese fashion, many of the rock formations were given imaginative names that I thankfully cannot recall, but the colored lighting did highlight the natural beauty of the formations:

Also,  in true Chinese (tourist) fashion, there were opportunities to part ways with some more of your hard-earned rénmínbì. We successfully resisted the urge to purchase photos of ourselves taken with what appeared to be some kind of crystal, but my daughter wanted to pet some turtles, so she offered to pay the ¥5 (80¢) each required to do so (and we accepted). I still don't understand why it was necessary to keep the poor reptiles inside dark caves other than it had something to do with their being symbols of longevity. It was even claimed that one of the creatures was nearly a thousand years old!:

Still, Reed Flute Cave was an interesting place to visit, and not a bad introduction to the Chinese countryside that we had come all this way to see, as the view outside the exit and pass the souvenir hawkers confirmed:

A short climb uphill led to a pavilion with some decent views, though things would start getting far more spectacular in the coming days the further we got from Guilin:

Back in downtown Guilin, we took a rest at the Riverside Hostel before heading out in search of something to eat for dinner:

With its Foosball table and dartboard, the hotel kept Amber occupied while we waited for a break in the weather. During this time, we booked tours for the next two days, to the Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces 龙脊梯田 and for the Li River 漓江 boat trip from Guilin to Yángshuò 阳朔, respectively. These reservations were easily made through the front desk of the hotel, one of the many good things going for it (breakfast was another one). If you should ever pass through Guilin (and visiting this part of China is highly recommended), the Guilin Riverside Hostel would be a good place to stay. 

Meanwhile, the rain had abated and we set out in search of food. Here, Amber poses in front of the Sun and Moon Twin Pagodas 日月双塔, not as spectacular in the daylight compared to when they are lit up in the evening (see the previous blog post), but still a reminder of which part of the world you're in:

Come dinnertime, we found ourselves again on pedestrianized Zhèngyáng Lù 正阳路, where we munched on pizza at an outdoor restaurant while sampling the local Líquán Beer 漓泉啤酒, a light-tasting brew that nevertheless grew on me the more I drank it in the days to follow:

And the great thing about Chinese food streets (like those in Taiwan) is that if you're still hungry after dinner, you can always stop for goodies like grilled oysters:

Next up: tripping in the paddy fields

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