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Caving Guilin: Reed Flute > Seven Star

Guilin Travel Blog

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Ape in Guilin

And we're on the road again, from Guangzhou to Guilin (Guangxi). I wasn't sure what to think of Guilin beforehand; people of TravBuddy give the city good reviews, but the 'packers I met in Hong Kong told me not to bother with it and go directly to Yangshuo. I guess both are right; I liked Guilin and ended up staying another day, but Yangshuo wins in a direct battle. Definitely do both if you have the time. If not, I would recommend Yangshuo.

After saying goodbye to Calvin I board the sleeper train to Guangxi for a bumpy ride - eleven hours this time. I make myself comfortable on my hardsleeper bed, read some, listen to some music and try to relax.

Bamboo rafting on the Li
It's all fun and games until the baby in my compartment starts crying. Right. Shit happens I guess, babies do that.. But all night long? Geez. After a while I fall asleep, and the next morning I sleepily stumble out of the train, is search of a hostel. I opt for the Flowers Youth hostel because of its location near the station, and it turns out to be a good choice. It's a nice little hostel - as long as it doesn't rain. More on that later.

After installing myself on my dorm room, I get online to get my TravBuddy fix. While I could use some sleep I don't want to waste my time in Guilin with such a wonderful thing as sleeping. Instead I pack my daybag and rent a bike from the hostel. Traffic in Guilin and China in general is not as "asian" as one might think.

Ape at the Elephant Hill
Alright, so the lines on the road don't mean that much to most of the drivers, but overal it's quite peacefully. You do need a wee bit of courage though, but the only thing you really got to look out for in Guilin are the electro bikes; out of the blue the scoot past you, you can't hear a thing. Cycling around Guilin is lovely. Weaving in and out of traffic on my mountainbike, I'm feeling King. The beautiful karst peaks in the background, the sun high in the sky, the cool waterbreeze of the Li River: wow.

I bike around the centre of Guilin, but it's fairly modern and there's not much to see, unless you're into concrete and shiny chinese neon signs. I'm quickly drawn to the Li River and after some haggling I take a bamboo raft down to Elephant Hill. While it's nice to be on the water, it's also highly overrated.

Temple in Seven Star Park
Don't bother with a raft, you can see everything from the land as well. Maybe my opinion is a bit tainted because of my shitty punter who wouldn't do anything, but yeh, it's not worth the money. From Liberation Bridge is a short ride to Seven Star Park, one of the main attractions in Guilin. The park is big enough to spent a day in; caves, a panda sanctuary, several temples and lots of park land.

While the Seven Star Caves are nice, everywhere you're confronted with the hard reality that's called 'chinese group tour'. They have different values and opinions on how to behave than your average tourist. This goes way beyond a cultural difference. Chinese group tours, to put it simply, are rude. Tactless. No manners. Impolite. Shouting, calling and echo'ing, they're a bunch of schildren on a schooltrip.

THIS - IS - GUILIN!!
They don't have respect for other people trying to enjoy the same sights, which makes it sometimes very difficult to appreciate the attractions. Try to avoid the tours as much as possible.

Despite roaming tourist groups I'm able to enjoy the Seven Star Park; climbing up the hill I find a great spot in the sun to chill out. Later I find my spiritual fix in one of the temples, and have quite a emotional moment. About religion.. I'm in no way getting religious in my travels, but spiritual, yes. Back home, my mum and dad gave me a christian upbringing. We would read simplified bibles or spiritual stories about the values of life, and for that I'm really grateful. I really feel the person I'm now is partly because of that. The church we'd go to is very moderate; more preaching about life and norms and values than historic faith.

Reflection pool
Around my sixteenth I was your average rebellious teenager and didn't want to spend every sunday morning in church anymore. I was having trouble with religion in the modern world, the 'Israel'/Palestine conflict, with the Israelis calling themselves, and basing their claims on being the chosen people of what was supposed to be my God as well.  Thanks, but no, thanks. My dad especially didn't like it, me not joining to church anymore, but he couldn't really force me. Since I started my travels though, I've been visiting quite some houses of worship; whether it be churches, mosques of temples, don't matter. And as I know that my family finds it important, I've had quite a few emotional moments in religious buildings, 'praying' to/for them, instead to any God. It always make me feel anew and fresh again.
Reed flute caves near Guilin
It's an emotional let-go, one of my ways to cope with my feelings about the friends and family I left at home.

After my emotional visit I explore the rest of the temple complex. I find a deserted attic used only for storage, and chill out there. Stored there are some awesome chinese banners and have a heap of fun by putting my camera on timer and posing. The next day I rent a bike once more, and set out to find the Reed Flute Caves, a couple of kilometers outside Guilin. It takes me a while to find it, but it's pleasant, if not a bit wet, to cycle around the countryside. The Reed Flute Cave are highly recommended. Way, way more beautiful than the Seven Star Caves. The latter a probably longer with more seperate caves, but the Reed flute ones are massive and better lit.

Drunk again, Mr Panda couldn't remember where his key was.
I get enchanted by a pool inside the caves that reflects all the rock formations. It takes me half an hour to get some decent shots, as (of course) the chinese group tour finds it perfectly normal to throw rocks in the pool, disturbing the water surface. Don't waste any money on seeing the millinium old turtles in one of the sidecaves. They're treated poorly as objects instead of animals, something you'll sadly see more in China.

I get back to find the Flowers hostel partly flooded. One of the plastic rooftiles got loose and water is flowing inside. The crew can hardly keep with the water. I feel for them but it's kinda funny at the same time, because people keep discovering new leaks. The rooms are all fine though, and after my tiring bikeride I get an early night.

livelovelaugh87 says:
Great blog, I'm going there next week, trying to piece together how to get from Guanzhou to Guilin-Xi'an-Beiging...
Posted on: Jul 30, 2010
Ape says:
Thank you mate, I really appreciate your comment
Posted on: May 19, 2008
mickeyd302 says:
I totally agree with the religious angle. Since I have started traveling, I have been to many different places of worship, but I still claim to be Agnostic. Still, like you, I feel refreshed by visiting them.
Posted on: May 19, 2008
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Ape in Guilin
Ape in Guilin
Bamboo rafting on the Li
Bamboo rafting on the Li
Ape at the Elephant Hill
Ape at the Elephant Hill
Temple in Seven Star Park
Temple in Seven Star Park
THIS - IS - GUILIN!!
THIS - IS - GUILIN!!
Reflection pool
Reflection pool
Reed flute caves near Guilin
Reed flute caves near Guilin
Drunk again, Mr Panda couldnt rem…
Drunk again, Mr Panda couldn't re…
Guilin canals
Guilin canals
Guilin canal
Guilin canal
Lovely Guilin
Lovely Guilin
Elephant Hill backside
Elephant Hill backside
Elephant Hill
Elephant Hill
Ape on the Li River
Ape on the Li River
Seven Star Park
Seven Star Park
Temple at Seven Star Park
Temple at Seven Star Park
Seven Star Caves
Seven Star Caves
I thought pandas only eat bamboo?…
I thought panda's only eat bamboo…
Reed flute cave
Reed flute cave
Reed Flute Cave reflection pool
Reed Flute Cave reflection pool
Reflection pool in the Reed flute …
Reflection pool in the Reed flute…
Thousand year old turtles in the R…
Thousand year old turtles in the …
Guilin
Guilin
Guilin
photo by: davidfeng