Guilin itself is like most other medium size Chinese cities (only 1.3 million people of the over billion people in china live here), other than that it has a large number of western-style hotels, tourists and is relatively free of air pollution. Many Chinese domestic tourists also flock to this area. What makes it special is its proximity to many picturesque limestone mountains and formations.
The street my hotel was located is called the left bank and it is very much what I imagine the left bank in Paris to look like. Beautiful tree lined street along the water with a lovely walkway and many cafes to stop and have a coffee or tea. In the morning I went out on my balcony to watch people doing their morning Tia chi on the river walkway.
I visited the Seven Star Park in the centre of the city. The park is lovely and I did endeavor to climb one of the formations (which are very similar to those in halong bay, Vietnam) - however there were warnings signs (in english) to watch out for the wild monkeys, as I got towards the top of the formation a wild monkey ( rather large one) jumped out in front of me on the walkway. I decided this is his territory so I just turned around and made my way down, although I did manage to catch some incredible views.
I was only here for one night so in the evening I ventured out for a walk along the river. A young Chinese man stopped me and asked if I could speak English. He was a 30 year old business student who also studied English and wondered if he could walk with me to practice his english. We walked along the river and then around the beautiful lake in the centre of town with the pagodas, waterfalls and fountains all lit up for the evening. It was truly a lovely stroll. He then took me to a local restaurant where we had crispy duck, spicy river shrimp and the famous guilin rice noodle dish. They were all very yummy! Then off to his sister's tea shop - i now have a small can of ginseng tea! As I was not leaving until noon the he asked if I would like to go to the palace and the caves in the morning before I was to leave. He arrived at 8:30 am and we were off to the imperial palace via a few back lanes that I never would have attempted on my own.
To enter the palace, I first had to go through the main gate of the palace's protective wall. Now there is just one opening, but originally there were three. Two have been bricked up. guarding either side of the entrance are two stone dogs. Similar to the stone lions seen at most imperial palaces, the stone dogs became popular in the later part of the Qing Dynasty.
After entering the wall's main gate, I headed straight to the palace compounds main gate. It is very beautiful and bright yellow. During the Japanese occupation of Guilin, all of the original buildings in the palace were burnt to the ground. The ones visible now were built during the 1940's on the original's foundations. Although nothing like the originals, they are very cool and are all yellow with tiled roofs.
The wall around the imperial palace is original but the original buildings have all been destroyed and the buildings located there today were built in the 1940's using the original foundations. This area was occupied by the Japanese during the second world war.
One the way back to my hotel my buddy Tom was asking if I could stay longer in Guilin as he would like to spend time with me. He said other things and made some gestures that I quickly had to put a stop to as I told him I am old to be us mother! My ego was flattered by his compliments and attention but my logic told me this might be his ticket to Canada! I really do not want be known as the cougar of China!
Off to Yangzhou two hours south of Guilin.