The next day we found the river that serves as a moat to the center part of the city and explored the parks along it. This included many interesting bridges including one that reminisces of a mini Golden Gate Bridge.
From there we made our way to Seven Stars Park, by far the best park we visited in Guilin especially when they all cost money and this offered more for the money. It is called Seven Stars Park because of the seven peaks that make the shape of the big dipper.
One of the first things we noticed were all of the lanterns set up for the Spring Festival. But then we saw the wild monkey signs. Aaron had been hoping to see monkeys ever since we got to China and was nearly frozen with excitement when he saw the signs. A little down the main sidewalk, we came upon a troop of monkeys being fed and observed by a Chinese tour group.
It was kind of exciting to see “wild” monkeys. However, we noticed they had a caretaker making sure they didn’t get too rowdy or aggressive and up a side path we found a cage we suspected was for the monkeys. We did see signs about the “wild” monkeys all over the park though even up trails so who knows if they’re always herded or if there really are wild monkeys.
We made our way to the most famous rock of the park, Camel Hill.
From there we went up one of the trails into the surrounding hills of the park. It was so nice and peaceful with the mountains blocking out the sounds and sights of the city. We passed by a few old tombs and went to the peak of one hill with great views all around.
There we met another English teacher from Vancouver on vacation from Hangzhou. She joined us as we continued our exploration of the park including a search for the stele forest. On the way we found a natural cove and arch with many inscriptions on the wall, a small shrine with Buddha statues and a man practicing some kind of martial art.
Eventually we found the stele forest or large wall and cave covered in carvings, some dating to 1,000 years. They were everything from poems, to pictures to accounts of events. We only understood because of the plaques describing a few of them. After some fried rice, we walked back to the hostel.
The next day we took a few buses around the city to see what was there. One bus took us far to the outskirts. On the way we passed through an actual cemetery. I was told that they don’t have large cemeteries here just small family graveyards, but that was wrong. This was a sea of round tombs that went from both sides of the road up the side of the nearby hills. We decided to walk back so we could walk through the cemetery, which I found amazing.
This part of the city was not accustomed to having foreigners in it so, unlike in the main part of the city, we got strange looks and stares from the locals. However, unlike the awkward stares we get in Hefei from people who have never seen foreigners, these stares were more of the ‘what are you doing here’ variety of stares.
That’s okay though because we also found some good food with prices that weren’t inflated for tourists. We even found some of this in the city but you can’t look in the usual places. To find real Chinese food at real Chinese prices you have to go down side streets and alleys and not near the train station.
We were done in Guilin when the time came to go to the airport. Maybe with better weather we could’ve spent more time there, but with the weather and the annoying disparity between treatment of foreigners and locals we were ready to get back to Hefei.
To sum up a great vacation: Yangshuo and the Li River are amazing! The rice terraces are completely worth it. Four days is too much for Guilin itself especially in poor weather. I want to go back to Guangxi again.