Going Guilin, Day 2

*continued from Going Guilin, Day 1*

After one whole day of walking in Yangshuo, we were finally back to Guilin city. We woke up rather early (biological clock indicates that we should get up in between 8.30am – 9.00am… duh) and after hit the shower, we took a short walk around our hostel area. The weather was still stuffy, warm and humid, just like yesterday and the haze doesn’t seem to be going away either.

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*Porky pau from QuYuan Baozi, Guilin Rice Vermicelli, honeydew ice cream, Dan Chao Fan, red bean muffin*

We walked pass by a small shop named QuYuan Baozi selling pau and decided to grab one (0.60 Yuan ~ RM0.30! Very cheap!). The pau skin was a little chewy but the pork filling was yummy; very juicy and flavourful. Most of the shops were still closed that time except for some eateries. We then remembered that Lonely Planet strongly recommends Guilin Rice Vermicelli, a local breakfast staple food which can be found in any corner of the city. Saw another small shop with people slurping their noodles, hence we popped in and ordered the rice vermicelli. Blanched thick rice vermicelli, topped with peanuts, scallions, thinly sliced roast pork and some stock (to keep the noodle moist). There were some other condiments where you can choose to add to your noodle such as chopped preserved vegetable, chopped long beans and so on but we just went for the basic; hot chilli flakes. It looked rather plain at first sight but very delicious! The vermicelli was springy, it’s such a delight to bite on.

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*Senior citizens learning Latin and Tango dances at the park by the river*

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Merely a kilometre walk from our hostel is the Wang Cheng, a 14th century Ming prince’s mansion (now home to Guangxi Normal University). Entrance fee is 15 Yuan and the mansion houses the famous Solitary Beauty Peak, a 152 metres high pinnacle which offers a fine view of the city. When you enter, the ladies at the gate will usher you to one of the guide, who will explain the history of the mansion as you walk around the area.

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*Views inside Wang Cheng Mansion, examination area, taking the Chinese examination*

The interesting part of the mansion would be the examination area. Ancient Chinese government chose their civil servants and officers through a strict and tough examination process, where thousands of Chinese who wanted to work with the government would come from all over the region to sit for the exams. The exam takes 3 days and the candidates would have to sit in a cramped, small place. Whoever passed the exam with flying colours will instantly be promoted as a government officer. We had the chance to actually sit in the “examination cubicle” (one cubicle can actually fits two medium sized adults) and “took” the exam (just write your name on the “examination paper” will do!).

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*View above Solitary Beauty Peak, the steep stairs, Spicy Dan Chao Fan*

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When we left the mansion, it was already pretty late. We decided to take a short boat cruise along Li River, where one can see the Elephant Trunk Hill, a famous landmark and tourist attraction.

*to be continued*

Going Guilin, Day 1

I must admit that China wasn’t my preferred choice when it comes to vacation. Being a “banana” (Chinese who can’t understand Mandarin) myself, it would be difficult in terms of communication – my first concern. But if I’m going with three friends where two of them are Chinese educated, then that’s a different story afterall.

Known as “Sweet Osmanthus”, Guilin got its name in 1940 and is located at the north-east of Guangxi region, China. It was a well-known tourist destination due to its unique scenery, thanks to the picturesque karst landscape but I have not heard about it until last year. Our plan was to visit Yangshuo, a typical backpackers small town located 2 hours (by bus) away from Guilin on first day, so as soon as we arrived at our hostel, we took bus to Yangshuo.

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It was very hot and humid in Yangshuo, as it was still in summer. Our initial plan once we arrived here is to take the bamboo rafting along Yulong River, visit the Moon Hill and Lotus Cave but because the places are located quite a distance from each other, it would takes time to travel from one place to another. Furthermore, we wouldn’t want to risk the chance of missing the local folk musical, Impression Liu Sanjie by China’s famed director, Zhang Yimou (who directed Hero, Curse of The Golden Flower and Beijing’s Olympic opening and closing ceremonies), so we decided to cancel our sight-seeing plans and stay in the town instead. Tips: If you’re to explore the scenic places in Yangshuo, it would be better if you spend a night here.

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*Top pic – traffic condition in China is scary; Bottom left – scene from the wet market; Bottom right – A curving karst hill with shophouses in foreground.

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The guys were famished and hungry, so we decided to hunt for food (late lunch). Saw a shop with plenty of claypots at the front, and they decided to give it a try.
For your info, Yangshuo’s specialty is the Beer Fish, which is popular with tourists but we didn’t order that. Instead, the guys opted for Beer Duck (top right) which doesn’t have any beer taste to it and the meat were rather tough too; Pork with Yam (kao yuk) which was rather good; the stir-fried lotus root looked plain but good nonetheless (bottom left); and Brinjal with Minced Pork.

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*Typical scenes you can see in Yangshuo – fruit that resembles peach, lotus pond, fruit market, the shopping area West Street, hot air balloon and KFC.
We then spent a few hours walking around the town, window shopping and taking pictures before we wandered into West Street, a popular street with plenty of small shops selling souvenirs like shirt, accessories, paintings, silk and potteries. It has its own charm which makes you feel like you’re in some typical old China town. And before the show, the guys took a break at KFC (cos there’s air conditioner!) but couldn’t resist the smell of fried chicken wafting thru the air, so they grabbed a KFC burger with chestnut cream.

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Tickets to the show can be purchased at local travel agent at around 150 Yuan (RM80+/-). They will arrange transport for you to bring you in and out of the show area but it’s a rather troublesome and time consuming process. Buses, vans, cars, cabs, motorcycles, bicycles are all streaming towards the small courtyard of the entrance gate and we waited for about 30 minutes to get into the seating area. But the show worth all the waiting and hassles, really. It takes places on the river (the stage is the river itself!) with karst hills as the backdrop, complete with light show. The breathtaking show, by all means, is the most magical show I have ever watched so far.

*to be continued