This was the awe-inspiring view from my hotel room – typical Guilin, where the numerous mountains surrounding the area unexpectedly blend seamlessly with the growing amount of houses and buildings cropping up. Wait, Guilin? Yup, I was back in the beautiful city last July, and enjoyed every minute of it.
Quite a weird name for a show, no? Not the most attractive, in my opinion, but wait until you see the show:
We were seated far in the back, so we were able to have this overall view. Once you get in, you are given a disposable plastic raincoat as well, just in case there’s an unexpected shower. Quite thoughtful, actually!
Overall, the show was about the different cultures of China and certain customs even I haven’t seen before. All of them extravagantly use light and different colours to make a truly show-stopping experience. Right before the show, we learned that it was actually directed by Zhang Yimou, one of the best directors (if not the best!) in China. He was also the one who directed the jaw-dropping opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I must say, I enjoyed the show because there was a good combination of showmanship and discipline throughout the show that didn’t read tacky (quite common in Chinese performances…), and showed the director behind it all. This was one of the better experiences we had in Guilin! 🙂
Truth: I researched the name “Reed Flute Cave” from the Internet. I seriously have this travel habit now where I go to awesome places and have a wonderful time shooting pictures, but if it’s not the Eiffel Tower or anything, I don’t remember the name – or even make an effort to. 😦 New resolution made, right here and right now!
Anyway, this was already our last day in Guilin. Having finished what we had set out to do, we were whisked to Yangshuo; the next day, the itinerary was actually up to us. Leafing through the brochures, Reed Flute Cave looked nice with all the limestone, lights and whatnot, so off we went!
1) The first few shots quickly taught me that it was low-light, and no matter how steady I kept my hands, it kept coming out blurry. Time to furiously adjust the settings!
2) Doesn’t it look like a haunted place? 😀
So here we are! Majority of the inside of the Reed Flute cave looks like this – artificially lighted. On certain places it works, but I’m not so sure the technicolor works for me as a whole. Perhaps it reads a little cheap? But then, it’s nothing new as the Chinese are known to love putting as many colours as they can on natural formations like these. Such a shame…
Again, this is a focal point of the cave, but I didn’t get to jot down the name. *bad blogger* Can I just make it up to you by informing you that the whole inside of the cave was actually quite cold? You know, like breezy Christmas wind cold. It sure was a relief to be inside after baking in the sun outside!
THIS ONE I REMEMBER! *triumphant face* It’s something like the “Princess Bath Lake” (Chinese names are always awkward when translated like that), and legend goes that the princess of some dynasty or yore went there to take a bath… and magic happened? Sorry, just registered the bath thing! 😮
Finally, we got out of the cave! With a normal pace of walking, you might take around 30 to 40 minutes. Although it was cool inside, the mixed odor of the smelly native Chinese (ESPECIALLY THE SMOKERS!) makes you want to faint after a while. And really, I’m not the faint-y type of girl, so that says a lot!
On our way out, we saw this wall that was designed to be like one of those games in the amusement parks where you shoot something inside, but what you have to actually shoot inside are your COINS. Funny thing was, just walk a little more after this area, and you can see the tubes and money boxes attached to the back of this wall, and you can hear the clink-clink of the coins going down. Seriously, if you were foolish enough to get tricked, and realized that at the end, you couldn’t get your money back anyway, could you? 😀
With regards to Guilin, the name “Yangshuo” may not ring a bell, but pictures like these certainly do, don’t they? Yangshuo is a county under Guilin, and is the location of the picturesque hills, mountains and rivers Guilin is known for.
Naturally, our very hospitable hosts arranged for us to have a raft trip through the vast scenery. To be honest, when they said “raft” in the Chinese language, I literally thought “bamboo stitched together and nothing else” kind of raft. You know, the one where you’re always in danger of tipping over? Turns out I’m more primitive than they are…
Ahhh. It was so quiet, the waves were gently rippling, and a cool breeze wafted through the air. Surefire combination to make one sleepy! I certainly almost dozed off at parts of our raft ride because it was just. so. relaxing! Bliss.
Some of you might go over this photo and say, “oh, that’s nothing”, but it’s much more stunning in person. Rows upon rows of trees (not really sure if they’re pine trees or something else?), LOTS of them. They’re almost symmetrical, in fact!
As I mentioned earlier, part of what makes the experience really relaxing is the fact that it was so quiet. For it to be so, you have to go raft-riding not later than 9am. It’s a two-way trip, and on our way back we noticed that there were considerably more people and more rafts (and boats!), which might either block your view of certain scenery or disrupt the silence in the area.
We stopped over at the point where we were supposed to turn around and go back, because here the locals set up a mini souvenir shop of sorts for, you know, the tourists. The main attractions included colored rocks submerged in water and cormorants. Yup, you heard me right.
Well, at least I think they are cormorants, based on the sole fact that they swim like ducks and all but also dive into the water to catch fish. Anyway, you can pay a small fee to carry a pole with cormorants on both ends, which we declined. Once you learn the fact that the locals who own them actually put something constricting on the cormorant’s throats so that they don’t swallow and eat the fish they catch, it’s pretty sad. 😦
So this is what the typical raft looks like. Roomy space, with a pretty much unobstructed view of the scenery, and the raft operators are actually pretty quiet, not disturbing your peace until you talk to them.
Anyway, can we stop talking about rafts and cormorants, and just talk about how beautiful this place is? In the quietness of the moment, it was also a good place to reflect on how mighty God is. Only a Master Creator and Architect like him can fashion nature’s perfection like this; He has always been the ultimate “I-make-it-look-easy” designer! 🙂
Our tourist guide specially took pains to seat us in a table where we could see the Moon Hill clearly. The beer fish was good but not really my type, but the Moon Hill fascinated me. Aside from it being a natural formation and formerly being a cave, did you know that (trivia time!), among others, a plane was flown through it once! Coolio! 😀
P.S. For the next post!
Looking back, we were really immensely lucky to have had our gracious Christian hosts at Guilin. They were super attentive to everyone, even to me who was just a translator tagging around. The level of concern and attention they showed us was the epitome of Chinese courtesy. 谢谢你们，你们热情的接待真的好感人。
Anyway, the reason why I’m saying this is because in spite of their busy schedules, they took us everywhere there is worth seeing in Guilin. One of the more memorable spots: 象鼻山, or the Elephant Trunk Hill.
Meet Nancy! This Guilin trip was my first foray into professional translating, and I learned a lot just by sitting down and watching her. And yet, with her skill and experience, she’s still one of the most humble and down-to-earth people I’ve met. Love you to bits!
Okay, so you might be looking at my picture and saying, “well, where’s the elephant trunk here?” Yeah, the place where we were standing at didn’t give us the best angle, but taking a picture and seeing it for myself is fine with me. Here is one of the many photos taken by other people, which shows the reason for its name. http://upload.17u.com/uploadfile/2011/08/23/2/2011082314531416501.jpg
If you see me posting pictures of some particular trees on the blog, that’s most probably because they’re at least hundred-year-old trees. Some, like those from the Beijing posts, have reached more than 600 years! Insane.
On our way out, our hosts wanted to take us to dinner on a place that happens to be the opposite side of Elephant Trunk Hill. According to them, the scenery while you’re dining is not so bad. However, the bad blogger in me came out when my camera ran out of juice shortly after these photos. Oops.
Await with bated breath (yuck, drama LOL) for the next post, which documents our trip to Yangshuo, a province inside Guilin. In Yangshuo lie the combination of mountains + waters that comes to mind when one thinks of Guilin. 🙂
Moving on to better and more recent events! LOL anyway. Remember when I was blogging about Beijing, and just awed by the fact that God made a way for me to return to China, and in a place I’ve never been? Well, after recovering from the excitement of Beijing last May, God allowed me more than a month of routine and rest before dropping the next bomb…
I’m going to Guilin! (桂林) Woohoo! 😀
For those unfamiliar, Guilin is an insanely beautiful place. It’s surrounded by naturally formed mountains, giving any shot (yes, even a random shot inside the city) a natural charm. It’s comparable to Switzerland in the sense that, wherever you go, there’s always a mountain to be seen behind any structure. 🙂
We had quite a lovely welcome from our hosts, and I quickly learned that a main fixture in Guilin cuisine is luo han guo (siraitia grosvenorii in English – try getting a mouthful of that!), a sweet fruit whose inherent sweetness is 7 times sweeter than sugar. SEVEN! (Wikipedia says 300! OMG) The ironic thing is, it’s used as a treatment for diabetes, among others – now that is something my dad and other diabetics would like! Natural sweetener, safe for diabetics!
One thing different about this trip is that I’m not so free to divulge the identity of the people who hosted us and the people we worked with. Disclaimer, though: this place which they run is approved and regulated by the government, so no worries there. However, better be safe than sorry, though! #sensitivematters
We had comfortable rooms in a beautiful ambiance of nature… however, again, we’re not free to disclose where we were. If there’s something I can tell you, it’s that by actually living there, we got into trouble and managed to squeak out by the tiniest skin of our necks. Yes, actual drama went on!
To end this random post about our first few days at Guilin, behold – the famous 桂林米粉 (Guilin rice noodles)! I am NOT a fan of noodles, but I gulped down as much of this bowl as I could. Super delicious! To avoid a bad first impression, especially if you’re not a noodle person, I suggest you go to this place. (See the picture above with the sign and telephone number.) According to our hosts, who are locals of Guilin, this store has the best one in town!