This weekend was by far my favorite weekend of the semester. I traveled with 4 friends, 2 from the U.S. and 2 from Germany, to Guilin, China, for a once in a lifetime experience. We were all very excited to travel to Guilin because we heard it was China’s heaven, and China’s heaven it really was. Max, Adam, Maria, Jake, and I arrived in Guilin Friday evening and settled into our hostel shortly after. We were lucky enough to be staying in an area near the beautiful 2 Pagodas and Four Rivers Park, so we explored around this area and braced ourselves for our busy, productive upcoming Saturday.
On Saturday we started our day at 7 am, and decided that our first stop would be the famous Reed Flute Cave. Our hostel advised us to take bus #3 to get there and told us which stop to get off at, and we were set… or so we thought. Well, we got off at the stop we were supposed to, and we were NOT at the Reed Flute Cave. Confused and lost we stumbled upon a cab driver who said he would take us to the cave, and to our pleasant surprise, he’d let all 5 of us squish in there together! As we crammed in we were given his phone and talked to an inconspicuous lady who conveniently spoke perfect English and told us the cab driver would drive us around all day to wherever we wanted to go and he would wait for us at the tourist sites, all for 50 kuai. After negotiating (because no prices in China are set in stone), we got the price down to 40 kuai, and we were off to explore the Reed Flute Cave.
The Reed Flute Cave was AMAZING! It was huge and magnificent, and the exciting lights made it all the more special. Not only was the cave beautiful and unique, but it played an interesting and unique role in China’s history. During the Sino-Japanese war the Reed Flute Cave was actually used as a bomb shelter! After visiting the cave we headed off to the 7-star Park. It was here that we were told we could see wild monkeys and hike to the top and see all of Guilin. We saw beautiful scenery, an extraordinary view of Guilin, and instead of wild monkeys, we just saw a sad chained up monkey used for tourists to take pictures with and observe. We had been so productive that we were done with both of these sites by noon! With most of our day left to explore the city, we decided to venture out to Yangshou for the rest of the day.
Yangshou is located 1.5 hours outside of Guilin. It is famous for being the site of the picture on the Chinese 20 dollar bill. We hoped to do a bamboo raft tour of the Li river, but unfortunately due to all the rain China had this past week, the bamboo raft tour was temporarily shut down. So, we settled on a 3-hour scenic bike tour of the countryside instead.
The 3-hour bike tour was both breathtaking and eye opening. It opened my eyes to a side of China that I had never seen before, the rural, less Westernized side. I saw small villages, wild animals, and tons of different people.
Water buffalos walked around, people farmed, and others just minded their business and were friendly observers. I enjoyed both observing the people in the villages and the unreal scenery. The whole experience was truly fascinating, but exhausting. Throughout the last 30 minutes we biked through roads that shouldn’t even qualify as real roads, as they were completely filled with potholes and mud! Needless to say I was quite thankful that I made it through the end of the ride without falling off my bike.
After the bike ride we were all hot, tired, and urgently needed to shower. We left Guilin early on Sunday morning, and in true Chinese fashion, our plane was delayed. We took this opportunity to learn some German card games from my German friends, and in turn we taught them some American card games! It was a perfect end to a perfect last trip outside of Shanghai! I am now left with a bittersweet feeling, but it’s crunch time and I have 8 essays to do before I go back to New York in 26 days. So excited!