You've all probably seen them - those Chinese ink paintings showing the jagged mountains so distinctive to China. Well, those are all showing the mountains of Guilin where many artists long ago were once exiled and discovered the intense beauty of this landscape. So we headed down South to Guilin to live a couple days in a Chinese ink painting.
I came to Guilin on my last trip to China and decided to bring hubby for a second time because it's a place like no other. As I've already mentioned about Beijing, Guilin is another example of a Chinese city that has grown immensely. Ten years ago I landed at a tiny military airport in the middle of the night and felt like I had arrived in North Korea. We had no idea where we had landed as there were no city lights in the distance and no one at the airport who spoke English. In 1997 my friend and I had naively left Hong Kong with no guidebook and no knowledge of the Chinese language. But to our delight, we were literally dropped into the beauty of Guilin totally unprepared. However, this time around, there is a new airport that matches the caliber of most smaller city airports and I again was stunned by how much time has passed. The city is highly developed with new cars, new neon signs, new business, and definitely a thriving tourist industry.
We did the standard Li river cruise which despite my annoyance that there are so many more boats now to handle so many more tourists, the mountains were just as I had left them 10 years ago. You snake down the river seeing all sorts of mountain landscapes and unload at the smaller city of Yangshuo. Just 8 hours from Vietnam, the climate is more wet and humid and so the mist hovering between mountains just added to the stunning views.
But my favorite part this visit was our fantastic bike ride through farms and rice paddies winding through these amazing mountains. I was so proud of myself that I managed to bike through the busy streets of Guilin and not get run over by a truck or hit by the zillion of other cyclists on their way somewhere. When we reached the more subdued country road I just relaxed and soaked in the surroundings. There is nothing like biking leisurely through a landscape that you only see in National Geographic or on television. It was breathtaking. I felt free.
Everyone should live in a painting once in a while.