While you descend Li river the loudspeaker (and the supplied brochure), are putting names in everything that justifies a look.
A large mountain with stripes in its slopes is said to be “the 7 horses”.
OK. It's there!
Don’t try to find the horses: one is out for a race in Hong Kong, two are mating in the other side of the mountain, and the other four are shy.
After lunch we were invited to taste a local wine on board. Some people thought that it was included, but not, they charged 50 RMB. I did taste it. It was a sweet wine, smelling like flowers, but… fresh and balanced. Not bad!
No need to say! I know that they charged the price of a couple of bottles, but... we were tourists, weren't we?
Girls who dress up in traditional local costumes are everywhere in Guilin. These particular girls were at Fubo Shan by the "Sword Testing Rock" and, as I had only been in China for a few days, at the time, to me were a bit of a novelty and so I parted with some cash in order to have my photo taken with them. Some might say I've been had but others might say they were a proper photo opportunity. I'll leave it for you to decide!
Let's face it, Guilin' Li River is a tourist trap. There are touts touting everything here, even cab drivers touting hotels. Some say they can be aggressive. We didn't take taxis, so I don't know, but I did note a bunch of touting by other people. And there are lots of things to do here, from the Li River to caves to cultural shows. Touts even tout on the boats... "osmanthus" wine anyone?
Unique Suggestions: Don't pay for the extras... bring food and drink. The tourist shops gouge you like crazy... don't pay the prices and they will lower themselves... market forces!
Fun Alternatives: This is the best way down the Li, in many ways.
We were told by a woman at the bus counter at the airport that the hotels will charge a premium for setting up Li River cruises. We set it up through her and it cost about 460 RMB per person. This includes a meal on the boat, but no drinks.
The ride is about four hours, but you have to be in your lobby at 8am to await the bus, or await a van which will take you to a bus which will take you to the gift shop, through which you go to get your boat. Mooo. Gift shop stuff is so expensive... do everyone a favor and don't buy there! Unless you really need a furry hat or a stuffed panda, if people pay the outrageous prices they ask, the prices will only go up! At least to me, it's not worth it.
Unique Suggestions: There are hardly any shots that no one has taken from these boats. They said we were lucky because during this month or season, the cruise usually lasts a short time. However, because China's Chairman is riding the Li River himself, and probably thanks to the Spring Festival, the river level has been raised to accomodate the boats...
Today (February 7, 2008) was misty... rather pretty, though it made the colors rather dull... black and white... still verdant, but cold and windy.
Beware the touts at the end as well! Nobody likes touts, yet they seem to keep growing in number. They grow because tourists pay them what they ask, because tourists buy their stuff... it destroys what they were. Don't pay what they ask. They think you're pretty dumb if you do. And that's why they charge it.
Let me say this about touts: If touts are pleasant and accept a "no" or "no thanks" or "I don't want it" they are okay. If they are pushy and demanding, no one likes that. Don't give in if you really don't want something.
Fun Alternatives: Swim!
You see this in many parts of the world and it is no different here. We often saw a local posing with an animal or child , just remember if you take a picture they will want payment...and agressively so!
Unique Suggestions: Sometimes its worth the bit of money to take the shot , but decide before you take or they'll follow you for payment!
If you go with a guide to Yu Hill Park be prepared to be diverted to the art gallery and watch a painting demonstration by a renowned professor of art.
Although it is quite interesting it will also be uncomfortable especially like us you are the only ones watching!! You are then taken into the gallery by a student and obviously what is implied to buy a fine piece of artwork.
We already have some Chinese paintings- well, that was our excuse!!
If you are headed down to Yangshuo from Guilin there is really no need to go down by boat. You’ll see just as much scenery when you get to Yangshuo itself and hire a boat or raft once there. Leave the boat trip for Yangshuo.
Catch a bus (10 Yuan) to Yangshuo or if you have sufficient funds take a private car. (Cost 200 Yuan)
Recommend if you can, pay only 200 Yuan and take a small boat down the Li River. The big boats taken by most tourists are crowded and you do not seem to have the facility of getting up and taking photos easily.
By accident we came across a gentleman who offered us the chance of going down the Li River by boat for 180 Yuan each. The trip itself involved a 45 minute mini-van ride to the Li Crown River dock area where we had lunch and had to wait for about 2 hours for the boat. We then had a 2 – 3 hour small boat ride sharing with 2 other people. Along the way we stopped off at two villages.
The small boat allowed us the luxury of being able to take photos easily. The boat took us to two villages and we then had another 45 minute ride to Yangshuo town. We arrived at Yangshuo about 5pm.
Yes it was budget and pretty basic but we got to see a lot more than if we had gone down river by tourist boat and it was half the price. It was up close and personal.
If interested go to the White Pearl Hotel in Guilin and ask around.
Unique Suggestions: Make sure when you negotiate the boat trip that you can get up and move around to take photographs.
On our arrival at Guilin Airport there is a tourist service which offers a number of different tours you can take. The prices are double that we could have organised ourselves example: Li River Cruise: 460 Yuan OR Half Day City Tour 300 Yuan.
Unique Suggestions: Shop around. Ask for best prices for a tour through your hotel. Do your research and work out exactly what you want to see.
We were amazed at the scarcity of animals (even insects!) in China. Everybody jokes that all moving creatures have been eaten by the Chinese.
Once, when walking across one of numerous Guilin parks, we saw these beautiful birds - tied to their perch!
Unfortunately, with the huge influx of tourists, commercialism has brought on many forms of activities geared towards money-making. For a small sum, one could bring home a personal photo with any of these ladies or even a photo of the stalagmite caves (of course, the lights will only be on for those who paid to take a pix)!
Friendly English students approach you on the street and offer to guide you around Guilin so they can practice their language skills. Or so they say... After a few hours you might start wondering how long this student is going to stick around for. The only way to get out of it is to ask (tell) them to leave or they will want you to take them for dinner. And guess who's got to pay for it?
Unique Suggestions: Make sure you agree to let them stay around for an hour only. A friend who didn't want to be bothered told the student he was German. Unfortunately the student was fluent in German, too!
The tour guides in China can be tricky. They lead you to places that targets tourists. Then they overcharge you.
Unique Suggestions: Walk around the shops that the tour guides lead you to. But, DO NOT BUY ANYTHING!
Fun Alternatives: Often you can find cheaper alternatives on the street. The guides always tell you that only his or her goods are authentic. Don't believe them. China is not as backward as most people think.
Anywhere the tour guide takes you will probably be a tourist trap because there are ALWAYS vendors everywhere, trying to make a buck or two off of you. Actually, I wonder how much these vendors make because generally we tourists pay signifcantly more than what they paid for the items... hmmm.