Guilin – our first tourist city

Tuesday 2 to Friday 5 September

Guilin was our first stop in China. It is a beautifully quiet city. In 1986 it was recognised as a place of importance because of the limestone castes so industry was moved out and replaced by tourism as the city’s major income.

Our first task was to buy a phone. We chose a low cost Huawei Chinese brand. We were able to prove it was unlocked by using my SIM card. That part was easy.

Getting a phone number proved a long and arduous task. It was a matter of choosing a number from a list of phone numbers printed on a sheet. It appears the list was out of date because every number appeared to have been taken. We finally got our phone and number, which has proved a bonus as we can keep up to date with emails. Hopefully we can buy further SIM cards along the way.

We spent our first day walking into town along the lakes. Tourism is important and the water was clean and rubbish free. Various stands of trees. Such as yew, ginkgo, azaleas are planted alongside the lake, creating beautiful green space.

Some years ago the local council decided to customise the bridges across the lakes. Many famous bridges are represented such as the Golden Gate from San Francisco and the Chain Bridge from Budapest.

Guilin is hot and humid in summer and we are told, has mild winters. As is typical in warmer climates, the streets are full in the cooler, darker evenings. Guilin has taken advantage by lighting up the kilometres of lakeside edge. It is a beautiful and impressive display. Bridges are lit up as well as pagados. It is a very picturesque setting for selfies with friends or lovers.

One of the first things we noticed was the lack of noise on the roads. They were busy and the majority of vehicles were scooters, or as they called them e-bikes. Quiet. They came in many shapes and sizes, 2-wheel, 3-wheel and even 4-wheel with extra seats or trailers and a variety of umbrellas to provide protection from rain and sun.

The road traffic is a bit like crossing the road at Elizabeth & Flinders street at 5.30pm. Everyone going in a different direction, twisting and dodging. It appears that in China road rules are made to be ignored.

Our first tourist stop was the Reed Flute Cave, beautiful caves inside the limestone caste mountains with amazing lighting effects. John, our guide took great delight pointing out lions and snails and Santa in the rock formations.

Our next stop was the Elephant Trunk Hill. Named for a rocky outcrop resembling an elephant’s trunk in the water. Within this complex was lovers island – a amazing display of couples in love. It is, we were told, a romantic place in the evening as the wire framed statues are lit from inside.

The city and surrounding area is a mass if limestone caste mounds. The second we visited is Fobo Hill, a hard climb in the humidity to gain a view of the city and understand some more history.

All in all, it was a fantastic introduction to China.