We woke up at 5 am to board our morning flight from Xi’an to Guilin. After a good night’s rest, both of us were pretty refreshed and excited to explore China’s rustic countryside. The flight time is roughly two hours – not adding the half-hour delay on the tarmac. The Xi’an – Guilin tourist circuit is quite popular with holidaying families and it will be difficult to escape large groups of excited tourists. But, Guilin also offers an excellent getaway from China’s concrete jungles into its lush green countryside. It’s not a town to be missed. There are many places of interest to see in Guilin. You’d need a week to explore most of them.
The Airport shuttle bus is a budget friendly way to reach the main city. The last stop is at a hotel, from where you can hire a cab or three-wheeler to your hotel. Keeping hotel names in their Chinese name is essential to find your location. The route from the airport to the main city is scenic – with Karst mountains dominating the landscape. Sadly, constructions seem to be slowly catching up and polluting what might have been a perfect paradise.
Our hostel (This Old Place International Hostel) was conveniently located next to Rong Lake. Away from the city centre and close to nature; it’s perfect to walk around. Staying next to a residential part of the town has it advantages. During the day, it’s possible to observe locals minus regular tourist frills. There were buses that brought in hordes of tourists – but during non-peak hours the silence was soothing.
After checking in, we headed towards the main city centre to find a place to eat. Trying a local food joint is like playing a game of Russian Roulette. Luckily, there was a fast food joint that had food snaps along with their English names. Rice with a meat gravy was a perfect treat after walking in the hot sun.
After quick rest – we scouted the area around our hostel. Rong Lake was bang opposite our hostel. Starting from our hostel – it was possible to cover the entire perimeter of the lake. Cobbled walking paths and an underpass leads you away from the noise of the main street. We took many breaks and let our minds wander. Under the shade of branching trees – it wasn’t a difficult thing-to-do. Occasionally, fish jumped out of the lake – the only sign of life in the silence. We haven’t been to South America, but for some reason the landscape reminded us of the thick forest covers surrounding the rivers.
By evening, the temperature cooled down significantly. As natural daylights dim – the lake gets lit in a multitude of colours. Locals come out to practice mass choreography and Tai Chi. It’s perfect to just sit back and let time take a while to pass.