Guilin, the Gate to South China Karst

„Wake up! Get ready to get off“ said a steward in the train poking us already at 5 a.m. to wake us up.  We thought it was too early because the arrival to Guilin was still in one hour and so we fell asleep again. „Come on guys! Get up!” The steward was back in half an hour poking us a little bit stronger. :-) She looked a bit nervous as if it was her who was getting off. We didn’t want to provoke her anymore and we started to pack our stuff.

The train arrived before 6 a.m. to train station in Guilin which is the gate to South China Karst in Guanxi province. We dreamed about this region from photos of China showing rice fields, beautiful rives and green peaks. We took our baggage and went out of the station to explore the new place. When we left the station there were some people offering us transport. We refused all of them and continued to hostel. It was only 10-minute walk. The hostel was open but the staff was still sleeping. We lied down on the sofas in common room and we were woken up in about 1 hour by morning rush of hostel guests.

In comparison to Hong Kong the hostel was unbelievably cheap because the price was only 5 EUR per night (it cost almost 20 EUR in Hong Kong). We entered the room where we met a guy from Israel. We told him that we arrived from Hong Kong by train and that it took us 13 hours. “That’s nothing. I was traveling by train to Guilin 30 hours!” He said and we all imagined the incredible size of China.

On our first day we rented bikes and we made a tour around the city and went to explore surrounding villages. It was quite hard to find a way out of the city because the traffic in Chinese cities is extremely dense. There are lots of motorcycles, scooters and bikes everywhere. The villages were much calmer and we could finally observe local farmers at work. We came back to our hostel late night and we prepared cheap instant noodles again.

On the second day in Guilin we climbed up to Elephant’s Trunk Hill. There was a great view of the town from the top. We thought Guilin was a small village before we realized it has a population of 750.000. However it’s still considered to be a small town for Chinese people. We continued to see the rock formation that looks like elephant’s trunk and is situated by Li River. We were going through the park full of crazy decorations that we really don’t like in China because they are sometimes very tawdry. There were e.g. artificial trees with huge tarantula, lots of statues of pandas, raccoons and elephants. It’s even crazier at night when everything is illuminated by different colors. By the river there was an old man standing on his bamboo raft holding 2 cormorants on wooden stick trying to attract some tourists. The cormorants were tied to both ends of the stick and they didn’t look very happy. Unfortunately the tourism in China is increasing rapidly and it has a huge impact on the nature. We fixed our mood by refreshing bamboo drink from a lady on the street.

We walked through the city, we crossed dangerously looking hanging bridge and we climbed up another green hill where we met a professor from local university. Unfortunately he was history teacher and not English teacher and the only thing he could tell us was couple of phrases like “First time China? You from Czechoslovakia?” We exchanged our business cards and we were happy every non-Chinese word he said. To meet a Chinese person who speaks at least some English was really hard. To get some advice or talk to locals on the streets was almost impossible there. The exception were hostels where we usually got some information. The best way is to write down some words like noodles, rice, bus station etc. Unfortunately we always forget our paper with basic vocabulary at the hostel and we have to use our acting skills to show what we want. :-)


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