29 April, 2009

Picturesque Guilin {桂林}

As promised, I'm back with an outdated & lengthy post of our trip to Guilin, China (28 ~ 31 Jan 2009) ... well ... "a late post is rather than none". ** wink **

There's an old & well-known saying ... 桂林山水甲天下, which means the beauty of the landscape & scenery in Guilin tops the world. For this reason, a group of 12 headed on a 12-hour road trip from Zhongshan to Guangxi province. None of us have been to Guilin before BUT we managed to find our way, food & lodging with the aid of today's advanced technology -- GPS navigation !!

The group embarked on our journey after a nice lunch on 28 Jan (3rd day of Lunar New Year). R2 didn't seem to have much patience during our road trip there & kept bugging me ... "Are we there yet?" ... and napping off intermittently. Finally, reaching our destination slightly past midnight, with stopovers for "reliefs" & dinner. We checked into a clean & reasonably-priced hotel & had a BBQ supper right next to it.

The next day, our expedition began after "brunch" ... we relied heavily on our GPS for directions to the major attractions like:

Seven Star Park (七星公园) - covering an area of around 40 hectares, is the largest comprehensive park with mass scenery in Guilin City, and we spent almost half a day in the park. (Click here for the official site)

{ Here's a pic of the group at the entrance of Seven Star Park ... yes, there's only 11 headcounts ... plus ME, holding onto the camera ... Say CHEESE !! }

{ This is one of the 10 Scenes of Guilin -- a pic of Camel Hill, like a gigantic camel in a squating position, isn't it??

The camel looks so real that you might think that it's an artificial hill. No, it's entirely a natural formation!! Around the hill are bonsai gardens, a zoo with pandas and teahouses }

{Daddy NC suggested the kids to get onto a "hairy" camel, right at the foot of Camel Hill }

{ The park is so huge! After about 2 hours on our feet, the group has decided to hire a cart to send us to the rest of the key attractions within the park ... phew ... }

{ A pic of QiXia Temple (栖霞寺), did u notice another hill at the backdrop that resemble a chinese gold ingot ?? }

{ Pics taken at the Seven Star Cave (七星岩). About a million years ago, it was an underground river channel. With movement of the earth's crust, it rose above the surface to become a cavern.

A concrete & stone tour path of approximately 1 km runs through the cave; between its entrance & exit points. It penetrates several main peaks of Putuo Hill.

Artificial lightings for walkways & displays are staged throughout the long tunnel of the cave. It's an underground gallery of stalactites & stalagmites in the most spectacular shapes & forms ... definitely an enchanting experience for us! }

Majority of our group members wanted to leave the park, after completing about 80% of it. And we drove on to another "must see" attraction ... Elephant Trunk Hill (象鼻山).

{ The group was being splitted up into 2 bamboo rafts on Li River (漓江), to take us to the Elephant Trunk Hill (象鼻山).

Located at the conjunction of Li River & Peach Blossom River, the hill looks like a huge elephant drinking river water with a long trunk, it's the symbol of Guilin City.

The kids were excited about the river ride & chose to sit at the front row, not knowing that they might get wet should there be any strong currents. Guess what?? My kids were perfectly dry after the entire ride. BUT my shoes & socks were all soaked up, as I was too engrossed in taking pictures, and got caught up with a sudden gush of water onto our raft }

After dinner, someone suggested ... FIREWORKS !! Since it was still the Lunar New Year period, fire crackers of all shapes & sizes were readily available. We bought a huge variety of them & spent around RMB4.5k (after bargaining for 10 mins).

It was our (ie. R1, R2 & I) 3rd round of such "bright, colourful yet ear-deafening" session, throughout this 12-day China trip. By now, my kids already got the hang of it, thus, required minimum supervision & enjoyed themselves to the fullest.

{ Pics of a fun "fire crackers/fireworks" session, along the famous Li River }

The group has decided to extend another night of stay in Guilin, as we only managed to go 2 places of interest during the 1st day. So, early the next morning, we continued on a 4-hr Li River (漓江) cruise.

{ A river cruise down the peaceful Li River (漓江) is the absolute high-point of any visit to Guilin.

On both sides of Li River are wonderfully-shaped hills, mist-covered mountains, peaceful green fields, farms & villages with water buffalos & cows wondering around. Those mysterious mountains are karst limestone formations evolved 200 million years ago, when that area was under the sea }

{ A feeling of peace and serenity ... it is no surprise this part of China is the subject of countless paintings and postcards!! }

{ A pic of cormorants sitting on bamboo sticks, fishing for their owners. Those birds' necks were tightened up by strings, so that they will not swallow the fish that they catch }

Our next stop at Crown Cave (冠岩), a giant subterranean river cavern by the Li River. Taking the shape of an gold crown of ancient emperor, the cave is 12 km long & consists of 3 parts. (Click here for the official site)

The views inside were fantastic !! Stalactites & stalagmites in all strange shapes, illuminated by lights ... glittering a golden glow. There's an underground stream which passes through the cave & joins the Li River.

Personally, I'd prefer the Crown Cave than the Seven Star Cave, as it's equipped with modern sightseeing facilities such as an elevator, small trains, yachts & sightseeing roller-coasters. We've tried every mode of transport within the cave ... and the kids simply loved it!

Again, our group only managed to cover around 70% of the cave exploration & chose to exit it by taking a sight-seeing roller-coaster ride (to save us some "legwork"). By the time we got out, it was almost dark & we had to head back home.

On our way back, R2 didn't bother to bug me anymore as he was too tired after 2 full days of fun. The kids slept throughout the whole road trip & we reached home safely around 6am the next day.

My thoughts :
Guilin is renowned for its karst peaks that rise up throughout the city like skyscrapers will do in any other cities. The picturesque landscape was just what I needed as a break from my life in the city.

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