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Guilin

Reporting from Jinqiao

overcast 16 °C
View Spring Break - Yangshuo on aboo10's travel map.

Over the few days we were staying in Yangshuo, we really got to know all the staff at the Village Inn, and also many of the drivers. For the trip to Guilin, Didi was particularly impressed when we climbed into the van to spot an unrequested 'baby seat' - he knew he could sit there independently for the car trip, and also see out the window, and we knew he'd be comfortable and safe!

We arrived in Guilin and checked into the Waterfall Hotel. This was a huge contrast to Yangshuo, as it must have had about 600 rooms versus about 15 at the Village Inn!! The rooms were comfortable, with an enormous King Size bed and room for an extra bed, a lounge, desk and free floor space, plus an enormous bathroom with bath - we were looking forward to dunking the kids properly!! After settling in, we inspected Mum and Dad's room and then all went down for a walk along the nearby pedestrian street, admiring the Guilin version of the market stalls and yet more stuff to buy.

Looking for somewhere for dinner, and secretly searching for something Western, we ended up at an Irish Pub... but it was not very Irish, no Guinness on tap! Dinner was ok, nothing to rave about, and I noticed on the menu that they had breakfast items. The following morning however, we were searching for breakfast (not being prepared to pay 118RMB per person for the buffet in the hotel), but with little success. Starbucks has not yet landed in Guilin! And for some inexplicable reason, we could not find a shop with coffee and pastries under one roof. We did on our search for breakfast though stumble across the entrance to the Jing Jiang Prince City and Solitary Beauty Peak, which was going to be our destination for the day. Eventually we did find some raisin bread and coffee, and the kids were satisfied with a big chocolate milkshake.

Back to the Jing Jiang Prince City, which is a little like the Forbidden City in Beijing, and is topped with Solitary Beauty Peak, a steep Karst peak with a look out and a little temple on the top. It was lovely to walk through the gardens, a beautiful hedge with pink flowers lined the path to the first building, inside which is now a museum. The gardens were gorgeous, with buds and spring growth blossoming. And then we started the steep climb up the peak, there were steps carved into the mountain, and the climb went up fast. I was impressed with Jie Jie who climbed up consistently and also Didi did very well climbing the big steps. The view was great once we got to the top, and they sold ice cream! So the kids each ate one while sitting on the steps of the little temple. When Jie Jie finished, she asked me for some paper money to give to the God, put it in the donation jar knelt down on the cushion, put her hands together, bent over and started praying. When she was done, she told me she'd asked God for a dog.

The view across Guilin was great, and it was an achievement to see how high we had climbed. We went down again and met up with Mum and Dad at the bottom and had a pot of Osmanthus Tea. The word Guilin means osmanthus forest, so this is the local tea. Then we headed back through the grounds, basically heading back to the hotel for a swim, stopping on the way for some lunch - lamb skewers, pork filled and plain fried bread street food - delicious, and enjoyed by all.

The pool in the Waterfall Hotel was nice, a huge square, but randomly instead of swimming laps of the pool the other swimmers were swimming circuits, all following each other around the edge of the pool, creating a little challenge for us to work out where to play. There were also three spa type pools, a cold, a warm and a hot (40 deg) pool and which looked out to the Karst Peaks surrounding Guilin, and across the lakes. Both kids loved going for a swim, a real kid-friendly activity!

After that we headed out again to walk around the lake to visit the Elephant Trunk Hill scenic spot on the bank of the Li River. It looks like an enormous elephant drinking from the stream right on the point of a bend in the river, but they've captured the market there, and any possible places to view it have been blocked off, until you pay to enter the park. It was very pretty, and we walked all the way around the park to the other side of the point. Didi was exhausted and fell asleep on my back in the Ergo baby carrier - you know he's there now though. We opted on this trip to leave the pram at home, and the kids had done really well walking, with just occasional carrying Didi.

We headed straight out for dinner and went to the Guilin Good Luck Restaurant in the pedestrian street. I ordered from an English translation menu, which was particularly sweet when you read some of the dishes and the language used. Granted, my Chinese is far from perfect, and I sure can't write anything, so I shouldn't criticise! We had a fried rice that the kids loved, an eggplant dish, a bamboo shoots with mushrooms and pork (amazing) dish, honey pork with peanuts, green veg and a pork and beans one - all delicious.

After dinner we wandered down to Central Square behind our hotel. Our hotel called the Waterfall, actually turns into a waterfall at 8.30pm each night for ten minutes. We had about 40 mins to wait for this spectacle, and fortunately in the mean time the kids were distracted by a lady launching 'helicopters' with bright lights into the sky. After being told it was 5RMB for two, why wouldn't our kids be able to have them? 5RMB well spent, kept them completely occupied until the water fell. Hotel turns into a waterfall? What the...? Well the back section of the hotel has double windows, the outer of which cannot be opened, and there are enormous tanks on the roof which then spill the water down the outside of the building. They program the water flow as well to show patterns or waves and possibly in time with the music and light show which are in conjunction with it. It's kind of odd. I think possibly more at home in Macau or Las Vegas, but a bit odd for Guilin. Anyway, interesting to see, then home to bed.

After the breakfast debacle of this morning, we arranged to have separate brekkies on our last morning. We stocked up on some bread the night before, and thought I'd just duck out for coffee to the same place we got coffee from the day before... went into the shop, exchanged pleasantries with the girl behind the counter, asked for 2 cups of coffee and she said "no coffee" and sat down and resumed texting. Then I asked a manager about the coffee, and as matter of fact as anything, she said "no coffee". I then asked where I might find coffee near by and she shook her head and said again "no coffee". I left and ran into Mum and Dad also on a coffee hunt, explained to them the situation, and then went to order the local Guilin Noodle breakfast speciality, which for a non-western breakfast, was delicious.

Our last day was wet, and we set off to climb the Sun and Moon Pagodas in Shan Hu (the lake). We walked around the lake which in the damp weather was quite serene and calm. Then started climbing. The Moon Pagoda is made of wood, and has a spiral staircase up the centre. Both kids marched up to the top, eager to get to the next level - the view from the top was quite magnificent, all across the city, and being in the lake, felt like we were in a bit of an oasis. It was pleasing to spot Beauty Peak too. Going down the pagoda, we bribed Didi to keep walking by giving him 2 M&Ms (or M-M-Ms as our kids call them) at each level, and he made it all the way to the bottom, but then was desperate to be carried for a bit through a tunnel under the water to the Sun Pagoda, which is made of copper, copper walls, copper floors, copper ceiling and copper roof. Was really quite remarkable, and I would love to see it when illuminated with bright shining sunlight. This one though, has a nice elevator in the centre which was much appreciated really, and then some steep stairs up two additional levels to a small prayer room. Didi had had enough, and was sick of walking, so we kind of helped him where possible. This growing up thing with the kids is making tourist visits far more accessible - a year ago we would have looked at the peak and the pagoda and decided against it, so we were overall pretty happy with their efforts.

By the time we came out of the pagodas it had started to rain quite heavily, and we headed back to the hotel, but along the way, had to take refuge from the rain. Despite having raincoats, our legs and shoes were soaked and we were a sodden mess when we finally reached our hotel. We'd arranged a late check out, which was a quite generous 2pm, so after a little snack, took the kids for another swim, then back to the room to dry off and pack up. Left our bags and walked down through the pedestrian street once more. Mike and I had been admiring some Guilin landscape paintings, and had seen one being painted earlier, and so went back to the gallery and bought it. We all then settled down for a cup of coffee, and after a milkshake, Didi collapsed exhausted. Mum and Dad went off for another walk, and while we were sitting there, Mike went in to order another coffee for us, but ... you guessed it. "No coffee". Apparently the restaurants along the pedestrian street have a number of periods during the day, when they have no water available... probably because the Waterfall Hotel needs to refill their tanks... but that's just speculation!

Then finally, off to the airport for the flight back to Shanghai. All exhausted and home in Jinqiao around midnight (after an altercation with the cab driver)... what a week!! I have a load of gorgeous photos, and will post as soon as I can!!

Posted by aboo10 07:42 Archived in China Tagged landscapes family_travel

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