Bear with me through these next several posts: it’s been a long time since I’ve updated and I have SO MUCH to share! I just returned home in Shanghai from our week of independent travel, and it was absolutely fantastic. Couldn’t’ve asked for a better trip. Well, except for a few things, but I’ll get to that later.
Our itinerary looked something like this:
- Fly from Shanghai to Guilin
- Stay in Guilin Friday-Tuesday
- Overnight train from Guilin to Shenzhen on Tuesday
- Shenzhen city tour with a friend from AIESEC on Wednesday
- Sketchy border crossing from Shenzhen into Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Wednesday through Sunday
- More sketchy border crossing back into Shenzhen on Sunday
- Fly from Shenzhen to Shanghai Sunday night
As fun as being in each place was, I must say, half the fun was getting there. And also half of the pain. For example, before boarding our first flight from Shanghai to Guilin, my roommate, Kim, left her backpack at the airport. Oops. Thankfully they had it, and she was able to retrieve it once we got back to Shanghai, but it sure did put a slight damper in the week. More on these events in a different post.
Our first stop for the trip was Guilin. We had booked a hostel for 3 nights and intended to stay in a small village on the 4th night, but after getting to our hostel and asking how to get to the village, we realized this was going to be extremely difficult, so we decided to just stay at our original hostel for an extra night. The place was super comfortable and in a convenient location – a little small in the rooms, but that’s to be expected – and aside from somewhat pricy tours, their service was super great and all the staff was very friendly. We got into Guilin pretty late on Friday night, and had literally nothing planned for once we got there, but eventually decided that the best action plan would be to explore Guilin the first day, do the Longji rice terraces the second day, go to Yangshou the third day, and then spend another day finishing up Guilin explorations on the Tuesday that we would take our overnight train to Shenzhen.
But basically, we had no idea what we were doing in Guilin on that first day there. That led us to basically an entire day of “随便”-ing (suibian, meaning “whatever”, “casual”, “to do as one pleases”, “random”). AKA we totally wing’ed it.
Nevertheless, we were able to make the most of it! Our hostel actually had a really good deal – we bought a group of passes to all the main tourist sites in Guilin for 200 yuan, which was cheaper than buying them individually at the tourist sites (it would have been over 300 yuan). So we got to see a LOT for a small amount of money!
The bus system was really convenient to use and right outside our hostel, so we hopped on the bus to head to our first goal location and hoped for the best.
After walking for about 15 minutes, we found our first location. I can’t remember for the life of me what it was called, but it was essentially a random cliff in the middle of the street that was made into a park but also had a Buddhist temple in the bottom of it, which was also a cave. And you could also climb extremely steep stairs to the top.
From there, we made our way over to another park in Guilin that also promised great views – and it didn’t disappoint. The only difficult thing was trying to figure out how to get there in the first place – the entrance to the park was huddled with tons of arts and crafts vendors. The Chinese always know how to take advantage of any economic opportunity.
After climbing back down this mountain, we sought out snacks and a bathroom and a place to rest. While resting, we managed to get into a lengthy conversation with some older Chinese ladies. They told us all about the Chinese dialects they didn’t speak, and then ranked us according to who was prettiest, looked youngest, and looked oldest. Poor Val was left awkwardly without a title. We decided to leave shortly after that. Weird as though the conversation was, it was great to practice our Chinese a little bit.
We then explored the Guilin night market for fun purchases and a bit of street food…
…and then headed back to our hostel for an early night in.
The next day, we headed to the Longji rice terraces, which is a separate post altogether because it was freaking AMAZING. And the day after that we went to Yangshuo. And after that day we finished touring Guilin. Which is what I’m going to show you next – the pictures from the Tuesday of our trip.
Our first stop on Tuesday was the Reed Flute Caves… basically some random caves that were super awesome with giant stalagmites and stalactites that they also put a bunch of colorful lights in.
Afterwords, we headed to Elephant Trunk Hill. Which was only kind of sort of cool. Super crowded with Chinese tourists. So 当然 (of course) we made the most of it……
So since the park was slightly less cool than we anticipated, we of course combatted that with what we do best (our expert photo-taking skills).
I’ll save us all the embarrassment of the planking ones. Trust me. They’re embarrassing. Haha….
So that just about sums up our two days touring Guilin. We had a really good time winging it. Gotta love the 随便. FYI: the city itself was cool, but the surrounding areas were WAY BETTER. So stay tuned for the next post(s) on those!