The next day Ann and John left for the airport and Aaron and I set out to explore a bit of Guilin. It ended up raining on us for two days, but we still visited some of the signature sights of the city. The main parts of the city are all within a 20-30 minute walk of each other so we decided to walk most of the time.
Ming Palace and Solitary Beauty Peak
Our first day we ventured down to the walking street, not nearly as fun or exciting as West Street in Yangshuo. Then we went to the Prince City Scenic Area.
Guilin was appointed the seat of government for the area with Prince Jingjiang, grand nephew of the emperor, in charge during the first Ming Emperor’s reign. Because of this, there are many Ming-era relics including a palace complex where only the perimeter walls, some stairs and railings are original since the buildings were destroyed by the Japanese in the 40s.
It was rebuilt and used as a government seat for the Kuomingtang as well, Dr. Sun having lived there. The complex also seems to be used for part of a university campus. The highlight of the palace is Solitary Beauty Peak, a single mountain rising up above the city in the palace yard. It was reserved for royalty only and then government officials until recently.
The most famous rock in Guilin is Elephant Hill. This hill right on the river has been called Elephant Hill for hundreds if not thousands of years, but I still had to stretch my imagination to see the giant pachyderm.
It gets this name because on the river is an arch at the base of the hill that allegedly looks like the elephant’s trunk drinking from the river. On its back, someone during the Ming era built a brick pagoda that’s supposed to be like the saddle or howdah that someone rides an elephant with.
After trying to see the elephant from the side, we hiked to the top and around to the arch. This was probably the most disappointing park we visited in the city. Even funnier is that most pictures of the hill show it with karsts all over behind it, but the reality is that there isn’t another mountain for a ways behind it.
Sun and Mon Pagodas
A not-so-ancient site to visit is the lake with the Sun and Moon Pagodas. These towers were built in the not-so-distant past as Buddhist shrines. The Sun Pagoda is the tallest copper pagoda in the world, according to the signs. They were okay to visit and probably great views of the city and surrounding karsts in better weather.