In my view, the main reason for visiting Guilin is to get out into the Karst mountains – tree cover stalactites sitting in a largely flat landscape.
The people of Guilin appeared to be in agreement with me as I found an International Landscapes Photography Featival taking place on my first night walking by the river.
It was utterly dominated by local scenery.
If I was unable to get out sightseeing, I’d always be able to come and have a look at the photographs.
On my first full day in Guilin, I immediately left the city, joining a river trip, first riding a bamboo raft down the River Li to Nine Horses near Xinping village.
As the four person (plus boatman) raft passed the cruisers ploughing up the river, I wondered if the raft, already low in the water would go under in the wake of the larger boat.
Courtney from Georgia had clearly wondered the same thing as he muttered: “Well, that was a little more excitement than I was hoping for.”
Christian (from Milan) and I had met Lindsay (from Chicago) and Courtney over lunch before climbing onto the raft.
The two Americans were living in Beijing working as English language teachers and it was fun for the four of us to compare notes about our experiences of travelling (or living) in China.
Yes, we’ve all had our photograph with others requested. Small children seem to be fascinated by us and everyone is incredibly friendly and willing to talk or simply say hello.
The exception is Shanghai… mostly because there are so many Westerners there that we’re just not a novelty.
These experiences continued with a couple grabbing my arm and indicating that the woman wanted her photograph taken with Linday and me.
Courtney, meanwhile, was surrounded by a group of women who were fascinated by his height and the size of his feet. They were all comparing the size of their own feet with his.
After 30°C heat in Hong Kong, I was glad that the temperature was substantially cooler around Guilin.
We followed the river through the mountains to the village of Xinping and on arrival, walked through the market where chickens were being gutted and prepared for sale.
I was relieved not to have seen them slaughtered which had been an option at some of the night markets in Hong Kong.
From Xinping, the coach continued further along the river to Yangshou, a small town.
Our guide, Alan told us that, because the two are hemmed in by the mountains, the heat does not escape in the Summer and the residents cope with temperatures of 40°C.
The area is mostly farmland – all manner of crops being grown in small patches, rather than vast fields.
From Yangshou, we joined a second cruise through an area called Shangrila to see more of the scenery.
This also involved visiting a traditional, Disneyfied ‘village’, where dancing and drumming took place in pagodas overlooking the river as we passed.
When I spotted the buffalo skulls fastened to tall posts, I did wonder if Indiana Jones would be joining us.
In the main ‘village’ there were weaving displays and each boatload of people arriving were given a small cup of sweet wine wine before joining a group dance with people in traditional costume.
The wine probably helped the Westerners lose some of our inhibitions.
*Featured photo: A view along the River Li.