Guilin is home to a stunning array of green, vegetation-covered karst (limestone) mountains, and to many scenes that likely enter your imagination when you hear “China”. I stayed at Wada Hostel, a very friendly and helpful place, and opted to take one of the few day tours I’ve done on the trip (independent is usually much cheaper and more free, but that’s more debatable in China).
The trip took us out of the rather congested karst area of Guilin to the less-developed, still touristy Yangshuo area, where we took motor-driven rafts down the beautiful, shallow Yi River, with a gorgeous vista after gorgeous vista of craggy, green limestone mountains rising on either side of its banks. I was grouped with a Nepali family, so in between interesting conversations on geopolitics and world economic trends we sat back and enjoyed the slow river and beautiful scenery flowing past.
Our next stop was an even smaller town, Yulong Village, with its centuries-old stone bridge and karst vista immortalized by works as varying as the way underrated Edward Norton flick The Painted Veil and the Windows 7 background picture. Here we took more traditional reed rafts up the river, which had a few small but foot-drenching waterfalls to bounce over (twice, as they had rubber conveyor belt contraptions for climbing back up them).
From the water we also saw cormorant fishing, about as unique a technique as has been devised to fish. These water birds are trained to catch fish and return to the fisherman, who hedges his bets by tying off their gullets so the fish can’t pass down to their stomachs. Why the cormorants put up with this is beyond me, but it’s a very efficient and prolific way to fish, apparently.
After tinkering around in the parking lot with a very docile water buffalo, it was back to Guilin and a night train to the cusp of Hong Kong (but not all the way there, unfortunately).