Cormorants are 2 to 3 ft (61 to 92 cm) long, with thick, generally dark plumage and green eyes. The feet are webbed, and the bill is long with the upper mandible terminally hooked. Expert swimmers, cormorants pursue fish underwater.
Fishing with birds is an old tradition, since ancient times in China, cormorants have been tamed and trained to catch and bring back fish to their owners. Training starts when the young birds are fully grown and feathered.
The cormorant plunge into the river and catch fish, they can not swallow the fish because their throat is bound by metal collars, (When their work is done the rings are removed so they can eat.) and the fisherman sit in stern of the boat to collect the catch. The boats are flat, narrow rafts consisting of five or six large, round bamboo trunks tied together and upturned at the stern.
When the evening is coming, a large number of bamboo rafts, the fishermen light the lantern to draw fish, they catch fish 3, 5 hours, even sometimes the whole night. The next day their wives sell fish in the local market while husbands catch fish at night. There are many lanterns on the bamboo rafts just like the stars in the sky. It is amazing. Sometimes you can see the cormorant shining under the lanterns. The fisherman sails slowly on a small boat with trained cormorant birds swimming around the boat. A piece of string is tied around the birds throat so the bird can't swallow. So the cormorant swims and catches fish and stores them in their mouth. One by one the fisherman hooks the bird on a stick, and empties the mouth filled with fish and then puts the bird back in the water to continue the fishing technique! So we followed the boat and watched under torchlight, this unique and clever way of fishing... an atmospheric and interesting boat ride.
The cormorant fishing is around 45 minutes for the tourists at 7:30 pm each ngiht.
One good cormorant can catch enough fish to support an entire family.
Elephant Trunk Hill is on the west bank of the Li River. It is one of the symbols of Guilin. This hill gets its name from the fact that it looks a bit like an elephant drinking water from the river. There is a park on the hill called, not surprisingly, Elephant Trunk Hill Park. It's worth a look. It makes a good photo spot.
As part of our tour we were taken off to see Reed Flute Cave. This is in the north west of Guilin, about 5 kilometers from the centre of Guilin. The cave is famous because of its interesting rock formations. I enjoyed my visit here, but my husband did not. He got sick of our guide continuosly saying things like: ' See, that rock looks exactly like a dragon standing on its head under a huge mushroom'. The poor man wanted to be left alone to see his own images in the rocks; not spend hours being asked 'do you see, do you see'. Well, he's never easy to please - unless beer is involved.
This is the reason tourists come here and it is very enjoyable; the scenery is superb. You feel as if you are standing inside a Chinese painting. The trip will take you to the lovely town of Yangshuo.
On our first evening our guide hurried us out for a boat trip around Guilin's waterways by night. Guilin has 2 rivers and 4 lakes. These are Li river, Peach Flower River, Wooden Dragon Lake, Gui Lake, Rong Lake and Shan Lake. These waterways have been linked together since 2002 and it is possible to travel round them on a tourist sightseeing boat. Various pagodas and fountains and things were lit up at night. Very touristy, but fun. We also took a look at the twin pagodas on Shan Lake by day.
Water plays an important role in Guilin.
A couple of lakes meandering in town complement the river: Fir Lake, edged by a small and cool garden, with its two pagodas, is really nice, and one of the most photogenic points of Guilin.
Though the elephant’s trunk it is not a remarkable spot, it's easy to understand what it means to locals, enough to justify the arrangement of all the area.
The small park is well maintained, and it allows some beautiful sights.
After a couple of days listening to the guides attaching names to everything that could be promoted for the tourists, I confess that I was expecting a small cave with a few stalactites seeming... bamboo.
I was positively surprised by the size and beauty of the caves. Of course, each rock and formation won a name and a story, but the cave is very interesting, due to the elaborated game of lights and the contrasts they create.
Situated only 5 km far from Guilin, they are easy to visit by taxi or bicycle, if you are not in a package as we were.
Chuanshan park is one of Guilin's larger public parks (about 2 square km), and feautures scenic karst hills, caves, and waterfront scenery. You can climb to the tops of the two main hills in the park (about 200 meters high) to get great views of Guilin and the surrounding countryside. The routes to the top are paved with hundreds of stairs to make the climb more convenient.
At the base of one of the hills lies the Tunnel Cave, one of Guilin's more scenic caves. There is an admission charge to tour the cave. Group tours enter the cave regularly during the day with Chinese-speaking guides. However, some of the signs inside the cave also have English. The cave contains numerous stalactitesstalagmites, and rock curtains, which are lit, as in most scenic Chinese caves, with a variety of colored lights. There is a second, smaller cave, called the Moon Cave located about halfway up the mountain.
There are a number of places within the park where you can buy refreshments and souvenirs. The biggest concentration of souvenir vendors is located at the exit to the Tunnel Cave.
Every evening, a number of tourist boats provide tours of Guilin's lakes, which are beautifully lit up at night, with spotlights in the lakeside trees and lights on many of the lakeside buildings. Along the way you will see fisherman using cormorant birds to help them catch fish. You will also be able to hear numerous singers and musicians who are providing entertainment at lakeside cafes that you will pass by.
One of the things that I enjoyed were seeing the various bridges across the lake, which were built to resemble famous bridges from around the world. At the far end of the tour, the boats spend a few minutes in a tourist village with entertainers singing and dancing while wearing costumes from some of the region's ethnic minorities.
The boat tour is very touristy and we were skeptical about taking it. However, we enjoyed it very much were glad that our friends talked us into going on it.
The Reed Flute Cave, located about 5 miles outside of Guilin, is the most impressive cave in the Guilin area. The cave is full of interesting rock formations, including stalactities, stalagmites and curtains. It takes about an hour to tour the cave. You enter with a guided tour, but can separate from the tour and proceed on your own once you are in the cave.
Many of the more interesting rock formations are lit up with various colors of light. In the middle of cave, there is a large room in which they do a laser light show about every 15 minutes. After that, there is a section that you can pay a few RMB extra to visit, which has a mixture of interesting rock formations and turtles. Our daughter enjoyed petting one of the turtles.
After you leave the cave, you have to run a gauntlet of souvenir vendors. If you want to buy something, hold out and drive a hard bargain. We were able to buy a book about Guilin's caves for about 20% of what the first vendor offer to sell it to us for.
The top highlight of Guilin was almost a deception.
A hole in the rock, a collection of tales, and... that's all. Not particularly remarkable nor nice.
The best of it, was... the people around it. Some funny details, a cool garden, good sight of the river, and it's done.
I took a Chinese language class back home in 2009 and I really enjoyed it. Since then, I was looking for a good language school to continue studying Chinese in China, with the following search criteria: (1) a small classroom of 4 students or less, (2) located in a smaller city, where I could immerse myself in the Chinese language without being able to get away with speaking much English - i.e. not in Shanghai where all the locals will try to speak to you in English - and (3) somewhere that is not too polluted and where I can actually enjoy blue skies during my summer months in China.
After reading a few articles online and browsing through forums, I found the Chinese Language Institute (CLI) in Guilin. I decided to spend my whole summer vacation here to learn Chinese. It was a leap of faith, but I've been here for 2 months so far and I couldn't be happier! My classes are actually private 1on1 lessons, which surpassed what I was looking for, and it’s really well organized as the school is run by a private American company that has ties to the local University GXNU. Also, being in a smaller city in the South of China, these private classes, as well as the cost of living, are quite affordable compared to what you would find in a big city. The immersion program is great. The teachers are professional and experienced at teaching Chinese to foreigners. There is a friendly atmosphere within the CLI community and I’ve made friends with students from all over the U.S., Canada, Spain, Italy, Israel, Netherlands, etc.
To be face to face with 1 teacher who can focus all their attention on you when learning a language is amazing because your teacher can tailor the class to suit your needs and your learning speed. I only had the equivalent of some very basic Chinese before coming to CLI and now I am actually quite conversational. What's more, Guilin and its neighboring towns are truly beautiful places to visit! It’s a tourist destination and it also feels very safe.
I would definitely recommend this school if you're interested in learning Chinese, whether it be for long-term studies or just for a few weeks.
Guilin's downtown lakes are ringed with parks whose footpaths and trees are beautifully lit up at night. Many of the larger buildings around the lakes are also lit up. The lakefronts also contain two pagodas, as well as a number of restaurants and teahouses where you can stop and eat or have a snack. Some also feature live music.
A more expensive, but easier, alternative to walking around the lakes is to take a boat tour that travels around them.
Guilin's small zoo is located in Qi Xing Gongyuan (Seven Star Park) about 1 km east of the Li River. The zoo features giant pandas, red pandas, monkees, kangaroos, peacocks, emus, a camel and a yak, among others. Give yourself about 1 hour to tour it.
The pandas are what the westerners come to see. They are in two enclosures (one for the black and white ginat pandas and one for the smaller red pandas). In the summertime, the pandas are housed in air-conditioned builings with glass windows to protect them from Guilin's hot and humid weather.
To enter the zoo, enter Seven Star Park on the south side, off of Longyin/Qixing Road (it changes names near the entrance to the park). It is about 35 RMB for adults to enter the zoo, and costs additional (60 RMB) if you also want to tour the park.